Ballston Journal Online Publisher Angela Mcfarland

Publisher’s Pen: Character As Seen Through My Slanted Eyes

Watching the process of the proposed Walmart project unfold has been a mixture of fascination, education, shock, disappointment and enlightenment for me. I’ve learned more about the terminology and legalities of what goes into decision making by a town planning board and commercial developers than frankly, I ever thought I’d be interested in knowing.

I’ve stayed quiet on the Walmart topic for a while now. Watching the information unfold, listening to more angles and opinions than twists on a Rubik’s Cube (<<—total 80’s chick), learning, and remain in the same position I was last year: there is no legal reason for the project not to move forward. For those in opposition, it’s your own fault if you are mad about it.

RELATED Less than a little sense

LISTEN to Walmart Attorney Leslie Mauro present to the Ballston Planning Board (audio run time 30 minutes

Your time to show up was four years ago. There have been elections since then, each with new record low voter turn-out then the election before that. Your anger is misplaced, and you are late to the supper table.

And now, I’m angry. Pissed actually. Beyond what should be an appropriate level of annoyed with well-meaning neighbors Ben Baskin and Liz Kormos spearheading the Smart Growth Ballston group.

Too far.

In all fairness, I adore advocacy. I am instantly drawn to the underdog, the fighter, the socially conscience who are little guys taking on big guy fights. It’s not easy, it takes tons of sacrifice in time, mental and physical energy when you simply believe in a cause or a change. I had high hopes for the arguments and evidence I thought would come from Smart Growth Ballston (SGB) early on.

But.

I respect those who do a fair battle, with regard for facts and for god sakes, boundaries and an attempt at manners and civil behavior.

Between Baskin’s conduct and Kormo’s drumbeat of conspiracy while purposefully withholding and hiding her own fair share of secrets, I find myself thinking of Jim Jones and Jonestown and Kool-Aid.

Seriously, it’s that bad.

The robot letter writing doesn’t bother me, the condescension and crime rantings I can patiently forgive as an issue of under-education and a bigger problem of socio-economic gaps that are nationwide. Even the question about their funding as allegedly astroturfing at the hands of another major retailer I can tuck aside, for now.

RELATED Ballston Journal Online Police Blotter

RELATED “financial alter ego” from Walmart PUDD Argued at Ballston Zoning Board

What’s not okay is two sets of rules. What’s really not okay is selective information to the followers of SGB.

RELATED Ballston Journal Online Walmart Information Page

RELATED Smart Growth Ballston, Planning Board Meeting June 10th (documents S, T and U omitted)

My news team and I expect to take our lumps. Comes with the business and as I can proudly attest, the Ballston Journal Online and its’ predecessor, the Ballston Journal, has a total of 217 years of making readers both happy and unhappy with information. My guess is that experience makes us capable of not sharing a viewpoint AND controlling ourselves when faced with those who may disagree.

Baskin, a non-media professional, especially likes to tell us often how we should do our jobs and as someone not in a government leadership position, dictate how those people should do their jobs, too. Oh, and how engineers should do their jobs. And other select experienced professionals. Not very tactfully, I might add.

So, let me lay out for you why I’m pulling out the bull whip, calling foul on two people who want to be right and ended up on the wrong side of me, and several other important people, once and for all:

  • Majority: Definition means more, most. BJO has published over 20 Letters to the Editor about the Walmart/Rossi subject, a high number in a time when people choose to comment on stories versus letters to newspapers. And BJO has published hundreds of comments on our news coverage, mostly from non-paying subscribers and a few non-advertising local businesses. I’ve heard from plenty of neighbors, both pro and con, who simply prefer not to publicly post.

Do you know how many have been published in the Saratogian, the Gazette, Times Union or tv stations? Not 20 or     hundreds. One would have to total all those resources TOGETHER to get that majority number.

Which makes this email Baskin sent to his supporters after last week’s Planning Board, one of the most eye-ball rolling things he’s done so far.  Read the last paragraph.

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Slant? I see possible slander in this one document of several forwarded from various sources. I see a direct disparagement “with intent to harm or cause damage”.

You know that saying about “biting the hand that feeds you”?

FACT about Ballston majority: the residents that live in the Town, to be impacted by any development is about 10,000 people. I’m not seeing evidence of 5,001 persons, anywhere, that demonstrates a true majority claimed by SGB. Nowhere.

Moving on:

  • Character: The latest in the organized SGB push of planned language and “buzzword” since Baskin and Kormos and most of us in attendance at the hearings heard it defined at a recent Planning Board meeting. An ambiguous term—subject to interpretation.

