Maine suffers from a lot of different things. Lack of oil to heat our homes. Lack of industry. Lack of employment. Lack of a wide offering of education opportunities. Lack of a solid plan for the future. You know, those sort of things that we don’t always think about. But they’re always there, and it’s a constant problem. Maine also suffers from another problem. The lack of balanced, honest reporting of just the facts. There are basically five major daily newspapers in this state. I’ll call them the A league. These papers are:

  1. Portland Press Herald
  2. Lewiston Daily Sun
  3. Kennebec Journal
  4. Waterville Sentinel
  5. Bangor Daily News

There are perhaps a couple dozen B leaguers, and maybe twice as many C leaguers, and scores of bloggers and website writers. But as in Baseball and Football, everybody looks to the Major League for guidance. We hang on every news story and soak in all the juicy gossip and faithfully defend them as being champions of truth. But that was yesterday. Back in the day when truth was truth, no matter what your personal opinion was. You could stand by your opinion, but if you were wrong, you were wrong. The facts were always the facts.

Not so today my friends. Today, newspapers count more on advertising revenue than they count on you and I spending seventy five cents a day on a paper. Or whatever yours costs. Big corporations are the guiding light, and most of the time, you can depend on your daily choice to be full of news that brings in the advertising dollar, and one more important item. That item is opinion. Opinion is a growing commodity in the publishing trade today. Newspaper editors push their opinion onto the readers, even if their opinion isn’t based on facts.

The issue is surrounding Plum Creek and their proposal to develop the Moosehead area into a playground for the rich from away. As I have been keeping an extra close watch on the proceedings I have noticed a trend in journalism that greatly disturbs me. That trend is to more and more tell stories to steer readers to a certain conclusion, regardless of the facts behind the story. Now, mind you, I don’t necessarily disagree with that type of writing. We bloggers write with that intent in mind every day. If you read this blog, you’ll get a conservative slant. It’s a given. It’s how it works. But when you read a general daily newspaper, one should expect to receive a story with unbiased facts presented, and nothing more. That way you can make up your own mind, and decide what you want to believe is the truth.

Here’s where Plum Creek Timber, and the Blethen connection come into play. You see, Blethen Maine owns three major dailies in the State of Maine. Everyone an A leaguer. Those would be the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Waterville Sentinel. It’s interesting to note that those three papers have articles written by just a few main reporters. And those writers put the same slant on the same stories, every time they write an article about them. When it comes to the Plum Creek proposal, the general facts as given relate to how this will be good for the people of Greenville and the state of Maine.

The articles are always pro Plum Creek. But why is that a connection you ask? Plum Creek is news, and newspapers print news. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Here’s where the ethical debate gets a little muddy. The Blethen Maine Newspapers is owned by another news company called Seattle Times, also a Blethen family paper. That’s Seattle Washington. So these three newspapers paychecks get signed by a Seattle Wash. company. Like every good employee, these people are going to do what the boss wants. Plum Creek Timber is also based out of Seattle Washington. Seems like a busy town for corporate offices. Maybe Baldacci should send a delegation t find out why.

Like every good corporation, it’s run by a board of directors, and employees take their directions from the board members decisions. Let’s take one board member in particular as an example. Jump on your broomstick and head to Seattle for the next board meeting of the Seattle Times. Your host will introduce you to the board members. One in particular comes to mind. A gentleman by the name of Rick Holley. Sound familiar? It should, if you’ve been following the Plum Creek saga. Rick Holley is also the CEO of Plum Creek Timber.

Now that alone should not be a cause of concern. Just because he serves on the board of several of our local publications, does that mean that is the reason they are not reporting all of the facts? Maybe, maybe not. But is not, then why are we not seeing all of the negative aspects of this proposal. The Lewiston Sun and Bangor Daily news seems to have no problem with reporting some bad things about Plum Creek.

Case in point is today’s (01-20-2008) article about yesterday’s final meeting for public comment in Greenville on the Plum Creek plan. All three of the Blethen papers played down the opposition to the plan, and emphasized the perceived value of the plan. Slightly irked by the comments made by the author, I entered a reply on the story in the comments option. Here is my reply to the story;

dl of Brunswick, ME
Jan 20, 2008 9:23 AM
What everyone seems to missing here is the truth behind the concept plan as proposed by Plum Creek Timber. The plan is for their own financial gain. Period. There are no benefits in the long term. The people of Greenville might find it good going, provided the out of state contractors Plum Creek hires to do the work hires local labor. They haven’t to any great extent as yet in any other development. Employment opportunities?

