Friday, August 19, 2016

Snowflakes, Town & Gown, and Human Rights Task Forces

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“What do you get when you cross a …….”  On second thought, we won’t stoop so low as to make a joke on this.

Besides, what happens here in official Brunswick when said Task Force finally fights their way out of the box they’re in will in all likelihood be far more yuk-worthy. 

And wouldn’t you just know it, we got a glimpse into this just today:

http://www.theforecaster.net/brunswick-human-rights-panel-gets-vote-of-confidence/

Let’s look at a few passages:

BRUNSWICK — The Town Council accepted a report from the Human Rights Task Force Monday, and authorized the panel to continue working on its mission through the end of the year.  The 7-1 vote approved eight recommendations and initiatives that the task force will undertake in the upcoming months, many of which build on or complete  work the group has already begun.

Translation: “Whooh!  We managed to kick the can down the road, and avoid having to be decisive, conclusive, or judgmental in any way.”

The Human Rights Task Force was established last December in response to an increase of racial and gender-specific slurs downtown and near Bowdoin College. Soon after its inception, the task force expanded the scope of its inquiry to include all classes protected under the Maine Human Rights Act. Brayman called the conversations “open and informative,” and an opportunity to sit down and listen to the community. Most notably, the conversations have resulted in the Police Department’s implementation of an online bias report page, which has had two submissions to date.

Translation:  “In keeping with bureaucratic tradition, we immediately expanded the agenda to muddle the original impetus for the effort.  Our PD has established an on-line reporting portal, whose use to date has been underwhelming, but we still consider it a major step forward.”

According to the report, “the Task Force was not presented with evidence of widespread bias. The incidents reviewed by the Task Force appeared to be isolated, individual acts.”  The task force’s inquiry was originally supposed to take six months. But Brayman said the group believes the town will benefit from the continuation of the conversations they’ve started, especially because it has since widened its scope.

Translation:  “Yeah, we got swept up in the heat of the moment and over-reacted.  But now that we dug this hole we’re in, we’re hoping to find some prescious stones to make the effort seem worthwhile.  And come up with post facto reasons for why acceding to campus demands will eventually look like the right thing to have done.”

           

Beyond granting the task force more time, the council also accepted a list of recommendations to encourage community organizations to participate in the dialogue. The recommendations include workshops and web pages devoted to the issue, as well as promoting lines of communication between the town, Bowdoin College, and the Police Department to identify and deal with incidents of bias.“We met people from different parts of the community that we don’t usually talk to,” Wilson said Monday. “I think the relationships (the task force) is building with organizations in the town will be worth” the effort.

Translation:  “More workshops, more web pages, and encouraging dialogue.  Leadership 101, making it clear ‘this is who we are.’  Besides, we met some more people, and we’re hoping they can offer up some new complaints to make the task force seem worthwhile in retrospect.  They may even give us reasons to turn this into a never-ending effort, with no need to reach a conclusive result.”

We’ve written about the Task Force, as you likely know, in cautionary terms, and wondered when we would hear something decisive.

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2015/12/brunswick-bowdoin-race-gender-rape.html

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2016/07/of-black-holes-and-other-anomalies.html

We submit that the use of the term “bone-headism” by one of our town leaders may be the most piercing and prophetic observation to date on this subject.

Enough said.  Our purpose tonight is to pass along a ‘learned article’ to provide some context for the task force.  Written by a faculty member from Princeton, it provides some ‘insider’ insights into the campus activism of  our age, along with an interesting theory on what is behind much of it.  We found the article informative and rational.

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We caution you not to assume from the title that it’s ONLY about black rage.  You’ll see as you read it that it covers virtually every type of ‘snowflake’ currently inhabiting IHE’s like Bowdoin.  Here’s a key passage:

I believe that much of this recent frustration can be explained—and the perplexing question “Why now?” answered—by a phenomenon long known to historians and social scientists that might be termed the “Tocqueville Effect,” after its first extensive description by Alexis de Tocqueville in The Old Regime and the French Revolution (1856). In this work Tocqueville explains why extreme anger and hostility are often the result, not of the most objectively oppressive conditions under which people may live, but of what has been called a “revolution of rising expectations” in which people come to entertain exaggerated hopes of a better future that the actual conditions of life inevitably disappoint. Unfulfilled social expectations lead to painful frustration, frustration leads to bitterness and anger, which, in turn, lead to social and political unrest—up to and including riots and revolution.[1]

The article is a bit of a slog, but we believe that those who read it all the way through will be much better informed in the atmospherics of our ‘community.’  And when you do, keep in mind that the physical borders separating the campus from the town are indefinite and confused.  So when you read the words ‘campus community’ in the article, we think it’s fair to interpret that more broadly to include in town neighborhoods surrounding the campus.

The article is well foot-noted.  And it may cause you to wonder whether what transpired in Cape Brunswick isn’t part of a larger, orchestrated effort to show ‘solidarity’ with other campus activists across the nation by ‘joining up,’ rather than an organic initiative arising from within.

