Slottje Says: Come On Down Newfield!
The Town of Newfield, New York, Tompkins County hosted attorney David Slottje, the Great Davidski, in its high school auditorium last week to present his suggestions on enacting a moratorium for the town. Not so surprisingly, given the town is near Ithaca, there was a lot of support for a moratorium in the audience, but there were also several natural gas supporters in attendance. EID Marcellus was there for another round of the David show, a modern version of The Price Is Right, as were many local residents who were concerned the price of politically correct anti- natural gas activism was much, much too high.
Newfield, You’re the Next Contestant on The Price Is Right!
The pro bono price sounds right, but it’s the lawsuits to follow that get pricey. Dryden, New York and Middlefield, New York are currently seeing their share of costly litigation after they enacted the cookie cutter ban/moratorium presented to towns across the state. Both of these towns’ cases have now been taken to the Court of Appeals as a result of their adoption of the Park Foundation funded presentations by the Community Environmental Defense Council (CEDC), which are being given up to five times per week in different towns.
That’s a lot of driving and the host of The Price Is Right unreality tour likes to travel in comfort. Newfield audience members questioned Slottje on how he is paid and who funds him. Past experience suggested he might arrogantly dismiss the question, but, instead, he launched into a rationalization for taking money from the Park Foundation. That’s where things got really interesting.
He says, “I drive a Suburban. I’ve always driven a Suburban. My next car will be a Suburban too.” Well, that’s fine, but as one of 2011’s least fuel efficient vehicles (and that’s assuming he has the newest 2012 model to be getting a whopping 15-21 miles per gallon highway) it’s no wonder he’s seeking out Park Foundation grants to pay for his gas.
Slottje went on to say he started talking to towns in 2009 and worked for a year and a half without any pay, not taking a salary for two years. He then said the donations that pay for his program come from audience members who support his actions and his tax exempt 501 C-3 organization, but, for the first time ever in public (that we know of) he acknowledged receiving Park Foundation money.
He then proceeded to offer this: “No one is paying us. No one has ever paid us except in grants and donations.”
Well, that’s an interesting explanation, isn’t it? He apparently just can’t let go of his tagline, “No one is paying us,” as you can see for yourself in the following video. Also, take a look at the second video where my father, Earl Colley, challenges Slottje on these points, to the chagrin of some Slottje supporters.
An Evolving Story Line from The Host
The presentation Slottje gave to Newfield can be viewed below. It’s a bit different than past presentations, which started as “free legal advice” when presenting to Bethel, New York, then switched to an “ducational seminar” in Morris, New York, which was then switched to “zoning ordinance discussion” in Milford, New York and now is simply an educational program on enacting a moratorium. It’s an evolving story line.
Clearly, the strategy now is to focus on these moratoriums, which are subject to a lot less review and scrutiny and function as temporary bans. This, of course, reveals the true purpose of the CEDC initiative – to demonstrate political momentum in communities where there is little political cost. It’s like banning orange groves in Buffalo – all image and no substance.
Slottje discussed other towns involved in enacting bans/moratoriums and the related lawsuits during his presentation, which you can view below. He suggested at several previous meetings litigants would not take this case to the Court of Appeals. He said the majority of towns have not been sued for passing these bans, but fails to inform the audience this is in large part because the majority of towns that have passed these bans are not in areas that will be developed.
The Audience Reacts
The town had use of the auditorium in Newfield from 7 pm until 9 pm Thursday night. The two hours were allotted for the presentation and the public to ask questions. It was one of the shortest public meetings I have attended, because it simply did allot enough time for discussion. Slottje’s powerpoint lasted over an hour and the floor was left with relatively little time to ask questions about what had just been presented.
As you can imagine, the public was upset. Not only were they concerned with the amount of the time they were given to comment, but they were also upset the board had only someone seeking to stop natural gas development and didn’t have anyone present in support of natural gas to give the other side. Sounds familiar, right?
Perhaps the biggest concern from the public was a feeling the board was hiding something. One man spoke up and asked the board when the public was going to be allowed to see what has been proposed. He also expressed his concerns in regard to property rights and the economic lull Newfield, and much of upstate New York, is facing.
We know, from Sidney and Butternuts experience, there are often things going on behind the scenes. The towns had submitted their moratoriums to their respective counties for review and, mysteriously, in both cases, the Slottjes had all the suggested revisions completed in reaction to those comments before the town board ever officially received them or the public had an opportunity to review them. Also, in both cases the two counties had sent the information to the town the same day as the scheduled meeting and those members of the board opposed to natural gas development somehow had revised copies of a draft moratorium by 7 pm that same day. These are very cozy relationships, it seems.
One woman asked why there was such a rush to pass a moratorium. She, like many others, was extremely confused as to why the town was rushing to get a moratorium on the books, especially because the Department of Environmental Conservation has not even finished the Supplemental Generic Impact Statement details or decided to issue permits yet.
One Cornell University alumni, who now currently works with children who have chosen the wrong paths in life, asked Slottje what he suggested the town do to provide these children the kind of structured environment a job in the gas industry might offer. She says she has to watch kids be sent away for lack of such structure in their lives and suggested bringing jobs to our area would reduce this number. He couldn’t answer the question, as is clear here.
The meeting ended with several people coming up to those of us who were there supporting natural gas development and hoping to find ways to educate their board members on both sides of the natural gas debate. There were several natural gas supporters at the meeting and they hope to continue their fight to keep their land rights. Natural gas exploration could do wonders for a town such as Newfield and its residents, and one hopes the board will agree to a second opinion before making such a hasty decision on something that will impact so many residents. The price of a hasty decision to enact a ban or moratorium is just too high and far from right.