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VN 1/9 - Exploitation

Some people thought it was cute, but others recognized it for what it really was, crass exploitation. For the holidays, UPC Wind sponsored a“coloring contest” in Cohocton’s elementary school and published pictures of the winners in The Valley News. The object? To use our children to make their controversial wind project look kid-friendly. Read our response in this week's Valley News and let us know what you think.

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Blogger Nate Says:

Hmmm...this is rather dishonest, isn't it? Good eye! And good point!

Thought I might point out that this is an old trick, and is actually occurring in our public schools right now, thanks to Exxon Mobile being one of the largest contributors to public science education (and therefore having a disproportionately large influence on what kids are taught about global warming and fossil fuel use). Read this article if you're curious: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/24/AR2006112400789.html

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Interesting Nate that you point out Exxon Mobil's denial of global warming. When this site itself just last month raised the question as to whether global warming is real. And tehn suggested a wait and see attitude.

Blogger formosa Says:

I don't understand how this private influence was allowed in our public schools. Our children are not marketing tools. UPC has no place in our public schools, this is offensive, exploitative, and inappropriate.

This really isn't an old trick. You don't see school events "sponsored by Exxon Mobile", they simply contribute.

I think this case crosses the boundry of public education by allowing a private company to market itself in our school. What's next UPC advertising in the lunch room?


Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Our children? Which one exactly is yours? If any of you had any real ties to the area you would know that this kind of positive community interaction is a long lost tradition. Bravo to someone bringing it back!

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Before I make a decision on how i actually feel about this issue, i have a question. What did the kids color pictures of? Was it pictures of windmills? and upon completion of contest what did the children win?

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Is UPC any different than Wal-Mart contributing to school activities in Steuben County? Or the Gunlock company providing the scoreboard for the Cohocton Sports Complex? I think not!!!

Blogger Bill Says:

Thanks to both of you for your comments and the very interesting article you referenced, Nate, written by one of the producers of Al Gore's recent and rather controversial polemic.
I think there are really 3 separate issues involved here:
1) The situation I've written about represents the exploitation of local children by sponsoring a "coloring contest" so that their pictures can be used in public advertising to lend a kid-friendly impression to UPC Wind and its project.
2) Whether corporations like Mobil inappropriately influence public education through their financial support is an important but different and more subtle question.
3) Underneath the Mobile vs. Al Gore vs. UPC Wind juxtaposition lies another "Inconvenient Truth" not addressed by either article, the simple fact that so far wind power hasn't demonstrated the ability to displace greenhouse gas production in any significant way, especially in the variable wind patterns that characterize our climate in the NE.

Blogger Bill Says:

Responding to a few "Anonymous" comments and one from Jim, all apparently potential supporters of UPC's involvement with "our children". First, I genuinely appreciate your input and the opportunity to dialogue publicly. I recognized in the very first sentence of this article that there would be strong feelings on both sides. Some would approve and others disapprove.

None of the children depicted were actually birthed into my family personally. However, they are all members of our collective community and are therefore "our" children, kids we have a common interest in protecting from exploitation. I, too, would be interested in the particulars of the "contest", but the fact remains that the children's pictures were used by UPC Wind to promote its cause. I'd like to know who gave their permission and what they were told.

I'm all for "positive community interaction", but a school certainly doesn't need a corporate sponsor, especially not a controversial one, to have a meaningful coloring contest.

It might be helpful for Anonymous to reread the article we ran last month on global warming (linked clearly on this website). Never once did we "raise the question as to whether global warming is real." What is not yet certain is how long the current spell of warming will last and what, exactly, the role of humanly generated CO2 has in its continuation. The underlying questions begged by all of this are what difference, if any, installing 52 massive wind turbine units on our hills will ever actually make and whether or not the planet can afford for Cohocton to take a "wait and see" attitude for a while longer before plunging into a project that will change the character of our community for decades to come.

The difference between businesses that are currently estabished with the support of their communities and UPC Wind has to do with controversy. UPC's use of our children represents a thinly-veiled advertizing campaign for a very controversial project, not quiet financial support for established school activities. I tend to agree, however, that corporate sponsorship of school activities, like drug company sponsorship of medical education programs, is a subject fraught with conflict of interest issues that should be monitored much more carefully.

Thanks again to all of you. Your comments are welcome.

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

I am interested in what the author of this site perceives as exploitation in our public schools. Would that include the sponsor “advertising” of the local businesses on the hats and shirts of the soccer and softball teams? And what about the scoreboard given by Gunlock on the Football Field, are they issues with you too? What about the citizens who volunteer their time to work at the Sports Complex and other areas of the school, like Morning Program, if they are in favor of the wind project, maybe they are exploiting our kids too! I know for a fact that UPC, as a “new” business in town was contacted by the CDC (Cohocton Development Corp) and asked to donate to the Fall Festival; UPC sponsored a portion of the Tree Sitting Contest, was this another exploitation? And If UPC didn’t contribute to the activities of the town, would you then call them names and criticize them for not being community player. It seems to me you are grasping at straws. We are all reading this garbage and wondering what you and your cohorts are doing for this community? You say you have been here for years, but I can’t see that you have participated in anything to better this community or work on anything for the benefit of “your” kids? All I see is a city dweller who bought cheap property in a small town and can’t stand to see any changes that will help the economy of this community. We live here 24/7 not just on weekends, and while living here we work to support our community.