Here’s the link: https://www.nas.org/articles/snowflake_jacobins_black_rage_on_campus

We’ll be interested to hear your reactions and comments, though our readers are historically loathe to post actual thoughts.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

$10 million here, $60 million there, pretty soon you’re talking real money….

We’re paraphrasing, of course, a famous quip by Senator Everett Dirksen some decades ago in which he famously said something like “a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

If you really want to shock your system, watch the under two minute video recorded in 1965 in which he worries about national debt.  You’ll find it here: https://youtu.be/7Au2-J-3on0

We’re here today because of circumstances that astonish even your correspondent, and that’s a bit of a challenge, given the bizarre behavior we’ve observed over our lifetime.  Thanks to the Mackinac Center for their concise intro for what we have to say.

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So let’s get right to it.

There appears to be no limit to the preposterous stupidity and recklessness with which our federal and state governments will spend other people’s money.  Money they don’t even have to spend, given federal deficits and runaway national debt.

 

And no limit to the number of silver pompadoured elite activists who will demand government do so to satisfy their hobbyist cravings, and  then have the gall to pat themselves on the back for coming up with the idea and convincing those in charge to spend it with wild abandon. 

                    

Flim-flammers like this believe it is their right to have Government take funds from others (you and yours, and ours as well) by force of law, so they can spend it on their personal wants and ego monuments.

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What are we talking about?  This article from yesterday: http://www.pressherald.com/2016/08/17/rail-project-in-falmouth-and-cumberland-will-allow-downeaster-to-expand-service/

It describes NNEPRA’s plan to spend another $10 million or so ‘optimizing’ the Portland North Downeaster Expansion, on which roughly $60 million has already been spent on capital projects, with no hope of recovery.  Downeaster operations, just for good measure, bleed about $1 million a month on top of that.

So you can readily understand how another $10 million in capital spending is warranted.

We’ve written about this very subject before…in fact a number of times.  We all know that NNEPRA, TRNE, AAB, and the other guardians of public funds have a stable full of horses in this race. Still, as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a horse that’s too dead to beat.

So we’re going to refer you to a post of last year, in which the need for this siding was proven totally false, based on the analysis of a career professional passenger rail manager, with far greater experience than anyone on the proponent’s side.

Here’s where you can find the post: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2015/07/nnepras-proposed-royal-junction-siding.html  You’ll find out that NNEPRA has failed more than once getting a federal TIGER Grant to fund their wildly unnecessary expansion plans, because, well, it’s fun to spend OPM, right?

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The core of the opposition to the need for this $10 million siding is this simple diagram, which shows existing track conformation, and the proposed new siding:

In a blinding statement of the obvious, just 3 miles away from the site of the proposed project is an existing 1.9 mile siding which can easily accomplish the same functions.  If only those concerned wanted to do so.  Yet there has been no public airing of the options, or second thoughts in the halls of Augusta.

   

Why?  Because if we don’t go ahead and spend money we don’t have, there will be too, too many unhappy ladies of the town, worrying that they’re not being catered to like they’ve come to expect.

Here’s an idea that builds on the fine example set by our governments.  The next time you want to ride the Downeaster, buy your tickets with counterfeit currency, or pay for them with a maxed out credit card, or write a check for them on an overdrawn checking account.

We’ll close with another truism, and remind you that in this case, ‘government’ is, in effect, NNEPRA, and their hired abetters at TRNE, AAB, MRTC, MRG, and the rest.

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So whenever you ponder what your share of the national debt is, be sure to thank your lucky stars that at least you know exactly who to hold accountable for some of it.

As if that will do any good.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Maine Wire: A nation of laws?

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The Maine Wire ran another one of our commentaries this week.  You can find their presentation of the item here:  http://www.themainewire.com/2016/08/nation-laws-nay-nation-kingdoms-kings/

Their editorial practices are a bit less flexible than our own, especially as it pertains to the use of embedded graphics, which as regular readers know, is something we use extensively, if not wisely.

They chose to drop this visual

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in favor of the stock US Capitol shot above.  A matter of personal taste, we suppose.  The lovely shot of King George III (the third) followed this opening text:

Recently I attended the MHPC luncheon at which Tom Fitton, Head of Judicial Watch, was the guest. As he spoke, it occurred to me that saying we are ‘a nation of laws’ needs a modifier, and that would be ‘from time to time.’ Or if you prefer, ‘when we feel like it.’

Having laws on the books is one thing; administering them, obeying them, and enforcing them is an entirely different concern. And these are the things that matter; not having the laws on the books.

It became apparent as Tom spoke that when it comes to the latter aspects, we are anything but a nation of laws. In fact we are just the opposite.

You may recall that the President who would be King, currently reigning over the United States, came into office on the heels of an unusual public statement by his Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett. Most prior presidents said they were ready to lead, serve or govern. But in the climate of today’s imperial ‘administration,’ such old-fashioned ideas are passé.

“Given the daunting challenges that we face, it is important that President-elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one,” Jarrett, then Co-Chair of the Obama Transition Team told Tom Brokaw.

