Saturday, February 28, 2015

All pastramics make for strange blog-fellows…

                  

By now you should be well aware that Other Side is prone to stretching the concept of humor beyond its elastic limits, and this post will do so as much in that regard as any we’ve ever published.  You also know the old saying; ‘records are made to be broken,’ and in the same vein, epic blog groaners are meant to be tossed aside by even less humorous excursions on the silliness axis.

So here we are, at your service.  It’s in our nature to go off in such directions, and we’ve learned that ignoring the impulse only makes things worse on our end.  Best to yield to the urge and have it dissipate, if only momentarily.

We’re confident that most readers have heard the old saw “politicians make strange bed-fellows.”  We’re not sure who first said it, though if we had to guess, it was Ben Franklin.  It seems to fit his style perfectly.  No matter; we don’t want to pursue the imagery in any way.

          

You’ve surely heard the other classic, vaguely referenced in the above photo, that ‘all politics is local.’  We’re pretty sure we agree that nearly every issue in the political domain eventually reduces itself to local considerations.

With the above as context, we come to you tonight to talk about pastramics, which we’ve convinced ourselves, is a subject related to politics, if only tangentially.  And to suggest that Pastramical Science is the study of applied pastramics.

At this point, you’re probably wondering how we ended up down this dead-end ‘road not taken.’  Here’s a clue:

           Democratic State Senator Stan Gerzofsky, of Brunswick, attended the inaugural party for Gov. Paul LePage at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday.

Here’s another clue:

Which is a visual way of saying that a certain local ‘politician’ and your correspondent have come to a meeting of the minds (or tastes?  or appetites?) on at least one local matter.  Cured meat is just a symbol for the meeting, because it goes far beyond that.

                                  

It turns out the two of us agree on the need to address a situation that is not only unacceptable, but even worse, a threat to the health of numerous Brunswick residents.  So we’re pleased to say that Senator Stan Gerzofsky, pictured above, has taken the proverbial bull by the tail and faced the situation.  He’s introduced legislation to fix the problem. 

We’re grateful, along with numerous other Brunswick residents, that he has the fortitude and wisdom to do so, at considerable risk to his established relationships with various ‘interests’ in our area.  Not to mention the risk involved in associating with Side.  Such risk is a three way street; fortunately we have no ambitions put at risk by our collaboration.

The bill the Senator has introduced is LD 439, and you can find the particulars here: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_127th/billtexts/SP016801.asp  We understand he has a lengthy list of co-sponsors equally determined to protect the interests of the most vulnerable.

We’ll save you the trouble by posting them below:

An Act To Prohibit Excessive Idling of Passenger Trains

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

Sec. 1. 23 MRSA §5006 is enacted to read:

§ 5006.  Prolonged passenger train engine operation

1.  Prolonged passenger train engine operation. Beginning January 1, 2016, except for engine operation under subsection 2, a railroad company may not operate a passenger train engine while the passenger train is stopped for longer than 30 minutes.

2.  Exceptions. This section does not apply to a passenger train engine that is:

A.  Being repaired or serviced if the operation of the train engine is essential to the proper repair of the train engine; or

B.  Engaged in the delivery or acceptance of merchandise or a passenger for which engine-assisted power is necessary and another means of power is unavailable.

3.  Penalty; enforcement. A railroad company that violates this section commits a civil violation for which a fine of $2,500 must be adjudged. The Attorney General may bring an action seeking injunctive relief to enforce the provisions of this section.

summary

This bill prohibits a passenger train engine from operating for more than 30 minutes while the train is stopped except for during repairs or servicing requiring the engine to be running or delivering or accepting merchandise or passengers requiring engine-assisted power and includes a fine of $2,500 for a violation of these provisions.

It should be clear to you that the bill, first and foremost, is targeted at the untenable situation in which a Downeaster train set idles for 5 hours or more each day on the tracks in Brunswick’s downtown neighborhoods   And if you haven’t had the pleasure of breathing in the lovely fumes and other residues of such idling, we personally invite you to join us trackside to do so

                 

Trust us; gently simmering pastrami it’s not.

                        

We fully expect this proposed legislation to energize local members of the Downeaster Marching Band, led by their latest Majorette, AAB’s own Claudia Knox.  She’ll be leading The Booch, ET, Saint Wayne, Patsy, and various others in opposing this common sense measure to see that the little used passenger train is, at the very least, an inoffensive visitor to our town.

