Friday, May 31, 2013

Tragedy of the Commons


We attended an event this week where we were given a copy of a relatively short book titled “After the Welfare State,” which in itself is enough to trouble one’s mind.

Turns out you can download the entire book here.

The opening ‘essay’ really caught our attention:

The Tragedy of the Welfare State
By Tom G. Palmer

Many approaches to the welfare state focus exclusively on the intentions of those who support it, or offer mere descriptions of current income transfer programs. This essay draws on the economics of common pool resources to examine the welfare state as a dynamic and evolving system, a “tragedy of the commons” that has created incentives for its own exhaustion.


The welfare state has something in common with fishing. If no one owns and is responsible for the fish in the lake, but one does own all the fish he or she can catch and pull out of the lake, everyone tries to catch the most fish. Each reasons that “if I don’t catch the fish, someone else will.”

Each of us may know that catching lots of fish now means that the lake will be fished out, but so long as others can catch whatever I don’t catch, none of us have an incentive to limit our fishing and let the fish population replenish itself. Fish are caught faster than they can breed; the waters are fished out; and in the end everyone is worse off.

Environmentalists, economists, and political scientists call that the “tragedy of the commons.” It’s a serious problem and is at the root of a great many of the environmental crises facing the world today, from depleted ocean fisheries to air and water pollution and other problems. But it’s not limited to environmental problems.

The welfare state operates like a commons, too, and the tragedy is unfolding as you read this. In modern welfare states, everyone has an incentive to act like the irresponsible fishermen who fish out the lake, except that the resource we’re plundering is each other.

Each person seeks to get as much as he can from his neighbors, but at the same time his neighbors are trying to get as much as they can from him. The welfare state institutionalizes what the French economist Frédéric Bastiat called “reciprocal plunder.”

Because we can plunder each other, people reason, “if I don’t get that government subsidy, someone else will,” and each has an incentive to exploit the resource to exhaustion. They justify taking government funds on the grounds that they’re “just get-ting back what they paid in taxes,” even when some of them are getting a lot more than was ever taken from them.

Everyone has an incentive to take. This tragedy has a dimension not present in the case of the depleted fisheries: because we’re plundering each other, we not only spend resources to plunder our neighbors, but we also spend resources to avoid being plundered by those same neighbors, which makes us all worse off to that extent.

Not only are we plundered, but we are increasingly being plundered beyond all sustainable levels. The result is exhaustion. It’s where we’re heading now with welfare states.

As we read, this passage in particular struck home:

Because we can plunder each other, people reason, “if I don’t get that government subsidy, someone else will,” and each has an incentive to exploit the resource to exhaustion.

While you may have forgotten its relevance, we have not.  This is EXACTLY the argument that many made when the possibility of the state providing ‘free money’ to construct a new elementary school in Brunswick was being discussed.  “We must take that money, because if we don’t, someone else will get what should rightfully be ours.”


This ‘free money’ Tooth Fairy view of reality continues to pervade local thinking as exemplified by Brunswick Clueless United.  The Tooth Fairy is normally presumed to live in the fantasy land that is Augusta, but when it can’t be counted on to send funds from the state house, it’s presumed to have relocated to our ‘town commons.’


So you need to contact your Fairy Godmother and let her know you’re going to need a cash infusion to cover your property tax increases from here on out.  In perpetuity, if that hasn’t already dawned on you.

Tell her ‘it’s for the children.’  It works with everyone else; maybe it will work with her.

Yah, shurr.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Howler of the Week

Everybody needs a good laugh (in) from time to time, and Side may need it more than most, given the dark and humorless underbelly of the subject matter on which we typically report.

So we thought we’d delve into the annals of TV comedy for inspiration.


This week’s “Fickle Finger” goes to Rich Ellis of the Cape Brunswick School Board, who somehow evaded the attention of The Ostrich in the Abelmann op-ed on which we just reported.  But he more than made up for it with this gut-buster stand up routine highlighted in The Forecaster.

The best one-liners include these (punch lines highlighted so you know when to laugh):

Board member Rich Ellis, chairman of the facilities committee, said the meeting will effectively serve as a "reboot" for the board's process on the school facilities plan, because its estimated cost is far more expensive than what the board was expecting.

"The size of the estimate that came back will require us to go back to evaluate our assumptions and our process."

When the board begins discussing the school facilities plan again, Ellis said the bond's impact on taxpayers over the next five to 10 years will be a major consideration.

"How do we roll that into a budget in a way that doesn't adversely impact taxpayers?" he said.

All of which reminds us that there is more than one meaning to the term ‘punch line,’ if you think about it.


We trust you know what straining credulity means.  In case you forgot, see the photo above. 

We know one thing for sure; Ellis has a uniquely personal understanding of what the meaning of “adversely impact taxpayers” is, is.  He’s been the most reliable “money grows on trees” voice of the school board since he was elected. 

He’s found every imaginable distraction to prove that Brunswick is thrifty and spends less than any other town on the planet in its schools, and should be generously rewarded for allowing per student costs to rise from less than $7,000 per student a dozen or so years ago to something like $15,000 per student now.  While at the same time making it clear (in his mind) that whatever budgetary distress we may find ourselves in, it is not a function of spending, but instead, of failure of others to provide whatever is needed to cover the increases.  He’s a real pencil whipper and spread sheet illusionist, twisting himself in knots to convince the public that thrift is at the heart of everything the school department does. 


Who knows; may be he has ambitions for higher office, especially one that may be opening up very soon.  At least he hasn’t yielded (yet) to the three and four name affectation so ‘en vogue’ at his favorite Facebook page, where other school board members, past and present, hang out.

We know this: if he keeps honing and polishing his ‘bits,’ we may be moved to start thinking of School Board Meetings as latter day episodes of Hee-Haw, where they often woke up sleeping dogs with their irreverent ‘shtick.’

Their meetings are beginning to look like an ensemble show anyway, when in the same week you get Ellis and his routine, along with the Chair’s audition as reported in The Ostrich item we posted on earlier today:

School board chairman Jim Grant says he had “no knowledge” of what was discussed during Wednesday night’s executive session, when Brunswick’s top in-school administrator was given a graceful out just weeks before graduation.

It’s amazing what a good swaller from a jug of Kool-Aid can do for you, ain’t it?

We’ll close with a paraphrase of the famous line from Laugh-In, one which our elected betters seem particularly fond of:

“Sock it to them.”

Is the Ostrich Thinking of a Comeback? On the Backs of the School Board?


Consider us officially shocked, shocked we tell you, that

The Times Record,which we anointed The Ostrich some years ago, has published an editorial sharply critical of the Brunswick School Board and School Superintendent.

