Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bowdoin: in loco parentis; plum loco; paternalism; V-day; common-sense; and the children.

Sometimes everything just comes together.

Bowdoin College never ceases to amaze us with the diversity of its idiosyncrasies, idiocies, cognitive dissonances, and various other forms of cosmic silliness.  Not to mention its self-absorption.

Recently, as we munched on turkey on wheat, we leafed through the pages of the latest Bowdoin Orient, ‘the nation’s oldest continuously published college weekly.’

The “SECURITY REPORT: 2/28 to 3/27” caught our attention for what it reveals about the student body.

Herewith some examples:

  • A window was broken and a toilet vandalized during a registered event at Ladd House.  (A bit of further research revealed that the toilet was indeed vandalized, with ‘accompanying contents on floor.’)
  • A student placed an electric tea kettle on a hot stove burner at 24 College Street.  The kettle melted and activated the fire alarm.
  • A rear hatch window on a student’s vehicle was accidentally shattered when the hatch was closed onto two beer kegs that didn’t quite fit into the back.
  • Holes were kicked into a basement wall at Quimby House.  (Alcohol related, per official report.)
  • Two intoxicated students set off a smoke alarm in Coles Tower by burning magazine paper with a lighter.  The students were cited an environmental health a safety violation and a hard alcohol violation. (sic, sic)
  • A student backed his vehicle out of the Baxter House driveway and collided with a flashing crosswalk sign post.  The post was destroyed.
  • There are too many other marijuana caused smoke alarm activations and alcohol violations to bore you with, but you get the drift.

Kids will be kids, you say.  True enough, but these are the elite ‘kids’ of our era, spending small fortunes to swallow the collective wisdom of the Bowdoin faculty.  This is the crème de la crème, giving more to the college than they get by their very presence on campus, and in Brunswick.  Just think…in a decade or two, they could be Senators, Representatives, or Cabinet Members.  Or even worse.

So much for their silliness, or if you will, plum loco behavior.  Let us give you a few examples of their other crises:

  • A student reported the theft of a neon green North Face bag from the women’s locker room (they have separate, gender based spaces??) at Morrell Gymnasium.  The bag contained white spinning shoes, Under Armor spandex pants, North Face shorts, and a Ben & Jerry’s T-shirt. (Brand fixation, anyone?)
  • Two students with flu symptoms were escorted to Parkview Medical Center.
  • A student who cut her finger on a door in Reed House was taken to Parkview Medical Center.

No doubt the last two items were life threatening, and we suppose you yourself have needed escorted transport to the local hospital because you cut your finger or suffered from flu symptoms.  Who hasn’t?

But then you complain about the costs of our health care system?  Can you imagine the costs associated with these visits to the Emergency Room?

We hear ‘for the children’ often enough around here, mostly as a bludgeon to raise school budgets.  From the reports just cited, it sounds like our ‘young adults’ are unable to escape a ‘for the children’ profile.

College, at least in our experience, was first and foremost the thrill and growth experience of being independent.  That meant applying your own Band-Aids, doing your own wash, and taking aspirin if you got the flu.  Along with, we admit, some stupid stunts. 

Regardless, we are convinced that while we may not have been as intellectually advanced in our era as the Bowdoin students of today, we were a damn sight more mature in understanding reality.  And tending to ourselves.  Not to mention having gained more common sense.

Now let’s go full circle.  You’re all aware of the feminist movement of the last several decades, and its revulsion over our ‘paternalistic society.’  A signature aspect of the movement is an obsession with V-day and related rituals stemming from The Vagina Monologues.  Bowdoin has been prominent in celebrating this holy day, Under Armor spandex pants or not.

Now we learn that a Bowdoin Faculty member recently elevated to tenured status, Sarah Conly, has published a book called “Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive Paternalism.”

Amazing stuff.  We have no doubt that any female member of the Bowdoin Faculty is a card-carrying feminist, which makes any proposal for returning to paternalism seem like a grand-standing move.  Especially when the book will cost you $95.

Couple it with the apparent lack of common sense amongst the Bowdoin student body, at least as portrayed in the Security Report, and the traditional ‘in loco parentis’ role of a college, especially an elite, self-absorbed, $60,000 a year college, and you have a highly amusing confluence of idiocy, inconsistency, and lunacy.

We can understand how Conly came to believe we need dictatorial help from others to protect us from ourselves. All she had to do was read the Bowdoin Orient on a regular basis. Based on student body sampling provided therein, she’d quickly conclude a whole lot of supposedly intelligent, nearby adults need attentive and benevolent  ‘fathering.’ (Seminars on growing up, choices and consequences, and related behavioral breakthroughs will have to wait until another day.)

So Conly proposes to protect students and the rest of us, and oh by the way, prevent us from learning life’s lessons on our own. All because anointed elite can do this for us; so what if we have to give up a little (or a lot) of freedom, independence, and autonomy to achieve her coercive utopia?  Noblesse oblige, as they say.

Has anyone else heard that Mike Bloomberg is planning on building a retirement compound here in Brunswick?

As we said when we began, sometimes everything just comes together.

And sometimes it doesn’t.  You make the call.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

It is rerun season, now that we think of it.

So why shouldn’t we join the crowd and rerun ‘the best of Other Side?’  Sometimes when you write these things, you have no idea just how on point they could end up being as reality unfolds and tramples all over editorial whimsy.