By the way, if the band members should suggest that NNEPRA, Amtrak, and the Downeaster are being singled-out by trainists, know that they’re dead wrong.  Maine already imposes limitations on idling of motor vehicles via statute as shown at http://legislature.maine.gov/statutes/38/title38sec585-L.html.

We’re told by those in the transportation industry that many municipalities impose even more stringent rules on vehicles.

Here’s the heading to the statute:

Maine Revised Statutes
Title 38: WATERS AND NAVIGATION
Chapter 4: PROTECTION AND IMPROVEMENT OF AIR
§585-L. IDLING REQUIREMENTS FOR MOTOR VEHICLES
(REALLOCATED FROM TITLE 38, SECTION 585-K)
1. Applicability. This section applies to:
A. Commercial motor vehicles, as defined in 49 Code of Federal Regulations, Section 390.5 (2007),
and commercial motor vehicles used on a highway in intrastate commerce; [2007, c. 2, §26
(RAL).]
B. Locations where commercial motor vehicles load or unload; and [2007, c. 2, §26 (RAL).]
C. Gasoline-powered motor vehicles except private passenger vehicles. [2007, c. 2, §26
(RAL).]
[ 2007, c. 2, §26 (RAL) .]

We’re guessing the law did not address passenger trains because frankly, passenger rail had all but disappeared by the time the subject came up.

In closing, if you haven’t figured things out by now, the simple fact is that your Senator and your correspondent have found common ground.

                     

You may not think of this as ‘common ground,’ but if you don’t, you don’t know either of us very well. 

Maybe it’s time for a ‘caucus’ at the Big Top Deli, where Big Tony acts as the Sergeant at Arms.

We’re up for it if you are.

The Gelato Chutzpah

Now that we’ve got our snow management obligations under control, at least for the moment, and have filed both our income tax returns, we thought we might return to making our trademark “other side” observations on the passing parade that is the local scene.  To set the stage for this post, we offer a candid shot of “Community Developers” as they approach the block grant process.  “Entrepreneurs” don’t look a bit like they used to, do they.

      Image result for pigs at the trough

Perhaps you remember a post some weeks back that toyed with the issue of what you and others are entitled to.  You can find it here: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2015/01/a-sign-of-times-what-are-you-entitled-to.html

The post suggested it’s become a sign of the times that seemingly everyone feels entitled to ‘free money’ from the endless reserves of such largesse.  Including those who by all appearances are making money scoop over cup.

  

In this case, we refer to a local maker and purveyor of Gelato, who in a matter of mere years, has added a Portland location, an off-site production facility, and a huge number of wholesale accounts around the country (http://www.gelatofiasco.com/retailers/).  We became aware of their latest gesture of entitlement when we read this entry in the agenda for the town council meeting this coming Monday, March 2:

18. This item is a request from Gelato Fiasco for the Council to submit a letter of intent for a CDBG grant in the amount of $350,000 to provide funding to support their production expansion in Brunswick. With the growth of this business since 2007, this project would develop a 20,000 square foot production space to continue to grow their business. Copies of a memo from Linda Smith and the draft Letter of Intent are included in your packet.

Suggested motion: Motion to support a Letter of Intent for a CDBG grant in the amount of $350,000 for Gelato Fiasco to support their continued growth and production in Brunswick.

And you thought the Brunswick Taxi gift from the BDC was a “fiasco.”  If memory serves, our local Gelato ‘business people’ have been prior recipients of a sweetheart deal from the BDC as well.

As you can see from the above photo of their Brunswick store, Gelato Fiasco is a humble Mom & Pop start-up operation.

DSC_0198

You’ll note in this recent photo listing their offerings that they’re darn near giving their product away.  Frankly, we can’t see how anyone can make a go of it charging so little for designer ice cream.  Milk, cane sugar, and flavorings can be pricey, though.

We hear word that their business is generating operating revenues in the $3-5 million a year range at this point, but we can’t say.  And we don’t expect the subject to come up Monday night, because hearing about their financial growth since the early days might look a bit unseemly when panhandling to town officials.

Not that it would matter.  We expect our betters at the curvy table to come down on the side of “looks good to us; it’s not OUR money!”  Johnny Protocols, given his past experience at doling out OPM, will probably wax teary-eyed about the importance of ‘supporting struggling young people as they seek to survive in our town.’  State officials surely take the position of “looks good to us, it’s not OUR money.  Besides, those on the scene locally have reviewed and approved the proposal.”

