Request to Robert O'Leary regarding the Mass. Ocean Management Legislation

Editor's note: Dick Farley, CapeCodToday's Washington Correspondent has made several attempts to contact Senator Robert O'Leary regarding the Mass. Ocean Management legislation, formerly S.2308, now reworded as S.2575. Below is Mr. Farley's letter to the senator. 

June 13, 2006
 
The Honorable Robert O'Leary
Cape and the Islands
Senate of Massachusetts
 
Good morning, Senator & Rebecca (press aide)
 
Senator,
My name is Dick Farley and as you may have read or heard, I am the Washington Correspondent for Cape Cod Today http://www.capecodtoday.com/ . I have been writing about the Nantucket Sound wind farm proposal and the attendant policy process.

How your state deals with what are now a number of emergent offshore renewable energy proposals, particularly with respect to coastal and near-shore ocean management policy and regulatory infrastructure, has national ramifications and international consequences.

As you may have read in the biographical sketch Mr. Brooks posted about me, I have a bit of experience helping to translate complicated policy issues, particularly those relating to coastal and ocean management, enabling citizens to develop informed opinions. And as a journalist with several "mainstream newspapers" (as our detractors and competitors put it), I have some years of experience covering statehouse politics and "good govenance" issues.

Indeed, Charles Vinick (currently president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound) and I worked together for a time "in service" to Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, where I'd been for four years when Charles came aboard (as a Vice President) to take over some of the marketing and membership management. I served as Coordinator of Information and Policy Analysis for the then-200,000 member Cousteau Society and contributing editor for public policy for Calypso Log. Before I departed in 1983, I served as an expedition advance team leader for Calypso's film voyage on the Mississippi River resulting in television programming we were doing for Turner Broadcasting. Thus, while Charles and I are playing different roles in the current set of issues, we speak enough of the same language to communicate well.

All that by way of assuring you that in any article I do, you will be treated respectfully and fairly, in return for your candor and honesty in helping us at CCT do our job for our readers. 

You may wish to know that I have, last night, already spoken with Charles Vinick about the Alliance's retention of Brian Hickey Associates ("four or five months ago," Charles told me) to represent the Alliance's interests and concerns before the legislature regarding your bill.

Charles told me, citing the Alliance's "good and close relationship" with you, that Hickey was retained principally to help "guide us through the legislative processes at state level," and that "because of our relationship with Rob (O'Leary), we can work directly with him." 

We understand from other sources that you have been somewhat disappointed that your friends and former close political associates at the Alliance have hired a lobbyist to "kill O'Leary's bill." So it's very important for us to hear from you before we go with this story.

My initial phone call and voice message to your office, of which Rebecca (O'Leary's press aide) was unaware, to inquire about Hickey's role remains relevant because we're certainly interested in how his involvement -- and the Alliance's "direct access" to you -- may have influenced the wording in your Mass. Ocean Management legislation, formerly S.2308, now reworded as S.2575, the new language apparently posted on the legislative web site only yesterday afternoon. (June 12)

That is the first time we saw it and Mr. Gordon of Cape Wind had not seen it when I called him last night to ask about the implications of any changes, although Charles (Vinick) said he had seen the new wording "last week," when S.2308 was passed out of Ways and Means to Ethics and Rules, becoming S.2575. How effective was the Alliance (Hickey) in changing the wording of S. 2308 to what's now in S. 2575, and what are the impacts of any changes?

We'd like your help understanding why the bill has gone to Ethics and Rules (is this usual?) and whether you believe additional changes in the direction favored by the Alliance are likely. What is the future for the bill, in your estimation? How will it affect the Cape Wind project specifically, as we're given to understand blocking Cape Wind was and remains a primary objective in your past support for the Alliance's stand against the project and for your introduction of the bill, at least initially? And what impacts will the revised bill, if passed as rewritten, have on any other prospective offshore renewable energy siting considerations (like Mr. Cashman's which, because it's broken up into three perhaps "small scale" energy projects, may be treated differently from Cape Wind in a future ocean management plan)?

Charles says he doesn't believe the bill goes "far enough," even as reworded in S.2575, toward the "community involvement" elements of managing Mass. coastal and maritime resources. According to Charles, the Alliance is opposed to the bill as revised, and he said they're going to continue to "work with Rob" to move its language "closer to our position."

Please give me a call or email me your response to what I'm sharing with you. The great thing about this whole "cyberjournalism" technology is that, if it's used effectively, you as elected representatives and we as simple country reporters trying to get the story straight can do a better job of keeping our readers (and your constituents) informed. Inherently we have divergent reflexes when it comes to public policy, but we must build and cross bridges when reality requires it. That's why I'm making an extra effort to reach you and inform you.

Charles has acknowledged that the Alliance has not been public about their efforts to "work with Rob" as your ocean management bill is moving through the legislative process. Other folks might be a bit more cynical, given the Alliance's retention of Brian Hickey (and the contentious Stevens-Young-Kennedy maneuvering with the Coast Guard reauthorization conference report, and persistent ambiguity about how that's eventually going to turn out), to deal with public concerns about "back room dealings," so we are giving you an opportunity to speak directly about the new S. 2575 wording and how you feel about the Alliance's heavy and persistent opposition to the bill, which apparently continues with S. 2575 as rewritten.

Rebecca explained to me that it's difficult for State House people to call "out of state," owing to budget cuts. And while she said you have a cell phone, if "push comes to shove" and you have an inclination to respond to our questions, feel free to call me collect. My editor will gladly reimburse me for the call and consider it a cost of Massachusetts citizenship. If you can't get back to us before our first story on this issue runs (quite soon, actually), we certainly will update it once we have some responses from you to use, or from elsewhere if you opt not to speak with us. 

That's the beauty of "electronic journalism," in that we can instantly inform the citizens without having to kill any trees! Hoping to hear from you soon, Senator.

Regards,
 
Dick Farley
Washington Correspondent
Cape Cod Today http://www.capecodtoday.com/
 
cc: Walter Brooks, Editor

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