Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Patton Comes to Grundy

The circus is coming to town!  No, not the Presidential primaries, but the mysterious Great Lakes Basin Transportation Company llc who the public just learned about two  months ago is coming to the Morris High School gym May 2nd. 

The Morris Herald-News is reporting Great Lakes Basin promoter, Frank Patton is going to attend a Q&A arranged by Grundy County Board Chairman David Welter.  Interesting.  Very Interesting.  Some of us are still skeptical. 

It is being reported that Patton will be answering questions by the public provide the questions are written and read by a moderator.  Sounds open, reasonable, and potentially neutral.  That remains to be seen.  Some of us are curious if real questions from the public will be answered.  We’ve seen to many examples where the questions are gerrymandered and staged.  We’ve seen too many times where these “townhall” meeting are staged events.  Hopefully this is not the case. 

If the public perceives actual questions from the public are avoided and softball propaganda questions are answered without adequate follow questions, this project will be seen as even more of a scam.  I remember one project promoter for a certain powerline “for the wind turbines” did a Q&A at the U of I.  He was very selective on the questions he would answer.  A local US Congressman did an online townhall Q&A about energy issues.   All of the questions that were supposedly asked by the public were from cities outside his district.  Questions for Seattle seemed a bit phony.

Questions about the money men behind Patton will probably be off limits with “non-disclosure agreements”.  Answers about a 15,000 acre “railyard” conveniently close the proposed Peotone airport will probably be aloof. 

If this project is truly Frank Patton’s baby, I wonder if there has been a signed option to sell the project once the easement is obtained.  If so, an option to sell the project is probably covered in a “non-disclosure agreement”.

Regardless, this will be a good show.  Transparency is key.  That;s something Frank Patton has lacked up until this point. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Stress and Suffering of Eminent Domain

The consequences of siting for speculative projects hoping to use eminent domain can be excruciatingly stressful and even deadly.   Do government organizations like the Surface Transportation Board realize just how stressful easement siting can be on the public?   Last night I had an opportunity to talk 3 minutes before a packed auditorium, expressing concerns to the Surface Transportation Board court reporter.  Some people get nervous before they speak.  For others, like myself,  there isn’t a rush of jitters before the moment, but a collapse after.  The nerves and jitters hit during the 15 to 20 minutes after it’s over.  Perhaps the smart people are those who sit in the audience with support but don’t speak.  They have a better understanding of their limitations when fools like myself rush in.  

The night before,  an older gentleman had what appeared to be a heartattack  a couple minutes after sharing at one of these Public Forums for the Surface Transportation Board.  He spoke for about 10 minutes and captivated the audience like grandfathers telling a story. While he spoke,  he owned the room and the only ones concerned about an alloted time limit was the people from Washington.  He spoke eloquently from the heart.  Unfortunately 3 minutes after he was done,  he was unconscious. With so many engaged rural residents there were five people volunteer firemen preforming CPR and administering and AED,  shocking him possibly 3 times. 

This process isn't working and something needs to change in the easement siting process.  It doesn’t matter if it is from the Surface Transportation Board, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or The Illinois Commerce Commission.  This easement siting (eminent domain) process is high stress and is not working.  The stress starts when the public is blindsided by a proposed project.   Informing landowners and residents at the last minutes exacerbates the problem. Having these projects linger with no finality just keeps the unknown lingering.  

The original Rock Island Clean Line docket was filed in 2010 and they still haven’t progressed to the point of buying easements.  How long must we live under the oppression?  When is there closure?

The Surface Transportation Board meetings were a sobering reminder just how much this process sucks.  There is no just compensation for the stress this causes.  The three members of the Surface Transportation Board can’t even find time to attend these meetings themselves.  They send a court recorder, some outside contractors, and a very nice but powerless guy from the environmental department. 

This process needs to change.  After watching a man get shocked possibly three times with an AED in a packed auditorium and possibly die at one of these public forums, it is not surprising why many in America despises Washington and have contempt for the bureaucracy.  It’s easy to understand why people see Washington as the enemy and Washington is beginning to view the public as domestic terrorists. 

Does the Surface Transportation Board actually care about the public?   Does the Surface Transportation Board only see themselves as arbiter between railroads like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sees themselves as arbiter  and keeping a balance within the industry and the people are just a necessary inconvenience?  This process isn’t working.  To put this into perspective, the Surface Transportation Board doesn’t need to hire police for security.   The Surface Transportation Board needs to hire onsite paramedics.  These Public Forums are just that stressful.  Next, the actual board members should start attending these meetings themselves and feel the pain.

Maybe these state and federal regulatory agencies need to start including landowners immediately in the process. There is no omnibusman or representing mechanism for affect people in this process.     There is no support at FERC or the STB.  This process needs to start including affected public and not alienating the people.  No one else is going to properly question the true need for these projects but for the people. 

