Thursday, October 31, 2013

Maine Teachers Union “surprised” by roosting chickens

Word has reached us that the Maine Education Association, otherwise known as the Maine Teachers Union, is having some heartburn with the “Affordable Care Act.”  The linked article begins with this:

In a recent letter to members of the Maine Education Association, MEA Benefits Trust Executive Director Christine Burke said many aspects of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, “may not make [teachers] happy.” These include “aspects” that will cause many active members and retirees to lose their current coverage.

Somehow this made us think of chickens.


Chickens, for the most part, are cuddly, trouble-free critters, as shown above.  Occasionally, however, they’re known to lay square eggs, and having this variety come home to roost can lead to a lot of unpleasant squawking. 

As you can see in this item:

MEA on Obamacare

which makes the point that union officials are

working with our Senate delegation and with the National Education Association to see if we can either change the law or get an exemption from this part of the ACA.

Well isn’t this just special.  Obviously the NEA and their subordinates in the MEA consider themselves part of an elite, connected class that deserves to be excused from laws the little people are compelled to obey.  Just like Federal employees, members of Congress and their staffs, and the major labor unions who are largely responsible for seeing that the head chicken breeder got elected, not once, but twice. 

We suspect the same folks were outraged that some in Washington were recently working hard to ‘change the law,’ but those doing so weren’t wearing the right colored uniforms when they did.  And besides, it’s ‘settled law,’ right?

So we hope you’ll excuse us if we turn our other beak towards the cackles and clucking going on.  And suggest that members of the Teachers Unions put on their big boy pants and big girl knickers and realize that not everything their union czars support and fund is destined to ‘make teachers happy.’


We hope they appreciate this ‘experiential learning’ exercise.  And come to understand just how much the rest of us enjoy being compelled to abide by central government’s edicts. 

Though we don’t see any hints of a ‘lesson learned’ in the MEABT article.  Which makes us worry that teachers may be slow learners.

That’s not a very comforting thought, is it?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Something to think about…part II.

On Friday, we posted this item.  Surely you’ve had enough time to think about it, and so has Shirley.

One of our readers commented that she was a bona fide member of the 99%, as are 99% of us, if you accept the tautological premise of the concept.

But it’s not a matter of income that creates the ideological divide; it’s the fact that the so-called ‘Occupiers’ believe that the 1% should pay for all the government provided goodies that the 99% take advantage of.  You know; social justice, economic justice, fairness, equity, etc.

Never-mind that about half of the population pays essentially for ALL the benefits and entitlements that the entire population enjoys via the federal income tax revenue base.  That’s only fair, right?

Well, now that you’ve had enough time to think about our question, we have this follow-up query for you.

Does the $247,000 grant to Brunswick Taxi amount to ‘corporate welfare,’ ‘crony capitalism,’ ‘targeted tax loopholes,’ and last but not least, ‘special treatment for favored interests?’  Does the similarly benevolent treatment of Gelato Fiasco, Cool As A Moose, Frosty’s Donuts, the BDA (and the recipients of their generosity), the MRRA, and the Brunswick Farmers Market equate to specially targeted ‘corporate welfare’ and/or special treatment for favored interests?

If not, why not?  But if so, what are the zealots who oppose such preferential treatment going to do about it?

Or is this as we’ve observed before?  You know; all elected officials are SOB’s, except for OUR local elected SOB, who is a devoted public servant. 

And all recipients of corporate welfare, paid for by unfairly penalized taxpayers, are an example of government corruption.  Except for those recipients who benefit from local economic development ‘investments.’  Which amounts to a ‘tempest in a teapot,’ according to our council chair.

Oh what fun it is to have your cake and eat it too.  Come to think of it, that’s a great business model to merit BDC funding. 

We’ll start working on a concept, and you can two.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Does anyone smell sausage cooking?

Brunswick sausage, that is.


We’re sitting here all mopey, enjoying the afterglow of two hours in the dentist’s chair this morning to have a couple of implants put in.  It was quite a thrill; watching the use of a clicking ratchet under our hood, as it were, as if we were an engine having new spark plugs installed. 

Lord knows the old ones had lots of miles on them, and were fouled pretty badly.  So our editorial voice was not firing on all cylinders.  Fully synchronized internal combustion is still some months off.

Chance presented us with a day old edition of The Ostrich while we were there.  (We can’t help but wonder whether Chance and Shirley are acquainted!)

In it, we found two items that inspire continued confidence in the citizenry and governance of our perfect little town.

One was an update on the status of the move to our new “town hall,” the Bowdoin McClellan Building, and the continued slow-rolling of those involved in finally telling us what the final bill will be.  Town Manager Gary Brown is at the head of that list, and reportedly would not disclose the estimated figure, as councilors Benet Pols and John Perreault had requested. 

But Brown went so far as to say “preliminary numbers ARE NOT WAY OUT OF LINE with what was presented in the CIP,” which is about $800,000, according to the report.

We certainly feel better about things given that confidence builder; how about you?  Maybe it’s time for Pols and Perreault to remember that Brown works for the council, rather than the other way around.  Perhaps they should have directed Brown to provide the estimate, since he’s clearly seen information, instead of requesting it.

But hey; nobody likes making waves, right?

The other item was a letter supporting the candidacy for the town council of a local real estate saleslady .  You can see our thoughts on her candidacy here and here.

We understand that editors of The Ostrich are generally not conversant in the gritty realities of town operation, nor are they likely to challenge offerings that support town status quo, or status quo plus, if you get our drift.  They reserve their umbrage for those of us who challenge the status quo, which is why this ‘media outlet’ was born.

And we also understand that candidates frequently draft their own endorsement letters, and then ask others to submit them as their own.  In this case, the distinction doesn’t matter, because when the assertions in the endorsing submission are clearly and blatantly false, both parties get to share in the blame and the shame.

