Sunday, January 12, 2014

Community Ethics: Brunswick Development Corporation Style


We shouldn’t have to remind you of the sordid goings on over the last year as the Brunswick Development Corporation doled out public monies to the very well connected and some who were less well connected.  If you’re feeling in the mood for a modicum of self-flagellation, you can scan this prior post compilation to get back up to speed.

As you do, you’ll see we assured there was nothing untoward going on at BDC; just public servants serving the public, in a manner of speaking.  We were also told that the BDC board had been working on by-law revisions since well before they made news with the Brunswick Taxi $247,000 grant, so the public interest in such was coincidental, and frankly, tardy.  The public kerfuffle was driven by “a political agenda” according to Councilor John (Mr. Speaker) “Johnny Protocols” Richardson, the Cape’s own politically driven agenda laureate.

Well, lucky us; the BDC has adopted a new set of operating guidelines, as reported in this article just before Christmas.  (When you read the article, be sure as well to read the reader comment below it by “Queenie42,” which sets a damn fine example of being pithy.)

As you might expect, Johnny P. was appropriately laudatory of the effort, and once again chided ‘some people’ for criticizing rather than praising the BDC’s work.  No-one is prouder of his humility than Richardson, and it’s always refreshing to see such modesty and restraint on the part of our public ‘servants.’

Here are the highlights of the new policy reported in the article:

The code of ethics policy requires BDC board members to:

• "Represent the interest of all people," including business owners and property owners;

• Not use the organization for their own personal advantage;

• "Do nothing to violate the trust" of the people they serve;

• Never use BDC to promote their own "partisan politics, religious matters or positions on any issue not in conformity" with BDC's policies;

• And never accept gifts from businesses involved with BDC.

We don’t know about you, but to us, these are about as broad and ambiguous as saying “go forth, do good, and prosper.”  And we’re confident that there’s enough wiggle room in the above so that even a modestly competent lawyer could help a client drive a 14 passenger van sideways through the holes in the language.  If they can’t find a Mack Truck nearby, that is.

Come to think of it, does anyone know if Brunswick Taxi has complied with all the conditions in its promissory note?  They read in part as follows:

e.  Work with Brunswick Downtown Association / Town of Brunswick for marketing and branding, not limited to painting the Brunswick logo on the back of the taxis; and purchasing an annual advertisement at the Visitors Center for three (3) years from the date of this Promissory Note.

f.  Purchase of the following vehicles and equipment, and provide proof of purchase:

  • $150,000 - Purchase 6 new energy efficient taxi-cab vehicles to drastically reduce maintenance and repair costs, save and increase business and significantly improve the company’s and the town’s images.

  • $30,000 – Purchase one new energy efficient handicap accessible minivan to increase revenues by expanding the services to the handicapped, seniors and educational and medical institutions.

  • $45,000 - Purchase a new 14 passenger van to retain business and to meet the projected increase in corporate and institutional demand from Bowdoin College, Mid Coast and Parkview hospitals, the Brunswick Transportation Center and Brunswick Landing.

  • $10,000 – Add GPS systems to all taxi-cab and van vehicles to improve efficiency, safety and tracking capabilities.

  • $12,000 - Purchase compressed natural gas conversion kits for all taxi-cab vehicles to reduce emissions and to reduce operating costs.

We are no official authority on the matter, but so far, we think we’ve seen at least three of the Ford transit vans in the Brunswick Taxi paint theme, and a 14 passenger van as well.  The other van we’ve seen, a ‘mini-van’, does not appear to be handicap accessible (wheelchair ramp), and as we recall, was in their roster before the BDC deal was put in place.  But we’d have to check on that.

The funny thing is that as we read the promissory note, Brunswick Taxi has until August 1, 2016 to comply with the above obligations, which means they aren’t exactly under a lot of pressure to comply.  Not that this would allow for any mischief, since town authorities are surely keeping close tabs on the whole affair.  The little people have a short attention span and memory, but thank goodness, the public enterprise never, ever forgets to follow through.

Don’t you feel better now, Shirley?  Coupled with the ‘new directions’ narrative emanating from the town council, the public interest and public trust should be more secure than the Social Security Trust Fund.

We’ll close with this thought for today:

"It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters " - Daniel Webster

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