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Building Reading Pride
Marketing savvy. Doublethink. The product of a professional community organizer using his skills to manipulate and deceive the public (under the illusion of helping and protecting the community). The means by which school officials and special interest groups do and take what they want..
It's all about POWER here. Control the outcome, suppress and marginalize the dissenters. Pass the overrides at any cost. Then leave town...
Newer is automatically better. Besides, there's more money to be made doing demolition and new construction under the guise of "renovation."
Circumvent SBA requirements and State laws, architects and school officials know they are rarely enforced anyway. Spread misinformation. Repeat the lies until the public can't discern the difference. Above all, support and assist the architects.
Who has benefitted from all of this?
Campaign finance reports reflect the manipulative nature of the ballot question promotion in Reading: a well-funded minority succeeded in (repeatedly) misrepresenting school projects and State reimbursement requirements to the public in order to achieve their own ends.
Reading Advocate 04/15/04 - Schools adjust funding [.pdf, 17.2 KB] - "Funds earmarked for furniture, library books and educational technology will be temporarily reduced in order to keep the Reading Memorial High School renovation project on track, School Committee officials decided Monday night. The committee voted to engage TLT Construction Corporation of Wakefield as general contractor for the renovation, at a cost of $44,492,700, approximately two percent higher than pre-bid estimates."
Toxics Action Center, 1997 Dirty Dozen Awards - TLT Construction Corporation of Wakefield's Rotten Apple Award [.pdf, 197 KB] - "One construction company stands out... as the cause of a long and growing list of health and safety problems at schools across the Commonweath: TLT Construction Corporation, a company which specializes in public projects, and is in fact one of the most aggressive school contractors in the Commonwealth. While its low bids win contracts for the company, children and school staff are paying the price."
Newton Tab, 1997 - TLT among state's "Dirty Dozen" [.pdf, 200 KB] - "...Matt Wilson of the Toxics Action Center presented a Rotten Apple Award to TLT 'to highlight the threat that its work poses to students, teachers... and their own workers.' He called for TLT to pay more attention and put more resources into health and safety, for a reexamination of the state's low-bid law and for municipalities to aggressively oversee renovations at schools and other public buildings."
Daily Times Chronicle 09/03/97 - Parker Middle School Contractor nominated to 'Dirty Dozen' list [.pdf, 42.4 KB] - "During construction at the Parker Middle School, there was a fire at the site, and after the flames were extinguished a portion of the building collapsed."
Newburyport Daily News 02/21/97 - A profile of TLT: An aggressive but sometimes troubled builder [.pdf, 87.6 KB] - "TLT's reputation is marred by reports of missed deadlines, unsafe work conditions and air quality problems that have coincided with projects at local schools."
The Flansburgh Associates - Building Pride Connection: Prior to Reading's February 2003 Special Election, were the two supposedly separate organizations, in fact, acting as one? - originally posted in the News Archive, 03/18/03
A concerned Reading resident questioned the possession of Building Pride’s Ballot Question Committee banner by Flansburgh & Associates, who posted it on the wall before they began their interview. Is the banner Flansburgh’s property or did Flanburgh create it for the Building Pride Campaign? Was Flansburgh the driving force behind the campaign in Reading? Was Flansburgh actually paid by Reading taxpayers to “develop a comprehensive community relations program” to facilitate the passage of Ballot Question #1? Was this “comprehensive community relations program” called Building Pride? Some School Committee members bristled at those questions.
According to Flansburgh Associates "obtaining community support" is part of the many services Flansburgh provides to a community, with an incredible “97% success rate in obtaining bond issue passage in New England.” Is this why the cover of their February 25 proposal had Building Pride’s logo on it and why Flansburgh brought a Building Pride banner to their interview?
sc_03_18_03_public_input [4.15 MB] - Prior to the February 25th election, all of the information, documents and drawings related to Flansburgh's renovation designs were only available to the public through Building Pride's website. As part of the services Flansburgh generally offers to towns and communities, they provide the town with a web-site.
