Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rubber tire buses, trains, and other great ideas

Here we come again, suggesting that all the furious activity to do good with ‘government money’ is symptomatic of a long established symbiosis between bureaucrats and consultants that derive their living by feeding the desire to go forth and do good.

Before proceeding further, we want to link you to a recent article that talks of major federally funded train proposals, of a scope way, way beyond that being discussed here in our little corner of the world.

Go here to read the whole thing.  We’ll briefly whet your appetite with this pithy opening passage:

When Wisconsin voters elected Scott Walker governor in November, they did so in no small measure because of his pledge to kill a stimulus-funded $810 million railroad connecting Milwaukee and Madison. Walker campaigned extensively on ending the project, which he deemed both unnecessary and wasteful. Completion of the “high-speed” rail, he argued, would obligate the state to cover shortfalls and operating costs for years—something foolish for a state with a $3 billion deficit.

We advise you to view the proposal to bring train service to Brunswick with similar concerns.  Those who argue that this train service will not have the same problems are making those pronouncements while funded with the very same federal funds that always jump-start such an idea, whether the citizenry has any interest or not.  In other words, as we often hear, the reason other such proposals failed is because the right people were not in charge. 

We won’t belabor the subject, weekend before Christmas that it is.  We want you to know, however, that we have discovered information relating to the origins of the ‘rubber tire’ bus idea.  Don’t tell anyone, because it’s a big secret.  At least as secret as State Government can make such an idea.

It looks very much like the good and well-intentioned folks in MDOT have been working on this idea for almost three years.  You can find the basics here.  If you putz around a bit, like on this page, you’ll get the impression that state officials have been nursing this idea along for, oh, five years or so.  At what expense, we can’t discern.

You will note, however, that ‘purpose and need’ were on the agenda for 2009, some five years into the effort.  We don’t know about your Bravo Sierra detector, but ours went off like a banshee when we read this.  You can spend money on an idea for 4 or 5 years before establishing ‘purpose and need?’ 

Calling Pogo!  Please remind us who the enemy is, my friend!

Now the really good part.  The ever present ‘consultants’ have been engaged in the effort since at least, well, we can’t really tell.  Some have been engaged for about 3 years, but some seem to have been on board since well before that…as far back as 2005 or so.

We can only imagine how much this has cost us as taxpayers, at either the state or federal levels, notwithstanding the popular conceit that federal money is ‘free.’  Requests for spending totals have gone unanswered.

We love the idea of hiring consultants to develop such concepts, warranted or not.  We especially love it when said consultants are hired to establish ‘purpose and need.’

Can you possibly imagine hiring a transportation consultant to look into a transportation concept, and having them conclude that the idea makes no sense and should not be pursued further? 

Do you recall the town engaging consultants many years ago to determine whether there was a need to convert the old High School to a world-class recreation facility?  Complete with dual swimming pools and a roof-top running track?  Do you think these firms build a solid financial future by disproving the ideas of government officials?


You should have caught on by now.  If you haven’t, further rants on our part won’t change things.

Suffice it to say that we are increasingly confident that the relationship between agency bureaucrats and parasitic consultants is every bit as unholy as that usually attributed to absurdly compensated lobbyists in Washington D.C. 

We believe that the common conception of ‘government’ is so underestimated as to constitute a fantasy.  And that unless drastic measures are taken to reverse the status quo, there is literally no chance of turning around the headfirst dive towards bankruptcy for our public institutions.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Monday, December 13, 2010

News Flash: EuroDisney proposes canal “transit service” between Portland and Brunswick and beyond

Other Side Exclusive!

While it was not our intent to make it known this soon, recent events have forced our hand, and we must now confirm that Side has added an experienced European correspondent to our staff. 

The move is already bearing journalistic fruit.  Working with a source known only as TooLoose Parreau, the secretive owner of web-based, our correspondent has obtained a copy of confidential  EuroDisney plans for expansion in the American Northeast.

The Disney affiliate has been in secret negotiations with US and Maine officials for an innovative transit system that it calls “a perfect blend of Disney ‘imagineering’ and American government ‘spendineering.’”  The “raison d'être” is the American love of water parks, combined with loose strings on the public purse when it comes to FantasyLand concepts.

Side’s new reporter, Jaques-Michael  Mousse (Michee, to his friends) says the proposal includes two parallel waterways, one for Downeast travel, and the other for Upeast travel.  Playing the globalism card, Disney officials propose filling one canal with Evian water, and the other with Poland Springs.  In the proposal, the lead engineer, Don-Louis LeDuque, mentions the dip and sip benefit this provides, or as those on the continent like to call it, Free DiSi.

While the initial concept calls for the canals to flow between Portland and Brunswick, Disney officials believe that Paul LePage, the incoming governor in Maine, would be supportive of extending the waterways to LeWiston, where additional ridership would become accessible.  And perhaps to points beyond, including eventual connection to Canadian destinations.

Initial plans call for covered, climate controlled canals to provide all season comfort.  Should the climate controls fail in the winter, the canals can easily be converted to cross country ice skating runs, much the same as happens in Ottowa to the north.  Snowmobiling and dogsledding are other growth options considered, and cargo capability, including log transport, could be available in either frozen or liquid states.

To demonstrate feasibility and validate the design fundamentals, a prototype is already being tested in France, shown in the video below.  Note the emphasis on diversity and global community (It’s a small world), which will no doubt garner strong support from the “tres chic” aristocracy in the Northeast.  The French background music can only help.  Champagne, anyone?

Disney officials are convinced “the much beloved theme song will make the three hour float from Portland to Brunswick seem like it only took three days.”

Initial cost estimates suggest the system can be built for roughly $35 million (US) per mile, which makes it well within the range of past boondoggle programs.  Roughly a third of that will be used to purchase the insouciance of the environmental interests and the banana zealots, according to preliminary budget estimates.  An additional 10% is expected to cover the costs of the entrenched consultancy, to gain it’s “buy-in.”

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez, faithful readers!

PS on the rubber tire buses….

A meeting on the proposal for this “new” bus service will be held at Maine Street Station tonight at 6pm.

It will be carried live on Brunswick Cable 3, and you can watch it on your computer by going here and clicking the ‘watch live’ option on the green header at the top of the page.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round…

These are the words of a preschool song.  They seem to fit the moment,  because sometimes, we in the Side ‘classroom’ feel like we live in a Ding Dong School world with Miss Frances bringing us new excitement day by day.

Our case in point at the moment is an article in Thursday’s Ostrich, in which we discover that “Commuter bus service (is) proposed'” running between Portland and Brunswick.

Wow!  What an idea, the sort of breakthrough that only our helpers in both federal and state government could come up with, and surely worthy of taxpayer ‘investment!’

After all, the need is immense, since all we have at the moment is privately operated bus service running between Brunswick (and points north) and Portland, and government subsidized train service between Brunswick and Portland planned for future years at an initial cost of $40 million or so.

But here’s the really exciting part: they’re talking about a “relatively new type of transit” that features rubber-tire buses!  Can you believe it?  Did you ever, in your wildest dreams, think we’d see buses with rubber tires?

While they didn’t say it in the article, we’re wondering whether those rubber tires might actually be round!  Can you imagine what a marvelous ride round, rubber tires should provide compared to the buses we’ve all ridden for so many years?

Let’s just hope that the new bus service doesn’t threaten the success of the overhead monorail system being planned by county government.

Are we losing our minds?  Have we become such worshipers of government help and intervention that we question nothing?

Or should we just sing along with Walt - “when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are!”  And make sure to buy enough E tickets to get us back and forth to Portland as often as we need.