Ode to the Budget Trolls; a Variation on Christmas Bells

By Poppy Littleworth Oddfellow

    I HEARD the drones at budget time 
    Their old, familiar verses chime. 
        They stood to say 
        You all must pay 
    To prove you love the chil-der-en!

    And thought how, as the days had come,
    The belfries of all Brunswickdom
        Had rolled along
        The unbroken song
    Of spending more on chil-der-en!

    Till ringing, singing on its way,
    The town repeated night and day,
        A voice, a plea, 
        Oh please tax me 
    For brand new schools for chil-der-en!

    Then with a solemn, sudden boom, 
    A cannon thundered in the room, 
        In statements read 
        Faint voices said 
    This is not for the chil-der-en!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The schoolies born
    Of spending more on chil-der-en!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is a lie in town," I said; 
        With guile intact, 
        They hide the fact 
    This is for women and for men!"

    Town Council then gave schoolies cheer:
    "Spend what you want, we're standing clear."
        The schools you’ll build,
        The lilies gild,
    "Praise us! We love the chil-der-en!"

It may not be that good; but on the other hand, it could have been verse.

Other Side “Re-boot”


Do you have any idea what it takes to shock this reporter?  After years of watching the passing lunacy of the local scene, we figured we were pretty much beyond going into shock over news about local governance, whether it be on the Municipal side or the Government Schools side.

Based on the report covered in our post earlier today, we’ve got to reconsider.  In recent days, we talked about moving from water drops to one gallon water balloons.  Now we feel like we’re being water-boarded.  In the collective ‘community’ sense, which is somehow supposed to make it less objectionable, we assume.

More pointedly, we find the lack of community concern over the habitual incompetence and spendthrift nature of our self-described ‘public servants’ to be perhaps the most astonishing aspect of our circumstances.

That aside, we had a notional plan in place for our next several posts.  The news from last night’s gathering, as relayed earlier today, compels us to step back and review them.  We expect that when we do, we’ll find them woefully inadequate to the moment and the circumstances.  So it could be several days before we return to full-throated bloviation, which is the secret to our robust readership figures.

As we re-evaluate our themes, our observations, and our reactions, we’ll amuse you with a standard journalistic diversion, that being ‘fill.’

As we were looking into how old our “new” high school is, we stumbled upon the Brunswick High School Dress Code.  Here it is in its entirety:


The Brunswick School Department believes that appropriate grooming and dress contribute to the quality of the educational environment.  To this end, students are required to wear to school or to school functions, clean and appropriate clothing that does not distract or interfere with the educational opportunity of the other students.  Clothing, hair, cosmetics, scented products, jewelry or appearance that may disrupt the normal operations of the school are not acceptable.

The following guidelines shall be deemed to be the minimum necessary for compliance with the student dress and grooming policy:

  • Clothing that depicts or in any way refers to, advertises, or promotes illegal drugs, alcohol or tobacco products, that has sexual implications, that promotes violence or illegal acts, or that is derogatory toward any group or individual is not allowed.
  • Shoes, sneakers, or sandals will be worn by all students while on school grounds.
  • All clothing is to fit properly, be of appropriate length, and not be revealing or indecent.  Underwear should not be visible and clothing should cover the chest, midriff, and mid-thigh appropriately.
  • Garments, chains, some chain-like necklaces and/or accessories that may be used as a weapon or perceived as gang member symbols will not be allowed.
  • Styles of grooming and/or dress that block vision will not be allowed.
  • Students attending classes such as, but not limited to, technology education, consumer and life studies, physical education, and laboratory classes, will comply with dress code regulations as they relate to the health and safety standards of the specific area of study or work.  Teachers will notify students of these rules.
  • Students may be required to remove hats.

It is not the intention of these guidelines to usurp the authority of parents for determining what is appropriate dress and grooming for their children.  Since the home provides the funds, guidance, and upkeep for the students’ clothing and grooming, parents, rather than the school, are primarily responsible for the general appearance of students.  The school staff will work with parents in encouraging our young people, as they progress through the system, to assume this responsibility and to execute it sensibly.  The purpose of the home and school working together should be to help students accept and cooperate with the guidelines to provide the best possible learning environment.  These regulations may be waived at the discretion of the building administrator for special school occasions or events.

Adopted:  9/11/02

This Dress Code, such as it is, was adopted more than ten years ago.  Does anyone else think that since then, things have changed enough in teenage ‘fashion’ to call for a serious revision?   We’d also suggest that the entire opening paragraph of the Code is so ambiguous and marble-mouthed as to be incomprehensible and unenforceable.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So good night you Princes and Princesses of Maine.

And sleep well.  If you hear anything going bump in the night, just cover your eyes and it will be OK.


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Shirley, forget the smelling salts; we’re going to need the AEDs, Stat!

Well; we could say you read about it here first, but gloating is petty.  But it’s also true, and from time to time, we like to do petty.

On Monday, we made a prophetic statement in this post:

Plans are made under the radar for a minimum of a $25-40 million bond issue referendum to put on the ballot in November, in an ultra-low turn out election that the schoolies can win handily.

On Tuesday, under the byline of Ben, Dover, Local Taxpayer, Side ran this passage:

Let’s begin with an assertion that Brunswick, or the Town of Perfect as our publisher likes to call it, is America’s Richest Little Town.