We hope you’ll read the entire published column, and perhaps be motivated to ponder the subject, and our current state of affairs, a bit more deeply.

                         

It can’t hurt to know who your Kings are, even if we’re not talking chess.

Your move, reader.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

A MUST SEE at MSMT: Mama Mia!

We gave a glowing review to MSMT’s Production of Fiddler on the Roof several days back.  It was a truly memorable show, and one of the all time favorites of musical theater fans.

Well, here we are with an even more emphatic review of MSMT’s Mama Mia!, which the Sides saw tonight.

It is, simply put, colossally good!  We had seen it in Toronto in a touring Broadway production perhaps 10 years ago, and loved it then.  We had front row center seats sitting over the shoulder of the musical director, who was sitting at our level.  The energy of the show was beyond anything we had ever seen, and totally absorbed us.

ABBA is a mostly forgotten musical group at this point, and probably invites laughs if you mention them in discussion.  This show’s magic is that it was created well after their peak popularity, and weaves a compelling  story by using their songs to carry the story forward, and very cleverly so.

As we walked out after the show, Mrs. Side said “this is the best show we’ve ever seen here,” which is high praise, given we’ve had season tickets for 20 years.  We have to agree with her, though we’re reluctant to lower our ranking of the favorites we’ve seen in prior years, like Fiddler.

We had front row seats for this production; our usual location.  The fact is that the quality and professionalism of MSMT offerings has steadily improved over the years.

Trust us when we say that if you like musical theater, you will LOVE this show.  Even if you turn up your nose at ABBA’s music and their costuming.  The show is chock full of superb song and dance numbers, and we promise it will put a huge smile on your face.  It works like magic.

We’re not sure how easy it will be to get tickets at this point; MSMT’s web site says they’ve added additional performances.  We implore you to do what you must to to scare up some tickets; you won’t be sorry.

And you can trust us on this; we’re not like all the others.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A tchotchke for Side readers

 

Four of us just got back from a performance of Fiddler on the Roof put on by MSMT on the Bowdoin Campus.

The musical, if you’re not familiar with it, is one of the all time great shows to begin with.  And this MSMT production is spectacularly good!  Broadway quality in every sense of the term.

If you aren’t currently planning to see it, by all means try.  Not sure if they have many seats left, but the show is an absolute winner and will warm your heart and dazzle your senses.

As an added bonus, here’s a link to a Yiddish/Yinglish glossary:

http://www.bubbygram.com/yiddishglossary.htm

Reading it should give you a barrel of laughs, and coincidentally would be useful homework if you do go to see the show, which is about Jewish people and their traditions.  No yiddish words we can think of appear in the show, but the Jewish style of humor and language usage is on full display.

Enjoy the show in good health!

Of black holes and other anomalies: Whither goest Brunswick’s Race and Gender Task Force?

Do you remember this post from December last year?

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2015/12/brunswickss-polar-bears-coming-home-to_21.html

         

It contained the above image, along with a letter from Council Chair Sarah Brayman describing her intent to form a Brunswick “Race and Gender Task Force” to address worrisome events in town over the prior months.  We warned that doing so would likely place a monkey on the Council’s back; they would have to DO SOMETHING, DO ANYTHING, even if no systemic issues were uncovered.

We also noted that the general phenomenon of campus unrest on such issues appeared to be an organized movement nationwide, rather than a serendipitous unfolding of concerns unique to Brunswick, America’s perfect little town.  We could be wrong, but it seems to us the story has lost some of its legs locally, given that as best we know, there has been an amazing decline in reports of the kind of incidents that sparked the interest of ‘town leaders’ in the first place.

We followed up with another post: http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2015/12/brunswick-bowdoin-race-gender-rape.html

As things unfolded, one member of the council suggested that the Task Force be redesignated a “Human Rights Task Force,” elevating Brunswick, it would seem, to an adjunct of the United Nations.  This reaffirmed our conviction that Brunswick is rife with social justice warriors always ready to bog down municipal government with issues of global politics; issues that are none of their legitimate business in the context of Town Council responsibilities.  (Don’t worry; I’ll get over the bleeding tongue in a day or two.)

A report on the meeting that made disposition of the Task Force plan is here:

http://www.theforecaster.net/brunswick-council-forms-task-force-resolves-to-oppose-bias/

Note the public posturing by the usual suspects. A few interesting passages from the article are these:

“I don’t know how much control any (legislative body) has over bonehead-ism,” Councilor Suzan Wilson said.

Councilor Jane Millet, who had originally supported the task force, said she found the direction the motion had taken “bizarre.”

“It’s tough to fix stupid with groups like this (task force),” Councilor Steve Walker said. “But the task force is … an opportunity to learn what tools are out there.”

The task force will report back to the council in June 2016.

Our concern, irrelevant as it is in such matters, is that ‘human rights’ has become a catch-all term for the march to socialism, and justice warriors include such things as these in the mix:

The right not to be responsible for your own support and that of your ‘family.’