                              

So bend over, Brunswick and related money tree orchardists!  And you have the unmitigated gall to wonder just how we could possibly be $18 trillion in debt as a nation.  All the while cheering such giveaways and loss-leader boondoggles like the Downeaster.

                                   Image result for stifle yourself edith

So shut up!  Just shut the hell up, will you?  As we’re sure to be reminded by town ‘leaders,’ such giveaways of OPM are how we go about building our community’s future, and fund precious and vital investments.

We all have different expectations of investments, we suppose.  Having just completed our income tax returns, though, we can report a noticeable absence of ROI on our contributions to the future of others.  We had not a single penny of dividend income to report from Brunswick Taxi, Frostys, Cool as a Moose, Gelato Fiasco, J. Hillary Rockett enterprises, or any of the others we’ve doled out cash benefits to. 

Maybe our checks have been delayed in the mail.  And yours too.

But we wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see that various ‘business consultants,’ like Scott Howard types, for example, have received THEIR dividends on OUR investments.  Folks in his game get to hold their Heads High as they wander amongst us little people, helping to find worthy recipients of extra cash we didn’t even know we had.  Ain’t this a great system we live in?

Before you get too complacent in your happiness, though, we’re going to pour a little salt on your slushie.  Do you know what the word “fiasco” means?  It derives from an Italian term meaning “to play a game so that the one that loses will pay the fiasco, in other words, he will buy the next bottle (of wine). That plausibly connects the word with the notion of "a costly mistake."

How ironic.  A costly mistake.  Yet here we are, about to collectively give away $350,000 of hard earned cash to someones who don’t even begin to need it, or warrant it.  You really think a business with their revenues and national distribution network can’t come up with $350,000 on their own?  We’re guessing they’ve got that much and more in cash on hand.  If not, they certainly should have an incredibly good opportunity to borrow such funds….say from a local bank, where others in the ‘community’ might benefit.

On the other hand, maybe Side should stop fighting them, and instead join in the happy scarfing up of loose shekels available just for the asking.  Let us know what you think of this idea:

We’ll come up with a request for a $350,000 Community Development Block Grant to fund the creation of a new enterprise called Block Head Enterprises, Inc, a consulting firm that will focus on helping communities develop some rational thought capabilities.  We’ll feature a syllabus including various ‘flavors’ of skill development, like Common Sense; Rational Thought; Public Trust; Stewardship; Self-starting Behavior; Private Entrepreneurship; Accountability; Economic Reality; Problem Entitlement Rehab; Overcoming OPM Addiction; Recognizing a Pig in a Poke; Why Passenger Rail Died; and others as they occur to us.

In so doing, we promise to create at least two new jobs.  And local officials needn’t worry.  We expect the $350,000 should last us at least 3 years, so we won’t be back looking for more within their attention and memory spans.

We think our proposal should be a winner in a logical world.  Which leads to our primary concern.

           Image result for panhandlers

We sense there’s a bit of a bias when it comes to ‘seeking’ grants.  There are beautiful folks holding out their hand, and approaching beautiful people with the endorsement of beautiful people in the community.  We expect they do very well, thank you.

                  

Then there are not so beautiful folks holding out their hand, without the support of beautiful people in our midst.

                               Image result for panhandlers

They’re likely to come away empty handed.

How about you, there, Mister?  And you, Ma’am?  Will you support us in our community developing, start-up funding request?  We promise you’ll feel better about yourself if you do.

And before you know it, your dividend check will be ‘in the mail.’

                         Image result for gelato fiasco

Place your bets on who’ll be the “winner” in this game, and who will ‘pay the fiasco.’  And how likely it is they’ll rename their business “Gelato Chutzpah.”

Monday, February 9, 2015

Further thoughts aplenty re: The Sierra Club and AAB

             Family photo 1944 A

Your correspondent grew up the youngest of 5 children (by 8 years), so one of the ‘pleasures’ of our formative years was the teasing we endured from our older, more sophisticated siblings.

We remember one particular case from when we were about 12, the age at which we could get working papers and search for a suitable job.  As we wondered about the possibilities, one of our brothers suggested we could get a job working for a Doctor.  “You could stand outside his office, making people sick,” he said with a gleeful smirk.

