Tuesday, July 14, 2009

News from Lake Basebegone

Well, it's been quiet lately here in Lake Basebegone. "King Confidentiality" seems to be doing a fine job of holding things close to his vest, and F. Lee Bailey, "King Hyperbole" in matters related to Oxford Aviation, has been surprisingly quiet as well.

But don't you worry; things are cooking along. In the July issue of The Cryer, published by former State Rep Charlie Crosby, our own Senator Stan Gerzofsky has a page one article - "Marketing Issues and Bonds for BNAS." I wonder how hard he had to twist Charlie's arm to get that space.

In the article, Gerzofsky reassures us with this statement:

"Commissioner Richardson and his staff at the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) have been leading the charge and advocating aggressively attracting businesses to this state. Of the nine business development specialists at DECD, one is dedicated to the base redevelopment; working with the town of Brunswick, attending MRRA meetings and making themselves readily available for inquiries."

I spent most of my career in business development, so I want to take comfort from this statement. Without much success, unfortunately. First, I'm having trouble recalling economic developments around the state that would inspire confidence in state specialists' abilities to lead us out of the wilderness. If the efforts of the nine are hard to discern, what should we expect from the efforts of one? Notwithstanding that "confidentiality is king."

One might reasonably ask what the other 60 plus employees of John Richardson's Department are spending their time on. Including a goodly number with total compensation (salary plus benefits) ranging from $90,000 up to $140,000 plus. These "public servants" have job titles like "Public Service Executive II" and "Public Service Manager III."

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that nary a one has their future at risk based on job performance - whether or not they have a salutary effect on Maine's economy. In this regard they are the polar opposite of "Executives" and "Managers" in the private sector, who can be here today, gone tomorrow if business conditions so dictate. In fact, if the entire Department was to be judged on Maine's economy, it might be abolished.

At any rate, given the immense challenge of BNAS closing, and the share of Maine economic activity involved, it might be reasonable to expect that more than one "specialist" was assigned full time to the case.

Now to the second point: it almost doesn't matter. Based on over a decade of observing things, my guess is that every paid state "development specialist" is opposed by a force of 100 or more who earn their living trying to thwart such economic developments. Most are employed in the non-profit industrial complex, although there are a number of apparent "trustafarians" who are individual actors in the mix.

These opponents have a variety of motives for resisting economic development, ranging from global warming, environmentalism, pacifism, and CAVE-ism (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) to plain old hatred of capitalism and entrepreneurship. And the concept of private property and its lawful use.

I've asserted in the past that there is a large contingent in the Brunswick region that feels "good riddance" is the appropriate response to Navy departure from the area. They simply don't understand the role of the military, or the Federal Government's fundamental obligation to provide for national security. I could delve much deeper into the syndrome, but I'll leave it right there for now.

A fine example appears in today's Times Record. Amusingly, the letter I refer to is labeled "Say no todrones" in the print version. For a moment, I wondered just how the writers would define "todrones," which I read as rhyming with "cajones."

A quick glance at the letter writers explained the misunderstanding. The local PeaceWorks group is concerned that the Naval Air Station could find future application in defense related activities, and are horrified at the thought. This view is of a kind with the regular protests over the years at BIW, including trespassing and vandalism, founded on the belief that Navy ships cause war.

These sincere folks are free to believe such things. As long as they accept that a corollary to such beliefs is that Police cause crime, and if you really want to push it, that Doctor's cause disease.

And so we have even more evidence of why concern about the future of the base, and the eocnomic and demographic future of our region, is so well placed. And why the circumstances cry out for leaders who will "take the bull by the tail and face the situation," to reference a prior post.

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