Since 2005, Perfect has built a new fire station, a new school, a new salt shed, and invested deeply in a new downtown station complex.  In the works are a new Police Station, a new Municipal Office Facility, more new schools, and a new School Bus Maintenance and Storage Facility.  Waiting in the wings for the right time to act is a new Central Fire Station, which will complete a 10 year whirlwind of replacing almost every town facility of both the School Department and Municipal Government.

Not bad for a small town in one of the poorest and oldest states in the nation, and one that has seen the closure of its iconic institution, the Brunswick Naval Air Station, in recent years, with consequent loss of population vitality and economic activity. 

As a side note, the town purchased, renovated, and then tore down a facility at a total cost of $3 million or more, all for naught.  Unless you consider bare ground a worthwhile investment.  This seems to be a habit here in town. And yet many wonder why the country is going bankrupt at breakneck speed, city by city, and soon, state by state.

Then yesterday, in this post, we said the following:

The article we are about to analyze accelerates mission creep to mission leap, replaces the ramp with a 10 foot step, and turns water drops into 1 gallon water balloons.  All at the hands of those who have no legitimate claim of objectivity on the subject.  And with no challenge or validation by the press.

In case you don’t know what an AED is, it’s an automated external defibrillator, pictured here open and ready for pads to be attached.


You better make sure you know where one is before you read much further, because the Gomer Pyle Surprise, Surprise! quote has just been thrown onto the ash-heap of municipal common sense.  And your faithful publisher and staff are left to wonder what to do when reality trumps seemingly bizarre journalistic hyperbole, because that’s exactly what has happened.

Are you sitting down?  We’re just going to give you a glimpse of the news, because we have other obligations to tend to.  More will likely follow.

Here’s the headline:

'Sticker shock': $38M for Brunswick schools upgrade?

(You can read the whole story here.  And as you do, you can wonder who the hell is in charge of this circus, and console yourself by remembering that you live in the richest little town in America.)

It begins this way:

When he said "sticker shock," he meant it.

The principal architect for planned renovations at two schools recommended a $38.3 million plan at the School Board's special facilities meeting Wednesday night.

The figure for major renovations of Coffin Elementary School and Brunswick Junior High School is far more than the $21 million rough estimate made by another architecture firm earlier in the planning process.

That underlined little ditty brings to mind our comment in last night’s post:

This is the school architects’ version of “Bush did it,” or “it was like this when we got here,” or “we inherited this situation from the previous administration.”  In other words, if you’d have begun this effort with us, you’d have had the elevated but unknown number sooner.

Here’s the summary contained in the article:

Note that Keck, the PDT Architect, said the following:

"We don't think 'light touch' is viable," Keck said Wednesday night, responding to a question on whether the "light touch" option's plan to not have a full sprinkler plan would even be legal.

So you might as well dismiss the first column above, because Sarah Singer, Sally Sellit, and the rest of the schoolies at BCU will have none of it.

Shift your focus to the right hand column instead, and with a bit of addition, you can see a $50 million plan emerging.  But remember, ‘its for the children.’ And remember, the high school is nearing the midpoint of its useful life.

No one ever said living in Perfect would be inexpensive.  So we’re planning on making a print run of 1000 or so posters of the image below for those who wish to express solidarity with the schoolies and our ever accountable School Department, including the School Board themselves.


We’re estimating right now that the posters will sell for $50, but that’s based on the poster printing shop we used the last time, and we don’t plan on using them again.  So you’ll have to wait for numbers you can count on.

But you should be use to that by now.  And we’ll do our best to keep costs reasonable.  You can count on us; we’re not like the others.

“Imagine?”  “Invest?”  Wow; they better come up with more appropriate terms.  These don’t do justice to the level of $50 million.

Perhaps “hallucinate” and “break the bank” would work better.

And we were dumb enough to make an issue of letting toilets go unrepaired.  Live and not learn, as they say.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Shirley, this cannot be; $21 million may not be enough for school “renovation?” Pass the smelling salts, quick!

As our protégé Ben, Dover, Local Taxpayer said in the prior post, we will be subjected to mission creep, ramping, and water dripping on our heads.

The article we are about to analyze accelerates mission creep to mission leap, replaces the ramp with a 10 foot step, and turns water drops into 1 gallon water balloons.  All at the hands of those who have no legitimate claim of objectivity on the subject.  And with no challenge or validation by the press.

As we read the article, we laughed and laughed and laughed, because the quotes in the article are almost a self-parody of classic, shop-worn, bumper sticker talking points used so successfully by School Department demagogues ever since time began.  We hear Maine Street storm drains were in danger of overflowing from the flash flood of tears shed by the schoolies of the BCU as they read it. 

On the other hand, who knows?  The sudden ‘storm surge’ could have been special effects courtesy of Bowdoin Svengalis and real estate sales agents priming the pumps, so to speak.

So let’s begin.  In what follows, the italicized text is the passage from the article.  The indented, non-italicized text is our response to those words.

BRUNSWICK — A plan to upgrade two schools could cost the town more than the $21 million originally estimated, but the total won't be known until the School Board's March 6 facilities meeting.

Well, surprise, surprise! Who’d have guessed? On the other hand, have you ever seen a government project that came in under or at initial estimates? Do you remember the Public Safety Facility plan of 10 years ago that started in the range of $6 million, but by the time it appeared on the ballot was at $13 million?