We thought about that quip as we pondered another dimension to the item we posted on Saturday, based on a relevant Sierra Club letter.  As readers know, we’ve commented frequently on the lack of objective evidence of any real economic benefit to Brunswick from the Amtrak Downeaster operated by NNEPRA, which is now in its third year servicing the Portland North extension.  The only undeniable economic gain we know of is for Brunswick Taxi, which has a contract for transporting crews back and forth to Portland twice a day.  Meanwhile, local taxpayers shell out roughly $100,000 a year to service Station operations.  We estimate the Taxi contract at twice that amount, so you can see how economic ‘leverage’ works around here.

Not to mention the $8-9 million Maine and federal taxpayers shell out annually to subsidize the Downeaster overall.

                        Parkview Hospital

Anyway, it occurred to us that every cloud has a silver lining, and maybe that cloud of diesel engine residue emanating from the Downeaster while it sits here in town, idling away for five hours a day, does as well.  In a perverse sort of way, we should add.

Reading the Sierra Club letter carefully should alert you to the fact that if nothing else, the local health care industry should see some ‘economic growth’ from the cumulative effects of Downeaster Diesel Dust being spread around our environs.

From our youngest to our eldest, based on the evidence presented in that letter, we would expect all sorts of medical practitioners, and related business interests, to see ‘growth’ from the Downeaster’s arrival in town.

                                 Day Care to tracks

Did you know, for example, that a day care center operates no more than 100-150 yards away from where the Downeaster currently does all its idling?

                        

Think of the growth possibilities beyond the health care segment.  As effects on vegetation and physical structures become better known, we see homeowners spending more for landscaping care, replacement windows, specialized home ventilation systems, exterior home wash-downs, etc.  And let’s not forget local veterinarians, as pets begin to show the effects of train service.

There’s another growth aspect possible here; what if Downeaster Diesel Dust becomes the new asbestos?  Will we start seeing attorneys’ ads on local TV stations full of promises of getting the ‘compensation you deserve?’  We can even think of some local counselors who might be entice by such possibilities.

These things can take some time to come to pass, as it were, but the Sierra Club letter seems to provide a good foundation for such growth possibilities.

We hope the BDA, All Aboard Brunswick, TRNE, and NNEPRA itself latch onto these new possibilities to drum up more support for the passenger rail service, complete with a nicely documented study by appropriate consultants.  And it shouldn’t be limited to Brunswick; it’s just that we seem to have a more pronounced economic growth situation on our hands.

We’ll close with a few questions for the potentates of passenger rail promotion, while we have their attention:

1)  Instead of idling away in Brunswick for 5 hours every day, why isn’t the daily noon arrival (12:25 pm) loading up passengers and returning to Portland as a revenue run?  And then heading back up to Brunswick in time for the 5:55 pm departure south?  This would also be a revenue run, and allow throngs to spend a leisurely afternoon in Portland, though we hope they wouldn’t spend too much there.  No longer would there be a need for the twice a day Brunswick Taxi runs, and the diesel fuel currently wasted on fouling the local area could instead support actual transportation purposes.

2)  If the Downeaster MUST park and idle here in town 5 hours a day, why isn’t it doing so at the Maine Street Station, where it would be a constant reminder to one and all that as AAB Majorette Knox, declared, “Brunswick is on the national train service map.”  Just seeing the train there everyday should prompt a significant increase in ridership, shouldn’t it?  Why is it being hidden on an obscure, out of the way siding?  Parking it in plain sight would be “Top of Mind” messaging, and we’d expect the BDA, AAB, and all the rest to be strongly in favor of such a move.  Train hosts from TRNE could give tours of the train while it sat ‘at the gate,’ purring those soothing railroad sounds.  Those who love the train but don’t want to go anywhere could wile away an afternoon taking in the feel and aromas of good old passenger rail.  And the cafĂ© car could be open to serve food!

So there you have it; who says our years in business development aren’t doing the town any good?  And we’re not charging for the ideas!

You know, if the rail elites and our elected betters play their cards right, we might even be made famous in a movie some day.

We can dream, can’t we?

            

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Sierra Club and AAB

                    

Well, friends, did our title manage to get your attention?  We hope so.

We don’t have too many mountain ranges reminiscent of the Sierras here in Maine, and while not unheard of in these parts, it seems fair to say that the Sierra Club isn’t a major league player in what goes on in our state.  But as you’ll see shortly, they’ve done some work that bears directly on what goes on around here, and more specifically, in Brunswick.