When we saw the title, we thought it was going to announce the opening of a new gelato shop in town, but it’s not, as you can tell from this opening passage:

Brunswick school officials know a lot more than they’re saying about Art Abelmann.

School board chairman Jim Grant says he had “no knowledge” of what was discussed during Wednesday night’s executive session, when Brunswick’s top in-school administrator was given a graceful out just weeks before graduation.

School board member Connie Perreault, who helped usher in the Abelmann Era in Brunswick despite a hasty exit under cloudy circumstances from his most recent post in Colorado, wouldn’t return our calls.

Paul Perzanoski, he was out of town.

That’s accountability for you.

You can read the entire item here:

We’ll forgive them this time around for identifying one board member as “Connie” Perreault, when she actually goes by the more oh-so-Facebook appellation Corey Perry Perreault.  (Note to the opinion writer: standby to be labeled a pea in a pod, ‘a bully with no backbone,’ as she likes to designate those who annoy her.)

We’ll leave you with three questions:

1)  When will Brunswick Clueless United post the Abelmann fiasco item for all its membership to see?

2)  Will “Connie” rise to the bait, or will she simply shed a public tear of two of disgust over the disrespect and unfair scolding heaped upon her?

3)  Is this a sign that The Ostrich, or in our alternative designation The NOTWIUN, may be thinking of turning a corner?

We think the first question answers itself.  Cluelessness is as cluelessness does.

As to the second question, we suppose it comes down to what she thinks she might accomplish by taking on someone who buys ink by the barrel.  And whether a severe case of the vapors has any lingering effects.

The third question?  Given the pace of decline at Cape Brunswick’s once proud of itself newspaper of one side of the record, we’d say there isn’t much time to see and address the other side of Brunswick.

Which is why we’re here, we continue to remind ourselves.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Glimpse of “Post Racial” America

We read this article yesterday, and found it enlightening.  We’ve heard in recent years that our President is a symbol of Post-Racial America, or at the very least, would take us there.

Thomas Fluharty

We’re not sure what that means, but we’re real sure that the article proves that the premise of the current Presidency is, to borrow a term, pure poppycock.  The writer reports on her experiences at the “Fourteenth Annual While Privilege Conference.”  We can’t imagine what sort of intestinal fortitude it takes to register for, and even more, attend such an event.

Given the article’s heavy emphasis on academia’s involvement in flogging and expanding interest in victimization theory, we find it especially relevant right here in the home of Bowdoin College, where all manner of ‘studies’ programs and majors hold an exalted stature in what remains of the liberal arts.

You’ll have to spend a half hour or more to take it all in, but for those interested in where we’re headed these days, it will be time well spent.  Here’s a brief example:

Back in 1999 the main focus of the White Privilege Conference had been on race. Recently, though, the categories of victims of white supremacy have grown to include such overwhelmingly white groups as feminists and the “LGBT community”​—​or “LGBTQ community,” “LGBTQQ community,” and “LGBTQQIA community”​—​all acronyms used by White Privilege participants at various times (the two “Q’s” stand for “queer” and “questioning,” the “I” for “intersex,” and the “A” for a conventionally heterosexual “ally” of all of the above). This year’s conference also offered yoga classes “especially welcoming to people of size, queer people, and others who might not feel comfortable in conventional yoga classes.” In addition, “gender-neutral” restrooms for those who “opt out of a gender binary system” (in the words of the WPC14 program) are a standard feature of every White Privilege Conference.

We don’t see any indication that aged conservatives deserve special study or consideration as oppressed victims, especially here in Brunswick, where conservatives may be the ne-plus-ultra of all minorities.

We’re not complaining though.  Other Side’s success is, by definition, built on taking the minority view.

And proudly so.

The Wheels on the Bus Come Off, Off, Off….

Almost two weeks ago, we filed this post, and endeared ourselves to the good souls over at Brunswick Clueless United with our reference to the timeless childrens’ song about the wheels on the bus:

In response, Fred Horch kindly alerted the BCU Facebook followers, and promptly boosted Side’s readership, which has continued to hold on to many of the new readers, judging by daily totals.  So thanks again, Fred.

Following up a week later, we posted here that plans had been changed, and that Bowdoin’s good Professor Vladimir Duhovnikoff (VD) and his colleagues would instead be joining in on a demonstration organized by a ‘steering committee’ consisting of:

  • Maine AFL-CIO
  • Maine Education Association
  • Maine People's Alliance
  • Maine State Employee's Association

We added this note:

Remember when we told you about BCU really amounting to Brunswick Community Unionists?  This turn of events only confirms our suspicions, or more to the point, our assertions.

The members of the ‘steering committee’ shown above are, in three cases, unions.  All four are true believers that one’s lot in life (compensation, health care, food, housing, and anything else one would like) should be determined and compelled by the force of law. 

On your behalf, we monitored the news wires and other sources so we could update you on the event.  Wednesday morning, Professor VD reported with great excitement that he was on his way to Augusta for the event with a BCU fellow traveler.  Not long after, he filed a photo from the event, which we found ever so endearing.

Before we could sober up and pass the photo along to you though, we discovered it had been taken down, which puzzled us.  Why would an image of a textbook ‘people’s movement’ suddenly be deemed unfit for public consumption?   We set about investigating what might have happened. 

And we have landed upon a theory.  It derives from this video:

In the video, Leslie Manning, one time senior official in Maine’s Department of Labor, and current Maine Council of Churches Vice President and Board Member, is making a keynote speech, and in the process, advocating for the fusion of church and state. 

We can’t help but wonder whether upon reflection, the good Professor’s sensibilities were offended by this merger of union advocacy and Christian theology, and he had no choice but to take down the photo he took in the excitement of the moment.  Bowdoin, we’re sure, as any enlightened campus must, considers religion to be an opiate of the unwashed masses, rather than a fundamental tenet of big government, union-driven advocacy.  Surely he was conflicted.

Things were no doubt made only worse by those at the gathering who took the other side on matters, as shown in this photo:


For a more detailed report on the event, you can check out this report on the MaineWire.  Note that the video shows City of Augusta School Buses being used to shuttle the assembled union members to and from the demonstration.

We’re left to wonder how many MEA, MSEA, and AFL-CIO members blew off their they employers and their students, demonstrating how little they identify with working people who take their job responsibilities seriously.


Thanks for reminding us of this Professor, even though we had to be on top of our game to get the details. 