(More will follow soon on this story; you simply can’t make up stuff like this.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rumble: Gerzofsky et al vs. Town Council

Brunswick is a pretty “peaceful” place, generally speaking, although admittedly, you could take that label in more ways than one.  Judging from the latest reports, however, it may be time for Officer Krupke to make an appearance to break up a street fight that seems to be brewing.

On the other hand, a good street fight of the political sort can be very amusing, and provides fodder for those of us in the ‘media’ peanut gallery to address.

Perhaps you saw the recent report in The Ostrich regarding the Town Council’s endorsement of Town Manager Gary Brown for appointment to fill a vacancy on the MRRA.  It sets the stage for a classic showdown between local control supporters, which presumably includes most of the Town Council, and our elected legislative delegation at the State level, who represent the centralized authority point of view. 

The scrum becomes all the juicier when you consider that the latter, all Democrats, have found themselves suddenly moving from the decades long controlling majority in Augusta to the new minority kids club in the statehouse.  We can only imagine the post election stress disorder that folks like Senator Stan Gerzofsky, now beginning his 10th consecutive year of “non-career politician” service, must feel.

To the heart of the matter, the Town Council has unanimously approved sending a letter to Governor-Elect LePage that recommends Gary Brown be appointed to the vacant MRRA seat.  As the local paper reports, this decision comes “despite stated opposition” from Senator Gerzofsky, who apparently opposes the appointment of any Town Manager to the MRRA Board. 

Brown has served in the past; we won’t dwell further on his potential appointment, other than as it reveals local political ‘chemistry.’

As Side has reported in the past, Gerzofsky is famous for his humility and public servant demeanor.  So we were shocked to read that:

Gerzofsky said the letter would be “ill-advised,” and chastised King (Council Chair Joanne) for what he characterized as her failure “to reach out to” local legislators to gauge their opinion on such a gesture or what their objections might be.

Have the Senator’s years of coaching to piss-ant local officials had no effect?  Don’t they grasp why his presence at council meetings is always publicly acknowledged, in respect for his righteous authority over petty local issues?

The Senator’s diminished power, lucky for him, still extends over the lesser lights in our local delegation.  Representatives Charlie Priest and Alex Cornell du Houx quickly signed up for three bowls full of the Honorable Stan’s pronounced stance on the matter.

Ever the loyal straight-man for his mentor Gerzofsky, Charlie Priest said:

he’s concerned that “having someone on the board who is involved in politics might slow (economic development) or divert it (sic).”

To which we respond, excuuuuusssssse me?  Do you really expect us to believe that government appointments to government established bodies overseeing government matters ends up selecting folks who aren’t “involved in politics?”

C’mon, Charlie.  Time to man-up on the reality of such matters, even if Senator Svengali won’t.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

PS: Bill Schneider for AG, etc.

We just got word that Bill was in fact elected to the Office of Attorney General, and that Bruce Poliquin was elected Treasurer, and Charlie Summers elected Secretary of State.

Great News: Bill Schneider for Attorney General

The newly installed legislature in Augusta should be electing the state’s constitutional officers today.  In the finest choice you could envision, Bill Schneider of Durham has been nominated to be the Attorney General of Maine.

Some of you may remember Bill from his days in the Maine House, where he represented part of Brunswick (and parts of Durham, etc), and was also Assistant House Minority Leader.

Bill is a “prince of a man,” in our humble opinion.  A West Point graduate, he was injured on active duty.  That reality has not in the least affected his success in anything he has taken on.  In recent years, he has been the Homeland Defense expert in the US Attorney’s Office in Portland.

Side is delighted by Bill’s nomination, and even more so, by the news that if appointed, he will join the AG’s of several other states in challenging the constitutionality of Obama Care.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Universal Disdain: Edgar Allen Moonbeem Slams the LePage Advisory Team

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the good wishes received from folks in the area for having being appointed to the LePage Transition Advisory Team.  Even those who don’t see eye-to-eye with us on political matters have been gracious, including Jim McCarthy of the Times Record.

Now it’s time for your no-surprise surprise, boys and girls!

Leave it to the most divisive and shrill opinion columnist in our area to spew gallons of bile on the Advisory Team on the editorial pages of The Forecaster, an otherwise fine weekly newspaper.  That would be Edgar Allen Moonbeem, as we usually refer to him in our posts.

Why this man is paid for his efforts is beyond our comprehension.  Only Paul ‘pass the Koolaid’ Krugman can evoke similar visceral reactions, such wonder at how in the hell the writer got to the position he holds, and what imaginary universe he resides in.

Moonbeem has this to say about your faithful correspondent:

My favorite appointee, however, is Pembroke Schaeffer, Brunswick’s inveterate letter writer, testifier and all-around ultraconservative gadfly. Schaeffer, too, was a TABOR II promoter, which makes you wonder why, if he wanted a cranky tax-capper on his team, LePage didn’t just appoint Jack Wibby.

On the face of things, he has characterized us with some accuracy.  It goes without saying, however, that his use of the words ‘favorite appointee’ is not a compliment, but is instead a juvenile and vain attempt at the exceptionally refined sarcasm so often seen on these very pages.

You’d have to read his entire screed to grasp (or should we say ‘appreciate?’) the venom contained therein, but you’ll have to find it on your own.  We’re not in the business of aiding and abetting incivility in modern day public discourse.  As much as we might like to grab Edgar by his little beady-eyed and bearded head and twist it three times to the left, four times to the right, and then dunk it in a cauldron of bubbling toil and trouble.  Because that just wouldn’t be right.

At least we don’t think so, would it?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ho, Ho, Ho, Brunswick!

‘Twas the month before Christmas,

when all through the house,

not a creature was stirring,

not even a mouse.


The Springers were nestled all snug on our laps,

happy to warm us for long winter naps.

Mama in her kerchief, and I in my cap,

laid back the recliners, clickety-snap.


Then out on the town,

there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my sleep

to see what was the matter.


And what to my wondering eyes should appear,

but workers and trucks and all sorts of gear.

There on the mall with leaves all around,

the State was a-planting a grand Tannenbaum.


The glow of the newly hung bright colored lights,

would surely be warming our cold winter nights.

When the workers were done I heard them recite,

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good light.

Such is Side’s way of honoring the glorious new traffic signal at McKeen and Maine, which we suggest, has most of the attributes of a magnificent municipal Christmas Tree.  As passé and politically incorrect as such a thing might be.  (Read, for example, of Portland’s wimpy PC behavior here.)

Why just look: alternating red and green lights are visible from all directions.  24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (except in leap year, we suspect.)

And a perfect little red “tree-topper” as well!  Look hard in the photos below, and you’ll see it.  Or check it out when you drive by.

For those offended by the ‘divisiveness’ of this imagined Judeo-Christian display, amber lights alternate as well in a gesture of community inclusiveness.

By now we trust you’re making the connection between Brunswick’s reality and Side’s parallel world.  But in case you aren’t, here’s photographic evidence:

First, the green lights:


Then the red lights:


And last, the secular, multi-cultural amber lights:


Postscript to Yes, it’s true…

Many of you may not have seen the article that appeared in yesterday’s local paper affirming 1) that the story is true, and 2) that there is a shortage of newsworthy excitement in Brunswick, Maine.

Read about it here: Changing Maine

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yes, it’s true…..

Perhaps you’ve heard a rumor that this correspondent has been asked to serve on a Transition Advisory Team to Governor-Elect Paul LePage.

In fact, it isn’t a rumor; it’s true.  We had our first meeting yesterday.  You can find the information release here, and you might find some coverage in area newspapers as well.