                      

As to the “AAB,” we expect you immediately guessed we’re going to riff a bit more on “All Aboard Brunswick,” the new ‘brigade in the Kool-Aid Parade’ we discussed in this post: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2015/01/a-new-brigade-in-kool-aid-parade-aab.html

In that item, we referred to the apparent Drum Majorette for that new group and her well, less than convincing evidence put forth to document the major economic benefits of the Downeaster.

But as you’ll see, we talking about another sense of the term “AAB.”

Back to the Sierra Club.  As loyal readers (and others too) know, the consequences of Downeaster train sets idling away in town for an average of 5 hours each and every day has been an ongoing controversy in our otherwise perfect little town, where ‘quality of place’ is held in the highest regard.

One side of the discussion holds that the diesel engines are spewing extremely unpleasant and unhealthy byproducts of their operation, including noxious odors, diesel fuel particulates, etc.  We can vouch for this side of things, since just last night, we had occasion to meet with some folks in an office nearby to an idling train set, and in no more than an hour, our nasal and oral passages were nicely coated with the emanations, even though we were inside a building with all windows closed.  The ‘thrill’ still wasn’t gone by the time we headed for slumberland.

The other side of the discussion holds that any complaints about such consequences are 1) veiled attempts by trainists (a derivative of racists) to demonize passenger rail service to Brunswick;  2)  the just desserts of anyone dumb enough to buy or lease property adjacent to railroad tracks; and 3) wildly exaggerated and unsubstantiated.

           image

Enter the Hudson Mohawk Group of the Sierra Club.  We are in possession of a formal letter from them that opens as shown above.  We’ve posted the entire letter here:  https://www.scribd.com/doc/255035207/Sierra-Club-Report-on-Rensselear-Air-Conditions

We’re going to post a few passages here to see that you have sufficient cause to read the entire document, and even tell friends and neighbors about it.

“For almost a year and a half now, the Hudson Mohawk Group has worked alongside the Concerned Citizens of Rensselaer to begin to determine the human health impacts related to air emissions in and around the City of Rensselaer. As will be detailed below, we have become aware of what some of those impacts are and are attempting to determine how to best address them. Because of our current air monitoring work with scientific analysis professionals we have collected data which indicates that at least certain portions of the airshed in the City is unhealthy and actually hazardous to human health. “

It is well known that there is an inordinately high number of industrial facilities that impact air quality in the City of Rensselaer. First and probably foremost is the Amtrak Station in Rensselaer. For many years, the residents who live in close proximity to the Amtrak Station have had to deal with the noxious and unhealthy fumes. The fumes emanate from the train maintenance facility as well as the passenger trains which idle. We now have solid, scientific evidence of how harmful breathing those fumes can be.

With a portion of this funding, the Sierra Club, in consultation with the Concerned Citizens of Rensselaer (identified as the “Local Committee” as per the above reference), undertook air quality monitoring to determine locations where air quality was of special concern. One of the first locations chosen was behind a residence located at 1100 Broadway in Rensselaer whose backyard was approximately 100 yards from the Amtrak Station. Locomotives waiting for crew changes, new passengers and other activities idle for long periods in which diesel fuel is burned.

The health impacts of human exposure to these levels of EC is alarming. According to Dr. Cherniak (see references above and below), on March 11-12 from 1100 Broadway in Rensselaer, persons spending time outdoors at this location would be subject to an elevated risk of cardiovascular mortality two and three-days post exposure: and an elevated risk of cardiovascular and respiratory hospitalizations on the day of exposure. To put it more directly, the above results from March 11-12 are just one day’s worth of exposure, in an unusually warm day in March when the wind was blowing from the south. The impacts of an entire summer’s worth of exposure, when windows are open and the breeze is from the south, can only be categorized as alarming, in our opinion. We have no doubt that the weather records would indicate that these conditions have frequently occurred in the past, putting the residents of Rensselaer at risk, to say the least.

