, Newburyport, MA

May 6, 2013

From a business perspective, COW plan shaky

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

As a business professional, I’ve sat through my fair share of PowerPoint presentations. And as someone who needs to get both emotionally and financially invested in many of the ideas presented to me, I’ve learned that there are some tell-tale signs when an idea is shaky. One of the most telling signs is the presenter’s inability to speak confidently and in simple blocking and tackling terms.

As I sat listening this evening to the vice president of COW (Committee for an Open Waterfront) present, I decided to jot down the words that got me concerned. In talking about some of the ways flex parking lots might raise money for the city, he spoke of “hot dogs” and “birthday parties.” Throughout the presentation he used words like “it’s just a concept and not a plan” and “maybe [this]” and “maybe if [that]” and “… oh, I don’t know, maybe [something else].” He suggested, in defense that his plan, in fact, didn’t look as rosy as the NRA’s, that his pictures weren’t as “soft and fluffy” and actually said, “we don’t have a firm idea … .’

While reviewing an estimated budget which equated to $1,885,000 in costs, he admitted leaving off four major components (deck areas, a wading pool, nature area and lampposts) of the plan. He said they had “some bids” but what was being presented was not a firm cost estimate. He also suggested that while the COW’s 168-page funding plan included 14 government grants, they had “only talked with some of them.”

One hundred sixty-eight pages. That’s another way to see a concept that’s dead in the water — information overload in an attempt to make something seem good simply because it fills a binder.

The businessman in me is still on the boat that leaves shore with the NRA and arrives at a finished park sometime soon. I hope it happens.

David Strand

Plum Island