Added to the hustle of the holiday season, this will make it even harder to maintain a regular posting routine.  So please bear with us.

Our current understanding is that this is a short term obligation, and we expect to return to posting normalcy after the new year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Your Friday lagniappes…..

(Admin note: as you well know, we have been less than active in posting of late.  Partly because of a trip out of town, and more so, because of a ‘free lance’ assignment we gave ourselves.  And now the holidays are approaching, so brace yourself for a diminished pace of fresh material appearing.)

Item the first:  Last week, I had occasion to attend an event in Portland, at which the well-known pollster Scott Rasmussen was the featured speaker.

Among other things, he gave us this very troubling pair of figures:

  • 67% of the political class in Washington thinks the country is on the right track.
  • 84% of the public thinks the country is on the wrong track.

Can you imagine a more pronounced disconnect between the governed and the governing?  Can you imagine a clearer indication that the ruling class is “tone deaf,” and has completely lost touch with the general public for whom they work (supposedly)?

Items the second:  We love author/commentator Mark Steyn’s wit and gift for artful language use.  He was guest hosting on the radio today, and came up with two gems.

He was discussing the Charlie Rangel debacle, and was riffing on how our entrenched career ruling class continues to see themselves as somehow exempt from the realities the rest of us must face.  He concluded by saying we have evolved to “big government by small men.”  It seemed the perfect characterization.

Then he moved on to the news of proposed cuts to Medicare reimbursements being postponed for a month.  He talked about how the government reduces the cost of medical services by simply denying the reality of those costs.  For example, if an office call demonstrably costs $70, they’ll pay $35 for it.  Voila! – costs lowered.

So it dawned on me, why don’t we use the same approach to lower costs locally?  If the teacher’s contract says they get $60,000 a year, give them $35,000, and tell them it’s part of our cost containment program.  When Crooker and Son bills $200 for a truck-full of blacktop, give them $115, and tell them the same thing.  If the Doctors and hospitals can live with it, why can’t others?  If the town is billed $10,000 a month for electric power, pay $6,000.

What could possibly be wrong with this picture?

And come to think of it, why not discount your federal income tax obligation by 40% or so, in order to keep your costs down.  Makes perfect sense to us, in a ‘government’ sort of way.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Whoopee! Trader Joe’s is open in Portland!

You may recall that in September, I told you about the expected opening of Trader Joe’s in Portland.  The store is on Marginal Way, between Forrest Ave and the Franklin Arterial.

It is now reality; they opened on the weekend before election day, and as we knew would happen, they became an instant and overwhelming success.  We stopped by on the afternoon of election day, and after several trips around the parking lot, with lots of other “lurkers,” unsuccessfully looking for a spot, we gave up and left.

I stopped  by yesterday afternoon about 2:30 or so, and the parking challenge was only slightly less severe.  It took one lap or so to get lucky.

Once inside, I was surprised by the size of the store; it is the largest in their chain, and is very roomy for circulating around.  For example, there are a number of salad dressings in the regular aisles, but also a smaller selection (one of which is Mrs. Poppy’s current favorite) in the refrigerated section.

The staff, as is always the case, is very well trained, very helpful, and a fun group.

You must stop in when you have a chance, and allow some time to take in all their variety, including tempting chocolate based goodies, etc.  I predict you will develop some new addictions.  The cheese selection is also very, very good, and well priced.  I find it a great place to shop for ‘antipasto’ like platters for enjoying with friends.

Some of the fresh daily bakery items like Ciabatta Bread are also excellent and a real bargain, but don’t take mine.  I love it crostada style with melted brie and a number of variations on that basic theme.

If you’re really nice, and say pretty please, I’ll fill you in on some of the possibilities.  And then you’re gonna owe me big time!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Double Trouble: The Ostrich digs a deeper hole

Maine Papers Hit With More Circulation Losses

Let’s briefly recap past items on this subject.  In May of this year, we reported in this post as follows:

The Times Record in Brunswick was no exception to the trend. It went from a daily circulation of 8,673 a year ago to 8,091 now, a loss of 6.7 percent. The weekend edition dipped from 10,366 in 2009 to 9,583 in 2010, down more than 7.5 percent.

Now we come across a recent update (Mon, 11/08/2010) from Al Diamon, noted Maine curmudgeon, on the same subject.

Another round of down: The statistics for the six months ending September 30, 2010, range from poor showings – the Times Record in Brunswick saw daily and weekend circulation both drop by 5.3 percent from a the same period a year ago – to seemingly disastrous ones – the Maine Sunday Telegram was off by 10.8 percent, while the Portland Press Herald suffered a 9.9 percent loss.

It’s no secret that “traditional media,” both print and electronic, are suffering major declines in circulation and viewership.  In Brunswick, the loss of a large population segment (BNAS families) is a contributing factor. 

The fact remains that media dinosaurs are, like defeated Democrat incumbents in the recent election, convinced they have a birthright to a powerful and prosperous position in society, and they are slow to see the writing on the wall.  Especially in the town of Perfect, otherwise known as Brunswick, where Bowdoin students frolic, and retired big city lawyers and bureaucrats parade in their feathered finery at art walks and poetry slams.

We’ve seen some evidence of late that papers like the Lewiston Sun Journal and the Portland Press Herald realize they can’t survive by appealing to a rabid 1/3 of the population while ignoring the rest, and they’re beginning to moderate their editorial policies. 

Expecting The Ostrich to follow suit is folly. They love Krugman and the other Kool-aid gurus from the NY Times, and the house editors are as true blue as they come.  They’ll keep on serving us Doug Rooks and the rest as they plod their way to the dung-heap of failed media.

Unless their tax problems do them in first.  And we have new information to report on this subject,  but before we do, let’s refer to our prior reports.

Ostrich Tax Delinquencies

Here are the links in case you want to refresh your memory, or for new readers, get the goods for the first time:

First, the original report:

Then we updated the story with this item:

It’s really tough to believe those reports are not much more than a month or two old.  How time flies.  Especially when we’re having fun.

To bring you current, we provide these updates, all based on publicly available information.

Brunswick Publishing still owes a portion of their 2009-10 personal property taxes.  That amount is $18,085.40.  The town has placed a lien against their personal property for the 2009-10 tax balance.  They owe all of their 2010-11 personal property taxes.  That amount now stands at $42,243.39.

As for real estate taxes, Brunswick Publishing did not make the October payment of their 2010-11 taxes, which, including interest was $37,230.76.  They will owe an additional $37,081.42 in April 2011. 

These are the amounts billed to Brunswick Publishing. 

There are also taxes assessed to Alliance Press, and they are delinquent for 2009 and 2010 personal property taxes, in amounts with interest of $6,365.71 and $5,550.82 respectively.

Without getting out Side’s calculator, it looks like The Ostrich enterprise owes our beloved town $100,000 plus in taxes.  And that’s without considering upcoming payments that would add further to the total amount in arrears.

But hey, they’re leading advocates for social and economic justice and fair share taxation, so we’re confident they’ll cough up the amounts owed soon,and accompany them with written testimony that confirms their undying commitment to shared responsibility for the common good.

We’ll publish it here when they do.  Lord knows we can all use the inspiration.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Congratulations, Senator Gerzofsky

(Note: Geez, we hope the editors got his name right.  We’re confident it’s spelled as above, but we notice in recent years he pronounces it as if it’s spelled Grezofsky.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Senator?)

Well, no surprise to locals in the know.  Stan Gerzofsky won election for the 11th and 12th consecutive years in his “I am not a career politician” stint in the Maine legislature.  This will make years 3 and 4 as a State Senator, after terming out at 8 years as a Representative. 