For example, when the author says as follows:

I might get to a handful of Town Council meetings each year, but Jane is almost always there, and prepared with insightful notes, comments and questions.

And follows up with this:

She’s never afraid to challenge the council with tough questions about the projects the town is engaged in — even if it means ruffling feathers.

In view of such words, you know for a fact that the writer, and the editor who approved the submission, are both totally clueless to the conduct of Town Council meetings, and how the public gets to participate in them.

We’ve testified at our share of such meetings, almost always ‘prepared with insightful notes, comments and questions.’  Anyone else who has done so knows full well that you don’t get to say your piece at any time on any subject, and you are especially wasting your time if you ask a question. 

No one on the council is going to respond to any question, unless they decide to demonize the testifier for even asking it.  Which has happened to us on more than one occasion.

So we unequivocally dismiss the letter supporting Jane as a contrived, misinformed, and horribly unsubstantiated endorsement.  And a shameful indicator of The Ostrich’s current day editorial integrity and reportorial rigor.

And we ask again, with no expectation of a meaningful response, ‘where’s Jane when it really counts?’


Jane may be running, but it looks to us like she’s running away from, rather than towards, a better Brunswick for all of us.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Something to think about….for the interested reader

Cape Brunswick is rife with those who pushed to overturn the Citizens United decision.  While we haven’t seen them in some weeks, we also have had local advocates who visibly side with the “Occupy Movement” and claim to be members of ‘the 99%.’

These souls, devoted to ‘social and economic justice,’ deplore corporate welfare, targeted tax loopholes, crony capitalism, and other forms of special treatment for those favored interests who have friends in the right places.  At least as they see it.

In respect of these inclinations, we ask you, our readers, where you stand on such matters, and where you think the Cape Brunswick population at large stands as well.

We hope you’ll mull this over and get back to us with your views.

Technorati Tags: ,,

School Board Incumbent/Candidate Rich Ellis checks in

And then there were three…..

Rich Ellis, the incumbent District 1 School Board member, who is also running for re-election in a contest against Byron Watson, has submitted his answers.  So he gets an


And we thank him for his interest and the effort he put in to his response.

Rich sent us a seven page document, which even by our loose standards, is a bit long for posting here on the ‘front page.’  So we’re going to post his document on scribd, while tempting you with his answer to question 1 and 2 here.

The Other Side of Town Candidate Forum: Rich Ellis
1. Do you think the Brunswick School Department exercises responsible stewardship of our physical building assets?

Since joining the School Board in January 2011, I have had frequent opportunity to interact with the Director of Facilities, Paul Caron. During this time, his abilities have been well demonstrated in our work with contractors on the Harriet Beecher Stowe project, with architectural and engineering firms on the Facilities Master Plan Study, within our budget workshops and in the day to day work related to various items such as the implementation of security systems and energy efficiency throughout our system.

The primary gap that we have with our facilities is one that has been created by a historical tendency for Brunswick not to invest, or adequately plan for, large and required periodic maintenance projects related to our facilities. One quick example that comes to mind is the boiler system at Jordan Acres.

This system was installed at Jordan Acres the year the facility opened in 1972 and was still in operation some 40 years later up until the school was closed in 2012. The problem is not that the School Department stretched its lifespan well beyond a reasonable expectation; it is that in the 40 years that that boiler was in a Brunswick School, there was no firm commitment to a planned replacement cycle for any of our boilers at our schools.

The same can be said for other systems within the School System, such as roofs and sprinkler systems. This experience is common to almost every school district in the State and, as funding sources have tightened, the competition between short-term operations needs and long term structural investments has increased.

The current funding gap for Brunswick, on an annual funding basis, is between $500k per year to $3MM per year depending upon how quickly you address the backlog of projects that have been deferred over the years. In the end, the result of delaying these investments over the last four to decades, is a backlog of projects and an environment, as described by Mr. Caron in a 2012 Budget meeting, that has us, “so busy chasing repairs” that we never to do proactive maintenance projects.

Speaking to specific facilities, we are obviously in a good place with the newest of our schools, Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary. The same can largely be said for our now 20-year old Brunswick High School, although it is facing some of those pending periodic maintenance projects, including work with the boiler system, flooring and some needed security upgrades. If you have not been in this facility, I would recommend doing a walkthrough as it is in very solid shape.

The situation with the Brunswick Junior High School is a bit more difficult. Beyond the physical age of the facility, now a 54-year old building, there are problems related to engineering (roofing and sinking floors), meeting modern code requirements and deferred maintenance. Also, while there is generally adequate space for our core junior high classrooms, there is a need for improved space for other programs such as music, art and special services.

While the Brunswick Junior High School’s needs are extensive, it is not the district’s most urgent need. That distinction belongs to our PK-2 facilities, where we find ourselves now overcrowded at both Coffin and Harriet Beecher Stowe due to the unexpected closure of Jordan Acres.

When I first joined the Board in 2011, the plan was to provide for our PK-2 servicing by renovating both the 58 year old Coffin and the 40 year old Jordan Acres. In early 2011, however, there was a beam that cracked at Jordan Acres as the result of heavy snow on the roof. This incident, and the subsequent closure of the building, led to a thorough evaluation of the roofing system.


The findings concluded that the original architectural underpinnings of the roofing system had been flawed since the building was opened. To address this engineering issue, the replacement of many major and original systems and the remediation of external mold issues would have meant many millions of dollars spent before you even got to revitalize the facility. As such, putting more money into this facility was deemed to be a poor choice as a long term investment.