And Fred, we’d be grateful for another plug!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PS on Breaking News

Here’s the most recent public message from Mr. Abelmann on the BHS web site:


May is here along with recent beautiful sunny days and enjoyable outdoor home sporting events. As always I enjoy seeing our students participate in co-curricular activities. In fact, Mike Scarpone will tell you that sometimes I end my day by sitting in on one of his rehearsals simply because I enjoy listening to the music. Prom is upon us as is senioritis while graduation is just around the bend. At this time of year, more than usual, I worry about our students making good deci-sions. I met with the seniors and asked that they watch out for each other in order to assure graduation will be a day of celebration. Student attendance complying with the attendance policy along with documentation of community service hours was also an area of focus during the meeting. So many great things happen each and every day here at BHS. Far too many to be able to attend them all and pay tribute to all of our faculty and students for their great work. National Honors Society, TRI-M Honors Society and Vocational Honors Society at Region 10 are some of the events that have highlighted the past month. Finishing the year strong and safe is the message to share with your students. The school year is far from over with the bulk of quarter four still ahead of us. Please mark your calendar for May 16that 7 pm for the next Principal Round Table meeting to take place in the library. I always enjoy the open dialogue and invite you all to attend and to bring a friend. Best wishes toall. Feel free to contact me if I can be of any assistance to you or your student as the school year winds down.

With appreciation and gratitude...Art

Breaking News: BHS Principal Resigns

We have no information on the story behind this report.  We’re simply posting it to make sure you’re up to date on the latest news.

The announcement can be found here.  It seems sudden.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Afterthoughts on DOE Grades for Schools

As we reported in several prior posts, the grades issued by Maine’s Department of Education for government schools across the state were based on a straightforward algorithm for using pre-existing publicly available results from standard test scores to derive an overall ‘letter grade’ that was more than lenient.

School department and teachers union officials were predictably outraged by this approach.  The classic response when it comes to standardized tests is that they ‘distort’ reality, because they cause education ‘professionals’ to ‘teach to the test’ so that scores are maximized at the expense of true learning.

Suppose for a moment that this assertion is true.  Brunswick’s three schools that were graded received two B’s and one C.

If this is the result when ‘teaching to the test’ is the norm, imagine what the scores and results would be if professionals did not ‘teach to the test.’

Would test scores be so low as to result in composite grades of C, or D, or even worse, F?

Shouldn’t we at least expect that if we ‘teach to the test,’ that resulting scores are artificially higher than if we did not ‘teach to the test?’

Does anyone else see a problem here?

Can you really have your cake and eat it too?

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Tonight’s Cape Brunswick Town Council Meeting

There’s a regularly scheduled meeting of the Town Council tonight at Maine Street Station.

We thought you might enjoy taking a look at the ‘information packet’ for the meeting provided for councilors and anyone else who has interest.

You can find the document here.

There are three items in the packet we wish to bring to your attention.

The first is the Richardson resolution, which we told you about yesterday in this post.  We’ll have much more to say on the subject in future columns, including the fact that our own Prince of Distraction is pandering to the Daily Kos crowd with this offering.

For now, we just wish to point out that when the initiative passed, in June 2004, Brunswick schools were spending about $7,800 per student per year.  Now they’re proposing to spend nearly twice that amount in the coming school year.  Coughing up 55% in state funds back then was a hell of lot easier then than it is now.

And, at that time, the Medicaid (Maine Care) caseload was 255,000.  It peaked at 360,000 plus in 2011, and now stands around 330,000, though there is Legislative pressure to enroll another 70,000 people in the program.  The growth in enrolment and costs adds about $200 million in General Fund expenditures alone, and about 3 times that when federal funding is included.

Think this puts any pressure on the State budget and tax revenue, especially in an economy and tax and spending profile that is amongst the worst in the nation?

The second item is disposition of the Federal Street Rec Center, which you can read about on page 3 of the packet document linked above, under New Business Agenda Item 50.  The agenda reads, in part, as follows:

This item is sponsored by Chair Wilson, Councilor Watson, Councilor Tucker, Councilor Favreau, and Councilor Knight. The Council will be considering a resolution that will authorize the Town Manager to sign a purchase and sales agreement with the Brunswick Development Corporation for the sale of the property at 30 Federal Street. The resolution stipulates that the sales price is to be no less than $200,000. The resolution further stipulates that the sales proceeds are to be applied to the 2013-14 budget, specifically to assist the School Department budget.

Backup materials for this item begin at Page 9 of the packet.


A few thoughts on this item:

  • A prime in town location with a still very useful buidling is worth only $200,000?  One might think the bare property alone is worth that or more, but Sally Sellit would have to be the judge of that.
  • Bare property is, in all likelihood what it will become if the sale goes through, in keeping with our town’s penchant for tearing things down when we don’t ‘cherish’ them anymore, or allowing others to do the same after we transfer ownership for a bargain basement price.
  • We note that CEI is starting to use language like “50 new jobs” if the sale goes through.  We’re pretty sure that means that 50 people who now work elsewhere, will work out of the facility in Brunswick.  We don’t expect them to generate 50 new jobs on top of the payroll they already have.
  • Note that as referred to in earlier budget discussions, the municipal side of our government now sees themselves as sugar daddies for the School Department.  Hey, what’s a charitable donation of $200 grand or so to the schools?  They’re really struggling over there, only increasing their spending at more than 6% per year per student, and nobody can get by on that sort of barebones allowance.  Just ask Rich Ellis and others.  Besides, we don’t have any streets to fix, or brick sidewalk trip-holes to repair.
  • The good news is that if CEI takes over the property, it will continue to be non-taxable, so we keep the property tax rolls from growing out of hand.


  • But there is a moral dilemma involved.  One side of the schoolie contingent would dearly love to get their hands on that $200 grand so they can do whatever with it.  The other side of the schoolie contingent is verklempt over the possibility of not having access to the Rec Center and its programs right smack dab exactly where it is.  They’ve even created a web page and petition to make their case.  Of interest is that they say the property is appraised at $465,000; who knows how much Sally could get for it, especially since we have ‘the best schools.’
  • Stand by; this could result in some delicious internecine warfare between various factions of the BCU/schoolie demographic, including those with aspirations for higher office.
  • At the very least, though, note how stewardship of town assets continues to be one of the defining characteristics of Cape Brunswick leadership.  Our history in such matters is long and undistinguished.

The third item is the packet provided details of possible budget reductions.  You’ll find the details beginning on page 31 of the downloaded packet pdf file.

A quick glance should create two impressions.  The first is that both the town and the school department are upping their game when it comes to sandbagging residents on the budget process.  There are, to say the least, some very curious points made, like eliminating ‘debt service for Hawthorne School.’  Was this just an “inadvertent error,” or an intentional plant, or did Vinny have a sit-down wid Tony to rearrange da payments?

