The Great Davidski Tries to Ban Natural Gas and Disappear

Bryant LaTourette

Bryant LaTourette
Chenango County Businessman and Landowner

A little over a week ago something magical happened in the Town of Sidney (Delaware County, NY).  Unfortunately, it was black magic accompanied by theatrics, poetry, and horror stories like none we’ve heard before.  Yarns were spun and scenes right out of Bill Murray’s Ground Hog Day were created through the performances of the committed anti-growth, anti-gas, anti-everything actors from NYRAD (New York Residents Against Drilling).

The performance was repeated in the Town of Plymouth (Chenango County, NY).  Once again, the stage was a town hall rather than a theater.  The pattern was, and is always, the same.  The unsuspecting town board opens its meeting.  An agenda is passed out. There is a pledge to the flag, review of minutes, correspondence and new business.   The Town Supervisor caught wind of possible disruptions to this meeting from other supervisors and what happened in Sidney.  Meeting rules are announced in an attempt to get ahead of the emotion.

Act I – Natural Gas Opponents Hyperventilate

People, a combination of some local folks and the usual suspects who trek from town to town in their quest to stop natural gas development in New York, flow into the meeting. As in all good productions the warm-up acts go first.  a Town Supervisor, forced to act as emcee, opens the show. “Who would like to present first?”  A hand goes up!  “You have five minutes.” The story telling begins.  This leads to horrendous stories of sickness, blight, famine, drought and every other imaginable disaster.  There are stories of vast wastelands, purple squirrels, mutant babies and people that have seen 18 doctors to figure out what it is that is giving them the vapors. Every now and then there is a pointless poem read at these hearings.  This night’s poem, incredibly, compares litigants from Carter Road in Dimock to Purple Heart recipients, bringing out emotions of anger, amazement, shock and fear by everyone on both sides.

The warm-up acts continue seemingly ad infinitum.  Finally, the town supervisor asks, “Are there any more comments?” It has now been two hours.  Suddenly David Slottje, a.k.a. the Great Davidski, the Magician, arises from the crowd.  One can almost hear a drum roll.  The microphone cracks and what turns out to a small portion of the audience claps wildly, while the silent majority remains, well, silent and emotionless. He begins.

“I am the Great Davidski of whom you’ve heard.  I, the Great Davidski am here to put your mind at ease.”  A small section of the audience again claps feverishly.  “I am here to help this Town ban evil itself!  Yes, I am here to help you stop the wicked gas industry!  You have heard the stories of devastation, but fear not!  Watch this!”  All eyes are focused on him. “In this hand I have a draft local law to ban natural gas forever.  I can make the industry disappear.  Trust me.  Tell me what you want to see and I’ll make it happen before your very eyes” says the Great Davidski as he keeps his traveling audience of supporters spellbound in a trance of sorts.

Act II – Natural Gas Smoke Reveals the Mirror

But, the spell is broken when a local resident in the audience breaks the silence and yells out “Bans are hard to change once you have them and, if the home rule bill is defeated, then towns with them will be sued and no magician, not even you, can make that disappear.”  The silent majority slowly comes alive with murmurs and nodding heads.  The Great Davidski suddenly realizes the crowd is onto to him.  They see the mirror!  The game is up, the trick exposed.  It’s do or die and he must improvise or be ridiculed off the stage.  He changes the trick to save theact.

“Now, watch carefully, as I put this natural gas ban back in my carpet bag.”  He slowly returns the document to the carpet bag.  The tension is palpable.  What will he do?  He brings the hand out, holds it high in the air to show there’s nothing in it and then does the same with the carpet bag.  It’s empty!  He then lowers it, says some magic words (roughly translated as “I am such a genius”) and reaches in again, pulling out a moratorium!  He says “I now have in my hand a moratorium that will allow you to delay natural gas development until we create a permanent ban!  Isn’t this clever?  I am a genius, don’t you agree?”

A member of the loud minority yells “Bravo, Bravo, Bravo!”  Another cries out “More, More!”  It begins to look like the Great Davidski has saved his trick and himself.

But, it was not to be. “Just you wait a minute! I see what you did” shouts an onlooker from the other side of the room!  “It was the same document.  All you did was add a new cover page you had hidden in your other hand.”  Another speaks up to say “slick, but what if someone catches onto your magic and grasps that a moratorium is just another form of a ban? Your show will be over!  They’ll sue us all.”

Act III – Great Davidski Disappears in Cloud of Natural Gas

“Aahhhhh …” says the Great Davidski.  “I still have one act left!  I will make myself disappear!  You won’t have me to kick around or oppose, propose or defend anything.  Watch, and, before your very eyes, suddenly someone else will be holding my carpet bag!”  The crowd “oohs” and then goes silent.  “This is my last act as I leave this town, but I need your help with this trick, Mr. Town Attorney.  Will you please step right up here?  Now, to make me disappear, all I need is your autograph on the dotted line, kind sir.”  The Town Attorney meekly assents.

“Thank you! Now you are responsible and I disappear on to the next town.  No chains can hold me here!”…….and, just like that, the Great Davidski disappears.  One second he his standing there right next to the Town Attorney holding his carpet bag in his left hand, with his right hand on the Town Attorney’s shoulder.  The next second there is only the town attorney standing there holding the bag in his own left hand, while his right hand puts the finishing flourish on his signature.

“Hmmmm…” say skeptical town board members.  “This just doesn’t seem right.  We want it noted in the records we will not be responsible for bringing this act here today.”  Another of the onlookers, a super magician and super lawyer himself, says to the fellow next to him, “I’ve seen this act before.  They never totally disappear.  You see, every trick leaves a trace and in this case we have a very sloppy amateur, so there is a huge trace. But, it’s no fun exposing an act right away…. let them frolic and play for a while. Business has been slow for attorneys and this will give the rest of us a boost.”

And, so it ended, not with a bang but with a whisper.

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