Expecting a ‘village’ to raise your child responsibly rather than making that your obligation.

The right to ‘socially construct’ your gender, your biological species, your race, and your sexual experiences.

The right to a free college education, even if you aren’t qualified for college work.

The right to have ‘someone else’ provide whatever it is you’d like to have to live a comfortable middle class existence.

The right to earn a wage well beyond your value to your employer.

The right to be excused from a vast array of criminal behaviors because society made you do it.

The right to have others provide your health care in all forms.

The right to have others pay for your ‘reproductive rights.’

etc, etc, etc…

A few months back we attended one of the Task Force meetings; the discussion focused mostly on the needs of local foodbanks, etc, which seemed well outside the ‘race and gender’ sphere.  Our worst fears were confirmed.  The Task Force had quickly moved beyond its reason for creation, and its charter, and become an open-ended charitable discussion group.

We subsequently inquired when we could exect a wrap-up and report on the group’s work.  Recall the original plan to “report back to the Council” in June.  The answer we got was that reporting out was TBD, and that the group was seeking input from area clergy and others to further explore “community needs.”

We expect any suggestion that they complete their work and report back to the town will be seen as hard-hearted and mean-spirited.  We suggest, therefore, that the easiest way out for those who began the process is to avoid the issue by any means necessary.

     

All very noble of the principles of course, except for the fact that this has nothing to do with why the group was formed.  We’ll likely be scolded for a lack of compassion, and so be it.

We look for our Town Council to manage the enterprise of Municipal Government, and nothing else.  Their example here does not build confidence in how they manage budgets, town staff, and other pressing issues of town administration.

On the other hand, in most cases we can think of these days, government has become the dominant charity organization at all levels, so why should we expect anything less from our local betters? 

Doing good with OPM can be so satisfying to the soul.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

School construction costs increasing! Quick…get the smelling salts!!!

    

       

We’re admttedly pretty cynical when it comes to watching school bureaucracy plans evolve in Brunswick.  Particularly when it comes to their cost and impact upon taxpayers.

That shouldn’t surprise you, because the only domain in which the school bureaucracy operates, for the most part, is in spending and its impact upon taxpayers.  When’s the last time you saw them push a concerted campaign for improving the teaching of the basics (dare we say the 3 R’s?), and for improving ‘the children’s’ mastery of the very basics it takes to navigate a life in today’s complex world? 

When’s the last time you heard anyone in the inner circle talk about increasing, or strengthening expectations, rather than relaxing them to account for various social maladies of our day?

Or when’s the last time you heard someone in the bureaucracy publicly apologize for allowing student bathrooms to fall into disrepair, or for allowing roofs to collapse for lack of having snow removed in time?  Or for ventilation systems becoming plagued with mold?  Or for that matter, those responsible being fired, or at the very least, disciplined?

The reality is that you haven’t, just as you haven’t seen or heard much about the reliably generous increases in teacher salaries independent of any performance measures.

But eventually, you do hear, whether you want to or not, about the need to spend tens of millions to remediate the incompetent stewardship of our publicly funded physical assets.  At least according to PDT and Lyndon Keck, who seem to have a monopoly on school facility planning in Brunswick, Topsham, and who knows where else.

Which brings us to the heart of this post:

http://www.theforecaster.net/architect-estimated-cost-rises-for-new-brunswick-elementary-school/

“BRUNSWICK — The cost of building a new school could be at least $25.8 million, higher than initial estimates, according to a new projection.  The estimate was announced at a meeting of the School Board Facilities Committee Wednesday, June 29, by PDT Architects, the firm that has been designing a potential new school building for the site of the former Jordan Acres Elementary School.”

As often happens in such coverage, the really ‘juicy’ parts of the story are buried several paragraphs further down, where those who just skim the paper might very easily miss them.

“Yet even with shaving about 11,000 square feet from an earlier design, the new estimate is higher than the $24.5 million previously presented to the board. That’s because the earlier number came from a 2014 building analysis, and was informally adjusted for inflation, according to Keck.”

So even though the size of the building was reduced by 12% plus, inflation on the smaller building still drove the project estimate up by 5%.  If you do the math, you could argue that inflation is nearly 20% since that 2014 estimate.  But hold on; there’s more good news:

“The board and PDT, however, still have work to do. Not included in the $25.8 million estimate are premiums for geothermal energy, playgrounds, and interior furnishings, along with inflation. Premiums included, the new school could cost about $27.8 million.”

Board members discussed bringing in furniture from Coffin Elementary School, and possibly excluding geothermal development – a savings of $700,000 – as ways to cut costs.  

Can you hear the mommy mafia, the board, and the other usual suspects furiously arguing that to do so would be ‘penny wise and pound foolish, unfair to the children, and something town taxpayers don’t support?’  We sure can.

Let’s get to cranking up your steam pressure:

“Outgoing Facilities Director Paul Caron presented the pros and cons of geothermal energy, which heats and cools Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary. “It was good in the beginning,” Caron said, but with future maintenance costs, and the low price of oil and gas, the investment looks less attractive for the future.”