The second is the cost of some of the ‘positions’ that were proposed to be added, but are now being put on public display to demonstrate serious fiscal prudence.  Keep in mind that the schools operate for about 185 days a year, or as most of us would think of it, 9 months.

A number of positions shown are in the $70.000 to $80,000 plus range for those months.  A half time elementary school teacher shows as $36,000, or a FTE value of $72,000.  We would suggest that these compensation rates exceed, on a weekly basis, that of most of the senior managers of municipal government.


Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

On ‘Johnny Protocols’ 55% Resolution


We just posted, via email, the message below to the Brunswick Town Council, which will be considering Councilor Richardson’s proposed Resolution at the regular meeting tomorrow night, May 20th.

No walls were damaged in the preparation of the letter, though some might think that the flat spot on our forehead has grown larger.

We expect the letter will have the same effect as our numerous prior pleadings, treatises, and petitions to town officials.  They are nothing if not open to public comment.  Which is why we keep trying.

And why we expect that our next haircut at Leo’s will add to our coverage, rather than subtract from it.  That’s why Leo pays us for coming in, instead of vice versa.


Date: 20 May 2013

To: Brunswick Town Council

Subject: New Business Agenda Item 51, “Resolution Regarding Proposed State Budget Cuts Affecting Revenues to Towns,” sponsored by Councilor Richardson.

From: Pem Schaeffer


The proposed resolution asserts that “the Governor’s unprecedented biennial budget……falls $200 million short of funding local schools at the 55% level passes (sic) in referendum.”

It would seem that by definition, any new proposed budget is ‘unprecedented.’

That aside, the oft-cited 55% figure derives from ballot initiatives in November 2003 and June 2004. In the November 2003 election, voters had the option to approve citizen-initiated legislation, or a competing measure proposed by the Legislature, or to reject both measures.

The first option received the most votes, but not a majority, and as the Maine Constitution requires, was put before the voters as a standalone measure on the June 2004 primary ballot. Known as Ballot Question 1, it was approved by roughly 55% to 45%.

Two useful and relevant resources can be found here:,_Question_1_%28June_2004%29

Quoting from the ballotpedia item,

“The initiated legislation provides that the State shall pay at least 55% of the total costs of public education for kindergarten through grade 12, and 100% of the costs of special education services that are mandated by federal or state law. The proposal does not specify how the State would fund those costs. Instead, it directs the Legislature's taxation committee to report out legislation by March 1, 2004, to generate the additional revenue necessary to achieve these funding levels.”

At the time of passage (June 2004), Councilor Richardson was in his third term in the Maine Legislature, serving as House Majority Leader, a position he rose to in December 2002. In the ensuing legislative term, he served as Speaker of the House (December 2004 – December 2006). During his years in the House, which his party controlled, control of the Maine Senate was also in the hands of his party, as was the Governor’s Office.

The Speaker of the House is arguably the most powerful position in Maine’s State Government, and when combined with a Senate Majority and the Office of Governor, the Speaker has virtually unlimited power, since he controls the legislative agenda.

Speaker Richardson, now Councilor Richardson, with such unprecedented and total power, did not implement or enforce the 55% cost share voters had approved. Yet he wants the current Governor, who is functioning in far more adverse economic conditions, to do what he and his governing monopoly did not.

One might logically ask why now, nine years later, Councilor Richardson has decided that the 55% figure is a timely issue.

Furthermore, Councilor Richardson, in sponsoring this resolution, avoids mention of the Maine Constitution, which reads as follows:

Article VIII.

Part First.


Section 1.  Legislature shall require towns to support public schools; duty of Legislature.  A general diffusion of the advantages of education being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people; to promote this important object, the Legislature are authorized, and it shall be their duty to require, the several towns to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public schools;

That same Constitution includes the following language regarding the oath of office:

Article IX.

General Provisions.

Section 1.  Oaths and subscriptions.  Every person elected or appointed to either of the places or offices provided in this Constitution, and every person elected, appointed, or commissioned to any judicial, executive, military or other office under this State, shall, before entering on the discharge of the duties of that place or office, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation:  "I, do swear, that I will support the Constitution of the United States and of this State, so long as I shall continue a citizen thereof.  So help me God."

"I do swear, that I will faithfully discharge, to the best of my abilities, the duties incumbent on me as according to the Constitution and laws of the State.  So help me God."

Taken together, the Constitutional language renders requiring the State to pay 55% of local education costs unconstitutional, and elected officials who advocate for it in violation of their oath of office.

Moreover, Brunswick’s Town Charter reads as follows:

Section 1208. - Oath of office.clip_image002

Every officer of the town shall, before entering upon the duties of his office, take and subscribe to the following oath or affirmation, to be filed and kept in the office of the town clerk.

"I solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution and will obey the laws of the United States and of the State of Maine; that I will, in all respects, observe the provisions of the Charter and ordinances of the Town of Brunswick, and will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of ____________."

Based on the foregoing Maine Constitution citations, and the oath of office as proscribed in the Brunswick Town Charter, consideration of this Resolution falls outside the bounds of your authority. Proceeding as though it is within your authority amounts to be a clear violation of your oath of office.

These realities will likely not prevent you from acting upon the resolution and approving it. At the very least, however, as you discuss it, you should expect Councilor Richardson to explain his failure to act upon the 55% funding level during better economic circumstances with a ruling monopoly, only to decide that he now strongly supports it several years later, in troubled fiscal circumstances.

His reply should be informative for all of us.


Pem Schaeffer

Brunswick Resident and Taxpayer


Friday, May 17, 2013

Special Bulletin for Those Expecting a Captive Audience on the BCU Bus to Augusta


This past Sunday, we posted a notice that we had invited “the Maine Chapters of the NRA, Tea Party Patriots, Pro-Life America, Home Schoolers United, and Defending Traditional Marriage to mobilize their staffs and membership” to join members of Brunswick Clueless United on their trip to Augusta this Tuesday, May 21st, on a Brunswick School Bus. 

While BCU was planning to lobby for more state spending, we saw the trip as a chance for the above organizations to engage in face-to-face dialogue with engaged citizens in a non-distracting situation.

Shortly after publishing our most recent post, we instructed our reporting staff to update us on the plans for the trip.  To say they came back to us verklempt would be an understatement.


What they found is this:

Dear Invitees. In order to team up with a statewide movement with similar goals we have decided to cancel the Tuesday bus trip and instead promote the following event. We will not be arranging transportation but hope that  you can attend:

Rally for Maine's Middle Class

Please Join the Rally!

Next week citizens from across Maine will gather at the State House to call on legislators to adopt a budget that strengthens the middle class, supports small businesses, and creates pathways to success for Maine children and families.