The people of Greenville can look forward to a choice of 1.houskeeping,2.yardwork,3.retail,or 4.foodservice.None of these positions will be full time, none will be high wage. Not one of Plum Creek’s development schemes have resulted in meaningful local opportunities, jobs that your kids can look forward to as they grow up.

What the people of Greenville can look forward to is rich people from away demanding increased fire and police services, new sewer and water, better roads, and other taxpayer supported amenities.

They can also look forward to higher property taxes, increased valuation on property, meaning they will no longer be able to afford to live in Greenville, land posted against trespassing, eliminating access to all this ‘free’ conservation land, and a community changed by morays and values that come from someplace else. All so that they can make a few quick bucks during the construction boom.

Look at all the resort communities in Maine and NH. During the season, it’s crowded with people who could care less about the locals, and during the off season, ghost towns with locals struggling to pay the bills. Unmet tax burdens and low wage seasonal work is not a good plan for the future.

But of course, the pretty frame Plum Creek has placed around their picture makes us think that their paint by number Wal-Mart painting is a Van Gogh. Greenville needs a future, but they should be looking for one they can be proud of and their children can look forward to, and I don’t think running a register part time at a gift shop is much of a future.

Before the LURC makes a decision on this proposal Plum Creek has presented, I hope they are wise enough to look at all of the facts available on the issue. It’s true that the economic future of Greenville is at stake, but so isn’t the future of the rest of Maine. I’ve said it before, we are at what may be a pivotal point in the future of Maine. We are at a point where we can stop being pushed around by people from away, and start taking the reins of our future into our own hands. In my opinion, this proposed concept plan bodes ill for Maine.

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Comments
  1. NOrthern Maine Land Man says:

    This rant looks like it was written by one of those folks who attended the No Growth Festival in Augusta. Lots of emoption and no facts to back it up. To look at this intelligently we need facts.

    Fact 1: Plum Creek wants to develop about one percent of the land they own in Maine.

    Fact 2: Maine has gained an average of 77,000 acres of forest annually since 1940.

    Fact 3: The environmental industry opposes any economic recovery in Northern Maine.

    Fact 4: The editor of the Bangor Daily News is on the board of The Nature Conservancy. They don’t call it Pravda on the Penobscot for nothing.

    Fact 5: The environmenatl industry has extorted a 400,000 acre conservation easementy or forfeit from Plum Creek if they are allowed to develop about 4,000 acres. That’s the price of doing business in Maine.

  2. D.L. Soucy says:

    On the contrary. I am all for growth in Maine. But I want that growth to benefit Maine,not some mega cororation that’s going to rape us and leave us with the baby.Plum Creek has demondostrated that they are an irresponsible company to the communities they do business in.There are things happening behind the scenes that make me very nervous about this whole scheme.Service industries like resorts and more retail are no going to benefit Maine twenty years down the road.We need to get the timber industry back into the business of timber, not building developments.I also do not support the environmentalists claims regarding this proposal.Maintenance of habitat is an important part of my philosophy, but keeping Maine free from socialist regulations these out of state corporations are going to create is more important.Read all of my posts and I think you will at least see my point, even if you don’t agree with me.An incomplete picture has been presented to us by this weat coast company, we need to see all of it.

  3. hillary says:

    First, the so-called conservation easement is a joke. It just provides a place for more development while giving plum creek a nice “green” shine and probably some tax write-offs, and more tax-payer subsidised income to the nature conservancy and other big scam “non-profits”. It allows for hundreds of acres of septage spreading, water extraction, gravel pits, genetically engineered trees, road building, wind power generators, cell phone towers, 45-person commercial “huts”, and unspecified general “development” deemed “necessary” for forest products extraction.

    Second, plum creek’s connections don’t stop with Blethen, though that’s one of the more blatant pieces, and it’s good to see folks reporting on it. Here’s a sampling of the connections:

    Plum Creek is the largest private landowner in the United States.

    Plum Creek’s lawyers Severin Beliveau and Virginia “Ginger” Davis work for
    the law firm Preti Flaherty.