If we didn’t know better, we’d say that sounds like ‘pig in a poke’ language, similar to how the ‘open classroom’ design of Jordan Acres quickly became an orphan child, with no one held accountable.  But wait; there may be even better news coming, in the form of a surprise:

“There may be “big capital assets we never budgeted for,” he said.”

As the article winds down, a glimpse into reality begins to appear:

“The amount of the bond remains to be seen: if the money for a new school is combined with approximately $6 million needed to repair the aging Brunswick Junior High School, voters could be asked to approve more than $30 million.”

You can see how a careless reader might conclude the cost to taxpayers was going up by a million to $25.8 million, when in fact, ‘more than $30 million’ is clearly the talking level of the moment, and the new baseline for further discussions, since you’ve now been nudged that far along on the yellow brick road to our new utopian school plant.

We inquired of the Town Finance Director just how much of an impact the bond issue will have on our property taxes.  She quickly responded with a detailed briefing on the subject she had given in March of this year.  We’ve posted it here for you to read, absorb, and estimate the impact on your taxes:

https://www.scribd.com/document/318120802/School-Financing-Models-031916-Full-Pg

It may be far more detailed than most readers want to see or are willing to muddle through.  Still, it has the stamp of official analysis to give it credibility.  Except as to the total amount that will finally come before us for a vote.

Given the way things work around here, you might want to think in terms of $33 to $35 million, which is a far more likely amount.  Or, if you look at page 2, and conclude the eventual outcome will be to go for the whole magillah, with the various escalators that will sneak in, more like $40 million.

                                 

Needless to say, it looks like we may have to call LT Dover, Benjamin back into duty to help us get into shape for what’s coming.

             

He should be enough to help the fragile and malleable amongst us come to terms with our tax outlook for the next several decades.  Once the final number is decided upon, we expect the School Board to break it to us gently, and encourage us to accept the figure as one we can all adapt to.

 

All of this on top of revaluation may make it extremely confusing and difficult for some, however, and especially those who try to get to the bottom of things.

Resistance, however, is futile; there are ways, you know, of turning us around.             

The Sum of All Pork, on its way to ME

                  

Back when the Food Network first came on the air, Chef Emeril Legasse was it’s charismatic ‘star,’ with a fun cooking show on for an hour every weekday.  Foodies that we are, it was appointment TV for us.  Born in Fall River, MA, Emeril quickly made his way to New Orleans, a foodie mecca if there ever was one.

In the late 90’s, business frquently took us there, and we were fortunate to dine at Emeril’s eponymous restaurant.  We still consider that meal to be the best we’ve ever had in a restaurant, and can give you the details of each course even now, 20 years later.  Including how superb the classic Martini was.

Two months ago, Mr. and Mrs. Side traveled to ‘Nawlins’ with good friends, and the four of us dined at that restaurant, still going strong, and one of his other places in town.  All meals were spectacular, but especially memorable were the exceptional service and general ambience of both.

                 

On his cooking shows, one of Emeril’s axioms has always been ‘pork fat rules.’  We never suspected it referred to anything but cooking; all you have to do is think of bacon to get your taste buds on full alert.

     

But he might as well have been talking about politics as well, because in this day and age, nothing says ‘who you gonna love, baby?’ like a big juicy, fatty load of pork, fresh from the Washington D.C. meat locker.

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‘Bringing home the bacon,’ wrapped around various and sundry other forms of pork, is something all elected federal officials quickly learn in the hot kitchens of congressional budget manipulation.

Debt Clock July 12 2008

Which is why the federal debt has grown from $10.4 Trillion eight years ago on this date to nearly twice that today:

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In our view, it’s because Washington’s fiscal policy can be thought of as The Sum of All Pork.  It’s really that simple.  The nation’s capitol is one giant pork processing and packing plant.  Even if they first get to Washington with plans not to do so, each and every one of our elected ruling class, and the monstrous shadow government that surrounds them in the form of lobbyists and tens of thousands of others, quickly discovers that the most fun you can have, and the way to your constituents hearts, is by keeping their bellies full of pork.

Occasional outrage may be expressed by a loose cannon or two from time to time, but eventually, all learn to leave others’ pork shipment alone if they’ll leave yours alone.  Which is why we end up with “The Sum of All Pork,” from snout to tail.  And why 40% or so of every dollar being spent is borrowed or printed.

A recent news item exemplifies the concept:

Thursday, July 7, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, and Senator Angus King, announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded a total of $7,151,182 in funding to two airports in Maine.  The funding is awarded through the Federal Aviation Administration, an agency within the DOT.

“Maine’s airports are vital pieces of our state’s transportation system that bolster our economy and connect our communities,” Senators Collins and King said in a joint statement. “This funding will strengthen our transportation infrastructure and help ensure these airports can continue to support the regions they serve.”