                        Brunswick Junior High School Principal Walter Wallace knocks on one of the sixth grade classrooms' thin walls. "This is not very good for sound," he said."

Brunswick Junior High School Principal Walter Wallace knocks on one of the sixth grade classrooms' thin walls. "This is not very good for sound," he said."

“Look how I can punch my finger right through it. Do you really want your children in such cheesy conditions?”  We hope you don’t mind us pointing out that these walls were a design feature presented by the architects of the last construction cycle, and approved by the School Board and associated ‘new construction committees’ then.  Could you please tell us why this time, things will be different?

                         Coffin Elementary School Principal Steve Ciembroniewicz says separating young children in mobile classroom units apart from the main part of school can create safety concerns and time constraints.

Coffin Elementary School Principal Steve Ciembroniewicz says separating young children in mobile classroom units apart from the main part of school can create safety and scheduling issues.

What’s next? Expecting kids to walk to school? Who ever heard of such a thing?  And by the way, which architects came up with this solution, and which School Board and School Administration approved the approach?

"It wouldn't surprise me if the costs were more than the $21 million," Lyndon Keck, the principal architect working on plans for Brunswick Junior High School and Coffin Elementary School, said Tuesday.

So it wouldn’t surprise him?  Especially since it’s he and his firm that are preparing the estimates, and who are practiced professionals at taking advantage of taxpayer funded ‘crises?’ This is how these opportunists make their living; there is no counterbalance to what they come up with.

They exert mind control over the government school establishment in Maine, because no one dare challenge ‘qualified professionals.’  Especially if they’re pre-disposed to spending OPM on replacement of the assets they’ve let fall into ruin.  

And wouldn’t you just know it, the same firm is proposing a $17 million ‘renovation’ to Freeport’s High School.

Keck's firm, PDT Architects, is the second firm hired by the town for the project. The $21 million estimate was from another firm that performed the first phase of the upgrade plan.

This is the school architects’ version of “Bush did it,” or “it was like this when we got here,” or “we inherited this situation from the previous administration.”  In other words, if you’d have begun this effort with us, you’d have had the elevated but unknown number sooner.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski said the March 6 meeting, at 6 p.m. at Coffin, will be an opportunity for School Board members and the public to see why it may be time to upgrade the two schools – or possibly build a new one if that costs less.

There you have it: the official planting of the seed that building new costs less than ‘renovating.’ The BCU will sprinkle the seed with copious amounts of water and verbal fertilizer to make sure it sprouts and grows.

Perzanoski said a projected increase in student population was one of the original reasons for pursuing the plan in the first place, prompted in part by the closing of Jordan Acres Elementary School in 2011.

Excuse us? What the hell does the closing of a school (due to derelict maintenance) have to do with student population increase? And now you’re telling us that your failure to maintain JA as a functional facility, and we suppose, the voluntary closure of Longfellow, are the driving forces behind the need to spend so much?

And could you please tell us the specifics of the “projected increase’ in student population? Was Planning Decisions, Inc involved in this projected increase?

"But the main reason was that the buildings were falling apart and needed to be upgraded," Perzanoski said. "Especially concerning was having classes in the (portable classrooms)."

Excuse me, but isn’t it the role of School Administration and the School Board to see that buildings aren’t ‘falling apart?’ If not, what are we paying you for? Or are raises for teachers, as we have proven over and over, the only priority you have?

Coffin has had five portable units for several years, and Perzanoski isn't the only one who thinks they should  go.

Funny, but with the huge decline in enrollment in recent years, ALL portable units should have been able to be mothballed. Unless, that is, you closed/ignored issues at other schools to keep classroom pressures at the breaking point, regardless of total enrollment.

Standing on the road between Coffin's entrance and three of the mobile classrooms, Principal Steve Ciembroniewicz explained on Monday the time constraints and safety concerns the current setup creates.

Thank you, Mr. Ciembroniewicz. You have a bright future here in Brunswick School Administration. And if you tire of that, you can always sign on with PDT Architects as an ‘education professional’ in a consulting role.

"Imagine the transition times, and you're bundling up ...," Ciembroniewicz said while motioning to the crosswalk, where a class of small children and their teacher just crossed. "This is a big deal. This has to change. We don't want little kiddos crossing all the time."

Kiddos?  Next thing you know, we’ll only have outdoor parking for teachers and staff, and they’ll have to endure exposure to raw weather to come to work.  We’re going to need sheltered ‘sally ports’ for school busses to drop off and pick up our students.

Beyond increasing the safety for Coffin students and getting rid of the mobile units, Keck said Coffin and the junior high, both more than 50 years old, have structural issues that could increase the cost of the upgrade plan.

School architects are very fond of talking about how schools are built for a 40 year useful life. How old is your house? Imagine how much of Brunswick would be left if everything over 40 years old had to be torn down? How much of the Beloved Shrine of Bowdoin would survive such commitment to ‘newness?’

Are we to conclude that the ‘new’ Brunswick High School is now approaching the middle age of its useful life? It opened in 1995, so it’s nearing 20 years of use.  We should probably start planning for its replacement now, right?

"These buildings are not terrific," Keck told the School Board at the last facilities meeting. "They were not terrific when they were built."

