Saturday, December 31, 2005

Council: we're dividers, not uniters

OK, its official. Order 57 on the January 3 agenda:
WHEREAS, the Town Council has determined that the Community Economic Development Committee has been an unproductive instrument in community and economic development and no longer serves a useful purpose for the Town Council and citizens of Gray.

IT IS NOW HEREBY ORDERED by the Gray Town Council as follows:

This Order shall serve as written public notice that the Council intends on amending the Council Rules according to Section 602.28 and will conduct a public hearing on January 17, 2006 to take comments on the abolishment of the Community Economic Development Committee by deleting Section 602.40 from the Council Rules.
Remember, we pay these clowns a couple grand a year for this stuff.

Best. Editorial. Ever.

Ray smacks down rogue council:
This is a Council whose principal achievements in its six months in office have been negative. It chased Matt Sturgis from the Council. It asked for volunteers to serve out Sturgis' term, and when one came forward, delayed and stalled until it could convince someone more amenable to its views to take the job. It vowed to cease workshops, which it said circumvented the public interest, and then held longer and later workshops than any Council in recorded history. It did its best, or worst, to humiliate Pam Wilkinson, a former Councilor who wanted to continue to serve the Town as a member of the Ordinance Review Committee. It accused two members of the Trustees of the Gray Public Library of conflict of interest, then "incompatibility of office", then dropped the whole thing. It dissed the Planning Board for being (a) too restrictive on development and (b) too flexible on development. It threw out a year or more of work on a new zoning plan, and gave the task to a real-estate developer. And it has treated the Town Manager shamefully.
Read the whole takedown here.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Who works for The Monument?

    This is from an email sent by Prattle:
    Subject: You are incorrect
    Jeanne Adams is not an employee of The Monument Newspaper.
    Elizabeth Prata

Oh, so I guess sharing office space with The Monument, writing for The Monument, taking photographs for The Monument, and helping to publish The Monument each week doesn't make you an employee?

What am I missing here?

Nathan Tsukroff

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A stool, a fool, and a tool

One of the most entertaining things gleaned from last summer's batch of FOA email was the touching, starry-eyed admiration our town council and Prata have for one another. Directly below is a note that our favorite hard-hitting journalist sent to her fab councilors at the beginning of the Pennell firestorm. I'm sure all working reporters express such sentiments to the people they're supposed to be covering. Foster/Upham responses follow. I just love Andy's self-description at the very end.

From: The Monument Newspaper
To: Skip Crane ; Denise Duda ; Gary Foster ; Andy Upham
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 6:09 PM
Subject: a supportive statement

Hello Council,

Congratulations on your first week of public life. It has been a busy one, I am sure, and one not without pressure.

It is a shame that the Pennell issue has already dominated the Council landscape, and so quickly. I wanted to mention, though, that the demarcation between old Council and new is very wide when it comes to Pennell.

The sad fact is that of Pam Wilkinson's 3 years of Chairmanship on the Gray Town Council, the Pennell issue dominated all Ms. Wilkinson had the opportunity to settle it two years ago but chose to litigate against the SAD. It could have been settled last year, but the MOU failed. This mess sits squarely on the ex-Chair's shoulders.

You did not create the Pennell mess, but I trust that you will do the very best that you can for the citizens to resolve it. You were, after all, decisively elected by a majority of the Inhabitants of the People of Gray.


From: Gary Foster
To: The Monument Newspaper ; Skip Crane ; Denise Duda ; Andy Upham
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 7:25 PM
Subject: Re: thank you

Dear Elizabeth,

Indeed, it has been a very hectic week, but I try to fulfill my commitments as best I can.

I am ever aware of the fact that we represent all citizens of Gray, and will treat all requests equally, including our local newspapers and others. Feel free at any time to ask for information or request documents, as that is part of our obligation to our community.

Best Regards,

Subj: Re: a supportive statement
Date: 6/29/2005 8:14:02 P.M. Eastern Standard Time


Thank you for the kind words. There is credence in the expression "trial by fire". The same thermal energy that could destroy a living forest can be harnessed to mold iron ore into bridge frames and temper steel into a fine tool. My strong preference is to build upon the core values of the wonderful People of Gray. I am their tool.


Oy! I'm never, ever going to use a metaphor again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Why I left the Monument


This is why I left The Monument -

I was asked to report on the horrific controversy surrounding the Rescue Captain who resigned from the North Yarmouth Fire-Rescue Department.

I was told that "people are asking what's going on." There was a mysterious email that I was told about, but not allowed to see . . .

When I called the Rescue Captain, she was quite open and polite, and simply explained that she had family issues that pulled her away from the department. The fire chief confirmed this.

. . . end of controversy.

What I found disgusting was Prattle's spiteful attempt to create an issue where none existed. It was clear she was trying to make trouble.