The funding will be awarded as follows:

  • Northern Maine Regional Airport in Presque Isle will receive $4,698,682 to fund the reconstruction of approximately 3,950 feet of the existing taxiway pavement that has reached the end of its use.
  • Brunswick Executive Airport will receive $2,452,500 to fund the rehabilitation of Hanger 4 to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act and code compliance requirements.

  

Above is Hangar 4, nicely accompanied by two sleek looking private jets.  Oh, they may show up from time to time, but based on our eyeball experience drving by the facility, and our eardrum experience hearing them, it ain’t very typical.  On our visits, we’ve typically seen 2 or 3 small single engine aircraft tied down, and no moving personnel or aircraft.

While we’re not experts in such matters, we normally think of “ADA compliance” as referring to handicapped accessible rest rooms and entry and exit doors that are wheel-chair or equivalent compatible.  We’d be shocked if those weren’t in the existing baseline, but even if they’re not, how much can it cost to provide them?  Oops…..sorry; I forgot this is the government we’re talking about.

So, let’s say $100,000 in round numbers for the doors and restrooms, which leaves $2,352,500 for ‘code compliance.’  You know what we think?  We think this is a total boondoggle, and that ‘code compliance’ is a euphemism for a make work program with no details and no real need.  But there’ll be some happy local contractors getting $2 million plus in business without even trying, and with virtually no oversight or accountability or competitive bidding or justification in the first place.

In other words, this project is the essence of pork, and it’s a ‘prime cut.’  Oh sure;  ‘it’s important to our economy;’ at least the economy of a few contractors anyway.

We don’t know squat about the Presque Isle airport, but we’d be willing to bet that unless you’re a direct stake holder, nearly $5 million for less than a mile of ‘taxiway’ won’t pass muster.  But that’s the nice thing about pork; passing muster is not part of the equation.

Compare this sum to the pittance Brunswick spends on road resurfacing annually in our little town of Perfect.  And ask yourself how the same thing happening everywhere in this country can result in anything but a runaway debt clock as shown above?  If you were asked, would you vote yea or nay on spending $2.3 million for ‘code compliance’ on an insignificant building in Brunswick, Maine?

We’re going to see if we can have that “Pork Cuts” graphic just above revised so the bottom line says “ASK YOUR SENATORS – THEY’RE THE EXPERTS.’'

In the meantime, please make sure to pay all your taxes on time, so there’s plenty of swill to slop the pigs with.

       

You know the old saying: “if you don’t feed the pigs, you won’t be eatin’ no bacon!’

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hoodies for Hope; or is it Home-Rooms?

            

Regular readers know we harbor chronic objections to the behavior of the Brunswick School bureaucracy, specifically the School Board and Department administrators. 

They systematically employ the successful strategy that more money is always needed, and always the solution, no matter what other realities, such as declining enrollment, may dominate the factual basis.  And if you don’t agree with them, you ‘don’t care about THE CHILDREN.’

Nothing else is worthy of public airing or debate as to school policy.  We wouldn’t say it, but we wouldn’t take offense if others concluded they really don’t know how to evaluate and improve school department performance by any other measure than how much they spend.

Unless you include the need to replace assets where due attention to basic maintenance has been ignored until such time as demolition and new construction is the ONLY realistic option.  Don’t even get us started on PDT’s Svengali in such matters.

Nor on discussions of bathroom administration or school ‘climate’ evaluation.  If we can find our lost muse, we hope to address these things in future posts.

Studying history is always informative, especially as it records the innovation of Super P – Department Superintendent Paul Perzanoski.  How long has he been here?  Seems like it must be 10 years or so by now.  Our cherished memories of Jim Ashe seem at least that old.

Some years back….2010….to be specific, Super P put forth a public plan to place loose change jars around town in various business establishments so that guilt-ridden local taxpayers could empty their pockets of loose change to help lift the Department out of its constant state of abject underfunding.  Read the first few posts at the link below to refresh your memory.  (Be mindful of the reality that town leaders discourage such glimpses into recent history.  They don’t help current efforts to increase taxes no matter what.)

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/search?q=change+jars

We recall that at the time we submitted an op-ed to The Ostrich suggesting that such pan-handling on the part of a town department was unseemly, at the very least.  And we made the same point in a brief radio spot on MPBN.  All to no avail; though the effort ended.  It would be presumptuous of us to think we had anything do do with that, but you’ve got to take your amusement where you can find it when it comes to fighting city hall.

      

      

     

Now comes word that Super P has evolved his thinking on innovative fund raising approaches to support government schools, which as you know, are always having their budgets cut.  You do know that, don’t you?  You’ve been told over and over that it’s true, so it must be, right?  Here’s a snippet from the BSD web site:

Fund-Raising Project – Support Public Education

Superintendent Paul Perzanoski has announced a fund-raising project for the Brunswick School Department. In an effort to raise funds for the development of summer programs for students, the School Department is selling hooded sweatshirts, long-sleeve t-shirts, and t-shirts with the … Continue reading →

Posted on January 14, 2016

Back many, many years ago, we sometimes bought hooded sweat shirts because they protected us against chills in the air on morning jogs and such.