Just what is it, Mr. PDT, that makes a school building only good for 40 years?  And what makes it good for longer? Were the old schools designed by Professional Architects that were the PDTs of their day?  And approved by School Boards and Administrations of their time?  Remind us again, if you will, why your offerings this time around will not be similarly flawed?

The cost upgrades will be presented at the March 6 meeting in four cost options, depending on the scope of work.

We need to give BCU enough time to prepare their preemptive arguments for the upcoming budget deliberations and hearings.  The options presented should provide the perfect context for BCU to argue that it’s time to ‘bite the bullet’ and do what’s right for ‘our children.’

While the minimum amount of work would consist of basic repairs, like removing asbestos from beneath the floors and replacing broken toilet fixtures, another cost option would focus on adding more capacity to the schools, Keck said.

Asbestos beneath the floors? How many children and staff must die?

Broken toilet fixtures? Who the hell has been responsible for, and who have we been paying, to take care of our schools? We want to know, by name, those who have lost their jobs for letting such situations exist, and who the administration officials are that tolerate such incompetence?

If the people we pay to take care of the kids are doing as good a job as those we pay to take care of the schools, where are we?

Adding more capacity?  What the hell does that have to do with renovation? And why have we shut down two actively used schools?

Keck said that while basic repairs would be less costly, they wouldn't do much to increase the longevity of two buildings.

That BS we started this off with about ‘renovation’ was the first step in sticking it to you, but good.  Time to fork it over, you inattentive dolts.

"If you do a full renovation you can say ... it's more expensive," Keck said, "but ... it's a good investment and it will go on for another 40 years."

Look, I’ve got a really good deal for you. And my kids, who are in architectural school right now, will be here in 30-40 years to sell you the next major upgrade. We call it job security in our business.

Some of the work would entail updating the two buildings to modern code standards and adding insulation.

Of course; who can argue with that? And you know what, once we start doing that, we always discover that the building was in far worse condition than we knew or suspected.

Also, the walls between the classrooms at Coffin have quarter-inch plywood, which not only allows sound to travel into other classrooms, but also makes the building more combustible, Keck previously told the School Board.

You know how dangerous that damn wood is; it’s combustible. We’re lucky none of our houses or other buildings use wood products, otherwise, we’d all be vulnerable.  This design could not have been created by architects like us; we’d never do such a thing.

At the junior high on Monday, Principal Walter Wallace demonstrated some of his building's deficiencies.

And neither the Superintendent or the School Board coached me to come up with any of this as part of the campaign.

"These are partition walls. They fold, they open up," Wallace said, pointing at the thin exterior walls of a few classrooms. "This is not very good for sound."

Who’d have guessed that partition walls designed to open up and move would open up and move? Boy, did we get screwed!

Stopping by a classroom in another part of the sixth-grade hall, Wallace pointed down at the floor.

"You can see that it slopes down," Wallace said, explaining that several classroom floors have sunk from the hallway's floor level. "Now you can take a marble and it will roll all the way across the floor."

Once again, we can be grateful for the careful design and attentive maintenance of our facilities by our crack professionals over the years.

In case renovations prove too costly, Keck said he will also have cost estimates for new buildings.

The Grand Pronouncement: in case fixing what we have is too expensive, we can always save money by replacing everything. And it won’t make a difference in what my firm makes on this.

Although the School Board will have to decide which path to take, the final decision will be left to voters when a bond issue goes to referendum, probably in November.

Just about the time the voters go into hibernation, we’ll put a monster referendum on the ballot in an election year that guarantees minimum voter turnout.

Last fall, Town Manager Gary Brown estimated a 6-7 percent increase in property taxes if the town borrows $21 million for the school upgrade plan. That figure could increase depending on the cost options that emerge March 6.

Like all such estimates, they are intended to numb the senses.

"If there’s not support for (a bond), the buildings stay exactly the way they are and we try to keep them running," Perzanoski said.  He said he will likely examine the costs of taking that route at one of the next school budget meetings.

“We can always let the children and the teachers suffer, and go without operating toilets, if it will save a few bucks.”

Shirley?  Shirley, are you there? 

We need to talk to you desperately, now!  Because we just checked the Cable 3 TV site, and no matter what our officials said, we don’t see any public meeting on the web site.

Surely what we read above can’t be true!

Or can it?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

LT Ben, Reporting for Duty!


Publisher’s Intro:

We told you last month that along with B. S. Balderdash and W. T. Fugawy, we recently added LT Benjamin Dover to Other Side staff, and we’re pleased to say that this post is his first major effort for our humble publication.  Known to his friends as Ben, Dover is shown above in a photo we think best symbolizes his role with our publication.

In case you’ve forgotten, “LT” stands for Local Taxpayer.  In formal settings, his name is announced as “Ben, Dover, Local Taxpayer.”

Ben is a whimsical sort, full of good humor, and we thought showing you a few items from his office wall would help you get to know him better:



From this point on, the talking stick belongs to Dover:

Greetings, inquiring minds of Brunswick and beyond.  What an honor it is to address you on the most critical issues of our time.  Our publisher, P. C. Poppycock, has asked me to author a background piece for an upcoming post of his. 

So please bear with me as I do my best; while things may seem a bit disjointed, everything we pass along here is a part of the larger puzzle that is Brunswick and its governance, if you can call it that.

Let’s begin with an assertion that Brunswick, or the Town of Perfect as our publisher likes to call it, is America’s Richest Little Town.