Anonymous Anonymous Says:


Why is it YOU "community tied" people always resort to personal attacks when someone speaks out against UPC corporation??? Did YOUR grandfather start UPC? Right here in Cohocton? UPC can do no wrong in YOUR industrialized community. A community soon tied together with concrete and rebar.

Hope you choke on that check.


Blogger Bill Says:

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your questions about the exploitation of our children, Don.

No, I don't think asking local businesses to sponsor sports equipment or having volunteers help out in the schools is likely to turn into exploitation, certainly not if our school administrators are doing their jobs. And business sponsorship of community activites like the Fall Foliage Festival is far from exploitation of any kind.

The activity that our article highlighted was of an entirely different nature. Innocent kids were recruited at school to participate in a "coloring contest" and ended up being used in a self-serving advertising campaign by UPC Wind, a controversial outside group trying to establish itself as a business in town against strong local opposition. Some of you may think UPC is already here to stay, but fortunately for the future of Cohocton that's not a foregone conclusion.

I'm sorry you think that those who oppose UPC's plans are, to use your words, grasping at straws, publishing garbage, and doing nothing for the community other than buying cheap property in a small town (you can tell that last one to the tax assessor... :)

I freely confess that we're not perfect, but if you'll take the time to read through the material we've collected on our website I think you may find that many of our concerns are cogent, thought-provoking, and have our community's best interests in mind.

Please keep in touch.

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Bill- you are wrong. My kids were not recruited at school to participate in a coloring contest; they were invited with no strings attached. You should not attack things that you do not have first hand knowledge about. Furthermore, all the kids in the school whether they participated or not in the coloring contest were treated the same as those who did. There was no pressure applied to anyone to color a page. Get a grip, it was only what it was, a coloring contest, the same thing that other businesses do during the holidays, in good, loving sprit. You of all people should embrace "good will to men." Do you ever practice what you preach or do you all ways condemn anyone with a difference of opinion from yours? Not everyone is as conniving as you perceive people to be, some people are just nice.

Blogger Bill Says:


I can tell that you're a man of good will, as most of us are who are concerned enough about our community to be involved actively in our current controversy. Let me explain my perspective more carefully, using the information you've just provided.

When I said "recruited" I meant that the opportunity to participate in UPC's coloring contest was offered to the children by adults at the school as something kids might want to participate in. That doesn't imply coercion. The Army sends its recruiters to college campuses and invites students to hear about careers in the Army - no coercion involved - students who don't participate aren't penalized. The exploitation has to do with what UPC had planned for itself as an end product of the contest - a full-color advertisement promoting its cause with pictures of the kids holding up the papers they had colored. Subtle to some and blatant to others, but clear exploitation according to the word's definition (see below, especially meaning 2).

I have no doubt that many kind-hearted and innocent folks were involved who thought the whole thing was just some holiday fun. I assign less benign motives to UPC Wind, having watched their tactics for the past 9 months, not only here but in their other ventures. Were the kids hurt by the experience? No. But were their cheerful, child-like persons taken advantage of by a large corporation with an aggressive agenda? Most assuredly Yes.

I try very sincerely to practice what I preach, Don, and I don't think I've condemned anyone that I can think of. Is it all right with you if people who don't agree with UPC Wind's massive wind power project plans continue to express their dismay, backed up with sound observations, about the way this campaign is going? Let's be honest: UPC isn't really "doing business" here in Cohocton yet; it's just involved in a large, fairly well-coordinated, and generously financed political campaign to press its commercial agenda.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines exploitation as:
1) The act of employing to the greatest possible advantage: exploitation of copper deposits.
2) Utilization of another person or group for selfish purposes: exploitation of unwary consumers.
3) An advertising or a publicity program.

Barron's Dictionary of Business Terms further defines exploitation as "Taking advantage of an individual or situation for one's full benefit. It often has a negative connotation to it."

Thanks for your dialogue. I find it to be refreshing.

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Sorry Bill, you are still off base. As far as not condemning anyone, I seem to remember an article you wrote in the Valley News accusing members of the pro group for bearing arms at meetings. I'm not a member of the group, but I know people who are and am sure you did not see anyone bearing arms, unless they were law enforcement. I don't think you even attended the local meetings. Your latest jab at UPC has convinced me that the company is good for Cohocton, they will bring much needed funds and they are community minded. This is the first I have spoken out, I won't answer or read anymore of your propaganda. I have made up my mind, thanks for the help. Have a nice day.

Blogger Bill Says:

Dear Don, I'm sorry you've closed your mind for the time being and are blaming it on me, but reading your earlier comments leads me to think your mind was well made up before you even posted to our weblog for the first time last week. In spite of that, I had hoped you would respond to gentle reason and be able to see things from a somewhat different perspective. My hope persists.

