Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why be petty at times like this?

Damn near three years ago, we published an item on the ‘Ancient School of Cynics.’

It contained the following:


Your humble correspondent, widely considered a cynic, has always taken solace in thoughts like this:

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
-George Bernard Shaw

So while I lack Bowdoin credentials, and other similarly lofty bona fides of the anointed, please make sure you treat me with the respect due a Cynic with a capital C the next time we meet.


Since that classic post appeared, our mantle has been overflowing with the awards we haven’t received for our thoughtful examinations of the issues and news of our day.

Cynicism is one thing, and properly understood, we admit to it eagerly.  Pettiness is another.

Gloating is petty, most would agree.  But fear not, we can do petty with aplomb equal to that we display in our moments of high cynicism.

Allow us to demonstrate.  Less than a week ago, we discussed the possibilities for property tax increases looming ahead, playing off our LT Ben metaphor.  It earned 3 ‘idiotic’ reviews from readers, which we generally interpret to mean that we had touched upon some uncomfortably insightful predictions. 

‘Idiotic’ is the most common reaction to our pieces analyzing school budget history, for example, which reaction is itself idiotic, if you really think about it.  But apparently, that’s too much to ask of some readers.

At any rate, the linked post of last week had this assertion of ours:

The new Police Station is currently estimated at $5.3 million, but if things go as they usually do, it will end up at $7.0 million or so.

Well, land-a-goshen, Gertrude, who could have guessed that news would break that the latest estimate for the new station is $7.2 million! 

The Forecaster has a nice discussion of the subject here.  The article contains some passages that are classics of the genre.  Here are a few.

At $7.2 million, the estimate was nearly 30 percent higher than the $5.1 million budgeted in this year's capital improvement plan, which the Town Council approved last summer.

Who knows what the $5.1 million budgeted figure was based on, which is a problem in and of itself.  Hell, it was going to cost more than that to buff up the TR building a few years back!  More importantly, since the number was in the approved capital plan, you’d think it would have been put in the guidelines to any proposers, designers, and ad-hoc committees.

You’d think so, but then you’d be missing out on the central issue of incompetence in government capital projects: a systemic inability to set and manage to a cost baseline.  Especially in the design stage.  It’s so much more fun to let imagination and creativity run wild, as wants become needs, etc.

"We are confident we can still come forward with a modern police facility for the town of Brunswick and we can do it with the number I believe most people are going to find acceptable," Brown said.

Notice the use of the royal ‘we,’ the word ‘still,’ and the phrase ‘most people.’  Confidence builders all.  As for us, we take the above to mean ‘we’ll give it the old college try, but in the end, we’ll still end up at $7 million plus.’

We admit to using ‘we’ as a matter of course in our work here, but you know exactly who it is when we do.

"I'm totally confident we'll have a police station you'll be proud of," Donham (the architect) said. "It's just going to be different than this dream we painted."

There you have it: the rallying call to the supporters of community pride, community dreams, and a belief that “Brunswick will continue to grow.”  Not to mention that we have all the resources we could ever need.

Those who would advocate for complying with the capital plan put before the public, and approved by the council', have now been backed into a corner.  Dream-busters; inconsiderate of our public-safety team; and worse, if that’s what it takes to get ‘consensus’ for the higher figures. 

We can hear the outcome now:  ‘we don’t do this often, so we need to do it right, and if that means spending more, than that’s what we’ve got to do.  It’s more than we planned, but we believe the community backs us on this.’

One is reminded of the Public Safety Building plan of 2003 or thereabouts.  It started in the region of $6-7 million, then grew to $11.2 million.  Just before the referendum on the proposal, it grew to $13 million, because they “forgot” to include the Cook’s Corner substation. 

That particular comment is perhaps the most shameless and shameful we’ve ever heard uttered by a town official, and that’s saying a lot.  The substation, which we were told would cost $1.8 million, ended up costing roughly a million more.

Summing up, we could say we told you so about the police station, but we won’t.  That would be ungracious of us.  Besides, we’ve got to ramp up our circulation figures, and we figure petty sells better than ungracious.

So remember, you heard it here first.  And don’t forget to follow your dreams!

Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.  What a year or two this is gonna be!

1 comment:

  1. Poppycock: Like so many of us you will hae to await your rewards in the after-life. Your consolation is that you can can harp today as to how many they will be.