Since 2005, Perfect has built a new fire station, a new school, a new salt shed, and invested deeply in a new downtown station complex.  In the works are a new Police Station, a new Municipal Office Facility, more new schools, and a new School Bus Maintenance and Storage Facility.  Waiting in the wings for the right time to act is a new Central Fire Station, which will complete a 10 year whirlwind of replacing almost every town facility of both the School Department and Municipal Government.

Not bad for a small town in one of the poorest and oldest states in the nation, and one that has seen the closure of its iconic institution, the Brunswick Naval Air Station, in recent years, with consequent loss of population vitality and economic activity. 

As a side note, the town purchased, renovated, and then tore down a facility at a total cost of $3 million or more, all for naught.  Unless you consider bare ground a worthwhile investment.  This seems to be a habit here in town. And yet many wonder why the country is going bankrupt at breakneck speed, city by city, and soon, state by state.

You might want to reread this post from nearly two years ago to provide additional context for where we are headed.

If you’ve never heard of the terms ‘mission creep,’ or ‘being ramped,’ or ‘water drop treatment,’ trust us.  You are being subjected to them all in what has transpired since the start of the current school year last fall, and what is unfolding now as the budget season goes into full swing.

Let’s set some terms of reference.  The conversation over the last year or so has addressed ‘renovating’ Brunswick Junior High School (BJHS) and Coffin Elementary School, which share a common campus on Columbia Avenue.

Let’s see what the word renovate means:


verb (used with object)

1. to restore to good condition; make new or as if new again; repair.

2. to reinvigorate; refresh; revive.

It seems appropriate to review various recent pronouncements on this subject.

This one is encouraging, especially as it relates to stewardship of community owned facilities devoted to ‘our children.’

School buildings aren't being kept in good condition, the department's director of facilities told the School Board Wednesday night.  (snip)  The total value of the department's facilities is $88 million, Facilities Director Paul Caron said. But the cost to fully repair all of the buildings has risen to $44.4 million, more than 50 percent of their total replacement value.  From:

And then there’s this:

January 30, 2013

• Option 1 – Additions only at Coffin Elementary School
• Option 2 – Repair and code issue upgrades
• Option 3 – Energy code conformance update
• Option 4 – Full renovation for 40 year Life Cycle

• Option 1 – Additions only at Jr. High School
• Option 2 – Repair and code issue upgrades
• Option 3 – Energy code conformance update
• Option 4 – Full renovation (except 1983 building)



Perhaps some local ‘public servant’ can explain how these options stay within the confines of ‘renovation.’

As a bit of an afterthought, we found this item in the meeting notes of January 30, 2013 of some interest:

27.  PDT will be preparing estimates for the additions at both schools repair and code upgrades, energy code upgrades and a full-renovation for both projects.  PDT will also provide an estimate for a new elementary school at the Coffin Elementary Site, a new Middle School and a new Elementary School at the Jordan Acres site.

You’ll find the document here:

Three new schools?  What’s the big deal? We’re the richest small town in America, and we can’t have a new Police Station and old schools, can we?

We shouldn’t end the discussion without a review of the political context for these deliberations.

From a historical point of view, I can’t help but remind you of Jim Ashe telling the Town Council that he had no plans to build a new school, but that he ‘just wanted to find out if the state would even consider financing such a project.’  Oh yeah; HBS, thy name is Jim Ashe along with the help of John Richardson, at that time, a member of top leadership in the State Legislature.

In addition, we now have Brunswick Community United, or as the publisher calls them, ‘the schoolies.’  Here’s where they stand on the concept of renovations:

We have not yet heard a specific time frame identified for this project – either for the decision-making period, or for the construction.  While we understand the Board is considering this a renovation project, rather than a new construction project, the current plans would represent a dramatic expansion of the number of current classrooms and the size of our schools.  This level of investment requires substantial community involvement.  By holding these workshops, the Board would demonstrate that that (sic) it committed (sic) to transparency in its decision-making and that it will continue to be effective stewards of the community’s funds.

Does that sound like ‘renovation’ to you?  And can you ignore the complete absence of effective stewardship?  Of course you can, if ‘it’s for the children!’

Also playing into the mix are the latest ambitions of local politicians.  In this example, Johnny “Protocols” Richardson shamelessly panders to the BCU schoolies:

Richardson, a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate who replaces former Chairwoman Joanne King on the council, said balancing the needs of public education funding with redevelopment efforts at Brunswick Landing will be his major focus.

"There's a lot of talk about corporate welfare for Kestrel, but you're not hearing enough about the need for local school funding."

"Brunswick is a local education town, and we pride ourselves on having a strong education system," Richardson said, "and we're in jeopardy of losing the benefit of our local public schools if we are moving too far in one direction."


You can’t imagine how proud I am to have written my first full column here on Other Side.  I hope you don’t mind if I show again the image that I proudly offer as my trademark.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Les Miserables: The Brunswick School Department Production

We begin with this pithy and related quote, compliments of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy:

What belongs to you, you tend to take care of; what belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair.

It will become clear, as we often say, ‘in the fullness of time,’ why we opened with this thought, so don’t get your axle all knotted up.

You may recall that last year we wrote of “School Budget Libretto Tricks” here.  We sense a new musical drama will unfold before the town’s eyes this year.  MSMT will be offering Les Miserables this summer, but we expect a far more heart-rending version to play out on the civic stage before that summer theater production.

