Friday, October 25, 2013

When you're up to your...

I was an A1C in the Air Force the first time I saw that quote, "When you're up to your a** in alligators, it is difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp."  I have felt that kind of desperation and panic a few times in my life.
I think the Rindge Charrette is exactly that kind of situation.
People have invited me and others who participated in and supported the Charrette to move out of town.  Now, there is all this hysteria about Agenda 21 and property rights surrounding those sessions intended to get community input.  We have been accused of wanting to turn Rindge into an urban area; reminiscent of towns in Massachusetts.  
Long before I moved to Rindge, there was a thriving town center.  It had a general store and I've been told, people congregated there to discuss the politics of the day.  Then they moved the old Route 202 to it's present location and the center became something of a ghost town.  Rindge lost it's "center."
The purpose of the Charrette was to try to find a new center for Rindge, and also create more integration with the college community.
I know there are people in West Rindge Village who liked the idea of revitalizing the village and making it the new town center, but they have been bullied into silence on the subject.  I am sorry for them.  I really am.  I don't live there, but if the people in West Rindge Village embraced the idea, I would have tried to help make it happen.
Fortunately, as I recall the Charrette, it also talked about revitalizing the old town center too.  So, maybe it is time to just abandon any ideas for West Rindge Village and focus on what can be done in the center to bring it back from obscurity?
Or do people really buy the argument that we are NOT a real community; just a place to sleep at night? 
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss future.’

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Talkin' John Birch Society Paranoid Blues

I thank Bob Dylan for his inspirational song of the same title.
Today, the "dirty" word for the JBS is "sustainable."  You laugh?
I like that there are people in the world who spend part of every day, looking forward and thinking about tomorrow.  It makes me happy to know that most of the people around me, while they may be occupied with building careers, making money, taking vacations, and buying cool stuff, also take time out to donate time and money to local organizations and town government.  They somehow feel a sense of responsibility and love for their children and their friend's children and so take an interest in building a better community.
It does not seem to matter which political party they claim membership in or if they claim none at all.  Some people are just constructive and positive.  As I've grown more interested in town governance and national and international issues, I've learned to control my assumptions about my neighbors politics.  Before I moved to Rindge and got involved in local issues, whenever I met someone I truly liked and admired, I automatically assumed that we belonged to the same political party.  It kind of "rocked my world" to be working side by side with people who shared my love of community, but belonged to a party I thought wouldn't be interested in community service.  In fact, to my shock, most of the volunteers belonged to the "other" party.  Of course, the proportions also reflect the demographics of our community, I think.  It gives me hope for our very divided country that, at least, at a local level, we are able to work together in the best interests of the community.
Rindge is a very conservative town.  It is no surprise to me that when the energy commission made a pitch for more weatherization work on town buildings, the town government was very supportive and the voters awarded us funds to invest in more projects.  It was not an emotional appeal, it was a proposal based on the operating budget savings that we realized from ARRA funded projects.  Thanks to the federal grant funding we received, we were able to make improvements and get audits done.  The savings have been quite significant.  Regardless of party, people in Rindge see the wisdom of reducing costs.  Who would vote to WASTE money through excess energy consumption?
I want to tell you, I have felt no small pride that Rindge made that investment.  We are the envy of other towns with energy committees.  With grant funds for municipalities drying up, many energy committees have stalled in their efforts to improve energy efficiency in town buildings.
I wish I could get more grant money for other projects.  I understand that RGGI funds will become available soon for municipal projects.  I'd like to apply for some of that funding to move us along a more sustainable path.  What do I mean by sustainable?  I mean that it takes less resources and that we may even provide some of the power for our buildings, so that it becomes less costly to "sustain" them.
We are so lucky in Rindge.  Our DPW Director is very smart and very dedicated.  He is open minded and is a huge help in finding ways to stretch our dollars and make the energy improvements serve the dual purpose of making needed upgrades to town infrastructure.
I know that if you want to succeed, you need to be organized and have a plan.
I am passionate about energy conservation and the development of renewable resources.  I am basically a geek and made a career of designing portable computers.  The secret to our success was to constantly push down the power requirements, while boosting performance.  Now, in my retirement, I am interested in a macro view of power consumption and how it affects our economy, environment, and future.  NO ONE is going to tell me that this joy I get out of crunching numbers and plotting to reduce BTUs and Killowatts in a building is evil or a threat to society.   I see my favorite obsession as a joy for me and a gift to my community.
As was probably quite evident in the JBS sponsored meeting on October 1 at the Recreation Building in Rindge, my social skills are not that great and I am NO politician.  I am a nerd and a geek, but I also care deeply about our community.
I probably came across as wanting to suppress the free speech or exchange of ideas.  Why was I so upset about people asking questions after all?
I am upset because that meeting was part of an organized and planned campaign to turn the word, "sustainability" into a dirty word like "commie."   The JBS calls it the "Agenda 21 Conspiracy."  They are trying to block plans to make our communities more sustainable and environmentally friendly by scaring people with the threat that "visioning" is just a prelude to allowing the federal government to restrict your intake of beef, use of gasoline to drive, and use of your land.
I have news for you.  Those things will probably happen and will happen faster if we don't get "smart" with our planning.  It won't be the federal government who will cause it.  It will be market forces that cause these things if we don't take action.  The more demand on gas and oil, the higher the prices will go, and the more everything costs.
I find it ever so interesting that the JBS has taken the tact of scaring people into believing that accepting HUD grants for community planning and housing/infrastructure projects is like opening the door to a vampire.  If you invite HUD in, it will take your property by eminent domain and begin telling you what foods you can eat and how far you can drive.  It is the end of freedom as we know it.
Why is it interesting?  Because the JBS supports and promotes the Keystone XL Pipeline project which is one of the biggest taking of land by eminent domain for corporate profit ever.  How come freedom and liberty are so precious in one circumstance and completely irrelevant in another that benefits oil interests? 
Everyone in town is enjoying the new diner at the intersection 119 and 202.  I can't help but think that Tim Halliday was inspired by what he saw in those "visioning" documents at the Charrette.  That is what they are inspire and attract.  How is that bad?
And could someone please explain to me what would be accomplished by returning any of the HUD grant money?  Payson Village is a HUD funded project.  We already have a relationship with HUD.  Aside from helping to "build the brand" of certain NH House Representatives, what will really be accomplished?
Maybe I just don't scare easy?  I am NOT afraid that the government or anyone else is going to take my property by eminent domain.  I am not in the way of any natural resources (at least so far...there's going to be a proposal to build an LNG pipeline from Everett, MA to NH, I understand.  I wonder which side the JBS will come down on for that?) and I am not part of a blighted neighborhood.
I am also not afraid of the JBS or any names they care to call me.
I'm thinking most of my neighbors in Rindge don't scare easy either.  I think they are too smart to be sucked into returning money.  After all, what is the biggest penalty HUD could impose if you violated their rules?  You guessed it: You would have to return the money.  It really is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
So, I hope this explains why I am taking these shenanigans by the JBS so personally.  It offends me.  Sustainability is a good thing.  Smart is a good thing.  Think of the opposites; Unsustainable and Stupid.  Really?  I just don't see Rindge going that way.