Attendees in big turnout give advice on creative economy, economic development, transportation, energy & environment
Special to cctoday by Jack Coleman
A standing-room only crowd of more than 150 people turned out yesterday at Cape Cod Community College -- to offer advice to Gov.-elect Deval Patrick.
On Tourism Promotion: "We're not even in the top 20 states. If we don't sell it, they won't come."
- Rep. Turkington
In one of the broadest outreach campaigns ever between an election and a new governor taking office, the 200-plus members of Patrick's transitional team are holding nearly 60 "listening sessions" across the state to let voters weigh in on what they expect of Patrick's administration.
Judging from yesterday's turnout at the college, the sessions are finding receptive audiences. Less than a month remains before Patrick becomes the first Democrat in the Corner Office since Michael Dukakis's departure in early 1991.
"During the campaign, Tim Murray and I made it very clear that we will be seeking good ideas from Democrats, Republicans, independents and anyone else, and we will listen to those ideas and pick the best ones to help move our commonwealth forward," Patrick said in a Nov. 22 press release. "These community meetings are the first step in the process."
Transition team members have been assigned to "working groups" that focus on specific areas -- Budget and Finance, Economic Development, Education pre K-12, Higher Education, Energy and the Environment, Health Care, Housing, Human Services, Local Government, Technology, Public Safety and Security, Transportation, Civic Engagement, Workforce Development and the Creative Economy.
Yesterday's forum at the college was one of 10 such sessions held Thursday around the state. The meeting on the Cape focused on four issues -- the creative economy, economic development, transportation, and energy and environment.
On renewable energy fostering economic growth in Pa.: "This represents an $84 million investment that will create as many as 1,000 jobs over five years."
- Barbara Hill, Clean Power Now
The session was moderated by Harwich resident Andrea Silbert, former CEO of the Center for Women and Enterprise and a Democratic candidate this year for lieutenant governor. Silbert is co-chair of the economic development working group
Given the large turnout, each speaker was limited to two minutes for his or her remarks. Former Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank CEO Elliott Carr, also a member of Patrick's economic development working group, handled timekeeper duties with aplomb.
Also on hand were the other four Cape appointees to the working groups -- Margo Fenn and Susan Nickerson, executive directors of the Cape Cod Commission and Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, respectively; Cape Air President Dan Wolf; and Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross.
State Rep. Eric Turkington, D-Falmouth, said state budget cuts have disproportionately affected the Cape and islands, and the state needs to do more to promote its tourism appeal. Early this year, Turkington was appointed House chair of the Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development Committee.Massachusetts is not in the top 10 states for spending to tout tourism, Turkington said. "We're not even in the top 20 states," he said. Alluding to the well-known line from the movie "Field of Dreams," Turkington suggested that "if we don't sell it, they won't come."
Speaking on behalf of State Senator Robert O'Leary, D-Barnstable, his legislative aide, Susan Rohrbach, said O'Leary hopes Patrick focuses on three areas -- more funding for higher education (O'Leary is a part-time professor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy), reviving O'Leary's management plan for coastal waters (shelved in the last legislative session) and returning Massachusetts to the seven-state Regional Greenhouse Initiative, an ambitious effort to tackle global warming (Gov. Mitt Romney withdrew the state from RGGI last December, followed quickly by Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri).
Cape Wind receives wide support and its share of critics
While Energy and the Environment was not one of the four specific subjects discussed yesterday, the Cape Wind project was mentioned several times in the context of economic development.Clean Power Now Executive Director Barbara Hill suggested that Patrick follow the example of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell toward making Massachusetts one of the global leaders in developing the nascent renewable energy industry in the U.S.
Rendell "established a goal of 400 megawatts which was the critical first step in landing the deal with renewable energy companies to move their operations to his state, a win-win," Hill said. In response, Gamesa, the second-largest wind energy producer in the world, established its U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia and built manufacturing facilities in two nearby counties.
"This represents an $84 million investment that will create as many as 1,000 jobs over five years," Hill said.
In addition, the German-based Conergy AG, the world's largest solar power integration company is moving its North American headquarters to Pennsylvania,"creating more than 50 jobs and up to $100 million in clean energy deals over three years," Hill said
"We urge the new administration to take aggressive action to meet that goal by inviting companies like General Electric to establish a wind turbine manufacturing facility" in Massachusetts, Hill said, which would put Massachusetts on the leading edge of renewables development "with measurable impacts on pollution reduction, environmental protection, economic growth and homeland security."
Along the same lines, Clean Power Now Vice President Charles Kleekamp, who is also vice president of the Cape Clean Air environmental group, asked that Patrick uses his influence to alter rules by regional grid operator ISO-New England "to allow utility scale renewable energy producers to be placed on a 'Must-Run' basis whenever their power is available, and fairly paid, as all others, the competitive uniform clearing price but importantly, without penalty for under-forecast day-ahead performance.
Citing ISO-New England as a source, Kleekamp said that New England receives 24 percent of its electricity from oil-fueled power plants and 39 percent from natural gas-power plants. "Furthermore, the clearing price for wholesale electricity is set by plants using these two sources of fuel more than 80 percent of the time," Kleekamp said.
