Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Is Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the house?

You remember him, we’re sure, since he is the long time spiritual mentor of our nation’s Chief Executive and his family.  In our humble view, many of the things Wright (and his ‘friends’) said make the reputed utterings of Maine’s Chief Executive pale in comparison, but expecting honest treatment of such matters is a fool’s errand, and we won’t go there.
 


Drawing a local connection, we will point out that Rev. Bill Imes, a loved and respected former Pastor of First Parish Church here in town, became the President of Bangor Theological Seminary (BTS) when he retired from his local post.  We discovered in that time frame that BTS and Imes had scheduled Wright to speak at their annual Convocation.

Since we knew Imes (and he had married our daughter), we decided to inquire into his thinking.  The opening words of his response were “My motivation was simple:  he is one of the best preachers in America.”  Wright ended up not making the event because he ‘got sick in the Philadelphia Airport.’  Having flown through there probably hundreds of times, we can relate.  Still, one senses a hint of socially acceptable 'convenience' to avoid a nasty PR problem, with serious financial support consequences.

Wright became widely known during the 2008 campaign season for comments like “God Bless America?  No no no – God Damn America!”  And “America’s chickens coming home to roost!”

Do you remember this post from April this year?  We humbly ask that you reread it to plant your feet firmly back on solid ground as the hazy, lazy, fantasy days of summer come to an end. It included this citation from local media:
“It’s change. It will be an adjustment, I’m not denying that,” said Knight. “But the service to Brunswick has done amazing things already for the businesses downtown.”
In other words, to develop the Wright metaphor, “God Bless Amtrak!”
Subsequent comments by your correspondent included:
It would be helpful if Knight provided some facts to support the claim of ‘amazing things.’  We suspect that Brynes Irish Pub and Scarlet Begonias have sold more hamburgers and more beer.  But at what cost?  It’s easy to count train-riders coming into restaurants; you can ask them; they may look lost; or you could offer a discount if they show a ticket, right?
If, as we’ve heard, the train will require a subsidy of millions a year in perpetuity, wouldn’t we all be better off if the feds just sent each restaurant a check for $25,000 a year and shut down the train? 

Does Councilor Knight really want us to believe that no local money travels southward, rather than being spent in town like it used to be?  How many meals etc, do other in town restaurants lose when local area residents take their disposable funds to Portland, Boston, or other points?  And how do you count people that don’t show up; the fact is you can’t.  Eliminating the negative is ever so much easier when you can’t get a handle on it.
Now, in the way life has of coming full circle, it looks like “Brunswick’s chickens coming home to roost.”  We say this because in the conversation we had with Dale King last week, he said “the train hurt us….people aren’t taking the taxi to Portland or Boston anymore.”  Which we assume means that the train has hurt others, like some Brunswick Taxi employees, the place King’s company buys gas, and who knows what else. 

Christy’s could be selling less coffee and smokes, for all we know, as a result of Amtrak’s harm to the local taxi business.  And you would think Concord Trailways has been hurt by the trains as well.
So in a manner of speaking, we take Dale’s comments to mean the roosting chickens are crowing “God Bless Amtrak?  No no no -  God Damn Amtrak.”

Dale had other things to say, and we’ll treat those in later postings.  Like ‘the base closing hurt us too.’



 What we have here, friends, is the ‘elimination of the negative’ and the ‘accentuation of the positive’ starting to switch places in the public discourse.  Might be the civic piano will need some major retuning pretty soon.  Those flat notes can really take the air out of soaring melodies.  Harmonic dissonance is fine if you're Thelonious Monk, but we don't see it scoring points as background music for meetings of local governing bodies.

Funny, many people think the right way to deal with damage from federally provided corporate welfare (Amtrak is a major, major recipient) is to combat it with corporate welfare at a different level.
Which is what BDC’s few strings attached grant of OPM to Brunswick Taxi amounts to.

No surprise here.  A ‘certain’ former Town Council Chair told us some years back that Brunswick Taxi had a revenue stream coming via state provided vouchers, and the state was being a little slow in paying up.  We’ve done a little looking into the subject, and have already discovered that various ‘non-profits’ have established themselves in a rather tangled web of participation in the voucher system.  All of which adds to the middle-man costs, while making public funds far more difficult to trace.

We’re thinking of asking Dale to submit a post on how all of this works once he completes the post on our factual errors in last week’s post.  We suspect he can be shy when it comes to these things.  But he could dress up any reluctance by calling it ‘social anxiety disorder,’ the au courant label for shyness.

One other thing we should touch on here.  It appears that Brunswick Taxi is providing regular transportation services for Amtrak crews between Brunswick and Portland, making us wonder about Dale’s “the train hurt us” claim and justification for BDC funds.

While the specifics of this arrangement are similarly obscured by the involvement of ‘third parties,’ which we are busily researching as well, it seems that Brunswick Taxi picks up a crew trackside in Brunswick shortly after the arrival of the 12:30 PM train in town and takes them to Portland.  The other day, we watched the pickup of four individuals descending from the train.

video

video


We’re told that later in the day, they transport another Amtrak crew from Portland back to Brunswick to operate the train for the next run back south.  From what we know so far, these services are not contracted for via NNEPRA, or Amtrak itself, but via Crew Transportation Services, Inc  (CTS) of Wichita, KS.  Makes perfect sense, we think you’ll agree.  It’s important to spread the wealth around.

We suspect that the revenue generated from these daily efforts goes a long way towards offsetting the loss of ‘civilian’ taxi riders between Brunswick and Portland, but until we get more details, we can’t really say with any specificity.  We’re pretty sure, though, that federal entities aren’t tight-wads when it comes to contracting for such services.

Then there’s the fact that those two (at least-we’ve seen that many) new Black and Yellow vans, like the one shown in the video, don’t seem to fit any of the conditions mentioned in the BDC promissory note language.  Maybe CTS provides them.

Oh jeez; there we go again, lapsing into nit-picking as we are sometimes wont to do.  We better stop here, don’t you think?

Dale’s got more than enough to write about now, and we’re excited about how much his contributions will grow our readership.  And unlike the Forecaster or the Ostrich, we won’t limit his word count.


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