Monday, December 19, 2005

Over the Weekend: CFE's Priorities. Connecticut & Broadwater. More Hunting. Modern Houses & Leaky Roofs

Low Priority ... Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound sent out a media advisory the other day outlining their priorities for 2006. It’s not long – three sections, air, land and water. The section that discusses water issues is divided into several sub-sections: Broadwater, beach cleanups, habitat restoration, the restoration of the Shepaug River, the future of water company lands in northeast Connecticut, and stormwater management.

I suppose all are important, and CFE is a statewide organization, not just a Long Island Sound organization.

Nevertheless, how disappointing is it that this organization, which merged with (or swallowed) Save the Sound, doesn’t think hypoxia, or the annual drop in dissolved oxygen levels in the western third of the Sound, is an issue worth making a priority?

Broadwater is important of course. But if someone asked me to chose whether I’d rather have a liquefied natural gas terminal in the Sound or have hundreds of square miles of prime estuarine habitat rendered lifeless every summer with the long-term possibility of this lifeless zone expanding and worsening, I’d say bring on the LNG terminal.

Hypoxia is clearly the Sound’s most important issue. Dissolved oxygen concentrations have been as bad over the last three summers as at any time since the late 1980s, a period when the question “Is Long Island Sound dying?” was taken quite seriously. And Connecticut legislators having raided the state’s Clean Water Fund this year, forcing the state DEP to drastically scale back its part of the Sound cleanup, the situation will only grow worse.

Eyebrows were raised back in 2004 when CFE took over Save the Sound. Ever since its incarnation as the Long Island Sound Task Force, Save the Sound was a leading advocate for the Sound cleanup and a watchdog over all the Sound – New York’s share as well as Connecticut’s. In fact for about two decades, its leadership came from Westchester County. The worry was that the New York side of the Sound might get short shrift if Save the Sound was part of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. Hypoxia affects New York waters far more than Connecticut waters. I can only hope that the omission of hypoxia from CFE’s 2006 priorities isn’t a sign that the worries were justified.

Connecticut is on the fence about BroadwaterThis story, in the Advocate, indicates that Governor Rell’s LNG task force can’t figure out what position to take on Broadwater’s proposal.

More hunting … An alliance of 14 towns in Fairfield County is producing posters that promote hunting.

Architects may come and architects may go … When reporters assert opinions in news stories and try to make believe the opinions are facts, they ought to at least have an idea of what they’re talking about. Case in point: the first sentence of a story in the real estate section of yesterday’s Times, in which this highly dubious opinion is asserted as fact:

“Houses by famous architects are notoriously impractical.”

The story was about a house on Staten Island that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The evidence for the assertion is that the roof leaks. It is dubious on two counts. The hallmark of modern domestic architecture is its practicality: that’s the whole idea behind the “machine for living” concept. And a leaky roof isn’t evidence of a poor design: if a flat roof, like the one on the Wright house, leaks, it’s because of poor workmanship, not bad design. Unfortunately I can speak from sad experience on that issue.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Low priority: The Frank Lloyd Wright house isn’t the only thing with holes in it.

“When (so-called) “reporters” assert opinions in news stories and try to make believe the opinions are facts, they ought to at least have an idea of what they’re talking about.” – Tom Andersen on his blog. This means that like the roof with poor workmanship, so the reporter has slipped something past their editor that has poor workmanship.

The fact that any environmental organization doesn’t make something a legislative priority, does not mean the organization considers that issue a “low priority.”

But then, most bloggers don’t have editors.

It would indeed be disappointing if CFE didn’t think hypoxia was an issue worth making a priority?

If you had any idea about what it takes for any organization to make anything a legislative priority, then maybe you would do more than “suppose” that what CFE has made their “legislative priorities” are “important.” Someone who knew what they were talking about might even think that you might be more pro-active and write more about what you learn while DOING something about the things you complain about so much.

There are many efforts underway to address the issue of hypoxia in Long Island Sound. Here is some information that you might find helpful -

If, as you write, “Hypoxia is clearly the Sound’s most important issue,” and if you believe the state’s failure to fund the Clean Water Fund this year is only going to make the situation worse, then some might suggest 1) getting involved and 2) helping the organizations, including CFE, who are working on cleaning up Long Island Sound and the rivers and streams that feed it.

Unless you want to continue to seemingly contradict what efforts the experts are making and create conflict where there should be an air of working together. Sometimes a little conflict is good, but not between parties on the same side. And, yes, there are experts at every environmental organization in Connecticut, including CFE. There are environmental experts, legal experts, legislative experts, and fund raising experts, and outreach experts, and more, ALL of whom are absolutely necessary in helping to determine what few legislative priorities the organization is ABLE to work on during any given session.

I would suggest getting the real lowdown on what organizations are working on, including the work CFE is doing on Long Island Sound, hypoxia, the Clean Water Fund AND Broadwater before just posting that you “suppose” the issues they’ve chosen as legislative priorities are important.

Perhaps it might become a priority of yours to explain them to those who happen to see your opinions and consider them facts, if for no other reason than the fact that some people respect, for obvious reasons, what you have to say about Long Island Sound.

By the way, I don’t know of eyebrows that were raised when CFE merged with Save the Sound. If you happen to know people who disapproved of the said merger, then there are probably a lot of people interested in who they were, so why don’t you post them?

If you know of a better organization that would have been a stronger buttress for Save the Sound, then why don’t you write about that? I’d be interested. Personally, I don’t think I can think of any – at least any state organization – that could have done it. But that, admittedly, is not really my bailiwick, either.

And, contrary to the second part of your weekend posting, Connecticut is NOT on the fence about Broadwater.