From there, the Board moved to plan to renovate just Coffin school and to expand it from 350 to 660 students, so it could handle the full PK-2 capacity. While we spent much time evaluating this option, the requirement to move the bus garage, to replace space being provided by 40 year old “temporary” mobile units along new space, and to remediate other needed code renovations, resulted in a price tag that made it a less favorable option in the long term compared to a new building, which would have a longer expected life span than the renovation project.

So we are now studying a new PK-2 facility, to be sited at the Jordan Acres property, with the expectation of bringing these plans forward for public review in the coming months.

Additionally, in recognition that the total cost to remediate the PK-2 situation and to renovate the BJH is too much for the town to manage at once, we have voted to focus on this one project and to continue general maintenance on the BJH until such time as the funding situation improves.

So, now that I have provided you with a long answer to your original question, as well as the answer to a few other questions you didn’t ask, but were possibly interested in, let me reward you with the short answer.

Yes, I think our current facilities and administrative team has demonstrated responsible stewardship of our physical building assets, but they need more financial support, each and every year, for the routine maintenance of our buildings. As an side, you can find more information about the facilities master plan study here:

2. Do you think the School Department should institute a merit based pay system for the teaching corps, or retain the current automatic increase, one size fits all pay scale system?

I do not believe in the traditional merit-based pay model, as it has historically relied on flawed single point in time test results. I do see value, however, in a differentiated pay system that is based on a comprehensive evaluation of the teacher, including their methodologies employed, demonstrated leadership and skills and their extent of effort. I could support it, so long as the differentiation is not based solely on single point in time test results, is developed in collaboration with teachers and staff, includes resourcing for remediation, peer assistance
and review.

I fundamentally believe that we should be rewarding our best teachers and providing financial incentives to drive improvements when they are failing to meet the performance expectations of their administrators. The devil however is in the details.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

School Board Candidate Byron Watson checks in

And then there were two…..

Byron Watson, challenger for the District 1 School Board position now held by Rich Ellis, who is running for re-election, has submitted his answers to our questions, and we are posting them here for your edification.  For each item, we repeat our question from the earlier posts, and then show Byron’s answers indented and in red text.

Enjoy.  And thanks, Byron, for taking the time to let voters know where you line up on the points we raised.

Questions for School Board Candidates:

1.  Do you think the Brunswick School Department exercises responsible stewardship of our physical building assets?

No. Somebody is responsible for not shoveling off the roof of Jordan Acres when that beam collapsed a couple years back and there has been no desire to hold anyone accountable.

2.  Do you think the School Department should institute a merit based pay system for the teaching corps, or retain the current automatic increase, one size fits all pay scale system?

We should absolutely be looking into instituting a merit based system. However, I am against a merit system that is solely based on test scores. We should form a focus group consisting of Taxpayers, Board Members, Administrators, and Teachers to collaborate together for a merit based system that will be a great fit for Brunswick. We’ll need to incorporate different aspects of the individual position in order to determine what kind of increase if any is deserved. I believe the right merit based system can bring out the best in our teachers making our students the top priority.

3.  How should the School Department evaluate its performance?

One of the ways the School Department can check in on their performance is through the Adequate Yearly Progress shown in the State Department of Education figures. The last round of statistics viewed from the State Department of Education revealed that both our Jr. High & High School are failing to meet A.Y.P.

4.  How should the School Department plan for and implement continuously improving student achievement?

When teaching is the focus our children will fare the best. Unfortunately it feels like our powers that be have forgotten that we are supposed to be here for the children and not the adults. Teachers need time to develop curriculum, stay up to date with the latest useful technology, and also to collaborate with other teachers for the best overall experience of the student. The Freshman Academy we developed for our most At-Risk students back in 2009 has been a resounding success at Brunswick and may just be the template for future achievement.

5.  Should the tax rate for School finances be capped to an upper limit, or allowed to increase continually? And how much per year is a reasonable increase?

The School Budget should be capped by the School Board Members themselves and the public should start to hold them accountable to be responsible stewards of the taxpayers money. We have had our property taxes increased over 15% in the last three years and that is irresponsible. The citizens I have spoken to are shocked to hear that the municipal side of the budget actually went down 2% last year and are outraged at the huge unsustainable tax increases being laid upon them by the School Budget.

6.  Do you think recruiting students from Asia and other distant lands is a legitimate function of the Brunswick public school system?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

Clearly it is not a legitimate function of the Brunswick School System, especially when the School Department has snubbed their nose at the tuition paying students from Harpswell, West Bath, and Durham. I will say that when they make an agreement (as they did in the China case) they must follow through on their word, but for them to think they have the authority to approve Chinese students over the Federal Government & State Government is absurd. We should first be looking to collaborate with our neighbors, keep in mind when the Durham students left due to the School Consolidation Law, they took with them over $1 Million in tuition fees as well.

7.  Do you think the virtual doubling in per student budgetary costs in recent years is justified?   Do you think $15,000 per year per student is not enough, just right, or too much?  If not enough, how much should that increase?

No. When a taxpayer can look at a solid Catholic School like St. John’s and realize tuition is under $5,000 annually, how is it possible to justify $15,000? We need what is best for our students and maybe a roughly $3 Million surplus every year is not the answer.

8.  Do you think children are the first priority of the Brunswick School Department?

No. There is no question that the children unequivocally need to be the first priority.

9.  Describe the primary responsibilities of a school board member.  Emphasize the relationship between the board and the department.

There is no question that the School Board as an entire 9-member unit is the Superintendent’s boss. For the past three years it sometimes has appeared to be the other way around, but our representative’s should understand that they direct the Superintendent. For example: State Law requires a Civics Class, yet no such class exists. If a School Board Member wanted to abide by the requirements they would not go to a faculty member, they would go to the Superintendent.

10.  Did we miss any questions you wish we had asked, or that we should have asked?

Why did the School Board hire a principal that was fired two months prior to them hiring him?

