Blogging for a Cause Subject of Case Study at Preservation Maryland Conference

We’re excited this week to have the opportunity to share practical insight we gained with using new media for advocacy at the Preservation Maryland Annual Conference. Our experience came about after the Elkton Alliance/Main Street program proposed that the Mayor and Commissioners turn over some recently acquired public land to a commercial developer. After hearing Commissioner Jablonski’s proposal, two other members of the town board, including the mayor, developed a strong interest in selling the land to theDSC_5299 developer.  It had been recently acquired through Program Open Space Grants.

After rumors of the sale of public land surfaced on Main Street, we worked to create a constructive dialogue on the importance of this valuable cultural resource, while striving to make the internal workings of local government on this matter known to a wider audience, Since we weren’t getting anywhere with either initiative or with getting the attention of the local newspaper, we launched this blog and gained valuable experience in using weblogs for a cause. By the time the town decided to forget the idea after about a half year of wrangling, we had discovered what a helpful tool web 2.0 products were for citizens with a cause or for nonprofits seeking broader outlets for spreading news.

At the 2009 Maryland Preservation and Revitalization Conference, we will draw on this experience to present a session on blogging for a purpose. In the session we’ll explore how preservationists and related professionals may use this cost effective medium, while getting their message across. From the time we figured out how easy and effective these web 2.0 products were, we’ve always encouraged others to use this information sharing methods as a new information and advocacy distribution method. This important state-wide session will allow us to share this case study

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12 responses to “Blogging for a Cause Subject of Case Study at Preservation Maryland Conference

  1. Best Wishes , Mike.

    IT WORKED !!!!!

  2. Thanks Andy. It’ll be interesting to share the learnings from the Elkton experience about how to go about creating awareness when you’re up against City Hall, in addition to the Main Streets Program (Alliance).

  3. For being the Town and County Historian you don’t do your research very well. The Elkton Alliance did not propose that the Town sell part of the Elk Landing. A developer approached the Town the Board with information. You should a little more responsible with what you write because people that don’t know better might believe you.

  4. Betsy Ross: Thanks for stopping by and posting a few comments. Based on your post, which seems to indicate that you were following the subject, I decided go back and check my audio recording and notes to see if I’d made a mistake. I wouldn’t want an error on such an important point, which might create confusion.

    In the audio I have you hear the commissioners talking about this very subject. They talk about the propoal being presented down at the Alliance office and that there were meetings there to go over the subject. Eventually after being gone over there, it was brought up the street to the mayor and commissioners. In fact, I recall once or twice at the commissioners meetings there were points of contention about why the developer was going there, rather than meeting with the town’s planners and building officials, as well as other professional staff. All those public discussions gave me a great deal of insight.

    The other thing that always got my attention was that Commissioner Jablonski, who is also the Main Streets Manager, was generally the strongest advocate for this, bringing up the key points for consideration and generally pushing the agenda on the sale of the property. Once that idea moved from downtown to the town board on North Street, the Mayor and Commissioner Piner joined in supporting the idea, but she was the lead whenever I was there.

    Of course, there were a number of behind the scene meeting that only the Mayor and Commissioners attended so I don’t know what happened there. Perhaps you have some additional insight you can share from that vantage point or from what was disscused at the Alliance office.

    I’m going to have to accept what I heard and saw at the town board meetings If there’s some other evidence I should consider, please let me know since I’m certainly opening to making correction, should the evidence indicate the need to do so, but I think the town board probably has better insight on how this emerged than both of us.

    I’ll stick by the original interpretation as supported by the comments of the commissioners.

    Perhaps in a day or two I’ll repost a couple of pieces of relevant audio on those discussions. The town also records its meetings on video so they are available for review by the public.

  5. Well I happen to know that a developer as well as the designers of the original plan for the Rec Center were the ones that pushed the plan. I believe they met with Commissioner Jablonski first with their idea because she was the Commissioner who objected to the original plan for various reasons. Then they met individually with the other Commissioners and Mayor. It’s funny that they even met with Commissioner Storke but he claimed he had no knowledge of it at a town meeting. You can believe what you want and its obvious that whatever I say you will choose to believe your own version of events.

  6. Betsy Ross:

    You probably have insights that I don’t have available since I wasn’t inside the Alliance office during those meetings. Are you involved with the Alliance and able to speak about meetings that weren’t moved into the public arena siince I can’t?

    What I had access to was the records of the town through Freedom of Information Act filings and direct observation and monitoring of every public meeting they held on the subject.

    I can simply say that I recall and the audio I have supports the fact that the Mayor and Commissioners discussed why the matter was being discussed “down the street at the Alliance” rather than being brought to them directly. There was also a discussion about why the idea didn’t go direclty the the town’s professional staff for review since there were a number of planning related problems involved with the idea from the start.

    I sure wish Commissioner Jablonski would’ve been questioning the idea since it had a number of flaws such as the 5-year limitation before Maryland Public Open space land could be sold. Or the matters of Critical Areas, the footage allocations, and other matters related to planning and zoning. That was one of the things that bothered the commissioners, the regulatory and legal requirements, which hadn’t been considered during the kick-off meetings at the Alliance.

    While I am unable to make statements on what happened at the Alliance office as far as the questioning the subject, I can tell you from direct observation that she was the promoter of this project when it moved into the public domain.

    One of the ways to do fact-finding and come to data based conclusions and is to see what verifiable points of evidence are available and use that to come to conclusions. In this case we have audio, meeting minutes records, documentation obtained through Freedom of Information Act filings, and so on. Perhaps the records of the Alliance provide some additional insight and we could obtain additional understanding by exmaining those.

