Saturday, July 25, 2015

The ICC Public Forums for the Grain Belt Express Clean Line llc

Some CLEPtomaniacs (Jonathon Abede,
Deann Lanz, Jayshree Desai, & Sahara Bray)
The Clean Line Circus is coming back to Illinois, complete with the Clean Line CLEPtomaniacs.  As Clean Line has moved from state to state, seeking regulatory approval for their projects throughout the Midwest, a fair comparison can be made to Presidential primaries.  The company’s land acquisition team moves from one state to the other seeking a victory and this time it comes back to Illinois with the Grain Belt Express llc company.   

The Illinois Commerce Commission has now scheduled the public forums in the matter of the Grain Belt Express llc desire to build a transmission line across Central Illinois.  It’s surprising the ICC is holding three public forums.  Initially they only scheduled just one for the Rock Island Clean Line llc in Mendota, Illinois, GBE’s sister limited liability corporation, but scheduled another forum because of so many people desiring to share their concerns about the project.  3 forums is really surprising.

ICC Forum at Mendota for RICL

There were several things about the Mendota forum that was quite an education.  It was held at the Mendota High School and most of us probably expected it to be somewhat no partisan and neutral ground.  That was a wrong assumption.   Pulling into the high school parking lot, we all knew the Clean Line Circus had come to town. 

Clean Line Circus Sign
Clean Line had setup a big huge portable sign in the parking lot.  It was the stuff they might use at the Wind Energy Association’s trade show.  In hind sight, I wish we had a bigger green combine to park in front of it.  Grain Belt will brought out the entire team.  Not just RICL’s version of Mark Lawlor, but all the minions, including project manager and associates.  These lesser players work khakis and the white corporate shirt.  Some of these people were associated with the New Mexico llc.  Some associated with Grain Belt llc. 

There were some oddities about team Clean Line at the ICC Forum for RICL.  From an hour and half before the forum started, one woman marched out of the high school to behind their big sign.  We never figured out what she was doing, but we speculated she might have a bottle behind the sign.  Seriously, we never could figure out what she was protecting there. 

Another oddities was our BFF from Clean Line.  It was obvious they designate certain teammembers to play one on one and shadow some of us.  After the third time meeting the same Cleaniac in the hall wall, it becomes obvious it was not a coincidence.  It wasn’t surprising to see her sitting 3 seats down from me in an auditorium of over 700.  Team Clean Line will play one on one and shadow certain people.  It’s really quite comical if you don’t take it too seriously, including photo bombing and selfies.  It’s like having your own personal stalker who is mostly harmless.     

Over the years it's been purported at forums, Clean Line will have people play different roles as needed.  Need a engineer, and suddenly a project director with a major in political science and former Blago man becomes an engineering expert.  Need a health expert and suddenly an engineer for another project is now a resident health expert.  

The gentleman from the ICC to collect the public’s statements and the stenographer brought two of Illinois finest state troopers with them.  Rock Island Clean Line llc brought the Mendota Police Department.  The public brought Future Farmers of America from Mendota, Serena, Ohio and Somonauk.  Those young men in women from the high schools were a class act.  They did a fine job facilitating the forums and assisting elderly.    

By the second forum at Mendota, we got a lot smarter.  The nervousness was gone in all of us.   Any fear or respect of the Clean Line people was gone.  We already recognized three quarters of them and knew their names by sight.  Probably the worst mistake for Clean Line was when we didn’t fear them as Utility Executives.  We saw them for the clowns they were and treated them as such.  We weren’t rude.  We did something worse, we laughed and had a good time in the hour before the forum started.   They were not respected.
Hans Detwieler
(Misspelling intentional.  He was arrogant enough to demand Crane's Chicago print a correction for a misspelled name.)

If any energy company project planners are reading this, here’s a tip.  Never lose the fear.  Be the big leagues energy company executive.  Make the people fear you.  Make the people feel awkward.  Once the people lose the nervous awkwardness and don’t fear the energy company executives and their minions, the company’s project is screwed.  That’s when the people know Goliath is gonna fall, gain confidence, and they enjoy the moment.  Energy executives, always be the Goliath.  That’s the last free tip.

At the second forum we also learned to take pictures.  It’s fascinating to watch people It’s also good to take as many pictures as possible.  Especially at the first forum, watch how team Clean Line operates.  Watch the upper executives of Clean Line (the ones who don’t wear the white team shirts).  Watch whose ass they kiss.  Watch who they talk to.   It might surprise you who Clean Line executives associate with.  There are also hidden members of their team. 

At the second forum, we discovered Aaron Chambers.  He’s Clean Line’s public relations guru to Springfield.  He liked to stay in the background, watch and take notes.  He probably didn’t appreciate being outed as their government affairs, strategic communication and public relations guru for Illinois to make the Clean Line llc's look like a real public utility.  Again, take lots of pictures.  You want to get people like that in photos. 
Aaron Chambers (Springfield Government Affairs, Strategic Communications
and Public Relations Guru& Jimmy Glotfelty (Guy in the Carhart Jacket)
Next time, leave the $3,000 watches at home. 

Also, the ICC representatives had us line up and sign in as we entered to forum.  This was the speaking order.  Somehow Clean Line managed to get several union hall guys on the list to speak first who were never in the line.  Other people signed up for people who weren’t there but showed up later.  Know who is in front and behind you in line.  Again, take pictures!  If you think something funny is going on, don’t be afraid to call them on it.   This is your forum.  The ICC and Springfield have heard the ca-ca, manure, and sales pitch from Clean Line before.  Don’t feel intimidated and let them bully the format of the forum. 

Next, Jimmy Glotfelty is a boring speaker.  He will talk and talk and talk in an attempt to monopolize the time.   The clock is ticking and they will use as much as possible.  He also said somethings in the hall outside the forum that he probably won’t try again.  At the second Mendota forum, Jimmy did his attempt to dress like he was down on the farm.  By midway through the forum, commentary about Jimmy costume had been posted online and was being passed around the gym on smart phones and tablets.  It will be interesting if Skelly comes out to Illinois for the GBE llc forums.  It was a bit surprising they sent the #2 guy and left the big dog on the porch. 

By the end, the message from people supporting Grain Belt Express will have a common message.  It will be “I support Grain Belt Express because it will put money in my pocket”.  It will become   It will be good for a couple of the ICC board members to hear the greed.  It is obvious and paints a picture of greed.
"I support Clean Line because it will put money in my pocket" is the theme of CLEP' supporters.
Finally, speak from the heart.  Say what you believe.  Our position does not need a strategic communication specialist.  I had the fortune to hear two of the greatest speeches I’ve ever heard.  One was from a seventy-five year old grandmother who I never met and the other was from a farmer and Vietnam veteran.   That speech was incredible.  That speech was probably the best patriotic speech I’ve heard since watching Ronald Reagan’s 40th Anniversary of D-Day speech at Normandy.   It was a privilege to hear such a patriotic speech.  

 Fortunately, some of these speeches were videotaped.  It was an incredible moment and impressive to see how well informed people were about the project.  These were not NIMBY speeches, far from it.  These were not “I support this project, just put it somewhere else” speeches.  The statement made by public’s unity and knowledge was voluminous.  It will be good for some of the ICC Board members to witness this directly. 

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