Too bad Frank Patton didn’t attend these meeting.  I guess a puppet CEO for shadow investors doesn’t need to see the pain he causes.   Considering Frank Patton’s age, odds are he will die of “natural causes” before a decision is made to accept or reject this project.  Do the shadow investors pulling Frank’s strings have another puppet CEO waiting when Frank is gone? 

Here's another suggestion Frank.    Walk away.   Enjoy your retirement.    This project is going to take minimum four years and probably closer to eight years before closure.  If you were Frank Patton, do you really want to go down this road?   It’s about to get very stressful for the CEO of Great Lakes Basin Transportation llc.  A few years ago Ron Binz was nominated for chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).   FERC handles some siting and authorization issues for proposed powerlines and pipelines.   Binz withdrew his nomination stating Congressional approval was a “bloodsport".  That was an interesting description considering the real blood sport is siting of unnecessary eminent domain projects such as this from people who have no regard for other's homes, farms, and business.

This is going to be a long hard road.  Eminent domain siting is not fun stuff.  Frank should be asking himself if he really wants to go down this road against people who have the tenacity of defending their homelands.  Think about the tenacity of the Patriots fighting professional British Troops.  When you fight with your heart for your home, you fight with a lot more passion.  Is this how you want to spend your retirement if you were Frank Patton?    
Sure, Patton is probably in this because it could potentially put money in his back pocket, but the people are fighting for their homes.  Does Patton, the puppet CEO, have any idea how hard we'll fight to protect our homes?   Walk away, Frank and enjoy your retirement.  This is going to be a long hard road for Frank.  It’s time these “project developers” feel the stress and pain we do.  Maybe Frank Patton should ask the folks at Clean Line Energy just how tolling easement siting is on their personal lives.  Maybe Michael Skelly and Jimmy Glotfelty at Clean Line can recommend a good therapist. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Suggestion #1 for Fast-Take Frank

Dear Fast-Take Frank,
Great Lakes Basin Transportation llc
April 8, 2016

Make no mistake Frank.   This is not a knee-jerk reaction to the Illiana toll road.   There's some ticked off people out there who really aren't happy with you and your outside the process speculation project.  Right now Frank, you're caught up in a tornado, inside a hurricane, with a honey badger. 

You need some help before this train of yours comes off the tracks.  We're getting the feeling you're new to this game of easement siting and need some advice.  We're sensing a little frustration in your tone and some of our operatives are hearing reports that you are being a little snippy with the locals at the county government offices.  It is troubling to think you might be feeling down and thought it would be good to give you some advice.  Maybe you didn't get the playbook on Easement Obtainment.  Amazon sells it under Eminent Domain Domination.  Here's a couple tips that might pick up your spirits.

First, you need someone who supports your project.   A big name in the rural community would be a key mascot for your agenda.  It would have to be someone who farms and supports rail expansion.  Craig Lang in Iowa your man, but he will probably cost some money.  

Lang supports the merge of Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern.  Turns out there's a lot of Canadian Pacific track laid in Northern Iowa that runs east to Chicago.    He would be a good spokesman to attempt to explain how much more corn could be sold from Iowa into the Chicago and Toledo markets if only there was a bypass around Northern Illinois.    The fact that corn travels to plants in central Illinois, feedlots in Texas, and the export market in New Orleans is irrelevant.   Go ahead and talk about eastern corn markets.

Craig Lang has experience forming his own Astroturf organization in the past supporting Iowa wind energy corporations.   Windward Iowa was a key supporter of the Rock Island Clean Line transmission project through Illinois and Iowa.  He was instrumental in attempting to seek easement approval through Iowa and Illinois.  Just ask him, he'll be glad to tell you how key his support was for Clean Line.  

With him being in Iowa and your project being in Illinois, his support will be even more glowing on paper.  He’s probably willing to form a website and other social media enhancements for Great Lakes Basin Transportation llc.    You really need some help, Frank before this train runs off the bridge. 

Do you need a public relations or marketing firm to assist you in this endeavor Fast-Take Frank?  There's a good one in Des Moines.  With the Iowa caucus over, they probably have time for you and your transportation spec project.   They come highly recommend at creating a social media followers of a project like yours.  Craig Lang's done some previous windwart and eminent domain infrastructure for private gain work with them.  Top notch at forming a public relations campaign spinning dirty wind infrastructure projects into "clean" eminent domain projects.

Think about it this weekend. You're on a train, in a tornado, in a hurricane, with a honey badger.  It's time to look for a way off this train, Frank.  Actually, I wouldn't recommend either of these old worn out tactics.  The utility industry has worn these tricks out with rural communities.  Sure, the PR firm and the paid spokesman always talk a big game, but we've seen them all before.   We've had our fill of venture capital speculation projects seeking eminent domain for our homeland.  

Have a good weekend thinking about eminent domain, Fast-Take Frank. 

Just remember...train...tornado....hurricane...honey badger.

You have no idea what your up against. 

The Editorial Board at Strawman RR