    I’m always open to new data and I’ll see if I can dig up some of the open source video and audio from the town and publish some of that for you to see. If clearly supports my statements.

    But anyway thanks for posting. Constructive dialogue is important, but I find it interesting this is discussion is now underway so long after the matter faded from public concern. I would’ve thought this would’ve been the argument near the time the matter was at the front of many town meetings. I’ll check out the audio as soon as I get time.

    thanks Betsy Ross.

  7. Mike, you have made a reasoned, credible case for your reporting, both in these responses and throughout your coverage of this issue. seems like Ms. Ross is trying to sew some stars on her own flag long after it was hoisted up the flagpole! Is it revisionist history? I’ll leave that up to the historians on this blog…

  8. Thanks Louise. Anyone carefully observing the open meetings of the town and listening to the comments made by the officials could only come to one conclusion. The idea originated at the Elkton Allinace.

    I’m surprised Betsy Ross would want to bring that old subject up and put it at the top of the blog right now. If the elected officials were wrong, I would’ve corrected their statements at the time, not nearly a year later.

    I may just pull up some audio outakes for Betsy Ross and other readers over the weekend, since Betsy has an interest in examining this old point more thoroughly.

    BTW, we really need a news source that’s willing to dig into subjects and publish. Hopefully someday someone will fill that gap for quality content, which the area needs. It needs to be responsible, but still you can do that and report on what happens before you in public meetings. The Kent County News certainly does responsible government reporting, so it could be used as a model.

    With the departure of the Whig’s last government reporter a couple of weeks ago, I’ll be interested in seeing if anyone gets that beat. There was no one there to report on the budget adoption process.

  9. If those commissioners kept talking about that Alliance wanting to sell that Elk kanding, they would have known where the idea came from. How come they get involved in that stuff. I thought they we’re in charge of fixing up Main St. They got their hands full with that.

  10. Fred:

    That’s exactly the point. My data saying that the idea came from the Alliance is because in the offical town meetings, the Commissioners would frequently talk about discussing the idea down at the Alliance Office. In fact, sometimes they’d wrangle over the point of why it was being discussed down there, rather than being presented to their very competent paid staff to analyze the regulatory impacts, obligations, and such. They pros would handle that complex stuff much better and be familiari with the regulatory involvement, which was causing the town board so many problems.

    Now Betsy Ross sounds as if she was involved in those meetings down at the Alliance and she probably has some knowledge about what was discussed behing closed doors at an independent nonprofit, whic is largely funded by the Mayor and Commissioners. I don’t have that info, but I’ll stand by the interpretation of the data I have, until some new body of evidence emerges.

    On another point, I assume you’re asking why the Alliance got involved in the idea? That’s a really good question but I can’t answer for theml. They are the town’s Main Streets program, as you point out. That’s an initiative charged with revitalizing our Main Street. And I fully agree with you, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. More now than ever. Revitalizing our old town centers is important and right now there are growing challenges and risk for downtown Elkton. If were involved and was analyzing the trends for patterns, I’d be particularly worried right now, especially with the loss of the courthouse and the national economic trends.

    Yes, Fred, your’re right. They should have their hands full with their primary mission of taking care of the central business district. There are many more things that need to be done, with the aim of making the central business district a viable market with the right type of consumer offerings (eateries, specialty shops, lively entertainment that would cause people to travel some distance, etc.). There are the issues about the environment people will find downtown, if they make it a destination. All things like this, and many more, that need careful planning, oversight and visioning.

    On Fred, one thing. They weren’t trying to market the entire Elk Landing property. It was only about one-sixth of the property. But still that was too much.

    Thanks for posting and feel free to post your comments anytime you have a reaction to things here.

  11. I agree with Betsy Ross. Get your facts straight before you go saying this stuff. It isn’t true. It was the developers idea. Like Bety Ross said, the only reason they talker to her was being she was questioning the project. That’s the facts for sure.

    • Anon:

      All the available public data points to the meetings being held at the Alliance, which I’ve mentioned a few times before. Perhaps it’s a matter of which hat she was wearing at those meetings, is that what’s causing the confusion? Could she have been there in her position as a commissioner rather than as the director of the Main Streets program, is that why there’s such confusion on this basic point? AT one point, one of the commissioner asked why the meetings were happening down there, rather than up at the town hall with the elected representatives and their technically qualified staff. If those technically qualified individuals had been included in this from the beginning, they would’ve been able to ask those insightful questions such as the challenges of getting rid of just acquired public lands, dealing with the Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas, and what have you. Those had not been answered when I got involved and it made the matter very complex for those trying to push it forward. Of course, that was helpful to me. But if you were trying to be an advocate for the project, you would’ve wanted those obstacles addressed or work around solutions proposed before the thing got so tangled up in the wrangling in the public. They had not been, of course. Professionals familiar with the regulatory standards would’ve been able to pintpoint the barriers and let the officials know what they could or couldn’t do.

      On your point about the developer having the idea, I’m sure that’s true. The developer probably approach Director/Commissioner Jablonski and she liked the idea. By-the-time I got involved there was no evidence that she’d been asking challenging questions concerning the project. She was its biggest advocate by the time the rumors started floating out of the Alliance Office and getting passed up and down Main Street. When I started speaking up at the town meetings, she was the one that always had arguments to support the project and she was the one always pushing it on to the next step. Read the earlier blog posts for background on that, as it happened.

      Most unusual that people now want to put this issue at the top of the blog and debate old points that were settled a long time ago and have become irrelevant since the town agreed to abandon the attempt. But whatever the case, I’d like to try to keep the record as straight as possible, since Betsy Ross and others now want to try to rewrite history.

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