May 22, 2013
Courtyard between the State House and the Cross Office Building

12:00 Noon

Governor LePage's proposed budget includes property tax increases and a massive tax shift onto local communities that puts funding for education, health care, and public safety at risk -- all to pay for his tax cuts for the wealthy.

Join the rally to tell legislators that Maine needs a fair share budget.

Call Jenna at XXX-XXX-XXXX for more information.

Or RSVP online at http: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx. The rally is organized by Fair Share Now, a coalition of organizations working to make sure Maine's tax system is fair and to bring about a responsible budget solution. For more information about the Fair Share Now Campaign: www.yyy.yyyyy.yyy

Field Trip To Augusta

(specific contact info encrypted for security purposes)

What we can tell you is that the organization sponsoring this event has a ‘steering committee’ consisting of:

  • Maine AFL-CIO
  • Maine Education Association
  • Maine People's Alliance
  • Maine State Employee's Association
Remember when we told you about BCU really amounting to Brunswick Community Unionists?  This turn of events only confirms our suspicions, or more to the point, our assertions.

The members of the ‘steering committee’ shown above are, in three cases, unions.  All four are true believers that one’s lot in life (compensation, health care, food, housing, and anything else one would like) should be determined and compelled by the force of law. 

While the Bowdoin College Faculty has not yet signed on, it shouldn’t be too long before they do, unless, that is, they prefer to have their market value determined by the market.

As we said in this post, never forget that it’s ‘about the children.’


Which is why we believe this youngster is so disappointed about the cancellation of Tuesday’s trip.

Maybe someone can put on a silly hat to make the poor kid laugh.


The Plunger on the Bus Goes Up and Down, Up and Down, Up and Down…

File this post under:

Good Professor Duhovnikoff Wants You For the Brunswick Clueless Bus Trip To Augusta

We say that, of course, because the gesture, and the gesture alone, is reminiscent of the classic Uncle Sam poster from the World War II era.

And trust us; this is, in fact, a photo of the Professor and his friends, shown on his Facebook page.  (Don’t you just love social media?)

(We ended up using “up and down, up and down, up and down” in the post title because we couldn’t figure out how to ‘spell’ the sound a plunger makes when you pump it up and down.)

As you can see, the Professor is clearly plunging himself into the organizing task with everything he’s got.  He’s hoping to unclog the money pipe between Augusta and Brunswick.  But there’s a risk; you never know what you’re going to pull back up on the backstroke.

We’re not sure if the Professor is just a wild and crazy guy, or is forming a Boy George and the Culture Connection cover band.  On the other hand, this could be he and his fellow bus riders rehearsing their act for Tuesday’s trip to Augusta.

If it is, we’ve got to say that based on our experience in the Capitol, we think the parasols may be a bit over the top.  And while the posies atop the plunger bring out the color in the Professor’s eyes, the black nail polish is a distraction.  The first rule of theater costuming, Professor, is to keep the focal points to a minimum.  Otherwise, they aren’t focal points.

We’re thinking the Professor might be taken more seriously by elected officials in Augusta if he goes with headwear more like this:

There’s still plenty of time to have a local milliner craft a likeness of the Maine Statehouse with a Brunswick School Bus posed in front.

If he thinks that’s too sedate, he can always go for a bit more flash by taking inspiration from these political activists strutting their grievances:

Note how their ensembles are fully coordinated to maximize the optics, as they call it these days.  The look is ever so Facebook!

We suppose there’s a chance the Professor and his fellow bus-riders, steeped as they are in old New England traditions, might actually prefer something more refined for a visit to the ruling elite, in which case we would suggest this lovely creation, or something similarly reserved, to ensure all with whom they meet take them seriously:


By the way, to those riding along on Tuesday, make sure you’ve got some spending cash with you.  We understand the School Department charges $300 to rent the bus and a driver, though we’re a bit perplexed as to how they can do this on a busy school morning. Is it possible we have more buses and drivers than we actually need?

Anyway, for those of you troubled by math, if there are 10 of you riding along, your share will be $30 a person.  We don’t expect NRA members, and the others we’ve invited, to chip in, since they aren’t really ‘fellow travelers.’  And more than likely, they feel they’re already paying more than their ‘fair share’ for the bus.

One last thing; if the Professor and his team meet with some resistance when they arrive in the seat of our government, they can always say ‘speak to the plunger, ‘cause the face ain’t listening.’


(Ed. note: a special Other Side shout-out to Fred Horch, who has single-handedly doubled the daily traffic (with several hours still to go) on our humble reporting service.  Don’t you just love social media?)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Alms! Alms for the Teachers!

Any of you who’ve followed School Budget deliberations over the years know that one of the all time favorites for getting the taxpayers to wring their hands and open their checkbooks is to mention how “teachers had to spend their own money to buy supplies for their classrooms.”

You know, spending has been ‘cut to the bone’ so many times that there’s not a pittance left for supplies.  Generally, we hear this lament from parents who are in thrall to sainted teachers and their horrible plight.

We’ve become aware that this concept has taken root in support groups at our elementary schools.  These support groups hold various fund raising campaigns to generate money for their ‘outreach.’  Outreach in this case meaning annual cash payments to teachers to ‘reimburse’ them for supplies they purchase for their classrooms.

As we understand it, no receipts are required, and payments to the teachers are in the range of $100 each.  On top of these payments, the support groups from time to time also provide breakfast treats, such as Frostys Donuts, or hot breakfasts, for school staff.  Or maybe even a pot luck lunch.

All well and good, you might think, as is your right.  We take exception, however, with the belief that teachers “need'” to be reimbursed for classroom supplies.  Why?

Here are just a few reasons:

1)  Per student expenses have been increasing at an average of 6.3% per year for the last dozen or so years.  From less than $7,000 per student then, to more than $15,000 in the coming year.  And yet there isn’t money for pencils and paper?  Are you kidding?

2)  Over the same period, the school budget has grown from about $22 million to $35 million for the coming year.  With an increase of about $2 million for the proposed budget on the table.  Again – and there isn’t money for pencils and paper and other ‘necessary’ classroom supplies?

3)  How about asking parents to provide necessary supplies for their student children?  Wouldn’t this be a good lesson in paying for what you use or consume?

4)  While figures vary depending on step and advanced education, teachers on average get salary increases each and every year, by contract, in the range of $1500 to more than $2500.  On top of this, taxpayers pick up about 90% of the increase in the cost of their benefits.  No merit or performance measures figure into these increases.  Surely annual automatic increases like this more than compensate for $100 in supplies, if in fact that is even being spent.

Which reminds us of this disturbing fact: there is a “Share Center” in Topsham where teachers can go to pick up supplies.  The support group paid a considerable sum to this Center at the start of the school year so that teachers could pick up supplies there free of charge.  But guess what – apparently no teacher wanted to take advantage of the free supplies, paid for by the support groups that also plan to make cash payments to the teachers.