We also believe that the Sierra Club Hudson Mohawk Group and Concerned Citizens of Rensselaer should make an effort in concert with EPA/DEC efforts to combat unhealthy emissions. One of the options we have become aware of to deal with the diesel emissions from the maintenance facility and passenger trains at the Amtrak Train station in Rensselaer is to reduce the locomotive idling. This would be accomplished by utilizing Auxillary Power Units (APUs). As you may know, APU’s have been identified on the EPA Smartway site as a “verified” RR Idle reduction technology. One of our potential options is to utilize some of our grant money to engage the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in this endeavor. However, it is believed by residents of Rensselaer who have complained in the past to Amtrak about the odors and received little response or help, that outside assistance, such as that provided by the EPA would help convince Amtrak to participate in this endeavor. Our other colleagues (copied below) will be counted on for assistance also.

It seems to us that it’s impossible to read this letter without seeing its relevance to Brunswick, and in particular, the daily idling that has been going on ever since the Downeaster came north from Portland.  Such has taken place both in the Cedar Street area and the Bouchard Drive area, though of late, it seems all idling periods are now taking place in the latter.  We’re not sure why, but we can’t help but think that NNEPRA has made a calculated decision about doing so.

Furthermore, considerable idling takes place at the Portland terminal, and similar concerns would apply there.

Discussions between town leaders, Amtrak, and NNEPRA to consider employing readily available technology that would largely alleviate the idling issue have yielded no noticeable progress or action on the part of NNEPRA, who operates the service.

We can’t understand why, given the dangers involved to Brunswick residents.

                               

Perhaps it’s time for a new ‘AAB,’ under the name All About Brunswick, to put people before the train.  And a new leadership team to take the baton; one interested in residents well-being and very real threats to public health, rather than so far intangible and unsubstantiated ‘economic benefits’ to downtown merchants.

Let’s be Frank; Shirley “Quality of Place” encompasses Quality of Air, don’t you think?

Monday, January 26, 2015

A new Brigade in the Kool-Aid Parade: AAB

(Ed. Note: time to get back to the ‘theme’ we introduced after the first of the year, specifically as it relates to the use and value of ‘consultants.’)

========================================================

       

In the passing parade that is Cape Brunswick, there are literal parades……

and figurative parades….

Recently, a new Brigade has signed up for the latter.  It’s known as “All Aboard Brunswick.”  We’re suspicious, as we often are, that this is the former TrainRiders Northeast Brigade all decked out in new marching costumes.

                        

Judging from public appearances so far, the Brigade is being led by a new Majorette.

Her name is Claudia Knox, and she introduced herself in this role to the town at the council meeting of December 15, 2014.  You can see her speaking for her Brigade at this video link: http://tv3hd.brunswickme.org/Cablecast/Public/Show.aspx?ChannelID=1&ShowID=3050, beginning at the 6 minute time stamp, and lasting for about 5 or 6 minutes. 

As we understand it, throngs of followers wearing the “AAB” uniform, a simple badge, were there to march with her in perfect lockstep.  Oh how we wish we had witnessed it for ourselves, but we have to make our assessment based on the video alone, and one or two personal reports.

                           

Not long after, in The Ostrich, the Majorette followed up with this stirring “march:”

image

The above, of course, confirms Ms. Knox’ inspiration from the March Master himself, Major Domo Wayne Davis.  All the more reason we’re so delighted that Davis has the keys to the Brunswick “Visitor’s Center,” even though he has no official connection with this facility, and doesn’t even live in town.                             

We have a few thoughts on why “All Aboard Brunswick” was formed, and how Ms. Knox came to the Majorette role in the group.  Here they are.

First, we can’t help but wonder if AAB might have been created to counter the suggestion we made to the town council that it’s time for a detailed study of the economic benefits the Downeaster has delivered to Brunswick.  As we reported, this was a ‘dead letter,’ and the follow-up item of ours published in the local ‘newspaper’ was similarly ignored.  Attributing the birth of AAB to such events is admittedly self-serving, and ascribes more value to our bloviating than we’ve ever been able to document.

        

Second, it may be that the real, hidden leaders of the marching band came to realize that their former majorettes, the Brunswick Bobbsey Twins, were not exactly winning over the local fan base.  The Booch and ET, whenever they stepped forward to introduce a marching tune, were anything but harmonious, and frankly, were counter-productive in building support for their compositions.

                               

Ms. Knox, we’re sure you will agree, is a ‘kinder and gentler’ band-master then the adversarial leaders put forth in the past.

Moving on. let’s make note of one obvious point:  “All Aboard Brunswick” as an entity speaks to hauling locals south to spend their economic power elsewhere, rather than hauling visitors north to spend their shekels in our downtown.