If he was Governor, he’d be halfway through his 3rd term, but it’s a stretch, at least in his mind, to see this as a career thing.  The fun part is that while he won re-election, control of both houses of the Legislature, and the Blaine House, flipped from Democrat to Republican.  Which creates a situation that has not existed since the mid-60’s, if you can believe it.

This means Stan will no longer have the committee leadership positions he’s enjoyed in the past, nor will Charlie Priest and the rest of the former majority.  It will be interesting to see whether their devotion to ‘public service’ is as strong when they are in the minority as it was when they were the unchallenged big dogs in Augusta.

Stan won by roughly a 60% to 40% margin over Scott Thomas, a relatively unknown newcomer and late entry candidate from Freeport.  Scott, as we have reported, is a first rate, poised, and highly qualified candidate for public office, and we hope he will decide to run again.

Scott made a very fine showing against an entrenched Democrat machine candidate, and should be proud of his effort.  Be advised that if you saw figures claiming he was outvoted by something like 14,000 to 6,000 that those figures are wrong.  Gerzofsky’s total was 10,000 plus and Scott’s was 6,000 plus.

You may remember that a few weeks back we said Stan was proud of his humility.  He proved us right by making this statement to The Forecaster after the results were in:

Gerzofsky said he consistently heard from voters at the polls Tuesday he is doing a good job representing his district.  “The voters in my district have been very supportive. They appreciate the hard work I have done,” he said.

It almost makes you think Stan might have been electioneering at the polls, rather than just saying hello, per state law.  Naah; he’d never do that.

Now that the campaign is over, Stan should have plenty of time to get back to his interests in the haberdashery and furniture businesses.  Especially since he won’t have committee chair duties to worry about.

PInstripes anyone?  Or perhaps a new windsor chair or two for the dining room?

As for us, we’ll continue to research and report on Stan’s efforts on our behalf.  We find many of his public statements to be extremely interesting, if puzzling, and we often have a hard time confirming them.

Reporting on such curiosities is why we’re here, though.  And we’re mindful of our obligations to our readers.

As Forrest Gump said, “life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.”

We prefer dark chocolate; how about you?

Time for your Monday Kool-aid shooter, compliments of the Ostrich..

On page 5 of today’s edition, following the time-honored tradition of citing another newspaper’s reporting to justify their own mis-uninformation, The Ostrich carried this little item about Governor John Baldacci and his budget stewardship:

Adjusted for inflation, the fiscal 2010-11 general fund budget of $2.69 billion is less than the budget Baldacci inherited when he became governor in 2003.

True, as far as it goes, which is not nearly far enough.  The general fund budget is less than half of total state spending, as we’ve reported over and over, most recently in this item.

If we told you that we spent far less on new vehicle purchases this year than we did ten years ago, would that convince you that our family spending is less than it was then?  We don’t think so, Tim.

So here we come again, reminding you over and over.  The reporting by “traditional media outlets” is at the best incomplete, and at the worst, intentionally culpable in misleading the public.

Want proof?  Look at the data here.  It’s up to date as of last month, and what is shows is that Maine’s total spending in 2003 was $5.68 billion, and in 2010, it is $7.73 billion.

You can say whatever you want about general fund spending, but there is no denying that Maine government is spending 36% more now than it did seven fiscal years ago.  Trying to suggest otherwise by selective choice of numbers is the worst kind of mis-uninforming.

It’s almost as if we need a government watchdog acting on our behalf to make sure we get the facts we need to understand what is really going on.

Nominees, anyone?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gown to Town: Stuff it, you ungrateful cretins!

We confess that it’s been some time since we gave thanks for the presence of Bowdoin College and its students in our otherwise hapless and hopeless town.  We have not been faithful in conducting a weekly homage to St. Polar Bear in gratitude for the Administration and students’ forbearance toward we the unwashed and unenlightened of Brunswick.

So it is with some humility that we pass along a well deserved wire-brushing from one of our betters in the Bowdoin class of ‘12.  Here are a few tempting tidbits from his (or her) letter in the Bowdoin Orient:

You know what's awesome about Brunswick? Bowdoin College. Without Bowdoin, what is Brunswick?

However, the point is Brunswick thrives on the presence of Bowdoin College, both financially and culturally. 

And definitely don't welcome Brunswick residents into your lives, because they tolerate you less than you could ever imagine.   

Suitably chastised, we realize now that we should be thanking these transient party animals for the influence they exert over our local election outcomes.  And how grateful we should be for the pennies on a dollar the College pays in property taxes compared to the rest of us.

Color us suitably ashamed. We’ll announce a sackcloth and ashes parade through the campus as soon as we get approval from the President’s Office.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Ostrich wins another award….

Dewey defeats Truman – the Maine version.

We have no love lost here on Side for The Ostrich, as regular readers know.  Sometimes we even call it the “NOTWIUN,” suggesting that the editors seem at times to be actively working to keep us in the dark, or even worse, in the wrong room, in the wrong house, on the wrong street.

In this recent post, we went so far as to say this:

Sad to say, as we see it here in the offices, we’d be better off without ‘watchdogs’ like The Ostrich.  We need information, not mis-information.

The last 24 hours provide a perfect example of just how feckless Ostrich editors can be.  And why “traditional media” is gasping for breath to keep itself alive.  We thank them for making our point.

The proof before us is today’s edition, in which The Ostrich confirms how they lag in the news cycle, rather than lead.

The front page fails to report the news widely known elsewhere that Paul LePage had won the race for Governor, and that Eliot Cutler had conceded.

We got the biggest guffaw, though, from this headline on Page 5:  “Triumphant Berry eyes speakership.”  Becoming speaker, generally speaking, requires being a member of the majority party.

We suppose some readers might be surprised, but Republicans won the majority in both the House and Senate in the Maine legislature yesterday.  Ergo, Berry may be “eyeing a speakership,” but not of the House.  Maybe he’ll be presiding over his kitchen, or barn, or his Kool-Aid distillery.

Here at Side, we knew this at 5:30 am this morning, before we left for an early meeting in the capitol area.  Ostrich editors, if they cared, and were awake, could have known this by the same time, more than enough lead time to correct the Berry headline.

We wish to thank them for continually confirming why our disdain and distrust for them is warranted.  In the process, they render accusations that we are cynical, smarmy, and hapless critics wholly without foundation.

Time to shut down the gloat machine.  We do hope we’ll see you all at Berry’s celebration of his ascendancy to the Speakership, following in the footsteps of such well known legends as John (“Johnny Protocols”) Richardson, Libby Mitchell, and John Martin.

Assuming it isn’t held on the same night as the Dewey celebration. 

We want to provide first hand coverage of both, but we can only stretch our resources so far.  Unless you send lots of shekels our way, in which case we might stretch a bit further.

Good night, Mrs. Calabash.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

More “great publicity” for Maine….

We don’t think very highly of USA Today, but  we ran across a copy of today’s edition when we were out dumpster diving for original news stories.

Lo and behold, the front page referred to a Section A article about Maine, entitled “Population drop-off vexes Maine residents.”  Click on the title link to read the entire article.

Here’s a revealing excerpt or two:

Maine was one of three states whose population declined from 2008 to 2009 (Michigan and Rhode Island were the others). For the first time in 209 years, neighboring New Hampshire has more people than Maine, according to Census estimates.

The drop in Maine stems mostly from young people leaving for school and jobs and the birth rate dropping as those left behind age. Maine's median age (half are younger, half are older) is 42.2 — oldest in the USA.