    The Senior Counsel of Preti Flaherty is former Senator George Mitchell.
    George Mitchell’s mother is the sister of Governor John Baldacci’s grandmother.

    Mitchell served for years on the Board of Directors of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the world’s largest hotel company. Starwood owns Westin Hotels, which is working to build a luxury hotel in Portland, and is being represented by Beliveau.

    Two members of Plum Creek’s 8-person Board of Directors have close ties to Starwood:

    Robin Josephs served as managing director of Starwood Capital, the Real Estate Investment Trust that created Starwood Hotels, before she went on
    to serve on Plum Creek’s Board of Directors.

    John McDonald, a Stanford Investment Professor, has served on the iStar Board since 1999. iStar was created by Starwood Capital and is the largest
    publicly traded finance company specializing in commercial real estate financing. McDonald also serves on Plum Creek’s Board and is a founder of
    4-person SPO Partners (along with 3 of his students from Stanford, Scully,
    Patterson, and Oberndorf.)
    SPO Partners is an Investment Firm that is the primary investory in Plum Creek.

    SPO partners also effectively owns Crown Castle International, a cell-phone tower land leasing company. Plum Creek’s “conservation” easement would allow cell phone tower construction.

    Plum Creek lawyer Beliveau is a lead fundraiser for the Maine Democratic Party, and meets regularly with Governor Baldacci. Beliveau’s
    brother-in-law Robert “Buddy” Murray worked under Baldacci as the Commissioner of Professional and Financial Regulation, before being nominated by Baldacci to become a Bangor District Court Judge.

    Incidentally, Beliveau is the lobbyist for Catholic Charities of Maine, which is located at the St. Paul Center in Augusta, where the LURC
    Intervenor Party Hearings on Plum Creek have been taking place.

    Beliveau has also worked as a lobbyist for Larry Warren, founder of Western Mountains Foundation, and former President of Sugarloaf Corporation.
    Warren is spearheading a 180-mile commercial “huts and trails” project which would be part of Plum Creek’s proposed easement. These huts would be up to 5,000 square foot dorms that could house 45-people.
    Plum Creek lawyer Virginia “Ginger” Davis serves on the Huts and Trails Board of Directors, along with former LURC Commissioner Elizabeth Swain.
    Swain is also President of Barton and Gingold, the Public Relations Firm hired by Plum Creek.
    Randy Seaver, who works for Barton and Gingold doing the PR, was the editor of the Biddeford, Saco, OOB Courier newspaper before going to work for Plum Creek.

    In the world of Maine media, Plum Creek isn’t hurting for connections.
    Plum Creek President Rick Holley serves on the Board of Directors of the Blethen Corp. and the Seattle Times Co, and was reportedly invited to join the Board by Seattle Times Publisher and CEO Frank Blethen.
    Blethen Corp. owns a majority share of Seattle Times, which owns Blethen Maine
    Newspapers, which includes the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Coastal Journal and the Morning Sentinel.

    Plum Creek owners, SPO partners, also are the primary owners of ProQuest software. If you look up an article on the Bangor Daily News website,
    you’ll have will use (likely at a fee) ProQuest to look up the article.
    BDN Publisher Richard J. Warren also sits on the Corporate Conservation Council Steering Committee for the Nature Conservancy of Maine.

    Maine Public Radio’s website says of its underwriting partners, “As we all
    know, the company you keep tells a lot about you.” If you listen to Maine Public Radio, you’ll hear a sponsorship announcement on All Things
    Considered/Maine Things Considered, Morning Edition, and The NewsHour
    touting, “Plum Creek – Practicing Sustainable Forestry.” According to
    MPBN’s website, Plum Creek has given over $25,000 to underwrite these Maine news shows, and money that businesses spend on underwriting is usually tax-deductible.

    Speaking of “practicing sustainable forestry,” Plum Creek’s forestry practices are certified “sustainable” by the “Sustainable Forestry
    Initiative” (SFI), a program created, monitored, and enforced by the timber industry that allows 120 acre clearcuts and genetically engineered
    trees. Reviews of whether a company is following

    SFI rules are usually done by the company itself, and the reports are kept confidential. The SFI
    Board recently rejected calls to remove Plum Creek’s certification, even after the company received the largest fine in history under the Maine
    Forest Practices Act for massive clearcuts, destroying deer wintering yards, and water pollution. Plum Creek President Rick Holley sits of the SFI Board of Directors.