The story in The Advocate clearly says the task force is “examining a controversial proposal for a liquefied natural gas facility on Long Island Sound.” One would think you’d have more of an idea about what’s involved in stopping such a proposal and less compulsion to make groundless statements.

If you think an task force put together with environmental and political experts “can’t figure out what position to take on Broadwater’s proposal,” then I really don’t see why anyone listens to anything you have to say. You have to admit, that statement’s a bit like the hypoxia itself, overblown.

We know you better than that, Tom.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer Wilson-Pines said...

I actually want to talk about FLW houses, not anonymously (the coward's way) take shots at another post. Anyway - I grew up In Wisconsin, which is where FLW spent a great deal of his life and career. Yes, leaking roofs on a FLW building are actually pretty much part of the package. (he had an aversion for gutters - they were unsightly.) He also liked to push the envelope in terms of construction techniques and materials and frequently got ahead of the ability of the existing materials to do what he wanted. The endless tasks for those in charge of preserving FLW houses are not news in the Midwest.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Tom Andersen said...

The anonymous commenter above thinks the hypoxia issue is overblown, that environmental groups shouldn't be criticized by environmentalists, that I should put up or shut up, and that there's not much reason to listen to anything I say (which, by the way, my kids might agree with). Here's what I think; the numbers correspond to the order in which the commenter made his or her points:

1. I based my criticism on CFE's media advisory, which the organization sent out last Friday. CFE’s media advisory listed six water related issues the organization would work on in 2006. Hypoxia, and the Clean Water Fund, weren’t among the six. I judged that to mean that CFE “doesn’t think ... [it] is an issue worth making a priority.” If someone else wants to think that those things are a priority even though CFE left them out of the media advisory, fair enough. As I’ve noted in previous posts, it was CFE that made an issue of Connecticut’s decision to take money out of the Clean Water Fund. I would hope that they’d continue to make it an issue. But it wasn’t on their list. Nevertheless, I’d be happy to be wrong.

2. The media advisory says nothing at all about “legislative priorities.” In fact a couple of the items on the list – beach cleanups and habitat restoration – have nothing to do with the legislature. So I’m not sure what the point the commenter was making by referring to “legislative priorities.”

3. It’s true that most bloggers don’t have editors. That’s what makes blogs more fun to read than newspapers.

4. It’s true that I might be more “proactive” and I might get involved more and help groups like CFE. But that’s not what I do. I’m not an environmental group. I’m a writer. The way I involve myself in important issues is by writing. To say that I should be more proactive is like saying environmental groups should write more. It also suggests that working with environmental groups is the only effective way of attacking environmental issues, which clearly is wrong.

5. I’m glad CFE has a lot of experts working for it. I know a fair number of those experts and I like them and respect them and agree that they are indeed experts. They took me and my wife and a number of their board members on a nice boat ride up the Connecticut in September. It certainly doesn’t mean however that the things they do and say can’t be questioned or critiqued.

6. CFE sent me a media advisory. I based what I wrote on what was included and not included in the media advisory. Did CFE send the media advisory because they wanted media people to think that “the real lowdown” could be found elsewhere? And if so, where? Do they have a priority list that they don’t send out to the media? Of course they don’t, but if they did, why would they tell me about it if they didn’t send it to me in the first place?

7. I remember chatting with a few people about the CFE-Save the Sound merger and about what it might mean for the New York portion of the Sound, particularly Westchester. Save the Sound always had a strong Westchester connection. It was perfectly logical to wonder what would happen if it became part of a Connecticut organization. But I wasn’t a reporter and I wasn’t even blogging then, so I have no reason to list the names of the people I talked to about it, especially at the request of an anonymous commenter.

8. The Stamford Advocate, which was my source for saying the governor’s LNG task force was on the fence, said the task force was “undecided” and is “still looking for answers.” Julie Belaga, who is on the task force and is also on CFE’s board said, "Until we talk as a group it's hard for me to tell where this all might go." To me, that’s the same as being on the fence: they haven’t made up their mind.

9. “If you think an task force (sic) put together with environmental and political experts “can’t figure out what position to take on Broadwater’s proposal,” then I really don’t see why anyone listens to anything you have to say. You have to admit, that statement’s a bit like the hypoxia itself, overblown.”

Let’s review number 9. I wrote a post saying it was disappointing that CFE, in its media advisory, didn’t make hypoxia a priority. Someone posted an anonymous comment about it. That anonymous person vigorously defended CFE against my criticism. My criticism was that CFE didn’t list hypoxia as a priority. The anonymous person who defended CFE so vigorously thinks hypoxia is overblown. It's possible that my true offense here is that I was right and that the commenter didn't like to see it pointed out. On the other hand, if I was wrong, all CFE has to do is say so. As I said, I'd be happy to be wrong on this one.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you allow anonymous comments to your blog just so you have one more thing to nitpick? Stop bickering! Sounds like you have enough to pick on without picking on the fact someone would choose to post anonymously.

I received the same release and it seemed that it was meant to pique my interest as a reporter in what they worked on last year and what they would work on this year. That’s what we talked about when I called – what they worked on last year, and what they’re going to be working on next year.

I thought saying the task force “can’t figure out” what position to take on Broadwater’s proposal was a bit pretentious. But that’s just my (anonymous, take it or leave it) opinion.

The person may just be put off by that part of your style. By the way, I agree with the writer that the hypoxia problem is a big (overblown) problem, physically and as an environmental issue in general. I would disagree if they meant it's something that has been blown out of proportion, but I doubt that’s what someone responding to a Long Island Sound blog meant.

Blogs are sometimes more fun to read because they’re unedited, but that’s the same reason why, more often than not, they’re less reliable sources of information.

10:47 AM  

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