To ‘set the stage’ for the school department version, we thought we’d provide a figurative ‘overture’ for the multi-act drama about to unfold before our collective municipal eyes and ears.


(The below is excerpted from:


Les Misérables is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title, which can be translated from the French as The Miserables, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims.

Upton Sinclair remarked that Hugo set forth the purpose of Les Misérables, "one of the half-dozen greatest novels of the world," in the Preface:[2]

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.

Toward the end of the novel, Hugo explains the work's overarching structure:

The book which the reader has before him at this moment is, from one end to the other, in its entirety and details ... a progress from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsehood to truth, from night to day…

Hugo explained his ambitions for the novel to his Italian publisher:[9]

I don't know whether it will be read by everyone, but it is meant for everyone.  Social problems go beyond frontiers. Humankind's wounds, those huge sores that litter the world, do not stop at the blue and red lines drawn on maps. Wherever men go in ignorance or despair, wherever women sell themselves for bread, wherever children lack a book to learn from or a warm hearth, Les Miserables knocks at the door and says: "open up, I am here for you".


We think those notes provide a perfect glimpse of the melodrama we expect to unfold on the town stage, and we expect to see it happen in three acts.

ACT 1:  Various consultants, architects, and other ‘hired guns’ provide a detailed glimpse into the dungeons and hell-holes that ‘the children’ are subjected to in our primitive and crumbling schools.  Much wailing and gnashing of teeth is heard from senior administration officials and School Board members, who begin to practice their annual choral harmonies.  Off stage on the left, a forming march of Brunswick Community United schoolies is heard.

ACT 2:  Heavy hearts and despairing souls are seen in huge numbers at public budget events.  Wearing hair shirts and tattered garments, the dejected weep for the tortured souls in our school system, and proclaim that only a fiscal miracle can save the system from certain ruin, but they aren’t willing to beg for the miracle just now, and will continue to look for other ways out of the morass.

ACT 3:  After budget enactment, when no ‘firm figures’ were available to throw a monkey wrench into the works, figures somehow start coming together during the summer public inattention break.  Plans are made under the radar for a minimum of a $25-40 million bond issue referendum to put on the ballot in November, in an ultra-low turn out election that the schoolies can win handily.  Turnout approaches 10%.  After the election, the BCU exults over the huge support the town showed for brave action ‘beyond anything we had hoped for.’

We’ll close with Other Side’s corollary to the Mackinac quote we opened with:

There’s never enough money to repair or maintain the buildings you have, but there’s always enough money to tear them down and replace them.

And a visual to remind you of the schoolies in our midst.

Is it just our imagination, or do these look like piranhas?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bowdoin ponders one-upping Yale, others

(Ed. Note: this post was revised on Saturday morning 2 March. The added material has been underlined for your convenience.)

<absurdem>  <parody>

We don’t suspect you saw this recent item in the news; you pay Side to stay abreast of such things and pass them along when they merit your notice.

The opening paragraph reads as follows:

Though Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Brown offer health insurance coverage for students to receive gender reassignment surgery, Yale is still reviewing its policies for the procedure.

Followed soon thereafter by these words:

Gabriel Murchison ’14, president of the Resource Alliance for Gender Equity, said the lack of coverage is a sign of how unwelcoming the campus environment is for prospective transgender, gender nonconforming and queer students.

“The [current] policy sends a message to trans and gender nonconforming students that our concerns are not a priority, not to mention its effect on students who need this care and rely on the Yale Health Plan for their health coverage,” Murchison said.

“Well!” we say, with a modicum of exasperated melodrama.  Think Jack Benny.  And here we thought we’d ‘seen it all,’ when V-Day Celebrations and Vagina Monologues productions became campus standards!  ‘Please come, Mumsy; it will be so liberating!’

We are curious, though, as to why we never hear of P-Day events and the like.  Probably the same reason there isn’t a major in Masculinism.  Anyone with the ‘stones’ (to be polite) to propose either would likely be subjected to immediate academic castration and intellectual emasculation, which could be seen as ‘gender reassignment,’ we suppose.

Ironically, colleges these days are engaged in ‘free market competition’ for the best students, even though they all preach disdain for the ‘unseen hand’ in such matters.  That’s just another dimension of the faux ‘intellectual consistency’ mentioned in our prior post.

Bowdoin, of course, would love nothing more than one-upping Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and the other stuffed shirts in this anything but friendly competition.  At the same time, Bowdoin would have an institutional case of the vapors if anyone were to suggest that it has ‘an unwelcoming campus environment’ for ‘non-conforming’ students, regardless of how fluid that term may be.

Gender reassignment?  This is so yesterday, and is not the bold new frontier of academic  progress.

So we expect soon to read reports that Bowdoin is adding the following special health insurance coverage for students, faculty, and administration:

Ethnicity reassignment: just as Bill Clinton was the ‘first black American President,’ students can declare that while they are visibly white, they feel black, and are entitled to have their ethnicity surgically reassigned.  Or for those once derisively labeled ‘Oreos,’ they can surgically be made white, all at no personal expense.

Dogmatic theology reassignment: some students have reportedly claimed that while others label them ‘greens,’ or environmentalists, they really feel like communists.  They will qualify for pigmentation transplants that change their dominant skin tone from green to red.