    Plum Creek Maine representative Doug Denico (formerly a representative for SD Warren, the company Plum Creek bought most of its Maine timberlands from) was appointed in 2004 by Governor Baldacci to the Task Force on Traditional Uses Public Access to Lands in Maine.

    Back to Plum Creek’s PR Firm Barton and Gingold…
    Barton and Gingold does the Public Relations work for Poland Springs water bottling, which is owned by Nestle, the largest water and food company in
    the world. Nestle has partnered with and funded The Nature Conservancy on various land deals in Maine, including the Upper St. John River project
    and the Katahdin Forest Project. The terms of the easement between The Nature Conservancy and Plum Creek allow for commercial water extraction,
    which is a big interest of Nestle.

    Nestle and the Maine chapter of the Nature Conservancy employ the same lawyer, Chip Ahrens, of Maine’s largest law firm Pierce Atwood. Ahrens is a former Deputy Attorney General to the Natural Resources Division of the
    Maine Attorney General’s Office. He is also a lobbyist for Casella, the largest sludge and waste company operating in Maine (which used to have
    George Mitchell on its Board of Directors.) Casella was also one of the largest donors to Baldacci’s
    last inauguration gala, alongside Plum Creek.

    Ahrens also sits on the Corporate Conservation Council Steering Committee for the Nature Conservancy. Jeff McGown is also on this Nature Conservancy steering committee. McGown is the district manager of the Waste Management Crossroads Landfill in Noridgewock, where Plum Creek plans to send its waste from the proposed developments. Waste Management is also in the business of sludge disposal. Plum Creek’s easement agreement with The Nature Conservancy allows sludge spreading on the conserved lands.

    The Nature Conservancy headed up the Katahdin Forest Project deal that used Public tax-dollars to help bail out Great Northern Paper. LURC
    Chairman and former Great Northern employee Bart Harvey was the local coordinator for The Nature Conservancy in this deal.

    In 2004 The Nature Conservancy hired consulting group and law firm Eaton Peabody to help it push through a bond that allowed the State to borrow
    $30 million for the Land for Maine’s future program.

    Two million dollars of Land for Maine’s Future money was used to buy the Katahdin Forest Project land.

    Eaton Peabody has also been hired by Plum Creek.
    Eaton Peabody lawyer and shareholder William Ferdinand, a former State Planning Office Advisor on Environmental and Economic Development Policy, works as a lobbyist for Plum Creek.

    The head of Eaton Peabody Consulting, Edith “Edie” Leary, was hired by
    Plum Creek in 2005. Leary is the sister of Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine
    (SAM) director George Smith. Since that time, SAM received thousands of
    dollars in donations from Plum Creek and came out in support of the
    development plans.

    Leary was also the original contact person for Coalition to Preserve and
    Grow Northern Maine, which is largely funded by Plum Creek.
    The Chairman of the Coalition is Thomas Kittredge, the executive director
    Piscataquis County Economic Development Council (PCEDC). Kittredge also
    worked with the Maine Democratic Party on the election campaign for
    Senator Joe Perry.

    The President of PCEDC is Eric Stumpfel, a lawyer for the Eaton Peabody
    Municipal Law and Finance practice group and general counsel to a number
    of Piscataquis County towns, including Greenville. Stumpfel was
    responsible for first of its kind legislation that allows public tax
    dollars from the County to be used to fund so-called “economic
    development.”

    The lawyer for the Coalition is Thomas Federle, who formerly worked as the head legal counsel for Governor Baldacci. Federle also used to work as a lobbyist for Scientific Games along with Severin Beliveau. Scientific Games is the company that has the contract to operate Maine State Lottery electronic betting and instant win tickets. It also got the contract with the State to oversee slot operations at Hollywood Slots and John Martin’s Manor (which incidentally is owned by a subsidary of Scientific Games.) Now that Federle is no longer lobbying for Scientific Games, that position is held by Preti Flaherty lawyer Daniel Walker, who is also the lobbyist for the Maine Press Association.

    That’s just a sampling of Plum Creek’s web of influence. If you have any questions about sources for this info, feel free to contact me at hillary@maineindymedia.org.

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