Isn’t that just peachy keen?  It’s not enough that teacher compensation, per student spending, and total budget dollars increase relentlessly over the years, or that support groups pay in advance to provide free supplies at a Share Center.

Nope, that’s not good enough.  Alms must be paid directly to the teachers for supplies they may, or may not have actually purchased.


Wow; what a great lesson in stewardship and responsible business practices.

And always remember……’it’s for the children.’

No, shut up.  Do not make us tell you again: ‘IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN.’


From A Teacher: Top 10 Ways to Improve Our Schools


There was a flurry of activity a few weeks ago when DOE issued their grades for Maine’s government schools.  Strangely, the buzz seems to have subsided, and we’re not sure why.

We have a school teacher friend, with whom we were discussing this subject.  At some point in the discussion, we asked our friend what are the “Top Ten” ways our schools could be improved?

Our friend took the question seriously, and put considerable effort into a response, which we are providing for your edification.  We commend the list to you as worthy of reflection and further discussion.  And we hope those engaged locally in educating our children will take note.

1. Society needs to value education. I don't mean more money, I mean to put education first. Children are our future and we need them to be the best they can be, so our country stays strong.

2. Society needs to demand all subjects be taught with equal rigor, instead of blowing off science and social studies because they aren’t tested.

3. Society's expectations must be high for its graduates. Low expectations give way to low outcomes. You shouldn’t get a blue ribbon for showing up. It must be earned. The sooner that lesson is driven home, the better results we will get from students.

3. Society must also accept that not every kid is a sit and take notes all day learner. If we really valued education, then in high school we would have internships for students that put them in the working world where they would learn what they needed through experience and a real (to them) need to know. Book concepts are still abstract to some kids; the real world where they will need the concepts drives it home better than a classroom. Besides, they could check out different professions, both blue and white collar, to see how their interests could lead them to a meaningful career.

4. Society needs to demand life long learning. Schools should teach students to think, to know where to find information and know if it's valid and reliable. If not, where else to look. It goes back to 'Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach him to fish, he eats forever.'

5. Parental involvement - parents have the responsibility to make sure their child is doing what they must to do well in school. It may mean emailing and or calling teachers everyday. It may mean a parent has to sit down with a child doing homework instead of watching TV. Parents need to make sure there are consequences at home for not doing their best. Doing their best also includes behavior. No student has the right to interfere with the learning of another.

6. Teachers need to make the classroom a safe place to make mistakes. Teach in a variety of ways to meet the different learning styles and rates for each kid. It may mean an individual learning plan for each kid outside the main group of learners. Teachers need to communicate with parents. Teachers need to support parental rights. If Mom has said no computer, the teacher needs to come up with a different way to teach that child, not ignore the parent and let them use the computer just because it's easier.

7. If a teacher isn't doing their job, there needs to be a plan in place to help strengthen their weaknesses. After a school year, if the problems still exist, they are told to leave. Maine doesn't have tenure, but it can take up to two years to get rid of a failing teacher, which is much too long. We are supposed to be professionals.

8. Administrators need to work with parents to solve any problems that arise, be it with a teacher, a student who isn't doing as they should, or a school policy.

9. Administrators need to support teachers. We send kids to the office for misbehavior and Administration often says “don't do it again,” and erases consequences assigned by teachers. They need to listen to parents concerns about school policies, grades, bullying, etc, and do their best to make any necessary changes. Kids need to feel safe at school to do their best.

10. Administrators must make sure the standards assigned to each grade level are being taught, and with enough rigor.  They need to sit in on classes taught as often as possible. They need to observe each teacher in the building at least once a grading period. They must work with the weak teachers to set up any support plans needed as a result of evaluations.

So there you have it, and we thank our friend for the effort put into this list.

As an added bonus, here’s an interesting recent article that talks to the issue of teaching staff, and how a Union Leader in New Haven grabbed the bull by the tail and faced the situation.  You’ll probably be very surprised by what you read.

The opening passage:

The end of the school year is usually a happy time, but not for David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers. He’s getting ready to have difficult conversations with some of his members, teachers who have flunked the Connecticut school district’s yearlong evaluation process. Cicarella will tell them the union won’t defend them, even if they have tenure. It’s time for them to look for another job.

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MaineWire Op-Ed: Life, Liberty, and Tax Reform

The opening passage:

I’d like to discuss the so-called Gang of Eleven’s LD 1496, designated “An Act to Modernize and Simplify the Tax Code.”

This bill should actually be named “An Act to Increase Tax Revenues While Sponsors Croon ‘Don’t Tax You, Don’t Tax Me, Tax the One Behind That Tree.’”

Another passage further on:

The first school of thought holds that Government is the highest expression of humanity.  To this group, Government is good; more Government is better; and all-pervasive, all-encompassing, all-consuming Government is best.  They believe that private property is a crime and that capitalism is evil.  They’d outlaw both, and replace the latter if only they could find an alternative to finance their coercive utopia.  In their view, there is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man or woman.

Read the entire item here:

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

“The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, Round and Round, Round and Round…..”


On Friday, we reported that Good Professor Douhovnikoff, on behalf of Brunswick’s United Distracters and Clueless, is:

“organizing a ‘field trip’ to Augusta, apparently to impress authorities in the Capitol with the fact that unconstrained spending growth means nothing; that only state revenue is at the core of school budget problems.”

The trip is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21st.

The child-like sophistication of the group’s grasp of the realities involved, and the Bowdoin-inspired ‘critical thinking’ they display to taxpayers, reminded us of the classic children’s song “The Wheels on the Bus.”

It took just a moment to find this inspired version on YouTube, which perfectly captures the innocence of our local zealots.

Well, wouldn’t you just know it!  The group is using a publicly funded School asset to make the trip.  Here’s the blurb on the ‘invitation’ web page, posted by the Professor himself, the self-identified ‘host’ (emphasis ours, silliness his):

For several years now our municipalities and school districts have seen shrinking budgets, increased layoffs, programmatic cuts, and reduced ability to provide quality services to our most vulnerable. A major factor in this budgetary stress is the continued reduction of state funding support to our communities which has resulted in an exhaustive demand on local property tax revenue.  It is time we let Augusta know the strain our communities are experiencing. While we are not promoting any particular policy, we do believe that any solution will involve state provided relief. Join us on our field trip to Augusta where we plan to explain our dire budgetary situation to our state representatives.

