I am writing regarding your recent op-ed on Plum Creek, East Gainesville, sustainable forests, Tacachale, etc.
First, let me make my point-of-view clear. If I were a Commissioner, I would vote against Plum Creek’s request. I won’t waste your time explaining my reasons; you’ve heard all the pros and cons a thousand times by now. This communication is about negotiating strategy, not the substance of “Envision Alachua”.
My reaction to your “Re-envisioning Plan” in the January 31 SUN was:
· This is a fine blue-sky exercise and worth looking into;
· However, there are so many moving pieces to the deal that the odds are strongly against it actually happening;
· It would take many years to put a deal of this sort together;
· That’s great … Hutch is going to vote against the Plum Creek request
The conclusion in this fourth and final bullet seemed obvious. If the Commission votes to approve the Plum Creek proposal, Plum Creek wouldn’t have any reason to pursue your “Re-envisioning Plan”.
However, an old friend of yours recently told me that he thought your new “Plan” was a prelude to your vote in favor of the Plum Creek proposal. This makes no sense to me. Once you’ve voted for the Plum Creek plan (and probably guaranteed a 3-2 Plum Creek victory), why would Plum Creek be motivated to do anything beyond what they’ve been promising to do for years?
Now maybe you’ve had private meetings where Plum Creek has promised you that they’ll engage in serious discussions on your “Re-envisioning Plan” once the Commission approves the Plum Creek plan. If that’s the case, my response would the trite-but-true adage that a verbal agreement is worth the paper it’s printed on.
I would be extremely dubious about the prospects for any deal involving some of Plum Creek’s lands or current practices in exchange for Plum Creek’s promise to develop property in East Gainesville. Plum Creek’s strongest public-relations argument has always been that their development will lead to jobs for poverty-stricken East Gainesville. Any active role that Plum Creek plays in developing East Gainesville undercuts their best argument in favor of their Envision Plan. Putting myself in Plum Creek shoes and with a clear view of the company’s bottom line, I just can’t see why they would ever agree to promote development in East Gainesville. Tim Jackson’s slippery comments in today’s GAINESVILLE SUN article tend to confirm my conclusion.
I know you’ve been involved in a lot of negotiations over the years. So was I, on Capitol Hill, where for 26 years I negotiated with Republican and Democratic administrations, House and Senate members and their staff, lobbyists and senior executives from industry, non-governmental groups, and others. Based on my negotiating experience and my reading of Plum Creek, if you’re expecting that a “yes” vote on your part will lead to substantive negotiations on your “Re-envisioning Plan”, I think you’re way off-base. If that’s your plan, I would suggest that you simply vote “yes” and endorse their plan rather than cloaking your vote in the gauzy wrappings of a very speculative proposal.
Or better yet, just vote “No”.
Best, Bob Palmer