That's not editing a newspaper. That's simply making up stories so you can run a big headline.

Shame on her!

Nathan Tsukroff

Is she a fool, or simply lying?


I'm astounded that Prata has claimed to have "lost" all her emails. I can't get rid of a simple file, and she loses all her emails? So am I to assume all the email automatically saved to her hard drive when she opens email also magically dissolved when the "server in California" crashed?

Either Prata is a total fool for not backing up her email - and we all know about backing up our files, which I do regularly - or she thinks WE'RE the fools for believing her when she claims the server crashed.

And if you think for a moment that a good web host isn't running RISQ protocols (multiple hard drives to "mirror" each other in case of a crash) then you just don't think at all.

Is Prata hiding something? That crash is just too coincidental when you consider I was investigating Gary Foster's email correspondence with her just the week before the "server crash."

I hope you're thinking, too!

Nathan Tsukroff

The purges continue

Since the beginning of the Foster/Upham/Crane/Duda era last summer (hereinafter referred to as the FUCD period in Gray's history), there hasn't been a single council meeting at which some productive soul hasn't been attacked, threatened, or accused of misbehavior. Not one.

The latest group of citizens to come under assault are the volunteers who make up the Community Economic Development Committee. And this time its personal. CEDC's chair is my wife Julie. The committee's crime: heresy.

CEDC believes that poor zoning and a lack of tax incentives (such as TIFs) are the primary obstacles to business development in Gray. They believe this because that is what businesses are telling them. The town council, on the other hand, despises zoning and proactive government (unless it involves food fights over Pennell). In their rich fantasy world, desirable businesses will come to Gray if we improve our brochures, not our zoning. And they get very angry if anyone says otherwise.

In FUCD Gray, such a difference of opinion means all-out war. CEDC tells this council something they don't want to hear, and council responds by threatening to disband CEDC -- with prejudice.

At their December 20 meeting Foster, Crane, and Upham attacked the committee with their trademark recklessness. Here's Foster giving his impressions of what transpires at a CEDC meeting:

But there are also - you know from feedback I have received - and I haven't - I am not the liaison and I haven't attended their meetings - but there is inappropriate discussions that have taken place that really don't have anything to do with promoting Gray or conducting business or - I have heard the words "embarrassing" used, I have received information of incidents of - just discussions of a personal nature - that is just - we can't have that on a - our committees ought to do work for us.
A real class act, our town council chairman.

And so we get Order #57 on the Jan 3 council agenda: "Review and act upon Amending the Council Rules to abolish the Community Economic Development Committee. Sponsor- Town Council"

First, though, committee members will be called before the Inquisition to confess their crimes. Here's Foster's invitation:

Dear Julie and members of the CEDC,
the Town Council is requesting your participation at the regular Council meeting on January 3, 2005, in a discussion of the performance of the CEDC, its purpose, and its value to the citizens of the Town of Gray.

Gary C. Foster

Its possible that an abject apology, coupled with some robust grovelling and loyalty oaths, will allow the heretics at CEDC to continue serving their masters in some diminished capacity. But they better not misbehave.

The entire sorry transcript is posted in the documents section at right, or here.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Back by popular demand

Disappearing Email, Part II

On top of Foster's disappearing email, there was this item in Gray's official party newspaper (Monument, 12/1/05, p.2):
On Thanksgiving, the server hosting The Monument, in California, crashed and took with it the Monument's website ( and all emails sent to us, past and present.

If you don not see your release or notice in this week's paper, that is why. Those are gone forever...
Apparently Elizabeth's web host doesn't do backups, and she doesn't download email onto her hard drive. Not a good idea.

2005 was a bad year for email in Gray.

Gary's Disappearing Email

Nathan Tsukroff is just about the only person in Gray who's watching our rogue town council with the skepticism they so richly deserve. Thanks to his diligence, we learn that chairman Gary Foster has destroyed an entire year's worth of public email:
Gray Town Council Chair Gary Foster admitted last week that he deleted all email messages from his first year in office. Maine law designates certain types of email messages as public documents that must be saved permanently.

Foster said “I didn’t know I had to keep them,” although he attended a workshop on Jan. 27, 2005, for Town Council members at which William “Bill” Dale..., the town’s attorney, explained that emails are considered to be official documents and must be revealed in response to any Freedom of Access (Right to Know) requests.

Foster said he had only started to retain email correspondence since he was named as Chair in mid-June.
Nathan's entire report is here.

It's worth noting that in late June 2005 I filed a Freedom of Access request for all of Foster's Pennell-related correspondence going back one year to the beginning of his term. After much discussion over the "legality" of my request -- including consultations with self-declared FOA expert Elizabeth Prata (who advised the council that my request was "harassment" and therefore illegitimate) Foster ultimately provided me with about a month's worth of email. It's here.

First post

OK, lights are on. We're open for business.