Nothing but encouragement there, right?  Then this:

Two-thirds of the state's 1.3 million people live in the lower third. The timber and paper mill industries that supported rural northern counties near Canada consolidated, and thousands of jobs disappeared.

"Clearly, the place has been grappling for 25 years with massive restructuring," says Mark Muro, director of policy for the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program.  (Oh yeah?  Could you give us 2 or 3 “clear” examples, Mark?)

Two quick comments on the article.  First, we can’t help but wonder what triggered the appearance of this item.  We’re not ready to believe that USA Today sends reporters out turning over rocks to find stories of note.  We believe, instead, that someone in the ruling class made a call or two, or had a PR consultant do it for them, to stimulate interest in the subject and the related reportage, which in all likelihood consists of contrived and pre-approved rhetoric.

Second, the various remedies mentioned by the individuals quoted in the article are the same old tired approaches that have put us here in the first place.  In a nutshell, use consultants, grants, and other government involvement , coupled with vacuous mantras like “the creative culture” as the rosy route to revival.

In so many words,their prescription for success boils down to nuggets like “networking and advertising” in new and better ways. So they sip wine in Camden and talk about such things.

Most who have stared our problems in the eye know there is a higher reality; that the most important priority is to remove our well-known, self-inflicted impediments to a viable, prosperous, and sustainable future for Maine and ALL its residents, from the very youngest to the very oldest.

But as I said before, “you get what you pay for” with consultants and their ilk, and those who spend OPM to employ them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are you kidding me?

Who was it that said “you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts?”  I believe it may have been Senator Patrick Moynihan of New York many years ago.

Our policy here at Side has been to refrain from making this a shamelessly partisan site.  We’ve mentioned candidates here and there, but have generally not used our platform as a megaphone to advocate for one candidate or another.  We prefer instead to make readers aware of facts that bear on the choices on their ballots.

Sometimes we come across something elsewhere that cannot go without comment, and this happened the other day.  You may not have seen the subject letter to the editor in The Ostrich,  but we simply cannot let it pass without comment.  This passage is the one that got our knapsacks all wrapped around our bicycle cranks:

You can be sure that on Election Day, members of the tea party will be out in full force for their candidate, Paul LePage. A vote for Libby Mitchell will ensure that Maine will continue to grow and maintain its quality of life.

Let’s set aside the fact that the writer couldn’t identify “the tea party” if she tried, because it’s not an organization; it’s an attitude.  Instead, let’s look at these points of hers;

1) “ensure that Maine will continue to grow:”  What has the writer been smoking?

We have businesses closing, school enrollment down nearly 20%, and declining by 3% a year as far as the eye can see.  Youth are leaving, and those remaining are aging.  Signs of “growth” are missing in action, unless she is referring to enrollment in public assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid, in which Maine leads the nation.

2) “maintain its quality of life.”  Does the writer know what ‘maintain’ means?  As in steady as she goes…maintain your speed, etc.

What is it she wants to maintain?  Is it our aging?  Our highest electricity rates in the nation? Our high tax burden?  Our needlessly high health insurance rates?

Or would it be our business vacancy rates?  And our very low average incomes?  How about our last place business outlook?

Or the growth in dependency among our population?  The highest % on food stamps and Medicaid in the nation?

Maybe it’s the departure of our youth for other opportunities she wants to ‘maintain.’

Does the writer really believe that Libby’s 32 years as a leader in the majority monopoly has had nothing to do with this?  Does she really believe that Mitchell plans to reverse everything she enacted over the last three decades?

And now a question for you, dear reader.  Is there any doubt why Maine is in a hole, and keeps digging it deeper?

More Damned Cows: A victory for the Base!!!

Drum roll please, maestro, to introduce the next offering in the now infamous Side series on cows.

Gerzofsky Cows

You don’t have any cows, but you do keep four noisy hogs.  You become concerned when you notice the rising popularity of cows, but aren’t about to give up your hogs.

You decide to take advantage of the growing interest in the cow business.  You don a big Stetson and some western boots, call a press conference at the Augusta Airport, and announce that four and twenty cows have “signed on the dotted line” to do their business on the Brunswick Naval Air Station.  You cite your 25 years as a cow owner and manager in Vermont as crucial to the deal, pointing out that you still keep your hand on the business.  “I know how cows think, and I convinced them that refusing this offer would be an udder mistake.”

You report their milk will be turned into composites for aviation, and their poop burned for “clean energy.”  You propose to capture their methane and convert it to LMG (liquid methane gas) for fueling barbecue grills while reducing carbon hoofprint.  “Downwind Energy has signed on the dotted line to establish a new company that could employ hundreds of unemployed cows if permits and financing can be worked out,” you assert.

You declare this a groundbreaking achievement in a new high tech lacto-manure cluster to be headquartered on the base.  You note the public clamor for jobs, and submit a bill to milk the public for $10 million in ‘vital investment’ funding.

You fall asleep counting cows, and dream of making a fortune selling “Stan and Johny’s” ice cream some day. 

Repeated attempts to gain confirmation of the cow’s signing from the MRRA result in dead silence, and not a single moo is heard from Elsie, head of the Maine Association of Milk Cows, when contacted in Augusta.  Downwind Energy could not be located, and MRRA declined to provide any information, citing advice from attorneys.

Soon, area residents become concerned about the lack of cow sightings on the base, but note the pungent smell of manure hanging over the region in a heavy fog.  Charges of “big hat, no cows” are levied against you.  Bumper Stickers saying “Bravo Sierra in Brunswick” pop up on the cars of retired Naval personnel in the area.

Rumors spread that noted attorney F. Lee Bailey will be coming on board to rescue the operation, demanding that strict protocols be observed in any future discussions.  Town councilors are strangely silent on the news.

In a related story, Governor Baldacci and Democrat leadership appeared before TV cameras in the Hall of Flags this morning to announce that MisFortune magazine has just ranked Maine 1st among the 50 states in the production of un-composted manure.  The editors cited Maine’s consistent manure surplus over the past 35 years as the primary contributor to the high ranking.

Details at 11.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Milking the Oldies but Goodies files….

Remember those old yarns that begin with “you have two cows, and….?”

Yesterday we ran across some versions of the story we wrote in 2003, so you’ll pardon their “age” if it shows a bit. They still brought a chuckle to staff here at Side offices, so we decided to pass them along as fodder for the current election discourse.

Bowdoin College Cows

Four cows are seen wandering in Brunswick.  They start to cross Maine Street on their way to the Bowdoin Campus.  Two survive, but two become crow cuisine at the road kill cafe when they're hit by an '83 Volvo with a "Free Mumia" bumper sticker.

The two dead cows inspire an activist movement that holds daily peace walks on the very spot the two were killed.  Two of the activists take a digital picture of the dead cows to the Town Clerk, who registers the two cows with a "D" since they are clearly residents of Maine Street.  The activists propose a national "U day", and write a play called the "Udder Monologues" to dramatize the pervasive abuse of cows in our society.

Of the two survivors who make it to the other side, the first is declared a member of an under-represented species on campus by the administration, and is appointed Chair/and first enrollee in a new Bovine Studies program. The other survivor is immediately appointed Special Director of Outreach for Bovine Studies Fund Raising.

The administration announces they are searching for candidates for a new position: "Special Assistant to the President for Zoological Diversity.”

Baldacci Cows

You ran for governor successfully.  You campaigned by going to county fairs and serving free spaghetti and meatballs.  Two cows, one young and one old, broke free from their stalls and stopped by for a free lunch. 

You promised the cows free hay, free bedding, and free veterinary care if they'd just follow you home.  You told them they won't have to give any more milk than they've given in the past.