For more than two decades now, hooded sweat shirts, commonly called ‘hoodies,’ have evolved towards a completely different purpose: to hide one’s identity, or at the very least, create the image of one not to be messed with.  Weather has nothing to do with it. 

Don’t believe us?  Be more attentive as you drive around town, and you’ll quickly notice there is a ‘hoodie demographic’ in our midst, and we doubt you’ll react positively to their ‘image.’  They are, to say the least, ‘all weather gear.’

For those living on an island, in both the literal and figurative sense, Hoodies may not evoke such reactions.   So using them as a fund raising mechanism for government schools and ‘the children’ is entirely an innocent pursuit.  Even if it does convey a certain cluelessness towards contemporary social practices.

But then, cluelessness is a standard part of school budget discussion, for the reasons we mentioned earlier and various others.  The town council regularly stands on round heels in the deliberations, as they demonstrated in folding like cheap suits in the recent back and forth over a drop in the bucket.  They fell for the same old con they always do.  Or maybe they’re in on the game; only the shadow knows.

After years of watching entirely predictable behavior, cloaked in the rhetoric of ‘tough decisions’ and ‘concern about tax rates,’ we conclude that the majority are more interested in keeping their positions as masters of the local domain, and being beloved of the mommy mafia, than they are in managing the economic sustainability of the town enterprise, and guarding the interests of taxpayers overall.

A review of school spending shows their budget has increased by more than $4 million since the change jar idea hit the streets.  And enrollment is down by more than 300 (over 10%) in the same time frame.  We’re sure, however, that Rich ‘Numbers’ Ellis can demonstrate through slight of spreadsheet that these numbers portray a stark reduction in ‘school spending.’

 

We think Rich and the School Board’s time could be spent by coming up with more creative ‘back door’ approaches to squeezing discretionary dollars from local taxpayers above and beyond their always increasing tax levies.  Why not pass an offering plate around the official table at the start of each council and school board meeting, for instance, as a symbolic way of ‘modeling’ the desired generosity on the part of the citizenry?

We’ll gladly count the take from each meeting, under the watchful eye of local constables, and report the results here.

And one of these days, maybe the board could try to figure out just what it means to measure school system performance, and that of the teaching corps, and use the results as a launch point from which to improve things.

Instead of using dollars as their only yardstick, and their only tool.

Doing so might demonstrate a commitment to ‘the children’ in a tangible way, and actually foster a culture of improvement. 

Instead of a culture of more spending, which is all we can see from our vantage point.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Post-script on the Crumbling Cookie….

We posted this item two days ago.

   

Take a look at the details provided below, and ask yourself how the new Metro Breez compares to the Downeaster in providing ‘public service.’  Check the fares, the schedule options, etc.

   

Anybody wanna bet that Brunswick, and especially the “All Aboard Brunswick” ensemble, won’t go to the mat to see that the service DOES NOT EXTEND TO BRUNSWICK?  Their options for Razzle-Dazzle will be a bit more limited than in the past, we think, though they could contract with MSMT to come up with a new song and dance routine to fool the jury.

You should begin your study here: http://gpmetrobus.net/index.php/metro-news/yarmouth-freeport-bus-service

Here’s a preview:

    image

That’s right, the public can ride from Freeport to Portland, including the PTC, for anywhere from $3.00 to $1.35.

You’ll find the route map and schedule here: http://gpmetrobus.net/images/stories/route-maps-pdf/Breez-REVISED.pdf 

Take a look at these schedule options, and compare them to the Downeaster.  The train, of course, is not capable of taking you anywhere convenient in Portland; it can only take you to the train/bus depot at the Thompson’s Point area (“A” in the below.)

             image

And our betters and elected officials want us to believe the Downeaster is a wonder?  It may turn out Brunswick area residents would be well advised to drive to Freeport and take the Metro south, whether to enjoy various points between Bean Town and Portland, or to connect to buses (or trains) to the Boston area, or both.

Talk about long shots!  This may be your last chance to get rich!

Now that we think of it, Brunswick could become a bookie’s paradise.   Besides the wager just mentioned, there’s the equally sure bet that the revaluation now underway won’t end up raising your property tax bill.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Could the cookie be crumbling?

             

Yes, you’re correct.  Your correspondent has been derelict in keeping up a decent posting tempo.

Such is the curse of being an aged observer of issues and events which hold less and less interest as the years advance.  Not to mention a growing sense of futility as to the value of posting opinions on these items.

Oh well, enough whining for now.

 

We’re here tonight to pass along the latest step forward in public transit, which if local authorities have any sense, should be a cause for concern.  Especially as it relates to Brunswick.

We refer to this fresh article in The Forecaster:

http://www.theforecaster.net/commuter-bus-breezes-into-freeport-yarmouth/

If you want a perfect example of the difference between passenger rail and passenger coach service, especially as to how long and how much it takes to get service underway, it’s all right there in plain sight.  Especially if you’ve followed our reports and comments over the years.