11.  This item is a place for you to make any statement you wish to town voters.

I’m running for the District #1 School Board seat. I will bring common sense, sustainable and achievable solutions to the Brunswick school system. My student-focused plan emphasizes the importance of our tight-knit community, saves our district millions of dollars and focuses on collaboration with our adjoining school districts. It’s time for Brunswick to spend tax dollars on what will benefit our children the most. Thank you for your support and I’m asking for your vote on November 5th. Please visit my website for more information:

Extra Credit Questions For School Board Candidates/Incumbents:

1)  Do you think the school board should set a budget NTE figure for school department staff before budget preparation begins?  If not, why not?

The idea of zero based budgeting can work as well, but yes setting a figure at the beginning to go by for the staff would help in the budget preparation process.

2)  Would you support requiring school department staff to annually prepare and submit a five year budgetary plan that projects revenues and operational and capital expenditures, and consequent property tax demand?  If not, why not?

Yes. This is already required under Article IX, Section 909, of the Brunswick Town Charter.

“The school board shall prepare and submit to the council a 5-year school capital program at the same time that it submits its annual budget. The school capital program shall be prepared and revised in the same manner that is required of the manager under Article VI of this Charter.”

3)  Would you support requiring cognizant school department staff to annually prepare and submit a five year building maintenance and repair plan, complete with estimated costs?  If not, why not?

This is a solid model to go by, keeping in mind it would be a road map. Sometimes there are other routes to take then described in the original plan and sometimes we are forced to take other routes as well.


In view of the foregoing submission, we hereby award Byron one


For those still hiding in the goose-egg contingent, we can only presume…..


What if the rest of us didn’t have the time or interest to pay the taxes you so enjoy spending to live out your good intentions?  You’ll send who after us, with what?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Where are Dick and Jane and all the rest?

We had ever so much hoped that Jane Millett would be ‘bigger than us,’ and check in with our readers when public office is on the line, and it ‘really counts.’  But so far, we would be wrong.


Jane is supposedly running for Town Council, yet she seems to be running away from Side’s candidate forum questions.  Which makes us wonder whether Jane can ‘do the math,’ when it really counts.


She’s not alone in leaving us chasing the butterflies who hold or seek public office.  Benet Pols, a town council incumbent who is not up for re-election, provided a strong initial response, but since then, has not followed up, as he suggested he would.

Rich Ellis, who gets the role of Dick for purposes of this post, a school board incumbent running for re-election, said he’d be submitting his input, but is apparently having problems finding his place in our story.

Dick Robinson holds a Dick and Jane book









So here we are, chasing Spot.

It’s frustrating when dogs are more attentive than those who happily wag their tails as they seek public office.

We’re happy to pat them on the head when they behave, but we’re sure as heck not going to pick up after them if they can’t ‘mind their manners.’

We think it behooves those who seek our approval to leave the path ahead clear.  We’ve got enough problems around here without worrying about where to take our next step.

Sleeping Side: Snookered by the BDC

We’re sorry to tell you that your trusty correspondent has been snookered, by the BDC, of all things.  Not that it takes much snookering to catch us trying to avoid seeing things.

A friend contacted us last week to tell us of the BDC meeting scheduled for last Wednesday (October 16) at noon in the McClellan building, which is how the organization does their best to maximize public attendance.  He said he wouldn’t be able to make it, and would Side consider filling in.

We decided we’d look at the meeting agenda before committing to make the trip and attend.  Here’s what the agenda showed:


1. Call to Order; L. Darcy; 12:00 PM

2. Approval of Minutes of September 18, 2013;  B. Morrell

3. Officer’s Reports; J. Favreau
      a. Treasurer’s Report

4. Executive Session pursuant to 1 M.R.S.A. §405(6)(C); 12:10 PM

5. Old Business
      a. BDC By‐laws Amendments Discussion,
      Conflict of Interest Policy, Code of Ethics
      (to be taken up after New Business at 1:45 PM)

6. New Business
      a. Brunswick Downtown Association Proposal; 1:20 PM

7. Agenda Items for Next Meeting

8. Adjourn 2:00 PM

Silly us, more or less asleep on the bricks, we read this to mean the “Executive Session,” scheduled to last for an hour and ten minutes, would be to deal with revising the By-laws, as Johnny Protocols, one of the directors, has recommended and promised.  Sitting around while that went on behind closed doors didn’t sound like our idea of a good time.

Not only that, but we didn’t bother to look up the statutory reference, assuming it would be inconsequential.  To make matters worse, we failed to notice this last attachment item at the bottom of the agenda:

Confidential Business Proposals (to be distributed)

Obviously, we would have had access to them; we are not among those ‘to whom it has been revealed.’

So imagine our surprise when we read that the whole By-laws thing had been blown off because of ‘time restrictions,’ and that to make up for that disappointment, nearly $600 thousand in loans and grants had been approved and dispensed.

Apparently THAT’S what the Executive Session was about.  Which means if we HAD attended, we wouldn’t have heard any of that discussion, nor would we have had access to the “confidential business proposals.”

Thoroughly embarrassed by this gaffe, we went back to the agenda to see just how badly we had muffed it.  And this time, we looked up the statutory citation (1 M.R.S.A. §405(6)(C)); this is what we found:

Discussion or consideration of the condition, acquisition or the use of real or personal property permanently attached to real property or interests therein or disposition of publicly held property, or economic development only if premature disclosures of the information would prejudice the competitive or bargaining position of the body or agency; [1987, c. 477, §3 (AMD).]  (emphasis ours)

Clearly, the first part of that passage is completely unrelated to the Executive Session that was called.  And the second part, which we have highlighted for your edification, is a stretch beyond imagining in any sense of prejudicing ‘competitive or bargaining position’ of the BDC.