No such site was provided to the town of Reading. Reading only got Building Pride... a site advocating the unecessary "renovation" (in reality, demolition) of the structurally sound Reading Memorial High School and, directly or indirectly, promoting the interests of Flansburgh Associates. Month after month, the ONLY source for the latest (mis)information regarding the project was Building Pride.
The poster brought to the meeting, the Building Pride logo on Flansburgh's proposal materials are only the tip of the Iceberg. The issue here is that Flansburgh appears to be taking credit for the Building Pride campaign as though they had a hand in creating it, as though it were the product of Flansbugh's "community support" services: the flyers, the videos, the web site, the meetings, the support activities. Many in Reading would like to believe that Bulding Pride was simply a organization of interested citizens and volunteers but the ties suggesting a deeper relationship between Flansburgh and Building Pride are everywhere!!
Flansburgh downloaded the Building Pride design logo from a web site? Fine. Volunteers designed the logo? Fine. What is really at issue here is why Flansburgh is so quick to include Building Pride logo with their own materials, who implemented the design on the flyers, who backed the Building Pride organization and who engineered the entire community relations campaign? Matt Wilson? Architect Richard Radville? Flansbugh Associates' Principal Sid Bowen??
Which came first, the Pride chicken or the Flansburgh egg? Who got paid?
Flansburgh Associates has (and is proud of the fact that they have) orchestrated ballot campaigns in many other towns to pass overrides. Are we supposed to believe that Reading is the one town in which they did not?
Reading PEP (click the pictures for sites)
Stoneham Together - www.stonehamtogether.org - Sound familiar? Guess who coordinated this override campaign? How much do you think he got paid?
Barnstable Patriot 09/19/03 - Getting organized: Campaign for $7.2M override under way - "Group hears how another community succeeded."
"Leading the meeting at the Osterville Baptist Church was Matt Wilson, a Reading resident who coordinated two successful campaigns earlier this year within seven weeks of one another. The first saw his town support $54 million for a new high school on a debt exclusion and the second gained $4.5 million for town and school operations through a permanent override. Wilson's overall message to the 20-plus people attending was that it can be done, but the effort needs to be focused.
Wilson told the group that the campaign in Reading started with four people, including himself, and that the 20-plus turnout for the first Barnstable meeting should be considered encouraging. Wilson said that the Reading efforts were guided by a core of about 15 people with about 250 volunteers."
"Wilson's profession is based in activism and advocacy as the director of the Toxics Action Center. This is the organization perhaps best known for its annual Dirty Dozen awards for polluters. Wilson visited Hyannis last December to present a Dirty Dozen Award to the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound for its opposition to the wind farm."
"Wilson has volunteered his time and expertise thus far. In an interview Wednesday, Ravenelle said that if there's a decision to hire him for further advice, those consulting fees would be raised and paid for through the independent override committee. Wilson did bring with him Jay Rasku, organizing director for Toxics Action Center.
In Reading, the override push was supported through traditional campaign literature, a Web site, an informational video and testimonials from key public and civic leaders.
Reading also saw an organized campaign against the overrides, which used many of the same techniques in its opposition. In fact, the opposition group remains in place, providing a continuing update of its Web site criticizing the campaign leading to the passage of the override. According to copies of source documents on the opposition's Web site, the general override vote was supported with more than $11,000 in campaign contributions."
The "source documents" online at www.iror.org are the documents Building / Reading Pride supplied in compliance with campaign finance law. These documents illustrate just how well-funded Building / Reading Pride was as an organization.
The Informed Residents of Reading are not a ballot question group but an information source. Instead of providing the public with school department / architect-generated (mis)information, www.iror.org contains actual documentation to inform voters about the consequences of the override decisions. The Reading public made their decision...
He sold these projects to receptive Reading parents and citizens and delivered the outcome Reading school officials and special interest groups wanted.
How many other communities has professional community organizer / override expert Matt Wilson "helped" to pass overrides?
What about the current problems facing Reading school construction projects?
Where is Matt Wilson now?
"Monsters exist, but they are too few in number
to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, those functionaries
ready to believe and to act without asking questions."
Lemmings - "The power to fit in with one's social peers can be irresistible. To a human lemming, the logic behind an opinion doesn't count as much as the power and popularity behind an opinion."