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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