Unless, that is, you have the chutzpah of an attorney with years of legislative experience, including say, Speaker of the House, like one Johnny Protocols, who is on the BDC board.  Couple that with the knowledge that no-one will be taken to task or held accountable, and  you have another classic case of Brunswick Sausage in the making.

Now let’s take a look at the monies that were dispensed in the name of servicing the public trust:

  • The Brunswick Downtown Association was given a grant of $250,000, which they are free to dispense in small amounts to businesses and commercial property owners for cosmetic or aesthetic improvements, seemingly without further oversight by the BDC.
  • At Last, a Park Row beauty salon, was given a loan of $34,500, half of which is forgivable.  Our days of visiting such establishmenst are long over, and we have no knowledge of their business model and viability.
  • Gelato Fiasco, a well known success on Maine Street, and recipient of prior monies from the BDC, was given a loan for $156,000, half of which is forgivable.
  • Frosty’s Donuts, one of our very own favorite in town originals, was given a loan of $137,500, half of which is forgivable, for renovations and two new vehicles.

So there you have it; $578,000 dispensed in a mere hour or so, with no public involvement, of which $414,000 is either unconditionally granted, or forgivable.

The real issues that should raise eyebrows are these; they certainly make ours go all aflutter.

  • Does anyone really think that Gelato Fiasco, which has been booming almost right from the start, and has, we believe, 300 plus outlets through which they are selling their wares, including outside of Maine, doesn’t have the cash flow and business model more than sufficient to get a commercial business loan?  Do they really need and deserve another outright gift of $78,000, on top of the prior granted amounts?
  • Does Frosty’s, by the same token, which now has four locations, not have the cash flow and fundamentals to secure a commercial business loan?  Should they receive an outright gift of $68,750 in public funds?

While we’re at it, we have one more question.  Does anyone really believe that the idea of a fully forgivable $247,000 loan to Brunswick Taxi, ‘owned’ by the husband of outgoing council chair Joanne King, just popped up out of thin air, well after she had left office, and the board of BDC?  Or doubt that Johnny Protocols played a key role in this ‘thin air’ opportunity?

For those more curious than we, you could always contact current council chair Suzan Wilson and ask about such things.  No doubt she’d flash her three donkey Back Side award, and tell you that:

“I don't think you need to be upset.  Bigger fish to fry.  Tempest in a teapot, in my humble opinion.  Regardless, it is/was not a Town "loan" ; or taxpayer money.”

Even though the town of Brunswick is the sole member of the BDC, and that were it to be disestablished, all monies remaining in their accounts would become property of the town.

Nothing to see hear folks; just keep moving along.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

PS on King’s English

      King at mic

Please excuse us for misplacing some links and references we had intended to use in completing our treatise on the local hero’s charges that those who disagree with him are ‘guilty of murder.’

You can read about that ‘conciliatory act’ of his at this link:

His comments, of course, relate to the subject of Obamacare, on which he more recently launched several volleys of rhetorical rockets aimed at his ‘good friends,’ as we discussed earlier.  All of which seemed to be focused on how an obsession with said ACA is the root of all political evil.

Which makes it all the more uplifting to discover that King, Angus and his staff, and those in his caucus, are doing everything in their power to see that they are personally exempt from Obamacare, and continue to receive their SPECIAL, CUSTOM, Cadillac coverage, reserved for our ‘public servants.’

Read about their ‘feeling our pain’ approach to the subject here.

And the next time you see the King around town, ask him why he and the rest of the top bananas don’t have to jump into the fruit salad with the little people…the great unwashed, as it were.

Our guess is that the first words out of his mouth will be something like ‘that’s not the real issue.’  OK; how about hypocrisy?  Is that the issue?

It’s good to be King, as the old saying goes.   Or in the updated version, it’s good to be a King in Cape Brunswick.

King’s English is anything but ‘reaching out’

Just two weeks ago, in this post, we suggested that our ‘local hero’ was becoming an embarrassment to Cape Brunswick.

It’s been abundantly clear that King, Angus is only an ‘Independent’ when it suits the narrative, which as best we can tell, is anytime he wants to run for office.  Take a look at his smiling friends below, with whom he caucuses.

Our local hero has always vacillated on where to position himself.  He went through a Donald Trump phase, seeking his fortune:



Then there’s his professorial years, in which he sought to identify himself with ‘the academy:’



Which is ever so easy when you live a silly hat or two away from Bowdoin College….the only reason Cape Brunswick is not nothing.

Then he had a period of some unease:

Followed by successful pursuit of a role in the top banana band:


He was the most a-peeling candidate in the last election, and so is now firmly ensconced in the good life of the seat of our nation’s government:


An article following King, Angus’ election said this:

Maine Senator-elect Angus King, who ran as an independent and will be replacing a moderate Republican, will caucus with Senate Democrats for the 113th Congress.

The former independent Maine governor is replacing retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe who was among an increasingly rare breed as a moderate in Congress. King’s decision comes as little surprise, although he continued to maintain that he is not a lock-in for Democrats and is willing to straddle party lines.

“By associating myself with one side, I am not in automatic opposition to the other,” King said during a Wednesday press conference.

Recently, it was reported that:

King, who is unaffiliated with any party but caucuses with Democrats, reportedly told  that opponents of President Obama’s controversial health care law are “guilty of murder.”

(See more at:

(To which, at the risk of upsetting numerous apple carts, we might ask what about those millions of really young people who die each year because they don’t have “Life coverage?”  What is King, Angus going to say about that?  He should be able to figure out what we mean, and if not, he always has his handy staff to look into it for him.)

Now let us tell you about the latest example of King’s English, wherein he clearly forsakes any pretense or semblance of independence, bi-partisanship, or any of the other affectations of the squishy, wobbly, ‘reaching across the aisle’ noise-makers.

