Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ed Cone tries to dismiss the Randleman Dam Scam — Read my reply....

Ed Cone attempted to dismiss the entire Randleman Dam Scam in a few short paragraphs entitled Water Works published on December 4, 2009. His conclusion: “Baron is wrong about the dam.”

Below is my reply.

Mr. Cone:

Thank you for finally giving the dam scam some attention. The news blackout that's been keeping the decline in water use a secret has been quite remarkable. Let's get started....

Your summation is exactly what I would expect from someone affiliated with the Greensboro News & Record, a long-time dam proponent and apologist. I have introduced a mountain of incriminating evidence that reveals a municipal fraud and cover-up. How strange that the N&R has failed to find one single item in my collection newsworthy. The daily paper has been a veteran cheerleader for the dam while failing to publish the history of declining water use and the failed water forecast that helped win approval for the Randleman Dam. Anyone reading the N&R would never know that anything is wrong with Greensboro water.

I have shown how the City of Greensboro allowed the ends to justify the illegal means it used to secure the approval and funding for the dam. It does not surprise me that you and the entire Greensboro’s news media dismiss every bit of evidence I have provided. To admit anything now would be an admission of failure to have done your jobs.

Just one look at my CHART is all the cityfolk need to begin asking questions. Citizens deserve to see this CHART and the news media and the City of Greensboro is keeping the water history hidden from them.

I am pleased that you chose to comment because given the success of the city's propaganda and the success of the cover-up there is no such thing as bad publicity regarding my efforts. More people will now hear of the scam for the very first time simply by having attached your name to it. Everybody seems to know who Ed Cone is so my page views will soar and my message will spread.

I was fired for reducing Greensboro’s water demand—the job that I was hired to do. Does that sound good for you taxpayers? I was an unemployed family man trying to support a wife and kids when I accepted this entry-level assignment. At 47 I needed a secure job and I liked the challenge—to educate and change the water-using behavior of 215,000 citizens. I didn't know if I would succeed. Never did I dream that I would interfere with a $150 million dollar project.

When water use began to decline under the programs I initiated, my workplace became even more hostile. That's right, my workplace was unfriendly from day #1. Water Director Ray Shaw was ordered by city council to begin water conservation (WC) against his will. I did not know that. So I worked 3 years under Shaw without ever attending his weekly water department meeting. I was not invited.

Shaw did not care what I was doing as long as I stayed out of the way. Of course on camera he sang praises about WC. Then WC began producing “new water” for Greensboro at a lower cost than Shaw's plants could produce water. That got his attention. Shaw ridiculed WC to his subordinate managers so you can imagine how little help they were to me. I was the entire WC program.

Water use began declining in 1996. The more successful WC became, the greater its threat was to the Randleman Dam approval process. I won US Environmental Protection Agency 1st place awards awards and the city hated them because they drew attention to the fact that water use was declining. Twice I was not allowed to attend receptions in Atlanta to receive my 1st place 1996 and 1997 awards.

The city council and Mayor Allen got the message that Greensboro's award-winning WC manager had to be “taken out” for the sake of the dam. They remained silent and thus joined the dam scammers.

My controversial termination was never investigated or reported. Not a single council member phoned me. The News & Record sent a reporter to cover my post-termination news conference at Adams Farm who was on her last day of work and beginning a new job the following week with a Texas newspaper. That’s how little the N&R cared about my news conference on the water fraud.

I was hired under false pretenses. I was asked to reduce water use by 4% but the city was not serious. Ray Shaw never expected anything from me. Had I failed in my mission I would probably still be employed today.

The city realized it could not justify its argument for the Randleman Dam without a WC program in place. So I was hired to develop the program "for show."—and given every opportunity to fail. The city expected that my WC effort would not save a single drop.

Most municipal WC programs run school tours, print fancy brochures and never save any water. Wanna know why? It’s because their bosses are water-selling engineers who hope to sell more. Whenever an engineer is in charge of WC you have the fox guarding the hen house. WC is used for good public relations and nothing more. Most municipal WC managers and coordinators complain that their bosses won't let them do anything that saves water.

I was never expected to make a difference in water use. Then my efforts saved 2 billion gallons over the first 3 years. That meant 2 billion gallons went unsold! The water department began losing income as well as its arguement for the dam.

I was fired in 1999, given 2 weeks severance pay and I was never replaced. I lost everything I had after being jobless and unable to find work. Next my health failed.