We are going to Augusta because if the state doesn't act our community will be forced to:

- Once again make deep cuts (sic) classroom and educational programs

- Once again severely cut essential municipal services

- Once again dramatically increase the property tax burden on our community

We are going to Augusta because we, as the elected municipal representatives, residents, and taxpayers of Maine have an obligation to maintain essential local services, ensure a quality education for our children, and contain the property tax burden.

We will be traveling in a Brunswick school bus and our target departure time is 9 am with a likely return before 12:30.

To repeat, the trip is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21st.

We’re straining to keep our heart contained in our chest, because Professor Klingle and Sally Sellit have already signed up for the trip.

The good news is that since a publicly funded School department asset is being used to make the trip, any and all are welcome to come along.  No one can be denied passage.  Equality of access is the watchword, and we know Professor D will zealously stand up for equal treatment under the law.

If you have no idea what a ‘captive audience’ is, show up for the trip to find out.  We’re grateful to Superintendent Perzanoski and School Board Chairmyn Jim Grant for authorizing use of the public assets we’ve entrusted them with, because it means everyone can engage in ‘direct action organizing’ on the trip to and from Augusta.  Without the usual distractions and unseemly posturing of public meetings.  There’s nothing like getting face to face with someone to make your points, right?

We’ve already invited the Maine Chapters of the NRA, Tea Party Patriots, Pro-Life America, Home Schoolers United, and Defending Traditional Marriage to mobilize their staffs and membership for the ride.  Their support will make it difficult for sign-carrying gorillas and elephants to find seats for the trip, but we can always ask “Paul” and “Jim,” as they’re known to town councilors, to authorize more buses!

Let’s meet them all at the station with “it’s the spending, stupid” signs, and pictures of the 500 pound gorilla and the elephant.  We may even bring a few dozen of Frosty’s finest to nourish those who come to engage in one-on-one democracy.

Don’t you just love social media?  We sure do, because it makes it so easy to get EVERYBODY engaged and involved!

As the Professor says, “spread the word!”  Please go to the invite page and let him know you plan to ride along!  The more the merrier.  Or if you prefer, keep it a secret, so we can see the look on his face when unexpected throngs show up.

With enough support, who knows; this idea just might catch fire and take off.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Distracters of Cape Brunswick, Unite! Get on the Bravo Sierra Bus!


OK, so now you know what the gorilla looks like.  But he still is described this way:

It’s about the spending, Silly!”

An authoritative source called us (on background) to report that Professor Douhovnikoff is organizing a ‘field trip’ to Augusta, apparently to impress authorities in the Capitol with the fact that unconstrained spending growth means nothing; that only state revenue is at the core of school budget “problems.”

The Professor and Ms. Singer, the union organizer, made mention of such an idea Monday night, and now it’s coming to fruition.

We don’t know whether the school department will be brazen enough to provide a yellow school bus to carry them there, but we wouldn’t be surprised.

On the other hand, the bus below might be more appropriate, and they can probably rent or borrow it from other ‘community organizers’ in Maine, dude.

Or if they really want to make the case that austerity is killing the Brunswick school system, they could take a bus like this:

We’re confident that someone will take copious photos/video of their most excellent adventure.

We only have one question: will Johnny Protocols be driving the bus?  To those who want to ride, if he asks for a $5 donation to cover the fare, make sure you don’t sign anything.

Brunswick Clueless United (and others): Living Up to Our Low Expectations.

We’re joined today by a 500 pound gorilla.  The gorilla doesn’t want to have his face shown, but he’s given us permission to describe him this way:

It’s about the spending, Silly!”

We begin with some quotes to set the stage for what follows.                   

Mental floss prevents truth decay. Ben Franklin observed, "One of the tragedies of life is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts."

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."


We don’t know if you’re paying attention, but if you are, you’ve got to be astonished by what you’re seeing, although angry makes a lot more sense.  It’s becoming very hard for us to remain civil, and be the sweetheart you expect us to be, in the face of pure cockamamie balderdash, especially in public meetings.  And worse – blatant and unashamed attempts to distract, deceive, and misinform the taxpaying public.  Using the word “Silly” should tell you we’ve got a grip on our decorum; there were at least five other words we would rather have used.

We’ve mused before about renaming the one time Brunswick Community United to Brunswick Community Unionists, because their reap purpose is to serve as a front for teachers union interests.  (See this.)  This characterization stems from the occupations of the husband wife team behind it, Sarah Singer and John Kosinski.

After what’s gone on in the last week or so, we’re struggling over whether to rename it yet again….to Brunswick Clueless United, or perhaps Brunswick Distracters United.

Why?  Because the primary phenomena on display in school budget discussions are cluelessness and distraction.  Same old, same old. We can explain.

First, flash backward to this past Monday night.  We posted our testimony here.  We were the first to speak during the budget hearing part of the meeting.

It’s about the spending, Silly!”

Damn that gorilla! 


Sarah Singer, the community organizer, union activist, and BCU principle followed not long thereafter, speaking for her organization.  She came before the council, she said, “heavy hearted.”  She said we have “behavioral issues in kindergarten and first grade” that need to be addressed.  She complained about “tax relief for the wealthy,'” the standard clap-trap of big government groupies.


What she failed to say was that tax relief, miniscule as it may be, went to those who pay the taxes, which seems kind of logical to us.  She’d like tax relief to go to those who pay no taxes.  Clueless is as clueless does.

Singer then proceeded to blame things on the state, demanding that Augusta needs to “level the playing field” in education funding.  Talk to the gorilla, Sarah, because this reporter isn’t listening.  And when you’re done, check the Maine State Constitution, which says the following, in Article VIII, Part First:

Section 1.  Legislature shall require towns to support public schools; duty of Legislature.  A general diffusion of the advantages of education being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people; to promote this important object, the Legislature are authorized, and it shall be their duty to require, the several towns to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public schools;

Then she took issue with our assertion that equating education spending to education excellence is, well, bleep-bleep.  She asserted that as her husband argues in the official MEA response (see here), “the wealth of the community correlates with the grade” received by the schools, and that’s why “Cape Elizabeth has higher grades.”

Nice going, Silly.  Socio-economic status (wealth of the community) and spending on schools are two completely different things. Check your husband’s thesis to prove the point.  You do realize that it was about household socio-economic factors, right?  Couldn’t you at least try to pay attention to our discussion, instead of just knee-jerking in response?  Couldn’t you at least try to understand your husband’s official distraction on behalf of the union? 

We had clearly pointed out that per student spending for the coming year is proposed at $1,100 more than the current year, at $15,400, compared to $6,500 at the start of this century.  And how if cost increases per student had been held to 5% a year, we’d have a budget proposal $5 million less than the one before us.

Couldn’t you at least try to deal in facts, rather than emotion?