Most folks who have a clue knew what King, Angus was all along, no matter how he self-identified, but there is no room for doubt now.

Herewith some excerpts from a column that ran in a local paper on Sunday.

King, an independent, usually confined his criticisms to “Congress” or “the system” as a whole and expressed hope that he could help bring sanity back to Washington.

King explained that the cause of the government shutdown was about 120 people in the Republican House caucus who are “holding the United States hostage.”

“There’s a pernicious inner logic to what these characters are doing,” said King. “They hate government. They don’t want government to work. They don’t believe government can or should work, and so to them, crashing the economy and crashing the government is a kind of weird success.”

In a speech on the Senate floor this week, King went further, declaring that “one faction of one party in one house of one branch” had engaged in “a frontal assault on the Constitution itself.”

“This is an attempt to rewrite a major piece of substantive law through holding the government hostage,” said King, referring to the Republican demand that President Obama gut the Affordable Care Act in order for them to restore a functioning government. “Police and Intelligence people and military officers tell you that you don’t negotiate with hostage takers. The reason you don’t is because you empower, you enable, and you ensure that it will happen again.”


Yup; that’s our sincere, conciliatory, independent, problem solving, aisle reaching across Senator King, Angus spewing the talking points he’s been handed by his caucus (see above.)  With appropriate high dudgeon and sanctimony. 

We can’t wait until he calls those who disagree with him terrorists, anarchists, suicide bombers, jihadists, and the other accepted terms of polite political discourse from the left.  And for the so called government watchdog media to call them out on it, like they call some governors out for far less.

Yah, shurr.  Straddle-on, King.

Useful reading for the upcoming election

We know we’ve posted some or all of this item before, but we find them meaningful enough to be worth repeating.

Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy

                     Seven Principles cover

By Lawrence W. Reed, published on Oct. 29, 2001

Revised June 2006

When I first took the podium to deliver the speech reprinted here, I was addressing the Detroit Economic Club, a world-renowned forum for sharing ideas. But even with my natural optimism and the publicity associated with that prestigious venue, I never imagined the amount of attention the "Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy" would receive in the days and years that followed.

By last count, I’ve given this address in about 100 different places, including probably 20 states and a dozen foreign countries. The text has been translated into at least 12 foreign languages, including Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Kiswahili. In a twist stranger than fiction, I was invited to deliver this speech at the People’s University in Beijing. Readers familiar with my views or with the seven principles will no doubt be struck by the irony — and the victory — inherent in my espousing these principles in the heart of the world’s largest communist state.

Why has interest in the "Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy" exceeded all expectations? Looking back, I think it was due to a gamble I took when I first wrote and delivered this address. At the time, I began by telling the audience:

"I know that (the Detroit Economic Club) has heard many policy addresses by many leaders in government, business and academia — policy addresses that dealt in some detail with specific pressing issues of the day, from transportation to education to health care and countless other important topics. At the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, our specialty is researching and recommending detailed prescriptions for today’s policy questions, and I thought about doing that very thing here today.

"But upon reflection, I decided instead to step back from the minutiae of any particular issue and offer you something a little different: a broad-brush approach that is applicable to every issue. I’d like us all to think about some very critical fundamentals, some bedrock concepts that derive from centuries of experience and economic knowledge. They are, in my view, eternal principles that should form the intellectual backdrop to what we do as policymakers inside and outside of government."

The reception the speech received that day and in the years since suggests that at bottom, people value a serious attempt to deal with issues that matter. They recognize that principles that can be expressed in simple words are not necessarily simplistic.

Moreover, they realize that approaching issues with an open mind does not mean approaching them with an empty one. After all, we’ve learned a few things over the centuries. It’s not uninformed bias that prompts us without debate to accept the notion that the sun comes up in the east. It isn’t blind ideology that tells us that a representative republic is superior to dictatorship or monarchy. The general assumption that private property and free-market economies are superior to state ownership and central planning is no longer just an opinion; rather, it is now a settled truth for people who value reason, logic, facts, evidence, economics and experience.

The seven principles of sound public policy that I want to share with you are pillars of a free economy. We can differ on exactly how any one of them may apply to a given issue, but the principles themselves, I believe, are settled truths.

These principles are not original with me; I’ve simply collected them in one place. They are not the only pillars of a free economy or the only settled truths, but they do provide a solid foundation. In my view, if the cornerstone of every state and federal building were emblazoned with these principles — and more importantly, if every legislator understood and attempted to be faithful to them — we’d be a much stronger, much freer, more prosperous and far better-governed people.


One:  Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free.

First, I should clarify the kind of “equalness” to which I refer in this statement. I am not referring to equality before the law — the notion that you should be judged innocent or guilty of an offense based upon whether or not you did it, with your race, sex, wealth, creed, gender or religion having nothing to do with the outcome. That’s an important foundation of Western civilization, and though we often fall short of it, I doubt that anyone here would quarrel with the concept.

No, the "equalness" to which I refer is all about income and material wealth — what we earn and acquire in the marketplace of commerce, work and exchange. I’m speaking of economic equality. Let’s take this first principle and break it into its two halves.

Free people are not equal. When people are free to be themselves, to be masters of their own destinies, to apply themselves in an effort to improve their well-being and that of their families, the result in the marketplace will not be an equality of outcomes. People will earn vastly different levels of income; they will accumulate vastly different levels of wealth. While some lament that fact and speak dolefully of "the gap between rich and poor," I think people being themselves in a free society is a wonderful thing. Each of us is a unique being, different in endless ways from any other single being living or dead. Why on earth should we expect our interactions in the marketplace to produce identical results?