One year after your inauguration, the younger cow bolts after being milked 24 hours a day.  She joins the cow stampede to New Hampshire, and is replaced by two out of state cows suffering from chronic udder collapse.

The older cow, after contracting severe udder chafe from being over-milked, dies while waiting for an appointment to see the state vet.  You continue to milk her for another 6 months, until her teats plug up when her teeth are sucked into her udder by the vacuum.

While planning for your re-election, you notice there don't seem to be enough young, healthy cows around anymore to run a dairy. 

Ralph Nader Cows

You're out in the wilds campaigning, and you come across a pasture where two cows are debating politics.  You ask to join the debate, but the cows deny you. 

Angered, you tell the cows they're too big for the pasture, and they're consuming an unfair share of the available food supply.  You call the situation unsustainable.

The cows, well-meaning but not particularly bright, agree with you, and agree to live on a combination of half the grass they had been consuming and half their own manure.  You declare this sustainable dairy eco-culture and write a book on the subject. 

A tall college professor and a drunken radio announcer hear about this, declare you brilliant, and join your movement.

Six months later, the cows are suffering from hardening of their teats because you practiced rotating single teat milking, eschewing "clear-milking" practices.  The dairy business collapses, and the state is plagued with huge stockpiles of manure. 

You blame the failure on corporate accounting practices and decide to use the manure to fertilize your hemp fields.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Ostrich: Willfully Uninforming Again….

It’s Friday night, more or less wind down time at Side editorial offices, but before we shut down, we’re going to indulge our penchant for pettiness for a moment or two.  Be petty with us, if you have the time.

Readers who have been with us from our inception know that The Ostrich, or as we sometimes call it, the Newspaper of the Willfully Uninformed (NOTWIUN), bears most of the responsibility for the birth of this “blog.”  Blessing or curse, take your pick.  It doesn’t change the circumstances that drove us to the extreme act of establishing our own “voice.”

Specifically, about 18 months ago, Ostrich editors challenged the validity of the information we presented on the Oxford Aviation proposal for BNAS occupancy.  We responded with copious documentation and references for our assertions, and the editors relented and published our submissions.

But the damage had been done, and whatever trust existed was gone.  We had spent years reading clearly erroneous and deceptive items on Ostrich op-ed pages, yet the powers to be decided that our submissions needed to be held to a higher standard.  We tired of the duplicitous editorial policy, and established this nationally recognized outlet in response.

Last night’s edition of The Ostrich provided two perfect examples of the double standard they apply to editorial submissions.  If your views comply with the inclinations of the editors, no problem.  If not, why should they give you public airing?

Example first: a reader letter asserting that welfare spending in Maine “amounts to approximately 1 percent of the general fund budget.”  In the current budget year, that latter figure is about $2.9 billion, so she wants us to believe that welfare spending in Maine is less than $30 million per year.  That’s right, less than THIRTY million per year.

And yet no one on The Ostrich staff thought this clearly bizarre claim worthy of challenge?  Are they serious?  How many times have we heard Stan Gerzofsky and the other boosters of the status quo nanny state claim that 85% of the general fund budget goes to education and human services?

Allowing this patently false discourse to run on their pages suggests either that the Editors will print anything, no matter how totally wrong it may be, or that they will print anything that comports with their ideology.

Moving along, let’s look at the latest silliness from Doug Rooks (rhymes with kooks), a “featured columnist” of The Ostrich.

Dougy argues that welfare isn’t welfare.  And as evidence, he cites the following:

MaineCare pays doctors and hospitals. No one receives cash, and it doesn’t even supplement personal buying power, as food stamps do. It makes as much sense to call Medicaid “public assistance” — with the implication of handouts — as for Medicare, which covers nearly as many people. Is it “public assistance” if you’re poor, but not if you’re old?

This position is so misinformed and so idiotic on so many levels that we don’t know where to begin, except to say that the zealots of the welfare state want us to believe that the tooth fairy is real and that money grows on trees.

The most egregious transgression here is to equate Medicaid with Medicare.

Medicaid, in case you didn’t know, is state provided health care, with the assistance of federal funds, and it doesn’t require that you contribute ahead of time or buy a product.  It is specifically designed for those whose incomes fall below certain qualifying levels.  You are a family of so many, with income below a set figure, and you get free health care.

Medicare, created in the 1960’s, is a contributory program very similar to Social Security.  You are legally compelled to contribute to the program as a tax on your earnings. 

You and your employer, at the point of a gun, must submit a mandated amount of your earnings to the Government to fund the program.  This is not a means based entitlement program.  It is a mandatory participation program.

The effect of its enactment in our world was for our employer, who previously provided health care coverage to retirees for life, to end that coverage at age 65, because you became eligible for government provided Medicare at that age.

In other words, you have no choice but to participate in the program (unless you were a government employee, exempted from the program), and the privately provided coverage programs immediately changed their structure because of the federal program.

Medicare’s structural definition couldn’t be more different that that of Medicaid.  Those who believe that because both start with the letter M and are government programs, they are equivalent, as Rooks argues, make it clear that we are about to go bankrupt as a society and a nation because the concept of critical thinking has gone extinct. 

Especially on the opinion pages of the so-called government watchdog media outlets.  Let us be blunt: Rooks is an idiot.

Sad to say, as we see it here in the offices, we’d be better off without ‘watchdogs’ like The Ostrich.  We need information, not mis-information.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Facts, State Spending, and Campaigning

An article in today’s Ostrich, front page, above the fold, includes this passage from a story covering last night’s debate:

Democrat Libby Mitchell countered continuing criticism by Republican Paul LePage that state government has grown fat and bloated. Mitchell, the state Senate president, said spending is at 2004 levels, and several agencies have been consolidated. 

(Read more:

What was that quote we posted the other day???….oh yeah…this one:

As scarce as truth is, the supply always seems to exceed the demand.

Let’s take a look at the facts pertaining to this claim.  We refer you to this item, which summarizes state spending from fiscal year 1996 to the current FY 2010.

Print it out, stare at it, and keep it handy.  Look at it over and over.  Especially the right hand column labeled “total expenditures.”  You’ll note that total state spending (expenditures) has increased EVERY year.  They were $6.15 billion in 2004, and have risen to $7.7 billion in the past fiscal year.

Mitchell’s assertion is indicative of the propaganda game that has been played in Augusta for years.  We will be writing more about this in the coming days.

The strategy to hide spending growth includes two fundamental concepts:

1) Talk only about “general fund” spending, which amounts to less than half of total state spending.

2) Use inflated projections for future spending levels, so that when budget deliberations begin, the news is always that severe cuts are being made, when in fact, in almost every case, what is happening is a lowering of the increases in spending.

If you look at the general fund numbers in the last two years, yes, there have been actual reductions, for the first time in recent memory.  Why?  Precipitous decline in general fund revenues because of the 50th ranked business environment in the nation, and a constitutional obligation to balance the budget.

In other words, the entrenched ruling class, even with their overwhelming majority, really didn’t have much choice.

But you’ll also notice that the figures waved around in recent months of “$800 million in very painful cuts”  followed by the need for “another disastrous $400 million in cuts to vital services” don’t seem to be supported by the spending totals posted by the State’s own accounting office.

Simply put, we are fooled, deceived, and willfully uninformed by those who claim to be our public servants, and the watchdogs who claim they act on our behalf.  Instead, they put their energies and influence into protecting the status quo.

To repeat, we will be writing about this more in the coming days.  For tonight, we end by recycling a relevant item published a bit more than 5 years ago.  It illustrates the case made in the foregoing, and we hope you grasp the fundamentals. 