Kleekamp also said Cape Wind would generate 79 percent of the electricity consumed on the Cape and islands, an upward revision from a previous long-standing estimate of 74 percent. In a footnote citing the basis for the 79 percent, Kleekamp wrote that the figure is "based on Cape Wind's use of the new GE 3.6 MW high-efficiency turbine generating 1,594,207 MWh annually or an average of 182 MW compared in ratio to the average consumption on the Cape and Islands of 230 MW."
But as to be expected with an issue that has kindled strong emotions, not every speaker was in favor of Cape Wind. Osterville resident Dona Tracy, a photographer and writer, said she became involved in opposing Cape Wind through her work in helping birds as New York State's first master wildlife rehabilitation. "I've dedicated my life to these birds," Tracy said. Contrary to the claims of wind power advocates, wind turbines are not benign when it comes to avian impacts, Tracy said. Examples of this abound around the world and are not limited to relatively primitive turbines built two decades ago at Altamont Pass, Calif. Earlier this year, Tracy said, several eagles were found dead at the base of recently built wind turbines in Norway.
On Cape Wind:
"Public involvement in siting is essential."
- Audra Parker, Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound
Conservation would save farm more electricity than would be generated by Cape Wind, Tracy said. "Please, please, let's start with conservation," she urged.
Also speaking against Cape Wind was Hy-Line ferry line vice president David F. Scudder. Building 130 towering wind turbines in the well-trafficked waters of Nantucket Sound, he said, is "a recipe for disaster.""One of the government's obligations is to provide for public safety," Scudder said, urging Cape Wind and the state "to find a better place for this wind farm."
Audra Parker, director of strategic planning of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, said the controversy surrounding Cape Wind "shows that public involvement in siting is essential." In the absence of that, Parker said, sites are chosen by developers motivated solely by profit.
Parker said the Alliance suggests four recommendations to Patrick -- take a closer look at alternative sites for Cape Wind, establish publicly-owned renewable energy projects, designate areas appropriate and off-limits to offshore wind turbines and aggressively pursue deep-water projects.
The Department of Energy, General Electric and the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyare already collaborating on future deep water initiatives, Parker said, an indication of its promise.
"The controversy that has surrounded the Cape Wind project shows that the conflicts this project poses are too numerous and that public involvement in siting is essential," Parker said.
Finding an alternative site for Cape Wind would result in "a win-win scenario for the public and the developer," Parker said. "The Alliance would be pleased to participate in such an effort, and offers staff and resources to help such an effort succeed."
Several speakers, including two who traveled from Boston and New Bedford for the meeting, urged the state to spend more for the arts in helping build "the creative economy," which appears well on its way to becoming the first buzz phrase of the Patrick era.
Mashpee wants a library, Bourne a new rotary, seniors seek better public transit
Mashpee resident Sheldon Gilbert, among the residents working to get a new library built in the town, said he hope the Legislature reconsiders authorizing bond funding to help the project. Gilbert said Mashpee is only second on a waiting list with 30 municipalities. Legislative approval would cover one-third the cost of the new library.
"The Scenic Highway is also important, but so is the Bourne Rotary."
- Coreen Moore, Bourne Town Planner
Bourne Town Planner Coreen Moore said Bourne officials hope the state turns its attention to the Bourne Rotary on the Cape side of the bridge, among the worst sites in the state for traffic gridlock every summer. "We hope it will be put to the top of the list," Moore said. "The Scenic Highway is also important," she said, alluding to the nearly completed Sagamore Flyover project, "but so is the Bourne Rotary."
Cynthia Cole, executive director of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District, said Main Street "is all about smart growth, but we need street lights." The district qualified for a $100,000 grant for street improvements three years ago, Cole said, but delays have preventing the funding from coming through. "This is a public safety as well as an economic development issue," Cole said.
Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority Administrator Joseph Potzka Jr. described the results of a consultant's report on regional transit authorities across the state, as authorized by the Legislature. The report, released a year ago, found limited transit services for seniors, especially on nights and weekends, and too much congestion in tourism areas like the Cape. Additional proposed funding for RTAs did not make it into the state budget, Potzka said, but the need remains.
Dan Gallagher, executive director of the information technology department at Cape Cod Community Center, urged the Patrick administration to bring more fiber optic cable "not just to Cape Cod but to all of southeastern New England."
On Affordable Housing:
"We need their help and we need their attention" on Beacon Hill.
- Bill Doherty,
County Commission Chair
"Digital technology is to the 21st century what roads were to the 20th century," Gallagher said. So little is here now, he said, that the region is "the North Korea of fiber optic." One way to help change this is to use existing railway rights-of-way for the cables.
If there was one message he could convey, said Barnstable County Commission Chairman Bill Doherty, it would be to dismantle "the pervasive myth that this is a second-home ghetto" for affluent retirees.Median income on the Cape is roughly $53,000 while the median housing cost is $342,000. "Even though progress has been made in affordable housing, we need their help and we need their attention" on Beacon Hill, Doherty said.
Plimoth Plantation executive director John McDonough urged Patrick to restore funding to "draconian" arts funding by Romney, which forced Plimoth Plantation to cancel a planned 50th anniversary celebration of the arrival of the Mayflower II in the U.S.
"People believe America began in Plymouth," McDonough said, pointing out that the plantation draws 350,000 visitors annually, with only one-third coming from within the state.
Plymouth's attractions, despite their historical significance, remains "malnourished and underfunded," McDonough said.