We are different in terms of our talents. Some have more than others, or more valuable talents. Some don’t discover their highest talents until late in life, or not at all. Magic Johnson is a talented basketball player. Should it surprise anyone that he makes infinitely more money at basketball than I ever could? Will Kellogg didn’t discover his incredible entrepreneurial and marketing talent until age 46; before he struck out on his own to start the Kellogg Company, he was making about $25 a week doing menial jobs for his older brother in a Battle Creek sanitarium.

We are different in terms of our industriousness, our willingness to work. Some work harder, longer and smarter than others. That makes for vast differences in how others value what we do and in how much they’re willing to pay for it.

We are different also in terms of our savings. I would argue that if the president could somehow snap his fingers and equalize us all in terms of income and wealth tonight, we would be unequal again by this time tomorrow because some of us would save our money and some of us would spend it. These are three reasons, but by no means the only three reasons, why free people are simply not going to be equal economically.

Equal people are not free, the second half of my first principle, really gets down to brass tacks. Show me a people anywhere on the planet who are indeed equal economically, and I’ll show you a very unfree people. Why?

The only way in which you could have even the remotest chance of equalizing income and wealth across society is to put a gun to everyone’s head. You would literally have to employ force to make people equal. You would have to give orders, backed up by the guillotine, the hangman’s noose, the bullet or the electric chair. Orders that would go like this: Don’t excel. Don’t work harder or smarter than the next guy. Don’t save more wisely than anyone else. Don’t be there first with a new product. Don’t provide a good or service that people might want more than anything your competitor is offering.

Believe me, you wouldn’t want a society where these were the orders. Cambodia under the communist Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s came close to it, and the result was that upwards of 2 million out of 8 million people died in less than four years. Except for the elite at the top who wielded power, the people of that sad land who survived that period lived at something not much above the Stone Age.

What’s the message of this first principle? Don’t get hung up on differences in income when they result from people being themselves. If they result from artificial political barriers, then get rid of those barriers. But don’t try to take unequal people and compress them into some homogenous heap. You’ll never get there, and you’ll wreak a lot of havoc trying.

Confiscatory tax rates, for example, don’t make people any more equal; they just drive the industrious and the entrepreneurial to other places or into other endeavors while impoverishing the many who would otherwise benefit from their resourcefulness. Abraham Lincoln is reputed to have said, "You cannot pull a man up by dragging another man down."


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

This essentially illuminates the magic of private property. It explains so much about the failure of socialized economies the world over.

In the old Soviet empire, governments proclaimed the superiority of central planning and state ownership. They wanted to abolish or at least minimize private property because they thought that private ownership was selfish and counterproductive. With the government in charge, they argued, resources would be utilized for the benefit of everybody.

What was once the farmer’s food became "the people’s food," and the people went hungry. What was once the entrepreneur’s factory became "the people’s factory," and the people made do with goods so shoddy there was no market for them beyond the borders.

We now know that the old Soviet empire produced one economic basket case after another, and one ecological nightmare after another. That’s the lesson of every experiment with socialism: While socialists are fond of explaining that you have to break some eggs to make an omelette, they never make any omelettes. They only break eggs.

If you think you’re so good at taking care of property, go live in someone else’s house, or drive their car, for a month. I guarantee you neither their house nor their car will look the same as yours after the same period of time.

If you want to take the scarce resources of society and trash them, all you have to do is take them away from the people who created or earned them and hand them over to some central authority to manage. In one fell swoop, you can ruin everything. Sadly, governments at all levels are promulgating laws all the time that have the effect of eroding private property rights and socializing property through "salami" tactics — one slice at a time.

In a post some time ago, we said this: Other Side’s corollary to Mackinac Principle Two is this:

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.

OSCF: Extra credit questions

So far, response levels to our candidate questions have been entirely in keeping with Cape Brunswick norms.  Except that we’ve actually received and published answers from incumbent town councilor Benet Pols, with a promise that more would be coming. We’ve also heard from incumbent/school board candidate Rich Ellis that he intends to submit answers.


Jane Millett

Which leads to the obvious question: Where’s Jane?  Oh where, oh where can she be?  Especially now, ‘when it really counts!’

Could it be that she isn’t really taking this campaign fling seriously?  You might suggest it’s just another way to increase her market exposure, but we would never say such a thing.  We’re better than that.

Moving on, our insatiable thirst for knowledge of candidate/incumbent thinking has led us to come up with more questions, which the interested candidate/incumbent can consider answering for extra credit.  Here they are:

For Town Council Candidates/Incumbents:

1)  The town council is required to approve or reject the School Department Budget for purposes of setting the overall tax rate, and submitting the budget to the public for approval in a vote.  While the council cannot deal in specific school funding line items, do you think the council should exercise some form of real control over total school department spending?  For example, should they set a ‘not to exceed’ (NTE) limit before the school budget is submitted to the council?  If not, why not?  Isn’t the council the final authority for total town expenditures?

2)  Do you think the town council should set a budget NTE figure for municipal staff before budget preparation begins?

3)  Would you support requiring town staff to annually prepare and submit a five year budgetary plan that projects revenues, operational and capital expenditures, and property tax rates?  If not, why not?

4)  Would you support requiring that annual property tax statements include a five year history of tax rates and total taxes due for the subject property?

For School Board Candidates/Incumbents:

1)  Do you think the school board should set a budget NTE figure for school department staff before budget preparation begins?  If not, why not?

2)  Would you support requiring school department staff to annually prepare and submit a five year budgetary plan that projects revenues and operational and capital expenditures, and consequent property tax demand?  If not, why not?

3)  Would you support requiring cognizant school department staff to annually prepare and submit a five year building maintenance and repair plan, complete with estimated costs?  If not, why not?

So there you have the latest.  We submit them fully recognizing how much extra work it means for us when the answers come flooding in, and how many extra column inches we’ll have to bear the costs of publishing.