First I was necessary for the dam ....and then I became expendable in the grand scheme to get Randleman Dam. Don’t you and the rest of your journalist colleagues find it odd that Greensboro fired its WC manager and never replaced him? That sure was dumb! It's one of the many smoking guns of the water fraud.

You wrote, “But the ten-year usage projections brandished by Baron as evidence of a scam were not the impetus for the new reservoir.” That’s absurd! Of course they were! If we were warned that an asteroid is going to take out Earth, don’t you want to know WHEN? Is it in 10 years …..or 10,000 years? Those bogus water projections told everyone the dam was needed ASAP. They were false. Nobody but my readers know!

Do you think if Greensboro had projected a steady decline in water use the dam would have been funded? DUH. The water projections and a bunch of hype were used to sell a dam bill of goods to the state, the feds and Greensboro’s citizens. Those water use projections missed by a mile! Now they are so carefully hidden in the bowels of the water works that had I not introduced them, nobody would know!

You accused me of “brandishing” those projections. Ha! That’s so funny. Of course I “brandish” them just like the adversaries of those climate change scientists are “brandishing” those hidden emails. Yes, Mr. Cone, I am the chief "brandisher" of the Dam Scam CHART because everyone deserves to know its contents!

You wrote, “Nor is there evidence that the projections were made in bad faith.” That’s absurd too! I have provided plenty of evidence that Greensboro acted in bad faith! Ray Shaw made those projections in the same year that WC began. His numbers reveal that nothing was ever expected from WC. And Shaw knew his projections were bogus! They were for the moment and designed to justify the dam.

You wrote, “Even modest growth over the decades ahead will greatly overburden today's water supply.” How do you know that? When gold runs out in a mining town and miners start leaving, does that town need more resources? …or fewer resources? The gold is leaving Greensboro for Asia. And migration to Greensboro has slowed. Nobody can accurately predict even a few years out and you are speaking of “decades ahead.” After missing the boat on the dam scam you and others have no other option but to dismiss every shred of evidence I have introduced.

Greensboro's citizens are so brainwashed by city propaganda that you are simply responding according to plan. Sure it seems logical that population growth will increase water demand, but a water conservation program would decrease demand—and Greensboro does not have one! It did for 7 years and it was dismantled without any challenge! Does that not make you suspect of Greensboro? And with manufacturing leaving, that more than offsets population growth. If Greensboro returned to WC it would further reduce water use. I will let you in on a little secret. Greensboro is out to sell all the water it can to increase revenue. You cannot have the objective to sell all the water you can and run an award-winning WC program at the same time! That's what's wrong with WC programs across the country.

Once the dam was approved, Greensboro did away with its WC program around 2004. The elimination of WC during the period the city was claiming water scarcity was never investigated or reported by the News & Record. Why all the silence?

In 1999 the city was reporting that water use was increasing when in fact it had decreased 4 years in a row. This dishonesty was never investigated or reported. If it did not “brandish” my CHART nobody would know what has happened!

FACT: Greensboro deliberately sold water for lawns below cost and gave additional incentives for lawn watering like free water meters and no off-season billing. That’s what lowered the reservoirs annually and induced the fear that won support for the Randleman Dam.

The equivalent would be a fire department that set fires to win public support for more fire stations. It was a scam and it worked. Ray Shaw set fire to his own water works. It has never been investigated or reported.

Lawn watering overstressed the distribution system and that’s how the water department got its $9 million dollar expansion of its treatment and pumping plant approved. Imagine how Greensboro’s poor people would feel if they learned that lawn watering caused $9 million to be invested. Low income people actually were subsidizing lawn watering in affluent neighborhoods. Why?—because irrigation water was sold below cost. I am the ONLY person to report it. Nobody else knew that irrigation water was sold below cost. The Shaw of Utilities knew how to get a dam approval.

The water works had plenty of horsepower to push water across the city—except during lawn watering —a practice which was being encouraged through incentives! So the $9 million dollar expansion was gotten by incentivising citizens to water their lawns. That’s how many municipal projects get done using fakery of all kinds. You have to be an insider to know this stuff.

Director Ray Shaw allowed his water distribution system to fail (no water in NW Greensboro) on Tuesday, May 24, 1994 to win support for that $9 mil project and for the Randleman Dam. It was criminal what he had done. If a large fire broke out during his stunt there was no water in the hydrants to fight it. Shaw took the 24-hour risk and it worked!…and it was never investigated or reported. This is how you get a dam approval.