Then, take a look at metropolitan NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, and the like.  Do you think visitors and dollars are flowing in, of flowing out?

      

Now let’s assess Ms. Knox testimony to the council.  While it wasn’t quite up to MSMT production standards, it certainly had the concept of razzle-dazzle deeply embedded.  And as you’ll soon see, there is a Chicago connection.

Ms. Knox delivered her remarks with grace aplenty, and several platitudes about how the Downeaster is the town’s ‘ally’ in controlling property tax growth.  We’ll take that as a ‘future promise,’ since recent increases in our property taxes would suggest just the opposite.

More noticeable, at least to us, since we can see between the lines, was how Ms. Knox completely avoided any specific corroborative testimony for the “economic engine” the Downeaster represents to our town…this one….right here….Brunswick.  We were aghast at this omission, since the speaker is deeply immersed in the Brunswick Downtown Association, which IS the group that should have the necessary proof at hand.  Perhaps it was just an oversight, or she was concerned about taking too long in her salute.

Matter of fact, if you listen to her comments, you’ll note that she didn’t mention Freeport, or even Portland, to substantiate her claims of economic stimulus.  Since the service from Boston to Portland began in 2001, you might think Portland authorities would have collected some useful data on the economic benefits by now, but apparently not.  Maybe those towns had nothing good to say, and were unwilling to serve as Ms. Knox’ sources.

We can’t help but wonder, on the other hand, whether Boston has any data available on how travelers from the north have expanded their economic health.

Working her way down the line, Ms. Knox finally found a source or two that would give her glowing positive quotes in Biddeford, though they were marketing platitudes of the sort we debunked when we reviewed the various letters of endorsement for the 2014 TIGER Grant Application submitted by NNEPRA, and other letters sent to the Governor.  You can review those posts here: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/search?q=TIGER+letters

The other thing we keyed on in Ms. Knox’ testimony was her mention of background reference documents she provided to the council before hand.  And this is where we connect the dots about consultants, and how much they mean to us in making our lives better in so many ways.

Focused as always on your needs for complete transparency in such matters, we went after the subject background documents, and succeeded.  Which led to our conviction that the subject of ‘consultants’ was worthy of a ‘series.’  In our first post on the subject, where we talked of a PDI’s school enrollment studies, we made this statement:

But then, you know how it is; reality can be so difficult to change, and recorded history is even tougher.  Better to project your fantasies and wishes into the future, where they can’t be disputed in the present.

And so it is that Ms. Know provided the council with a study performed by CNT for NNEPRA in 2008; you can find the document here:

http://www.amtrakdowneaster.com/sites/default/files/AmtrakDowneasterOverviewofProjectedEconomicImpacts2.pdf

Wouldn’t you just know it; CNT is located in Chicago, and if you check their web site, you’ll find this….

About Us

We help make neighborhoods, cities, and regions work better. For everyone.

Founded in 1978, the Center for Neighborhood Technology is a leader in promoting more livable and sustainable urban communities. We research, invent, and test urban strategies that use resources more efficiently and more equitably.

Alternative Transportation for Chicagoland (formerly IGO CarSharing*), working to make it possible for the Chicago region’s residents to live well without having to own a vehicle, and to create an integrated, multimodal transportation system.

As you can see, CNT brings a Chicago sensibility to our area, and elevates us all to ‘urban’ status, not something many in Maine would agree with.

Here’s an excerpt from the CNT study; TOD is “Transit Oriented Development:”

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Can you imagine having sat through the presentation of this study, hearing the Chicago consultants talk of how the estimates were ‘conservative?’  We’re already halfway into the study time period; isn’t it time for a follow up review to test the predictions?  Not likely, we’re guessing.

Here’s another excerpt:

image

So Brunswick will end up with nearly 2,000 new housing units, and over 800 new jobs.  We’ll leave it to you to study the rest of the report.  In our quick review, we found many of the premises for the study, like Maine’s population growth projections, to have been overcome by decidedly less rosy reality.  But no matter, when you’re chasing OPM and building a new rail empire, pull whatever numbers you need out of that consulting hat of yours.  Or wherever else you get them from.