For folks like Jane, who aren’t engaging in the forum, they can continue to not engage for no extra credit.

Credit where credit is due, right?  Just think how much more informed your vote will be, and your understanding of those whose seats are not up for election.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2013 Amtrak MLF vis-à-vis 2003 CBW

We’re reminded of civic circumstances roughly 10 years ago.  The Cape Brunswick Town Council, at the behest of a number of specially appointed study groups, had decided that the town needed to spend $13 million on two new Public Safety Buildings. 

The first was a combined Police HQ and Central Fire Station that was to be built on a downtown parcel that required demolishing several existing buildings, which seems to be a peculiar addiction of town governing elites.

The second was to be a Brunswick East Fire Substation, that as we recall, was to cost $1.8 million out of the $13 million total.  Believe it or not, the ‘original’ estimate was a total of $7 million, but by the time all the good intentions were included, the number had nearly doubled.

A referendum to have voters approve the $13 million bond was scheduled.  An ad hoc group of citizens was organized by former resident and town councilor Nancy Randolph to oppose the plan and analyze alternatives.

Long story short, this group decided to call itself “Citizens for a Better Way (CBW)” and began a campaign to defeat the referendum, on the basis that the need, while legitimate, could be better met by a lower cost, less destructive approach.

We were not hopeful we would succeed.  The Ostrich ran lavishly illustrated articles of law enforcement officers working in primitive quarters, while reminding us that the downtown fire station was built in the horse and buggy era.  The odds were stacked against us, because no matter what else residents grouse about, they almost NEVER refuse plans to build grandly conceived facilities for public safety professionals.

Imagine our group’s surprise when the day after the election, we learned that the referendum had been defeated by a margin of roughly two to one!  To say we were shocked is an understatement beyond all understatements.

Your correspondent learned two things from this.  First, never underestimate what the ‘sleeping dog’ constituency might amount to in any such election/referendum.  You never know how many folks are lying in the weeds waiting to tell those ‘in charge’ that it ‘ain’t gonna happen this time.’

Second, never trust or believe town officials when they say ‘we got your message loud and clear.’  That’s what they said after the vote, but it wasn’t very long before they started laying plans for work-arounds, and before Council Chair Charlie Priest (now in the state legislature) told us the approved Capital Improvement Program was ‘simply a guide.’

Since then, we have a new school, a new Fire Substation, a new Police Station, a new Town Hall (in transition), two new schools in the oven, and surely a new Central Fire Station before you can yell FIRE!

Which brings us to the current situation.

In which DGiles might say, “I love the smell of Brunswick Sausage in the morning.”  You may have forgotten, but we posted on Giles a few weeks ago in this item.  In which we suggested that this could be a DGiles avatar:


Or that based on his posted comments here and elsewhere, he might make this noted ‘pundit’ look like an amateur:


We stand by our words.  And frankly, having watched a video of the Brunswick Zoning Board of Appeals in which they voted to approve NNEPRA’s request for a variance, we can also tell you that DGIles’ reference to your correspondent as a lazy, fat, old white guy is a bit, shall we say, puzzling.  From what we saw, he’s in no position to spout such epithets.  Unless he was looking in his mirror.

Our real purpose tonight is to come back to two comments Giles has publicly posted, starting with this one about the MLF:

And the area off Pleasant and Bouchard has been used as an outdoor maintenance yard. For every one person opposed to this, there are 100 in support. The ones opposed are so radical and viscious (sic) that most people choose to remain quiet.”

As chance would have it, The Ostrich recently ran a poll on just that subject.  Almost from the start, the results ran counter to what the elites and DGiles might have expected and hoped for.  So the editors left the poll up for days and days, hoping results might turn around.

When they finally took it down, the results were as follows:

Should the Downeaster maintenance ad (sic) layover facility be built at the proposed location??

Yes:  39% (273 votes)

No:  61% (422 votes)

Total votes: 695

Contrast this with DGiles ‘100 to 1’ hypothesis.  If he is correct, then there should have been 100 x 422 votes supporting siting the MLF in the Bouchard neighborhood, or 42,200 votes in favor, compared to 422 votes opposed.

273 actual votes in favor compared to his hypothetical total of 42,200.  Yup; sounds like DGiles has his finger on the pulse of the community, or some other physical indicator of public sentiment.

We can’t help but comment here, while it’s unrelated to the MLF and DGiles, that we’d sure love to see The Ostrich run a poll on the BDC quarter million dollar grant to Brunswick Taxi.  How about this question: 

“Should Brunswick Taxi be required to pay back the $247,000, plus interest, to the Brunswick Development Corporation?”

We’d LOVE to see the vote outcome on that one!

Now our other point.

“The facts are what the facts are. This is the best location, it is properly zoned, does not require environmental sacrifices and is economically sound.”

DGiles is, in theory, an authoritative source on this issue, since as we reported in that earlier post, he is on the Zoning Board of Appeals that approved the variance.  Except he’s not.

The area has been zoned historically for buildings not exceeding 20,000 square feet.  In 2011, DGIles and the rest of the Zoning Board of Appeals approved a variance to allow a structure of 39,560 square feet, as shown in the document we linked in the earlier post.

But there’s a little problem, big guy.  That variance never went into effect, because NNEPRA allowed the approval to expire.

So, to recall a phrase, ‘the facts are the facts,’ DGiles.   Oh, sure, you approved a variance from 20,000 sq ft max to 39,560 sq ft, but that no longer matters.

And now the building is at 50,000 sq ft plus.  Only 2.5 times the underlying zoning.

Properly zoned David?


We don’t think so.  Which is perfectly in keeping with the overall fragrance of this undertaking.


You  know what they say: the nose knows.

Technorati Tags: ,,,,