Monday, January 22, 2007

No nooses aboard this vessel

Everybody knows that I (simplistically) metaphor our world as a ship. It's not hard to stretch the symbolism. Humanity is the crew, natural resources are to be respected and conserved as a matter of survival, and common sense for the common good is the order of the day. So, I disdain those who readily pass cheap judgments. An easy target for such judgments are folk who attempt to broker an idea and reap some benefit, often from un- or misinformed others. Our Friend Aaron™, (who was on teevee recently with his darling offspring enjoying their neighbor's man-made snow) has been following the story of one such attemptor for the New Bedford Standard-Times:

The Standard-Times has spoken to about a dozen angry customers and three who were happy with Mr. Howland's work. Mr. Howland took orders for 80 windmills, and about half of those have been delivered and installed. Three customers have poles that bent under strong winds, and a number of others have complained that Mr. Howland inflated their expectations or made promises he did not deliver. Nearly every customer complained that Mr. Howland was not available to them. Although the collaborative has referred the matter to the Attorney General's Office, it is unclear whether the attorney general is pursuing an investigation. District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter's office referred a reporter to Westport police. Westport Deputy Police Chief John Gifford said the town is not pursuing a criminal investigation. "It appears to be a civil matter, and as long as it stays that way, we'll stay out of it," Deputy Chief Gifford said. "When it turns the corner, we'll jump in with both feet." Mr. Howland said, "In my opinion, the (Massachusetts Technology Collaborative) is on a witch hunt against us because we refuse to become a general contractor or overall project coordinator." Mr. Howland also said he is the victim of a "smear campaign" by the collaborative, which he said is denigrating him to his customers and asking them leading questions. Mr. Howland said he never presented himself to his customers as the one person who would order the turbines, install poles, erect the turbines and deal with local permitting issues. "I said I would provide the product. I said I would apply to the MTC for subsidies for people," he said. "I always presented people with options. I let them know what they could get, what was allowed by local permits. It was always me saying to the customer, 'What do you want to do?'" Mr. Howland also complained that the two stories in The Standard-Times were "increasingly negative" and "one-sided." When The Standard-Times began trying to contact Mr. Howland last week, a reporter left numerous messages on his cell phone, home phone and work phone. The reporter then contacted his sister in Fairhaven and received a cell phone number for Bonnie Howland, Mr. Howland's wife, and she issued a statement. The family was on vacation in Florida at the time and had not seen the cease-and-desist letter from the collaborative. For a story yesterday on angry customers demanding refunds, Mr. and Mrs. Howland were contacted on their cell phones. Mr. Howland did not respond until 3 a.m., long after the newspaper's deadline, with two e-mails to the reporter. He also appeared on radio station WBSM yesterday and fielded questions from radio talk show host Ken Pittman, who is a friend of Mr. Howland and a customer of Mr. Howland's wind turbine business.

Contact Aaron Nicodemus at

ThirdMate's Reckoning: Had Howland succeeded in installing legal, permitted and paid-for windmills to each of his clients, he would be touted as a successful entrepreneur, instead of derided as "a con-man." People don't have patience for pols who lose, and celebrate accordingly. Of course those who habitually berate "the treehuggers" and "crazy ideas about alternative energy" are urged to retreat to the gun deck to bitch and moan. Some mates will do better conscientiously at watch while others learn the ropes before setting off into the rig.

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