I did make a comment in an article last summer about people bearing arms in public. The reference was to a meeting in August that was attended for some reason by 5 armed men, 4 of them apparently invited (perhaps unnecessarily and inappropriately) and in uniform, and the fifth an off-duty deputy - a published YES supporter and son of a Planning Board member - who arrived out of uniform and sat in the audience. I didn't "condemn" his armed presence but merely commented that wind power critics weren't coming to meetings armed. YES supporters have been trying to twist my comment around, deny it, and exploit the issue to their best advantage ever since. Truth will have its day.

I think the saddest thing about your most recent post to me, however, is your comment that my "latest jab at UPC" has convinced you "that the company is good for Cohocton ... and they are community minded." Nothing about the project itself - the wind turbines with their inflated claims of benefit and minimized negative impact - just an emotional decision based on your erroneous conclusion that UPC is "community-minded" and that I'm not.

Can't you see it, Don? Their whole campaign strategy, innocent kids and all, has worked on you: turn this into an US vs. THEM, good guys vs. bad guys, debate so that people forget about the pros and cons of the turbines themselves, and the project has a chance to win. Unfortunately, it may take the turbines going up and UPC taking over Cohocton's politics entirely before some folks in town begin to see the dark underbelly of this misguided venture. Again, my hope persists that this won't be necessary.

I wish you well. Feel free to come back and offer comments on our site, pro or con, any time that you'd like.

Anonymous Anonymous Says:

Hi Bill I'm positive you were not at that particular meeting you referenced, I also am positive that the off duty Deputy Sheriff you reference was not armed at that meeting. The officers who were their were absolutely armed as they were on duty, had they not been armed they would have been out of uniform.

Why were they there? Ask yourself that question. You say you are intelligent the answer is quite obvious.

Blogger Bill Says:

Dear Anonymous,

"Updates" offers anyone concerned about local wind power proposals the opportunity to post their comments, pro or con, on our website. Unlike the the policy established on the "Yes! Wind Power for Cohocton" weblog, we will approve comments made by people who sign with screen names and even those who sign as "Anonymous" the way you have.

As you know, when you leave a reply on any Blogger site you have the choice of signing it with your "Google/Blogger" account name (if you have one), as "Other" (which allows you to use your own name), or as "Anonymous." When you and your friends post to our site in the future, we would appreciate it if you would identify yourselves. You know who we are, but who are you?

Why would anyone want to know who you are? It's a matter of trust and transparency. If you have something worth saying publicly, people have a right to know who you are. Relating to the comments you've just left, without knowing who you are how can we judge whether what you're saying can be trusted? You say you're sure I wasn't "at that particular meeting" and that "the Deputy Sheriff you referenced wasn't armed". Were you there yourself in some capacity or are you reporting what someone else told you? Did you examine the off-duty Deputy Sheriff looking for a concealed weapon or did you take his word for it?

Fortunately, arriving at a public meeting with a concealed weapon isn't a crime in the United States as long as the bearer has a valid pistol permit, so this issue will never end up in the courts with witnesses being called before a judge and jury to arrive at the truth of the matter. It's probably just going to remain "he said, she said." Nonetheless, "Yes! Wind Power" supporters have been trying to make an issue of this non-issue for months.

If you'd like to review the original reference that sparked the mini-fuss, it's tucked into a clause in an ad we ran in The Valley News almost 5 months ago on September 5th and posted on our site here. The point of our ad was this: "We don’t see things in quite such an inflammatory way. In our minds, this is not a war and our neighbors are not our enemies. There are legitimate differences of opinion being expressed and a legal project evaluation process outlined by the State that we all have to follow."

Since that time, I think the tone of the discussion has settled down and become more civil. I don't think any citizens, pro or con, have been arriving at public meetings armed. I suspect the reason so many uniformed officers were present at the meeting in August was that someone on one of our Boards was concerned about possible disorder or violence, a concern that was perhaps understandable but probably quite unfounded.

Can we get on to discussing something else, like wind turbines, for instance? Our website currently has 417 MB of data and graphics, of which the subject of armed citizens takes up about 0.1 MB at most. I'd really like some constructive feedback on many of the other subjects we've addressed, like greenhouse gas abatement, segmentation, noise assessment, PILOT payments, setback distances, eminent domain, community decision making, and the pointless "us vs. them" community dynamic that has developed along the way. Can you contribute to the community dialogue on any of these topics? Just look up our articles and post your comments. All I would ask is that you open your mind to new ways of seeing each subject, be as constructive as possible in your responses, try to avoid picking bones over peripheral issues, and sign your name.

We're all on a learning curve here, and I'm genuinely sorry if I've offended anyone in town unnecessarily or inappropriately.

Blogger formosa Says:


Don't mix words and stop quibbling about the topic. If you have knowledge of why officers in uniform were there (you say this in plural) then state so plainly.

In ANY case, someone requested ARMED officers in uniform to be present at the meeting, and that is not typically the case with these meetings, but was in that meeting. YES! and you are quibbling on the technical details when the real question is WHY were there ARMED police officers in Uniform at that hearing?



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