We couldn't help but think of this item we penned elsewhere in May:

The First Law of Public Surface Transportation:

There is nothing passenger rail can do that contemporary Motor Coaches can't
do more immediately, more economically, more flexibly, more cleanly,
more efficiently, more effectively, more safely, more reliably, with vastly superior
point to point service, and with little or no front end investment, no need
for new infrastructure, and no need for government
involvement/intervention.

Take a look at the number of stops, the frequency of trips, and the costs mentioned in the article.

                  

Then consider this passage:

"METRO General Manager Greg Jordan said Brunswick may be added to the service by next summer, with discussions taking place over the next year. METRO had extended the offer to Brunswick in 2014, but the Town Council and Town Manager had concerns about the cost."

Concerns about cost?  Oh sure!  What about the 80-100K we put into ‘Departure Center’ operations for the Downeaster?  And the various hidden costs associated with TIFs, Brunswick Taxi, and who knows what all, including the failure by JHR to build out the Station complex?

The real concern the council and TM should have, we might suggest, is the embarrassment this commuter bus service will expose them to for joining the ‘All Aboard Brunswick’ foamers in going ga-ga over the Downeaster, which has failed to deliver on even one projected benefit to our local economy.  Unless you're a retired Ambassador and his wife.

             

When some actual ridership and public response data for the Metro begin to accumulate and surface, we expect there to be a good deal of growth in the egg-wash business in town.

Maybe someone will build a face-cleansing business over at “Brunswick Landing.”  Or make use of the vacant space in the Maine Street Station.  Once locals become fans of convenient buses, should service be extended here, that space should be a fine location for a “Facial Spa.” 

Proximity to the Brunswick Town Hall should provide a steady supply of ‘walk-in’ customers.

PS:  If you happened to attend the special performance at MSMT last night featuring their performance interns in a production called “A Grand Night for Singing,” you enjoyed a very special treat.  They were all brilliant, and the special ticket prices made the show all the more incredible.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Finally, Brunswick officials do SOMETHING to cut expenditures…..

Well, that’s not exactly what we mean.

           

Once we explain, you may not be so impressed.  And you may ask how much they’re cutting expenses by, and why.

We’re one of those ‘responsible’ citizens who years ago decided we didn’t want our property taxes impounded with our mortgage payments, because doing so numbed us to the annual increase in the levy.  Between the insurance increase and the tax increase, blended into a monthly mortgage payment, it was far too easy to shrug and say ‘so what else is new?’

More than that, when we get our property tax bill, we pay the first installment on time, and the second installment ahead of time so we can deduct the total amount in the current tax year.  The town gets to book our second payment ($4,000 plus) months ahead of the due date, and we get no consideration for paying early.  Several readers will call us an idiot for doing so, and you’re probably right.

At the very least, we think our early payment yields enough return to the town to pay for a few postage stamps and similar office overhead.

Which probably has you wondering why we’re here.

   

Here’s why.  The Side household has two vehicles; one is a 2012, and the other is a 2015.  As Chance would have it, both were bought and registered in June.  So responsible citizens that we are, we were mindful of the need to have both inspected this month, and to visit the Town Hall to cough up our excise tax and registration fees so we could get our ‘stickers’ for another 12 months.

We began our mail box vigil for the letters of notice from the town that we were due to re-register, but they didn’t show as they did in the past.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, we had been trained to expect them after years and years of such notices.  We even stopped by the Town Hall yesterday to vote, but didn’t think to inquire about the notice, believing that our trusty town officials would see that we are legal, and that they collect their revenue on a timely basis.

  

We happened to be looking for some town budget data today, and found our way to the Brunswick Finance Department page, where we found this notice:

PLEASE NOTE:

Effective July 1, 2015, the Town of Brunswick discontinued mailing automobile re-registration-by-mail notices.
Please call the Tax Office at (207) 725-6657 for more information.

                         

Maybe we missed the letter telling us, after decades of registering at the Town Hall, that this change was taking place so we were prepared.  Note, of course, that our vehicles need renewal in June, and this policy changed on July 1st.  Last year, we paid combined excise taxes of $1,000, which is not a trivial amount.

Old as we are, we understand we can be forgetful; and we often forget what we were supposed to remember.  We’re also old enough to know that from time to time we get bamboozled by various officials proclaiming how hard they work to reduce expenses, when in fact what they are doing is changing procedures to increase revenues.  A few months back, as we were renewing our dog licenses, we watched another resident pay a $25 penalty for being a few days late on renewing hers.

We hope you’ll excuse us if we’re leaning towards a penny wise, pound foolish view of town finances at the moment, and suggesting there might be a penchant for nibbling around the edges to sqeeze a few more shekels from us.  We plan to look into that.

For the time being, be forewarned that if  you’ve grown accustomed to getting a notice from the town to renew your vehicle registration, you are now officially SOL.

You’re on your own, as the old saying goes.  But hey, a stamp here, a stamp there, next thing you know, your property taxes are going up by a dollar less than they would have, and late registration revenue, and related tickets, are on the increase.

It’s all good, right?

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