Reflecting on the demolition discussion (60)

(60th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19
www.martintowerbethlehem.com

Risk tolerance should not be the default position of public officials.
(Breena Holland)

I wish all this didn’t make me think of Erin Brockovich, but it does . . .
(Nalyn Marcus)

Thank you, all of you . . . I personally think they have done what they possibly could do in the right way to take this building down.
(Resident Jean at the May 9 meeting)

The demolition of Martin Town is a “done deal” said two residents in the response period at the end of the May 9 night meeting at Nitschmann.

Maybe so.

But if so, it’s time to reflect.

Gadfly is thinking about several things.

One is the type of representation we want, the type of representative we have.

Councilpersons Van Wirt and Callahan were particularly illustrative at the discussion of the demolition at the May 7 City Council meeting, as I detailed in post #38.

Gadfly thinks that Van Wirt and Callahan are in a real sense talking to each other.

North pole and south pole.

Please listen to this interchange and ask yourself what kind of citizen each Councilperson envisions. And ask yourself how you would describe the tone of their deliveries.

Listen. Take the time to listen. It’s important.

Don’t look down at the transcript.

Listen first.

Councilperson Van Wirt (6 mins.):

Councilperson Callahan (3 mins.):

Ok, now listen to this second interchange.

Listen.

Councilperson Van Wirt (30 seconds):

Councilperson Callahan (2 mins.):

What are you thinking?

What kind of citizen does each Councilperson envision?

So, now here are transcripts. But the tone is as important to my question as the content. So listening is primary.

Councilperson Van Wirt: “I’m trying to get this information to the people. . . . The time frame for this is still troublesome . . . so the citizens aren’t at the last minute feeling that they are scrambling for answers that they want to know for their health. . . .The predominant concern that I’m hearing about is health concerns, and these are legitimate health concerns. . . . I think there is a valid role here for the Department of Health to be involved in disseminating health-related information to the citizens. . . It’s not on the citizens to not have the information. . . . They deserve the right to know the answers to these questions. . . . I would ask that the Department of Health be involved. . . . If we have to double-down and do a deep dive, we need to be doing it. . . . Michael Bloomberg said, ‘In God we trust, everyone else bring data.’ So tell them to bring data.”

Councilperson Callahan: “Can you just tell us briefly all the organizations that have been involved in the planning of the demo? . . . How about from the county? . . . How about the state? . . . And what other departments from the state have been involved? . . . How about the FAA? . . . Are there any county, state, or city organizations that you think should be involved that weren’t involved? . . . And the people that are involved in the demolition, this their first time doing it? . . . Do you know of any buildings that they’ve knocked down that something went wrong? . . . I know you and the owner and everybody else in all the departments that have been involved have done an enormous amount of planning on this. The thing that kind of upsets me is this undertone that all the professionals, these organizations aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing . . . everybody’s just pushing this through to demo a building . . . I think you are going to find out that a large majority, an astronomical amount of people are informed about it and feel completely safe about it and you are going to see a lot of people getting up early in the morning to watch it, and they have no fear of anything that’s going on at the site and they have complete confidence in all the professionals as I do.”

What kind of citizen does each Councilperson envision?

Gadfly always hates to speak for others.

But he hears one Councilperson who wants to empower citizens to make their own good decisions and another who is willing to let the “professionals” do the thinking.

Wow! — did Gadfly stretch too far? Is he the only one who hears this?

In any event, it’s worthwhile to ask which kind of citizen you see yourself and what kind of representative you want.

3 thoughts on “Reflecting on the demolition discussion (60)

  1. Reading this, here is what gets me. During all of the countless meetings between the owners, contractors, city, county and state people that Councilperson Callahan mentions why didn’t anybody ask one simple question ” Is dust damage covered by the contractor’s liability insurance?” The answer would be “No,only accidental discharges are covered (and this could hardly be called “accidental”) which brings us to the next question. “Why won’t the insurers cover it?” ITS BECAUSE THEY KNOW WHATS IN THE DUST! The risk is too great.

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  2. The real takeaway from this entire process is that City officials:

    • accepted the contractor as a valid source of information on risks
    • excluded the city’s Health Department from the process
    • assumed that DEP regulations protect public health (what the regulations actually do is permit harm as long as the applicant meets certain requirements)

    Clearly they are willing to allow this to go ahead despite demonstrated public health impacts.

    This is what happens when government officials place a higher value on property (& profits) than on people’s health & lives.

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