You had no idea what was behind the May 24, 1994 water outage. I do, and that’s why you should listen rather than type. I doubt that city council even knew. If council was intelligent about water it would have known that Shaw allowed the system to fail to win support for the dam. It worked!

City council reacted exactly how Shaw hoped it would. A water-knowledgeable city council would have FIRED Ray Shaw for allowing the distribution system to fail. On the other hand, council may have liked that May 24 failure because it greased the skids for the Randleman Dam.

While it said it was “running out of water” Greensboro had the lowest priced water among North Carolina cities. Greensboro’s price was 47% lower than the NC average. I thought, “Well how dumb is that?” We are running out of water and we practically give it away! Low price is an incentive to use more of the resource and that’s what Greensboro wanted—to get the dam. This stuff is so simple even a cave man could get it.

Shaw was a water-seller and a water-profiteer. All other city departments depend on the General Fund for a budget. Water gets its money from water sales. Shaw wanted no water to slip over the top of the dams. He made sure every drop of it was sold.

Incentives were given to maximize water use (sales) while Greensboro was warning that it was “running out.” Price and incentives and lawn watering were the reasons for the low reservoirs. These issues have never been investigated or reported. It was a highly effective trick.

I had lunch with a water engineering consultant I met during a national conference. I told him about Greensboro's fake water shortage. He said he knew about faked problems. Then he explained how he designed and built a water treatment plant for another major US city that used the same trick! He said he was able to put his son through 4 years of college on what he earned from that unnecessary project.

It's just like if Greensboro builds that Aquatics Center and nobody comes to use it. Taxes would need to go up because ticket sales would not be producing the revenue the city anticipated. Randleman was built because water use was supposed to go up! Sorry but now it is time to pay for bad decisionmaking by the dam scammers.

So much less water is being sold today than was projected that the water department cannot pay for its operations plus the dam. Waste water treatment (sewer) sales are also insufficient. The bogus reasons the city is giving for rate increases are not being investigated or reported.

The real reason for the Randleman Dam was to attract industry with plenty of surplus water. However, city insiders—the dam scammers—knew the public would not fund such a project for growth and development. So Greensboro pitched the Randleman Dam for “survival” knowing it would be funded.

The water department caused its own reservoirs and distribution system to fail to gain support for expanding the water works. I saw how they did it with my own two eyes. I was there and you were not there. I was expected to go along with the fraud and I could not participate. Fortunately for Greensboro's taxpayers my business ethics are derived from my Christian faith. I was on TV and radio frequently but I would not repeat the false statements my bosses were making. In good conscience I became a whistleblower. I just happen to be a licensed Baptist minister if that helps your understanding of what I had to do.

Greensboro eliminated all other sensible alternatives to pitch the dam as the only solution to a faked water shortage. The city could have had a long-range contract to purchase Burlington’s surplus water but water director Ray Shaw would have nothing to do with Burlington….or with water conservation. 

Shaw’s career dream was to build the Randleman Dam. It may have even been an obsession. He actually believed his water department would build it and operate it. That’s what engineers do—they design and build for a living. And Greensboro’s water engineers have kept right on designing and building even when water use has declined for 14 years! Private sector companies downsize when sales are bad but the government water works expands when sales are bad. Think about it…because nobody else is.

Have you ever heard of a department head wanting to grow his department? Shaw had his finger on the scale for the dam for most of his career. Some of the council members probably knew that. No doubt some were all for Shaw’s tricks because they were so effective.

Ray Shaw refused all best management practices and far less expensive alternatives to the Randleman Dam. Shaw’s foolish choices have never been investigated or reported.

The reason for the news media’s silence about the dam scam is that the news media is looking dam foolish right now for failing to scrutinize such an expensive public works project. Nobody wants to jump in at this late stage because the water is too hot. You Mr. Cone gave it your best shot as if your explanation was the final chapter on the dam scam and the dam scam need not be mentioned again.

I am not a journalist like you, but I have the truth and I have witnessed the inner workings of this scam. I am reporting and you are only repeating what you have read. For example, in your post you have repeated what others have claimed—that Randleman Dam will meet the Triad’s water needs for the next 50 years. That’s hilarious! Greensboro cannot accurately forecast even 5 years into the future and yet you are repeating that Randleman is good for 50 years! According to who?—according to the propaganda. If I was John Hammer my Rhino headline would be, “Greensboro wants us to believe Randleman will meet water demand for 50 years when Greensboro could not predict its water needs for 5 years.” The emperor is naked.