Ideology reassignment: admittedly, very few students fall into this benefit category.  It addresses those who wish to pursue a career in academia, but come from conservative origins.  The coverage trains them to forsake reality and everything they know to be true in order to ‘fit in.’

Personality change surgery: some students have noticed that a Type A personality in a Type B environment, or vice versa, can be problematic.  Though experimental in nature, the insurance plan provides appropriate mind altering medications to resolve any feelings of self-doubt.

Wealth revulsion therapy: campus dogma preaches the evils of capitalism and wealth accumulation, while deifying the collectivist mantras of the 99%.  Realizing that if they are to succeed in their post-graduate pursuits, and measurably enhance the College endowment and their own stature in the eyes of future students, those afflicted will undergo intensive tutelage by Gordon Gecko, Visiting Professor of Meritorious Greed.

Name-change procedures: this coverage falls under the non-invasive out-patient category of the group policy.  Hyphen-otomies and other procedures that reallocate cognomens from patriarchally dominant to matriarchally dominant sensibilities will be freely available, and can be repeated on an annual basis.  The Elsbeths, Dylans, Quinns, Pats, Chris’s, Alexs and other afflicted seekers will be free to reverse the order of their bifurcated surnames to match the campus fashions of the moment.

Take that, Yale.  Smoke that in your bong, Stanford.  Tap this little keg, Harvard.

In case you haven’t realized it, Bowdoin is not about to let you best it in the great insurance coverage race.  No matter how much it costs to prevail.

Ain’t non-profit status a wonderful thing?

</absurdem>  </parody>

A Golden Opportunity for a Random Act of Senseless Fair Share-ness.

We happened to be perusing the agenda for the upcoming Brunswick Town Council meeting when we came across this item:


24. The Town Council will consider setting a public hearing for March 18, 2013, on the following resolutions:

“Resolution Amending the 2012-13 Budget and Appropriating $345,580 from the Unassigned Balance of the General Fund to Fund a Rescue Vehicle Already Acquired Pursuant to a Bond Ordinance and to Fund the Acquisition of Another New Fire Department Rescue Vehicle”


“Resolution Amending the 2012-13 Budget and Authorizing the Design and Re-construction of College Street and Related Improvements, with Total Project Costs Not to Exceed $1,233,000, and Further Appropriating $500,000 from the Unassigned Balance of the General Fund, plus any Additional Appropriation Authorized under this Resolution,” and will take any appropriate actions.

We remembered our recent musings and postings on the local shrine to “the 1%” (Bowdoin), including “the loopholes and tax breaks for special interests” this corporation receives (Pres. Obama’s words, if you want to know.)

As we did, it occurred to us, in the way these things sometimes do, that this would be a perfect occasion for the College to ‘reach out to the community’ and make a substantial payment to the town ‘in lieu of taxes’ to fund the street project.  In case you don’t know, College Street is the little lane that bisects the two main campus blocks.

Economic justice, street justice, budget justice, tax justice, infrastructure justice, and so much more would be well served by a payment of say, $1,233,000, just to throw out a figure.  As our leader likes to say, everybody benefits when the wealthy are asked to pay ‘a little more,’ especially when it comprises a ‘fair share.’

We discovered today that there is a fly in the ointment, to borrow a phrase.  Today’s edition of The Bowdoin Orient contains an article about the movement to get Bowdoin and other institutions ‘invested in societal well being’ to divest themselves from fossil fuels.

Which would seem to create a conflict requiring resolution as regards the reconstruction of College Street.  Before reading this article, we had comforted ourselves in the belief that the College would insist on the use of sustainably sourced, responsibly harvested, and renewable species of gravel, sand, asphalt, reinforcing steel bar, and other construction materials.  The article reinforces our hopes:

“Bowdoin has been spent years boasting what a green school they are, and how committed they are to climate change,” McKibben said. “Colleges are committed to intellectual consistency, and it makes no sense to not have a green portfolio as well.”

(McKibben, however, raises serious doubts as to his credibility with the ‘colleges are committed to intellectual consistency’ comment.  There’s as much cognitive dissonance on college campuses, perhaps even more, than here amongst the townies of Brunswick.)


We see a bigger problem now for the College and College Street.  We’re not a public works type, and we’ve never been professionally involved in street reconstruction.  But somewhere in our past, we came to believe that the black stuff they pave streets with….you know, they dump it out of a truck into a paving machine and roll it out… a petroleum based product.  The asphalt, that is.

Which makes it FOSSIL FUEL derived!  Oh the horror!

What would an intellectually consistent college do?  Demand that College Street be paved with good intentions, cobblestones, planks, or recycled bamboo skewers?  And be prepared to pay for it, no matter the cost?  Or simply live with a dirt road? 


And how about those parking lots they keep adding, multiplying their impervious surface area to intolerable levels?  Intellectual consistency?  Go sell crazy somewhere else.

We can’t wait to watch the public debate on this paving project, and to see how the college puts its money where its mouth is.

And now a public service announcement to the Crookers and Labbes of the area, and others like them who engage in the planet-killing practice of asphalt based road paving: get ready to be made sport of by sign-carrying protesters on the brick-paved sidewalks of Brunswick.

And to the rest of you, start loving those potholes.  They are what ‘climate action’ and ‘societal well being’ look like.

Especially on roads paved with good intentions, even when we don’t know where they’re headed.