The character of the commercial development was the question as it relates to the property and it’s intended use on that property. Visual and intended usage.

Call me crazy but I’m not sure how Walmart buying the Rossi property for a development clashes with the character of McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, Agway, Hess, Advanced Auto, Dollar General or Stewart’s. All retail corporate businesses with intent to trade goods and services.

Those clearly identifiable businesses, with the banks, repair shops and orthodontist visually outnumber the residences on that particular space and are obviously located with intent to trade goods and services. The neighbors in that area have watched these businesses and  their identities pop up around them. It’s a mix of commercial and residential and to say Walmart is of a character that is different than a national franchise just doesn’t compute.

Walmart will not be located in the Village. It’s not even what I would consider close to those old Victorian style buildings that I think have character. Even those buildings of character have been chopped up into commercial business use. (Although, the outside of those buildings and internal woodwork is very cool).

Walmart (or Target or other type retail commercial identity) absolutely fits the character of the nearest properties that also have commercial/business/franchises in an area properly, legally zoned for its usage. Planning Board would need to have non-working eyeballs not to see that. Simple.

Another twist on the definition of character supporting the ambiguity of the word: Kormos’s home won a beautification award last year. It is very nice, deserved the award and shows concern for being a part of the neighborhood. One could argue that it’s more contemporary design does not fit the character of the rest of the older homes just a few hundred feet away. Subjective, isn’t it? Wasn’t the award based on opinions?

RELATED BSBPA Honors Beautification Award Winners

Which brings me to another twist on character:  What is acceptable behavior according to the “Village of Friends” and “Smart Growth” followers?

Baskin with Kormos verbally attacked a former town official, in public, unprovoked immediately following the last planning board meeting. Should their character be called into question? In my opinion, I think so.

I have friends and subscribers that live on Church Ave and areas of East and West High Street. They are now in a quandry and a little weirded out by the leaders that accuse of bad behavior and now made a public display of it. Witnessed.

And, that very character and behavior is why said former town official has seemingly stepped off the fence and picked a side. It’s why I will turn my back on their voice, why Village officials and I’m sure several Town officials. have turned down the volume.

It’s never been the message, it’s the delivery.

If Mr. Rossi, Sr. is reading this, he would have every right to be angry with me for advising Stern to get Baskin off the front line of public comment on behalf of SGB months ago. I said he was a train wreck as the public voice. Month’s later, there is this:

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Even though:

Green light for Ballston Walmart Project, Times Union

Ballston Planning Board Ready to Sign Off on Walmart Store, The Gazette

I owe Rossi and  the Walmart team an apology for that and wish I minded my own business. Wasn’t worth the effort although the intent was sincere in an attempt to ENSURE my news platform could fairly present all voices of this community.

More about character: Innuendos of lawsuits by Baskin that Ballston tax-payers will foot the bill for. Neither Baskin nor Kormos will go on record whether the attorney seen huddling with them most times since last year, Jeff Baker, is officially representing Smart Growth Ballston and is suing the town.

Baker will not respond to email messages or phone calls. Kormos and Baskin are cagey about his role. Kormos will not acknowledge or address her relationship with Baker, or her history in New Scotland, or her experience preventing specifically a Walmart in that community. Baker’s term ends on that same zoning board in December of this year.

RELATED Accused of a conflict of interest, Kormos says “I Will Not Resign”

RELATED Liz Kormos’ lawyer: Charges are inadequate

LINK to New Scotland Zoning Board page

LINK to Jeff Baker profile with Young Sommer

Now, I don’t think ANY of that information has too much relevance on the PUDD or Ballston Town Law. Anyone out there without a skeleton in THEIR closet is a news story by itself.

I take issue with Kormos placing select information, disparaging the Rossi family, licensed engineers, state agencies and Town officials without proof. Pot calling the kettle black and her hands aren’t completely clean either.

She’s in public relations. She’s experienced with selective information. No issue with that until it becomes misleading to the public and factually erroneous in a public space. It’s irresponsible and that’s where her past becomes relevant.

Back to the point: I just want to know who my team should and can go to for RELIABLE comment and details (insert tone of exasperation). To avoid the accusation of slant. You know, so we can actually do the job of presenting all sides to a story.

I cannot get a simple answer. Really folks, trying with all my might to not serve this to the public:

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No wonder the Ballston Zoning Board claims messages to Baker prior to their decision went unanswered. He doesn’t return emails or calls. I believe them, he doesn’t do it.

