The Citizens of Direct Action (CODA) played the Sock Puppets' coda on Tuesday morning, with the membership voting to endorse the project in full view of the bellowing chief Sock Puppet.
The scene was Oakbourne Country Club. Bill Fenstermaker faced Neal Breakfield in a discussion of the LUS fiber referendum.
Fenstermaker made some key points in the debate. I'll wait to see if the reporters who attended report on those in tomorrow's papers.
Here, though, are some highlights that might not make the paper or, at least, you shouldn't have to wait until tomorrow to learn.
Breakfield made a number of attempts to dismiss the growing list of organizations endorsing the fiber project. He singled out the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce for particular attention. Breakfield claimed to have carefully read the Chamber's endorsement of the LUS project and said "it's not really an endorsement of the project, but an endorsement of the funding of the project." He explained that the Chamber wants LUS to launch the kind of project he and the rest of the Sock Puppets claim they could support: a public private partnership between LUS and some imaginary company.
Fenstermaker caught Breakfield flat-footed by calling on Donna Landry of Lafayette General (the Chamber's president-elect) to contradict him.
Ms. Landry told the CODA members and other attendees that the Chamber had, in fact, endorsed the LUS referendum and was urging all of its members to vote "Yes" on Saturday. She said they Chamber's initial statement on the role of public sector in telecommunications was drafted about a year ago, that it provided the framework within which the Chamber could analyze the LUS proposal. She said it became clear over time that there would be no private sector takers on the LUS project, so the Chamber endorsed the LUS project based on the business model presented in the feasibility study. Doug Menefee's blog has this history of the Chamber's analysis process on this project provided by Gary McGoffin.
More trouble was ahead.
Breakfield repeated one staple in the ever-shifting Sock Puppet bag of FUD: that not one of the over 400 municipal telecom ventures in the country has "paid for its infrastructure."
Don Bertrand of Lafayette Coming Together and the Lafayette Republican Parish ExecutiveCommitteee asked Breakfield the age of the projects about which he was making this claim. Breakfield replied by citing Bristol,Virginia'ss project, which he said was three years old and running behind projections.
Bertrand and Fenstermaker seized on the three-year old number, pointing out that in any capital intensive project, being cash-flow negative was not the definition of success or failure, that it was merely asnapshotp of a phase of the development. Fenstermaker said that, as a member of the loan committee of a local bank, he has signed off on loans to a number businesses that were not cash flow positive in the early stages of their development.
It's similar to a home loan where little of the money in initial years actually goes to cover principle, but is directed to covering the interest on the loan. Have you paid your principle when you've been in your house for 10 years? If not, according to Sock Puppet logic, you're a failure.
No mention was made of the fact that Bristol's plan is a few months behind schedule due to various regulatory and legal maneuvers by incumbents there trying to block that project from advancing.
So, the truth is now out about yet another bogus claim of the Sock Puppets: the projects are servicing their debt, even as they are engaged in the capital intensive work of building out the network and building a customer base.
Can anyone claim that these misrepresentations by the Sock Puppets can be anything less than deliberate? Seems to me that deliberate misrepresentations would fall under the categories of lies. Would that make the Sock Puppets liars? Must be the company they keep.
Which brings up what, for me, was the most interesting part of the C.O.D.A. meeting: the Chief Sock Puppet's bellowing down of Joey Durel as the Mayor-President raised the issue of the Sock Puppets' recent actions in concert with BellSouth.
Beginning on Friday of last week, reports have been coming regarding meetings convened by BellSouth of callers "on shift" at the Cingular call center in the North Park development. As various Cingular employees have spread the story, the meetings consist of a high ranking BellSouth official bringing 80 to 90 callers off the floor into a meeting room. In that meeting room, the employees are urged to vote against the LUS project, handed Fiber 411 materials, and asked for the names and phone numbers of at least five Lafayette residents that the Fiber 411 boys can call to urge "No" votes on the issue.
Some employees have apparently found these meetings intimidating.
But, the more interesting thing goes back to the C.O.D.A. meeting where the Chief Sock Puppet clearly did not want Durel to make that information public.
Durel had been given the floor in order to ask a question. Like many people, the Mayor-President prefaced his remarks by making a statement. He told Breakfield that it was clear that Fiber 411 "is joined at the hip with BellSouth" and was in the process of mentioning the activities at Cingular when the Chief Sock Puppet bellowed "SPEECH!" The bellow succeeded in diverting Durel from pursuing the Cingular point apparently only Sock Puppets are allowed to monopolize the floor with statements masquerading as questions.
The Chief Sock Puppet later accused Durel of "hurting my reputation" with allegations of close ties between Fiber 411 and BellSouth.
The real damage inflicted by Durel's allegations about the ties between the Sock Puppets and BellSouth grows from the fact that they turn out to be true!
All in all, it was a very rough meeting for the Sock Puppets: claims were exposed to be false; deliberate deceptions were uncovered; and the ties they have cultivated with BellSouth are too embarrassing to be allowed to be discussed in polite company.
The Fat Lady might not have sung, but the coda is being played in the Sock Puppets' operetta.
Sure felt that way when C.O.D.A.'s membership voted to endorse the project in an open vote at the end of the meeting!
Update: Here's The Advocate's story on the C.O.D.A. meeting. Here's The Daily Advertiser's story on it.