Please show me the "study" that supports the claim for 50 years of water. I say there isn’t one. Only a fool would "sign off" on a 50-year projection these days. You read "50 years" in the News & Record and other in reports and you believe it and you repeat it. I say 50 years is laughable. It is made for the camera and you bought it.

Your mention of the 50-year projection demonstrates the problem with the news media today. Reporters don't investigate any longer. They simply repeat what somebody else says. It took just 2 freelance reporters to expose ACORN! It took just one hacker to discover the climate scientist's hiding data. And if I was not reporting Greensboro's water fraud you would never have seen the shocking numbers and all the evidence that makes the dam a scam.

You and others are hopelessly infected by 15 years of Greensboro's lies, false reports, propaganda and photos of dry reservoirs. People’s take on the Randleman Dam is not their own. My 2009 telephone survey proved it. 100% of Greensboro believes that water use has increased since 1995 and they are all wrong thanks to media like the News & Record.

Anyone with a brain knew in 1995 that manufacturing was departing for Asia. Shaw knew that a "service economy" was our future when he made his water forecast. Greensboro was so worried about losing Cone Mills as a water customer that it actually thought cheap water was the glue that would keep it here. Goodbye Greensboro! Now that Cone Mills and other industries like it have departed, Greensboro’s residential customers must make up for the huge loss in revenue.
The current reasons being given for water rate increases are not the real reasons. Read the news and watch each explanation Director Allan Williams provided. Every one of them is a diversion from the truth. You see, the city cannot be truthful about the rate increases because the real reasons would reveal the dam scam.

Translation: WATER RATE HIKES are necessary because big industrial water accounts have departed. Are you going to tell me that Greensboro couldn't see this coming?
I suspect your summation will accomplish the exact opposite of what you and the N&R and the City of Greensboro hope to accomplish.

Through one blog that's up against a decade of propaganda the citizens can learn the truth about how major municipal capital improvement programs are often justified, funded and completed. Every large-scale public project deserves the highest scrutiny because pride and profit are strong motivators of insiders who use other people’s money to develop what THEY want. Unfortunately the axiom seems to be that the more expensive and complex something is, the faster it is approved and the less it is scrutinized. Look at Cap and Trade. Look at the healthcare bill.

The Randleman Dam is the most successful scam in the history of Greensboro. However, once the truth gets out it may remain the biggest scam in the history of Greensboro—but it will no longer be successful because the folks will know they were had. Maybe the next time they will ask more question and demand more from the mainstream news media—whatever’s left of it.

Mr. Cone concluded, “Baron is wrong about the dam.” What do you think?


  1. I am not really up to steam on this controversy but your arguments make sense, and the motives attributed to the presumed scammers believable on the surface. Your graph, if legitimate and accurate, seems to corroborate your claims. Mr Cone's initial statements also sound reasonable, though of a much more cautious and general nature and without any specifics to back them up. Now that you have provided a more detailed breakdown of your position, I will await his hopefully similarly supported rebuttal.

  2. Well and diplomatically said, Anon. I wouldn't hold my breath on the "similarly supported rebuttal" though.

    Beautiful post, Mike.

  3. "Water! Water! Everywhere, but not a drop for Ed Cone to drink at the Spring of Truth"

    I had no idea that Ed Cone could see into the future for 50 years!

    Excellent and easy to understand! No doubt Ed will drown himself in a establishment media cess pool after reading your response to settle his myth ridden journalist ego....

  4. Anonymous,

    Dams take a long, long time to plan and build.

    The planning for this project predates Mike's tenure with the GSO water dept, and the dam's planned usage runs for decades -- both facts you can read in documents from the Corps of Engineers, state legislature, etc., some of which are linked in my post.

    Mike is not just writing an expose of the politics within the department where he worked, and he's not just arguing for conservation and prudent use of resources, which I strongly favor.

    He's claiming the dam was built on falsehood, and he's challenged bloggers and journalists to speak out.

    So, in good faith, that's what I've done, by linking to documents showing that plans go back decades, and discussing some of the history of Greensboro's water supply and population growth.

    Mike's argument that we won't need more water in the future comes down to his belief that we won't see increased demand due to population growth and/or business usage.

    He offers as evidence a short-term trend, which is not adequate to determine the need for a generational project of this scope.

    And he compares us to a gold-rush town when the gold has run out, which doesn't capture the reality of our situation -- our "gold" is our location, infrastructure, etc.