The second ‘background document’ Ms. Knox provided to our town leaders is this; besides the cover, it amounted to two pages, a cover letter, and a montage of sorts:

image

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We think a bit of study will show that most of the info on the second  page above was lifted from other documents compiled by consultants, including the CNT study we talked about above.  Frankly, we think Ms. Knox should be embarrassed, if not ashamed, for putting forth this equivalent of a post card that throws all sorts of unsubstantiated claims and projections around, without ever addressing ROI in the real fiscal sense.  But such is the way of hired cheerleaders, also known as consultants, helping in the chase for the endless stream of taxpayer funds.

We should point out, by the way, that correlation is not causality in matters such as those cited above.  If you’re not sure what we mean by that, you may not be ready for a critical analysis of these matters, but bear with us.

Making things even better, as we reviewed the CNT study from 2008, we found mention of this study performed for Maine’s Department of Transportation in 2005, conducted by EDRG:

http:// http://www.edrgroup.com/pdf/report-downeaster-final.pdf

We found this table in the document:

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Do you grasp what this says?  Brunswick will see ANNUAL business sales of $1.8 MILLION A WEEK?  And reap nearly 1,000 new jobs?  Are you kidding us?  This is so far out of the ball park that refunds should be demanded, and companies put out of business.  The implication of these figures, if nothing else, is that everyone who rides the train to Brunswick spends THOUSANDS of dollars while here!  While those who ride the train to Freeport spend, oh, less than $100?

We found this passage as well:

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You’ll have to excuse us, but we just can’t take any more of this absolute garbage, and we’re even more disgusted by the fact that our tax dollars rewarded those who compiled it, and that our ‘leaders’ used it to rationalize/justify further ‘investment’ of taxpayer funds.  There is a big difference between ‘investment’ and wild speculation, akin to spinning the roulette wheel.

A couple of closing thoughts cross our mind.  We wonder if Ms, Knox and the All Aboard Brunswick Brigade would like to correlate business closures in the area over the last two years or so with the arrival of the Downeaster in our midst.  Of course not, we presume.  Only positive consequences, none of which were or are cited, can be laid at the rails in Maine Street Station.

And then there’s the thought that the Downeaster is simply the most convenient distraction for the loss of the Brunswick Naval Air Station, and the thousands of residents we lost along with the millions upon millions of very real economic activity they represented.

Shame on us for thinking such things, but thoughts are thoughts.

We’ll leave you with a few favorite quotes, before a final musical note.

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
George Bernard Shaw

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana

Those who misremember the past are pleased to repeat it as `proof'.
Mike Huben

The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder's lack of rational conviction.
Bertrand Russell, Skeptical Essays

   

And then, the essence of Chicago…

    

BILLY(Spoken)
Roxie, you got nothing to worry about.
It's all a circus, kid. A three ring circus.
These trials- the wholeworld- all show business.
But kid, you're working with a star, the biggest!

(Singing)
Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle 'em
Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate
Give 'em the old hocus pocus
Bead and feather 'em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

What if your hinges all are rusting?
What if, in fact, you're just disgusting?

Razzle dazzle 'em
And they;ll never catch wise!

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle

BILLY AND COMPANY
Razzle dazzle 'em
Give 'em a show that's so splendiferous

BILLY
Row after row will grow vociferous

BILLY AND COMPANY
Give 'em the old flim flam flummox
Fool and fracture 'em

BILLY
How can they hear the truth above the roar?

COMPANY
Roar, roar, roar!

BILLY AND COMPANY
Throw 'em a fake and a finagle
They'll never know you're just a bagel,

BILLY
Razzle dazzle 'em
And they'll beg you for more!

BILLY AND COMPANY
Give 'em the old double whammy
Daze and dizzy 'em
Back since the days of old Methuselah
Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-lah

Give 'em the old three ring circus
Stun and stagger 'em
When you're in trouble, go into your dance

Though you are stiffer than a girder
They'll let you get away with murder
Razzle dazzle 'em
And you've got a romance

COMPANY(The same time as BILLY's)
Give 'em the old
Razzle Dazzle

BILLY
Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle
Razzle dazzle 'em
Show 'em the first rate sorcerer you are
Long as you keep 'em way off balance
How can they spot you've got no talents?
Razzle Dazzle 'em

BILLY AND COMPANY
Razzle Dazzle 'em
Razzle Dazzle 'em

And they'll make you a star!

We apologize to you; we didn’t realize when we undertook this ‘theme based’ series, just how disgusted the material we are bringing to you would make us.  But it has, and so we’re pulling the plug on it for now, and counting snowflakes instead.

But….

                 

…..of a different sort, we think.  Or so we hope.