Sadly, nothing has changed since we first wrote it; in fact, it may be even more relevant than it was in 2005.

Herewith, the Gully Bull Story:


To the editor:

We just returned from Complacency, a one horse town in Maine’s nowhere. Complacency prides itself on its “what, me worry?” community spirit.

To get there, you have to go to Ignorance first, because you can’t get to Complacency from here. We traveled there to see our old friend Gulliver Bull, known to everybody in town as “Gully.” He and his wife Amiyah were doing well, and before long, they suggested we go out for a bite.

So we headed to Chubby Girl, a classic drive-in with wicked good hamburgers, frappes, and fries.

As we pulled into a front row slot, we noticed signs proclaiming “new lower prices!” I asked Gully to explain, and his response was a bit confusing. He said the Chubby burger was $2.25 last year, but that now it costs $2.75.

“What?” I asked. “How can they claim ‘new lower prices’?” Gully replied that before Chubby Girl opened in March, they ran an ad saying the Chubby burger would be $3.00 this year. They got so much sass from anxious locals, that they rolled back the increase to $2.75, and ran another ad talking up their “new lower prices.” “That settled folks down, and life got back to normal in Complacency,” Amiyah added.

“You mean nobody took them to task for raising their prices higher than last year, and then claiming they were lower,” I asked? Gully said, “well, our state representative, Howie Cheatham, went down to chat with Chubby Girl’s owner. She told Howie she’d stop claiming new lower prices when he stops claiming the state reduces spending when the budget increases.”

“That was all it took for Rep. Cheatham to leave without a whimper, and we haven’t seen much of Howie since.”

So the “new lower prices” signs are still up. And folks in Complacency, grateful for the lower prices, are chowing down on Chubby burgers at a record pace.

I wish we could have spent more time with Gully Bull and the worry-free folks of Complacency. But as Amiyah Bull reminded us, sometimes visiting Complacency too long can be bad for you.

Post Script on School Enrollment

A few days ago Side posted an update on Brunswick’s School Enrollment in this item:

Appropos of the subject, this quote appeared in last night’s Ostrich:

Occupancy rates at the complexes differ, Schott said Friday, “with some very high and some very low,” but he said that is by design. Minus the 56 Topsham units that will be demolished, just fewer than 40 percent of the remaining 646 rentable units are occupied, he said, “which is pretty good.”

This reporter travels by the McKeen Street Navy Housing complex on a regular basis.  There are about 230 units in this development.

While a few more places are starting to look occupied, the general impression is that people have not been flooding into the available housing.

When we posted the other day, the assumption in the back of our mind was that we are 200 students below the consultants’ bottom number for this school year, at least in part, because the Navy housing was not being occupied by new families moving in.

But that assumption is apparently way off base; 40% of the rentable units are occupied! 

From where we sit, that makes the 200 student shortfall even more worrisome, because the enrollment total already includes the students in a goodly portion of the “rentable units.”

Our guess here, based on this, is that the numbers will continue to come in far below the worst case estimates of the consultants in their 2007 report.

Once again, we’re not charging for this analysis, but as we said the other day, “you get what you pay for” with consultants.

How’s that for clear ambiguity?  We’re actually pretty proud of it, in a humble sort of way.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Thoughts for the day….

An easy out, to give you something to think on.

As scarce as truth is, the supply always seems to exceed the demand.


Winston Churchill complained, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Strange, Strange Case of Senator Stan Gerzofsky

He’s a helluva guy to figure out, track down, and keep up with, but Side will keep trying.

Brunswick’s own Stan Gerzofsky is the incumbent Senator in State District 10, and now finishing his tenth consecutive year in Maine’s Legislature. He is gregarious, full of surprises, and known as a man of some humility, integrity, and sincerity.

Stan’s proud of his humility; we remember him telling us how much more he knows than we do.  And he’s sincere, whether he means it or not; more than once he’s told us how highly he thinks of us.

Stan’s major accomplishments and varied life experiences go far beyond what lesser men could accomplish in his modest years.  As we’ve studied his resume, it almost seems like there’d have to be two of him to squeeze in all these achievements!

Let’s take a look.  To begin with, Stan is just a few months short of 66, a young man by today’s standards, and was born in New York City (  So now we know where that irresistible feisty streak of his comes from!

He first ran for the legislature 10 years ago, at age 55, and we recall reading that he was a “retired furniture manufacturer” then.

Stan notes that he “made a good living” as a furniture maker for 38 years (  So he began in that business at the early age of 17, or roughly 1961.  At the Chamber debate held in September, Stan said he “managed or owned the company for 25 of the 38 years.'”  Very impressive, you must admit.

We’ve asked Stan more than once where the furniture company is/was located, and what its name is/was.  Busy campaigning, he’s yet to respond.  There is, however, a report from a candidates’ event in Freeport this week, that Stan said the furniture business was in a small town in Vermont.

On the basis of that information, we deduce that Stan lived in Vermont from age 17 to 55, returning to Maine just in time for his first run for the house.  That would make him a Vermont resident from 1961 to 1999, give or take a few months either way.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Maine wins the race…..

                  ….to the bottom, that is!

Gerzofsky reads rankings upside down; lauds entrenched majority role in achieving sole possession of last place.

“Utah tops our annual ranking this year, knocking longtime leader Virginia from the top spot.”


A report released by Forbes Magazine on October 13th, just two days ago, ranks our home state, Maine, last out of the 50 states in their scoring of “Best States for Business and Careers.”  Last year, Maine was 41st out of 50, so in one year, we have dropped nine places to dead last.

You can read the Forbes rankings here.

The rankings are based on 6 factors.  Maine ranks 28th in labor supply, which given our high unemployment and reputation for a great work ethic, seems pretty miserable compared to those states with whom we compete.  But we are 16th in quality of life, which most likely has to do with our physical beauty and recreational assets, something government policy has no bearing on, and our low population, something government policy has a lot to do with.

Here’s how we rate on the other factors:

  • 47th in business costs
  • 48th in regulatory environment
  • 45th in economic climate
  • 44th in growth prospects

Overall, these component scores place us dead last out of the 50 states.

Did you get that?  In case you haven’t realized it before, states compete against each other.  People and businesses are free, generally speaking, to locate where their self-interests are best served.  That includes those seeking the most generous welfare benefits, those seeking the best opportunities, and those businesses looking for the best use of their financial capital along with a flourishing supply of human capital.

I repeat: states compete against each other, and those evaluating where to locate read evaluations like Forbes’.

Anyone who responds to these results by blaming things on “the previous administration” is full of Bravo Sierra, to use a military expression.  This is a comparative ranking of the 50 states, all of whom have had to deal with the nationwide recession.

In spite of that recession, 22 states improved their ranking in the last year, 4 had their position stay the same, and 24 fell in the rankings.

Only one state fell by 9 positions to dead last: Maine.

Can anyone plausibly argue that the single party Democrat rule of the last 35 years is not wholly responsible for this abysmal showing?  Can Libby Mitchell, now running for Governor. say with a straight face that she and her caucus have nothing to do with this, and are the best choice to turn things around, after having run the shop since decades ago in the last century?

Can Stan Gerzofsky, an aspiring member of the lifetime legislator club, plausibly distance himself from culpability, and expect us to believe his claims that he can fix things?

(Pardon this aside: c’mon Libby, c’mon Stan.  Just how stupid do you think we are?)

Based on public statements, apparently Stan, at least, thinks we’re very stupid.

