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AMHERST SUPERVISOR, INDUSTRIAL AGENCY ARGUE OVER BROCHURE

The slick, full-color brochure, according to Amherst Supervisor Daniel J. Ward, is "self-serving propaganda . . . an independent and rogue effort" to ram the Amherst Industrial Development Agency's industrial-growth policies down a disapproving public's throat.

Agency officials contend that the brochure presents an objective picture of the agency as well as what economic development means to the town.

The six-page brochure -- "A Special Report" from the Amherst agency -- was mailed recently to about 27,000 homes in the town. It cost the agency, which receives no money from the town, about $20,000 of its own revenue.

"Amherst citizens have a role to play in the future of this community," reads a headline-sized message across the brochure's three inside pages.

The text and graphics draw heavily on a 1989 survey by Goldhaber Research Associates, which revealed, in short, that the Amherst agency suffers from an identity problem.

The survey of 800 people showed that most residents generally support the need for a growing tax base, diversified by residential, commercial and industrial development.

On the other hand, 38 percent said they'd never heard of the Amherst agency, 19 percent didn't know enough about it to form an opinion and 14 percent had an "unfavorable" impression of the organization.

With its industrial parks full and a hunt under way for more land, the Amherst agency felt the brochure fulfilled "our obligation to inform the public about who we are, what we do and why we think industrial development is important to the town," said Ann M. Michotek, associate director for marketing.

The brochure drew an angry response from Ward, a Democrat who was elected supervisor last fall on what Republicans charged was an "anti-development" platform. Ward said he was championing "controlled growth."

"While portions of the report are informative and educational, other parts border on self-serving propaganda," Ward wrote in a letter to James J. Allen, executive director of the agency.

Ward charged that the brochure "arrogantly" suggests that the agency intends to forge ahead with industrial-development policies, whether the public and its elected representatives agree with them or not.

"Rather than simply ask you to trust us as we shape the future of the community, we would like you to get to know us, and in doing so, hopefully build a partnership," Allen says in one part of the brochure.

In his letter, Ward reminded Allen that the agency is "a tool of the local government (that) should always remain responsive . . . to the policies set by local government."

In addition to a development slowdown caused by the economy and new wetlands restrictions, "We have also had some change in town (growth) policies, and I view my election in general as a mandate by the people . . . to do so," Ward wrote.

"I think the agency itself realizes what shaky ground it is on when it has to resort to a self-promotional publication of this nature," Ward added.

"I personally see it as an attempt by the staff to save their hides," Ward said. "With no land to develop and all kinds of wetlands problems, without any function, I think they feel their jobs are in jeopardy."

Ms. Michotek and Allen defended the brochure as an accurate and objective presentation of "facts" about the benefits of economic growth in the town and how the majority of the public feels about it.

Allen said he was "a little surprised" by Ward's attack on the brochure for another reason -- Ward's accusations over the past several months that the agency is too low-profile, that it isn't accessible enough to the public.

"He's been saying we don't communicate with the public. So we do what he asks, and now it's like he's saying, 'But that's not what I wanted you to communicate,' " Allen said.

"In effect, the agency, in the brochure, is telling (Ward), 'Yes, you're right; we aren't well enough known by the public and we need to inform them what we do, how we do it, what the results have been and what we'd like them to be,' " Allen said.

Allen described the brochure as the agency's "first step" toward developing a higher public profile.

In addition, Allen said the agency board of directors plans to begin holding quarterly evening meetings in Town Hall. Ward has criticized the board for discouraging public scrutiny of its actions by meeting at 8 a.m. Fridays in Audubon Parkway agency offices that can seat only about 10 spectators.

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