If you don’t want to face the facts, Ms. Singer, please come back to an upcoming budget session and explain to Brunswick families how they’ll have to double their household incomes and live in bigger and better houses if they want their children to do better in school.  And then be prepared to explain how they can make that happen.  And they can sign your petition to change the town’s name to Cape Brunswick.

Along those same lines, do you believe that if your home budget is out of whack, and your credit card balances are at the max, that your employer has an obligation to pay you more?


It’s about the spending, Silly!”

There he is again; we apologize.


Next, let’s review the comments of Bowdoin Professor Vladimir Douhovnikoff, who seemed to be channeling his colleague Matthew Klingle.  Here are some highlights:

- “after years of cutting”

- “we need a sober budget”

- “bleeding needs to be stopped”

- “we need new sources of revenue”

He was quoted in the BDN this way:

“he told councilors they have “a moral responsibility [to support the schools] and the institutions that define who we are as a town.”

We seem to recall that last phrase from the past….was it Professor Klingle, the earnest liar, or perhaps Rich Ellis?  Either way, are you saying, Professor, that a 6.3% annual increase in per student spending is immoral?  And that letting existing schools fall into disrepair and crumble defines who we are as a town?

Funny; that’s exactly what we were thinking.

Tell you what, Professor.  Why don’t you look at the passage above from the Maine State Constitution, and our post about spending growth.  And then talk to the gorilla.  Growth in per student spending is growth in per student spending, completely independent of revenue sources.  And the more you spend, the more revenue you need overall; the less you spend, the less you need.  It shouldn’t be that hard for you to separate the two sides of the ledger.  And to conclude that spending drives everything else.

Between this Professor’s and Professor Klingle’s fast and loose treatment of facts, especially as it relates to ‘years of cutting,’ we’re beginning to embrace a completely new understanding of what academic freedom means.  Up until recent years, we hadn’t thought it encompassed bald-faced lying.

And you’re convinced global warming theory espoused by academics is inarguable?


Other speakers included Sally Sellit and various BCU cheerleaders.  One suggested the town should shift funds targeted for McClellan Building adaptation to the School Department.  Apparently, she’s as clueless as the rest of the group, and in complete denial over the realities of spending increases.

A pediatrician rose to speak, citing numerous problems in our schools, including “disruptive behavior on a daily basis.”  She said we have “amazing educators;” can you tell us how you know Dr. Goodwin?  She said that funding for education is “under attack,” and that we need a “thoughtful budget, not slashing.”  Children are entering our schools “inadequately prepared for kindergarten,” she said, and pressed the need for home visitation, interventions, head start, etc.  She worried that many kids would have “unstructured summers.”  She said past commitment has made Brunswick “an exceptional district,” to which we again offer our standard reply: how do you know, and by what measures?

She was cited this way in a Forecaster article:

In a letter supporting the school budget, another constituent said she "was struck that this was the first year in several where the focus was on education, not slashing budgets."

"This is the time to act to ensure we continue to support our children and educators," Alyssa Goodwin wrote, "in a way that allows them to provide the quality education Brunswick parents and residents expect."

So in the good Doctor’s mind, in the last “several” years, we’ve been “slashing budgets.”  How about some proof, Doctor?  And that second statement…couldn’t you try to use some specifics, instead of nothing but emotional trigger words like ensure, support, our children, quality, and expect?

Shouldn’t a Doctor, particularly, be expected to know what she’s talking about, and avoid using rhetoric in place of facts.

None-the-less, what she had to say reinforces that we have a very large and growing problem in our schools, and she confirmed that they are becoming social service agencies, with her full support and encouragement.

We can only guess at the root causes, as we’re sure you can.  But we can also say with certainty that this cannot continue; it’s simply unsustainable, and will continue to further erode achieving the core mission of education. 

‘Behavioral intervention’ in kindergarten?  Either something is poisoning our children’s behavior, or adults are becoming totally inept at dealing with childhood.  Or both.  Either way, if things are as these folks describe, it’s time to call ‘all stop,’ and get to the bottom of this.  Rather than think that just throwing money at it will make it go away.  The survival of desirable communities demands it.

When pediatricians talk about kindergarten aged kids having “unstructured summers” as a problem, and something that government needs to fix, you get a glimpse of just how far gone things have become.

We don’t want to end this discussion without bringing up Brunswick’s own Prince of Distraction (and other things), ‘Johnny Protocols’ Richardson, who currently serves as a Town Councilor in Waiting.

You know him; he’s the one who responded as a legislator to an op-ed of ours by saying that “nobody was responsible” when Gov. Baldacci’s first biennium budget started off at $1.2 Billion more than the prior budget.  And then was quick to cite his role in resolving the gap.

He’s the one who as Commissioner of Maine’s DECD told the town council that he “was in discussions with” at least a dozen “Fortune 500 Companies” about coming to Brunswick.

He’s the one who told us that Maine’s budget problems were caused by a decrease in federal funding, when federal funding to the state demonstrably grew by leaps and bounds during those years.  You know, he said, in so many words, it’s not the spending, it’s that others aren’t shipping us enough ‘revenue’ to pay for it.

Take a look at this passage, again from a Forecaster article:

Councilor John Richardson asked Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski if there is any way his department could publish a document that shows the different kinds of revenue the town has lost over time.

The Superintendent thanks you for serving up that distracting puffball, Johnny.  And for reinforcing the argument that spending has nothing to do with things.  And for not knowing that he has done that over and over, councilor.

Cue the gorilla.

It’s about the spending, Silly!”

No matter; Perzanoski was ready to return the lobbed serve:

"It's significant to know this is not just the reduction in state aid for Brunswick," Perzanoski responded. 

(Ed: but let’s not mention the loss of 1,000 students)

"This is the removal of impact aid of the base closing; this is the loss of approximately a million dollars in tuition that we used to get each year from Durham due to consolidation. 

(Ed: the impact aid was around 25% of our per student costs, so we were losing money hand over fist on the military kids; and the Durham kids weren’t bringing their full cost with them either.)

So if you put all those three things together, like you said in the past, this is the perfect financial storm."

(Ed: if you put all these things together, and look at the truth, you realize we should be coming out ahead.  But thanks for letting us turn it into a perfect rhetorical storm, Johnny.)

Now, if we could only get Johnny to probe why spending has grown to $4,000 more per student than the national average.  And why per student costs grow by more than 6% a year.  That would be a ‘perfect cross examination storm.’


If after reading this, your heart is bleeding, swallow three of these and call your doctor in the morning.


A few quotes to close with:

As T.S. Eliot said, more than fifty years ago: "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm -- but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."

"A third danger is timidity. Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence.”  - Robert F. Kennedy