    Yes, we've lost jobs, but are you willing to bet that our population and water usage will remain stagnant for decades to come?

    Anyway, that's my answer to Mike's challenge. I don't think it will convince him, but I appreciate the forum he's provided for me to say my piece.

  5. Ed, I will say to you what I said to Roch at Joe's. You would have a lot more credibility as both a journalist and a blogger if you would apply the same kind of "brusque"/intense/highly critical analytical interviewing skills to the GSO city staffers that Mike accuses/challenges . . . as well as the "non-profit" executives I accuse/challenge in Asheboro . . . that you have to us.

    Your "evaluation" of both situations has been very determinedly one-sided.

    I don't have to go to city hall, I can go to Wikipedia: "In 1987, the US Army Corps of Engineers withdrew support for the project because the "cost of the Randleman Dam would outweigh the flood control benefits of building it."

    Many ugly squabbles later, the Dam did eventually get built - on a much smaller scale. The bottom line is that whole lot of people (in Greensboro/in Randleman/in Asheboro) had a vested financial interest in getting it done - no matter what.

    And if that meant throwing a water conservation manager (who did his job conscientiously and well - and who refused to lie to the public) to the wolves, so be it.

    No harm, no foul. At least that's what your argument seems to be. As long as your kids & grandkids have access to potable water, what was done to Mike Baron does not matter.

    I have no use for that argument. NONE. Of course, I've been in Mike's shoes. You haven't.

    You speak of "generational" projects. On a related subject, as I understand it (from a story published in the GSO N&R no less), multiple hydro-electic plants/dams all up and down the Deep River are now not considered worth re-building. I'm sure 50 years ago, everyone KNEW we'd need those plants.

    But let's not get Mike's argument any credence at all because we might need the water in Randleman Lake 50 years down the road.

    The Piedmont's "gold" is not its "infrastructure" or it's location. The Piedmont's REAL gold is its people - good people - particularly people like Mike Baron and Mary Johnson who were treated like DIRT by the powers-that-be because they did the right thing.

    You wanna fix the area's prospects, you fix that first. And if the powers-that-be don't start SOON caring about simple right and wrong, then YES, population and development WILL remain stagnant.

    And it will DESERVE to be so.

  6. I am not arguing for a minute that what happened to Mike does not matter.

    But Mike's challenge to the media and bloggers is about the necessity for a new reservoir.

    I believe that the evidence is clear that building the dam, as discussed and planned for decades, was a logical decision.

    I agree with Mary that people are part of this region's value. That's another reason I expect enough growth to justify the long-planned reservoir.

  7. Ed, it's very arguable that if Mike had not been fired (basically for being very good at his job), and had been able to tell the general public the truth, the Dam might never have been built. The two things are intertwined.

    If good people doing good jobs are what's most important . . . if what happened to Mike in Greensboro (for being a great water conservation manager) . . . and if what happened to me in Asheboro (for being a stellar doctor who put a baby's life before her own job) . . . REALLY matters, what, pray tell, have you (as a "leader" in the Greensboro blogosphere - and a journalist) done about it?

    I mean, except for hosting the "conings"?

  8. Important as conservation is, I don't see evidence that the best of conservation efforts would make our current water supply adequate several decades from now.

    Again, thanks to Mike for providing a forum for dissenting views in response to his challenge.

  9. And/so the bottom line (as a journalist) is that you are quite content to let Mike - and others - ROT for doing EXACTLY what you would have had them do.

    Sometimes in this life, Ed, it comes down to right and wrong. And sometimes, you have to walk your talk.

    Two of the people on this thread have done that in spades.

    And it's time for you/Roch others to walk yours.

    Let us know when you're willing to do that.

  10. Ed Cone wrote:
    "Baron offers as evidence a short-term trend..."

    Mike Baron replies:
    "Gimme a break! 14 straight years worth of evidence is not a short-term trend. The evidence demonstrates that Greensboro is incompetent at forecasting its water needs! And during this period Greensboro ENDED its successful water conservation program that was reducing water use.

    Greensboro is looking dam foolish right now and so is anybody defending it!

    In 1998 I and anyone with a brain knew that manufacturing was leaving the US. I knew its departure would leave Greensboro with a water surplus. Are you telling me that Greensboro's water director and planners could not see what I could see?

    Of course he knew! His bogus forecast was designed to sell the dam. That's called bad faith.

    You are still praising the emperor's new clothes!

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