Look, I’m completely cool with friends helping friends. If Baker is working pro-bono for a friend (Kormos), wouldn’t bother me a bit.  Honestly and truly, I don’t care.Why not just say so and tell me who the point person should be?

If he’s getting paid, I still don’t really care until the IRS or somebody else cares and an issue of improper bookkeeping that harms someone or factual charges of astroturfing are plopped in my lap.

Just tell me who my team should talk to. Before sending out emails like this, pretty-please:

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“Baskormos” openly shame the Town officials for being difficult or less than correct communicators? But they do it.

“Baskormos” bash the neighborhood media consistently paying attention and purposely attempt to hurt a locally residing and contributing small business owner while saying they want to preserve local business.

SIDEBAR: News media is in the news as fragile every day. I haven’t earned a paycheck from this business in seven years. My books are a hot mess while I’m trying to reach a goal, serve responsibly and raise a family. I fight with my attorney over “live or die”.

Below, my actual corner of my desk, I use local accountant Donna Shorkey, my taxes still not done for 2014 and “Baskormos” is going to kick my team’s proverbial butt, while claiming the need to preserve small local business? I’m an idiot…I need to ignore them and get my taxes done. And my nails done.

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And some sleep. And some fun time. “Baskormos” sends intrusive email notifications that wake me up very late on Saturday nights if I forget to turn the volume off on my phone. What more do they want?!?!?!?!

The good news: everything is fixable. They can immediately isssue a public apology to the former official that was attacked in public, themselves or their maybe (?) attorney, own up to a passionate argument maybe getting a bit out of control and regroup.

…And! The Ballston Journal Online is celebrating 217 years with a subscriber special of 1-year of full access for over 50% off. Only $17.98. Walk the talk and support a locally owned and operated business, the second oldest business in the entire County. BUY HERE

…or share the good news, I’ve developed local marketing programs for small businesses to help them compete when Walmart moves in for $5 and $10 a week. Wouldn’t that fall under the mission of SGB? Isn’t that more in line with the Village of Friends?

…or help us get back to live streaming. The used camera that SGB supporter David Stern, a few community residents and the Rossi family helped us launch with died.  We did good with our starter seed money and there IS a public demand for it. Since SGB is telling people and businesses to ignore us, in spite of huge web and social media traffic numbers, maybe you can get donations to us via P.O. Box 319, Ballston Spa. I think transparency, timeliness is another thunderous cry from Baskin as one of the leaders of this community group. So, step up. Walk the talk. Support local business and create transparency in government. Two birds, one stone, right?

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How’s the SGB page doing?

 In summary, is it really above board to tell your neighbors, my neighbors, things like this?

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Just sayin’, with EMPHASIS on the first two line items below:

I’ll take your sharing of the Ballston Journal Online opportunities as an apology to me and my staff so you won’t even have to say the words to my face, a small business owner looking to stay alive in a financially difficult community while bending over backwards to help MAKE SURE you are heard.

And, if not, so be it. The world will still turn.

I’ve listened, I’ve learned and pledge to not open my mouth without facts, evidence or to pose a question about the facts or evidence. I publicly declare that if I screw up, to immediately apologize.

No matter which side of the argument you support, please don’t take one side of the Walmart project without looking at the other side, too. Take the pros with the cons, the good with the bad and take it on the chin if you know you don’t watch what government is doing all the time and they do something you don’t like.

I for one, will not ever, ever, ever judge you.

Angela McFarland
Chief Creative Officer and Ad Whisperer 
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P.S. Public comment period to the Ballston Planning Board has been extended by a week to align with one more study related to traffic. Don’t do robo-letters, they suck. Look at the facts, then speak if you’d like from the heart. Goes farther, I promise.

P.P.S. If you aren’t a letter writer or public display show case of opinions type, don’t let anyone tell you that YOU suck. You don’t. Poverty sucks. Corporate greed sucks. Dropping an ice cream cone sucks. Bullies suck. You, do not suck.

The statements and views expressed in the Publisher’s Pen are solely that of AngelaMcFarland and do not represent, or reflect, the opinions or views of The Ballston Journal Online LLC or NewzMedia Holdings LLC.

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Publisher, Senior Sales Executive, Coach and Revenue Team Leader. An out-of-the-box Creative and Publisher, by news industry standards, in a marketplace that is rich with history, tradition and fierce community loyalty. A defender of news reporters, journalists and free speech, no matter what.


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