In a recent candidate forum held in Freeport, and taped for broadcast on community access TV, incumbent Senator Stan Gerzofsky claimed that “in Maine, we’re racing to the top.”  Stan is many things, but we didn’t know he was a star in the Theater of the Absurd.

This followed his assertion that “if we race to the bottom. all you get is to be on the bottom.”

The Forbes report shows that we’ve already won the race to the bottom, compliments of Senator Gerzofsky, Libby Mitchell, John Martin, and the rest of his friends in the Democrat ruling majority of the past 35 years. 

The good news is that when you’re dead last, there’s nowhere to go but up.  The bad news is that when you’re dead last, you can’t go any lower, no matter how destructive your policies may be.

Stan and friends want to dig the hole we’re in even deeper.  They really don’t know what else to do; they’ve spent their careers at it.  If you’re in the deep end of the pool, over your head, it really doesn’t matter much whether your head is one foot under, or three foot under.  Either way, you can’t breathe.

After 35 years, it’s time to get our heads back above water.

Now.  Before we run out of breath.  And run out of people.

Quick Update: Brunswick school enrollment

Punch line: Current figures well below consultant projections.

Yesterday, Brunswick’s School Superintendent provided Side with the latest enrollment figure for our schools.  This figure gets reported to the State DOE twice a year, in April and October.

The current enrollment is 2,564, down from the 2,655 figure reported in April, for a drop of 91 or about 3.5 percent.

The figures in our files show that we peaked in the 05-06 school year with 3,355 students.  So in five years, enrollment has declined by 791, or more than 23%.

Most of the drop is clearly from the departure of our Navy population, but there is, as well, a persistent enrollment decline statewide of about 3%  a year due to general demographic factors.  We are a very old state, and our young, few as we have, are moving elsewhere.  The ones who stay have fewer children than in the past.

The enrollment studies done twice in recent years by consultants, spurred by the new school construction plan, showed a military student population of 660.  And there is the loss of Durham tuition students to account for.

We just pulled out the report completed by Planning Decisions in April, 2007.  On page 26 of that report, 3 projection models are shown, each predicting the exact same enrollment in school year 16-17, a total of 2,927, which in itself is extremely curious.  The report asserted that vacated Navy housing would be occupied by young families who would cause our enrollment to rebound and stabilize. That notion is folly in and of itself, given the never-aging nature of a military population.

More to the situation today, the current enrollment of 2,564 is over 100 less than the most pessimistic year in any of the three models.  Even more alarming, the current figure is over 200 less than any of the models showed for the 10-11 school year.

This report is only slightly more than 3 years old, yet we are already 200 students below what these costly expert consultants said our enrollment would be for this school year.

That gives me great pause, as it should you.  And to refresh your memory, the Portsmouth area has never rebounded in school enrollment and population since the closure of Pease AFB, even though the redevelopment into a business and transport center has been successful.

Those who stood up and said “Brunswick will continue to grow,” and that young families will flock to vacated Navy housing, are free to submit comments here, either to challenge this commentary, or to provide countermanding signs of optimism.

(Full Disclosure: this correspondent, with 80+ fellow Brunswick citizens, filed a civil suit against the State Department of Education, challenging it’s decision to fund the new elementary school in town.  The suit claimed that the decision to fund was made before it was known that the base would close, and was therefore defective.  The case was dismissed on technicalities raised by the Attorney General’s office, and never received a hearing.)

So, petty self-interest aside, we once again call forth a favorite closer here: breath holding is not recommended.

(Oh…and this bit of expert consultation is provided to concerned and faithful readers on a pro bono basis.  As they say, you get what you pay for.  Talk about a double entendre!  That could be PDI’s corporate motto.)

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brunswick – is it bailing out the USPS?

Just a quickie, a piece of ‘junk mail’ of the blog sort, so to speak.

How many times have you read about the great expense of special elections, and other assaults upon our democratic traditions.  We could be wrong, but didn’t we just read that the cost of a special election related to the purchase of the in-town property for a new police station could cost us $5400?  Or something like 30 cents per registered voter.

Well, today, we received a mailing addressed to “Voters at:” our street address.  It’s from the Brunswick Town Clerk, and has first class postage of $0.44 (that’s 44 cents) stamped on it.

The purpose of the mailing is to tell us about the new voting place arrangement for the town.  All voters vote at the Brunswick Junior High School.  It also mentioned that “absentee ballots are available to any Brunswick Voter.”

Fair enough, I suppose, though we have to wonder about the total cost of this mailer, and how it compares to the cost of a “special election” spurred by a citizen effort that comports with Town Charter provisions.

Most curious to this reporter, however, is that the mailing wasn’t  made under USPS bulk mailing rates.  That’s the rate applied to various commercial and other bulk mailings for which handling is minimal.

In this case, the letter wasn’t even addressed to us by name; only by property address.  If that isn’t enough to be considered bulk mailing, what is?

How many such addresses does the town have in their voter list?  I could be way off, but I’m going to guess in the range of 5000 to 6000.  Shaving 20 cents or so off the postage rate would seem to be an obvious way to save a few shekels.

Unless you want to prop up the failing US Postal Service, I suppose.

Or, even worse, if the federal government entity won’t grant “professional courtesy” to town government. 

Wouldn’t that be a hoot.

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Maine Watchdog; it’s about time!


For years, The Ostrich and its sister award winning newspapers have fancied themselves “government watchdogs,” digging, investigating, tracking, analyzing, and reporting to keep us safe from the over-reach of government.  And supposedly ensuring that malfeasance, dereliction of duty, dishonesty, corruption, cronyism, waste, and self-glorification are minimized; and that unbridled ambition is exposed. 

Surprisingly, we’ve yet to encounter a trench-coat clad, fedora wearing, cigarette smoking reporter from The Ostrich, or any other paper, for that matter, hanging around in all the right places, and lots of the wrong ones, seeking out “the rest of the story.”

A perfect example of The Ostrich’s utter failure to live up to their legendary self-view is how they seemed to be out to lunch for the entire Oxford Aviation/MRRA episode. Until such time, that is, as they turned into a lapdog for F. Lee Bailey, when he provided them a copy of his letter bailing out on his attempt to apply lipstick to the Oxford Oinker.  This spawned the “willfully uninformed” editorial, which in turn led to us creating their nickname.

Rampant speculation on motives and connections invites itself to this discussion, but it won’t get a seat at our table today.

Instead, we have great news!  Maine Watchdog, which can be found at, is now on the beat, and not a moment too soon, given Maine’s target-rich environment.

Stephan Burklin, who heads the operation, describes the service as follows:

Maine Watchdog is a news website dedicated to in-depth and investigative journalism. 

Its mission is two-fold: 1) to uncover waste and abuse at the local and state level and 2) to promote government transparency so as to hold government officials and institutions accountable.

Wow!  Great ideas; you’d think somebody would already have been doing this, wouldn’t you.

A perfect example of MaineWatchdog’s breakthrough efforts is the Chellie Pingree private jet story they broke a few weeks ago.  If you haven’t seen the clip that began it all, here it is, and don’t miss the red carpet:

The revelation has sparked quite a to-do for our incumbent Congresswoman, who suddenly remembered that she has been engaged to the wealthy “owner” of the plane for some years now.  The story has real legs, as they say in media.

You can see the entire MaineWatchdog story here.

In closing, you can sign up on their web site for email updates, and I hope you will.

And from now on, watch out whose airplane you jet-set around in.  Unless you can arrange for Poppy to come along for an “in-air interview.”

PS: Here’s just one example of those “legs” I was talking about, which now reach as far south as Massachusetts:

Rival blasts Barney Frank’s swanky free jet ride

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