Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MaineBiz earns “Five Backsides” Award

(Ed note: If you’re the type that likes to keep a neat office, you can file this post under “Are You Freakin’ Kidding Me?”)


Some months ago, we created the Other Side Backside Awards, which you can read about here.  As you’ll see when you do, we established five levels for the prize, running from one ‘donkey’ to five ‘donkies.’  We’ve been so scatter-brained and unfocused of late that we’ve been remiss in making sure we publicize those deserving public acclaim for their exemplary performance.


As long as we’re talking about the Amtrak Downeaster, we’ve decided to salute Maine Biz with the highest level of our trophy…the coveted five backsides award.


Why?  Funny you should ask.  In a nutshell, because of this simple act: MaineBiz recently declared Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of NNEPRA (Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority), “the Non-Profit Business Leader of the Year.”  We read about Patricia’s award in this news item (edited to preserve reader sanity):

“The Success of Rail in Maine, and A Vision for the Future”

MDF is thrilled to present a Leadership Unplugged with Patricia Quinn, Executive Director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.  Patricia half-jokingly refers to the Amtrak Downeaster passenger service she oversees as her "third child." Since assuming NNEPRA's reins in September 2005 — five years after being hired as a part-time marketing consultant and almost four years after the Downeaster passenger service began between Portland and Boston — Quinn has seen yearly ridership increase 123% to a record-setting 556,347 passengers in fiscal year 2013. Patricia was recently awarded the Non-Profit Business Leader of the Year by MaineBiz.

LEADERSHIP UNPLUGGED is a series of conversations with Maine leaders around issues of economic importance. It is an opportunity for leaders to come together in an intimate, relaxed setting to discuss the pertinent issues of the day. 

Presenter: Our conversation will be with Patricia Quinn. Patricia Quinn is a native of Norwich, Connecticut and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration/Marketing.  She joined the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority in October 2000 to promote the inauguration of the Downeaster and was officially appointed Executive Director of NNEPRA in September 2005.  Since that time, an additional round-trip has been added and service has expanded to Freeport and Brunswick, and Downeaster ridership and revenue have more than doubled – all while maintaining one of the highest passenger service rankings in the nation. Patricia received the Amtrak President’s Service and Safety Award for State Partners in 2007, was recognized as one of “Maine’s Most Intriguing People” by Portland Magazine in 2009, a “Woman to Watch” by MaineBiz in August 2011 and “Non-Profit Business Leader of the Year” by MaineBiz in March 2014.

Why do we think the five backside level award is justified?  Let us count the ways.

  • Just what the hell is a ‘non-profit business?’  The term, to those with a clue, is an oxymoron…..along the lines of ‘jumbo shrimp.’
  • Who forms a ‘business’ to be ‘non-profit?’  The only possible answer in this case, and numerous others, is taxpayers who are compelled to do so without their knowledge and consent.
  • NNEPRA is not a ‘business.’  It is an instrumentality of state government, established in state law.
  • Patricia is not a ‘business person;’ she is an employee of the state.  She does not operate or manage a ‘business.’  She heads a state ‘authority.’
  • You can refresh your understanding of the realities by reading the material here: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/23/title23sec8111.html
  • We provided some details on the degree of ‘non-profit’ performance achieved by Quinn in this prior material:
    • NNEPRA FY13 Annual Report figures (http://www.nnepra.com/sites/default/files/NNEPRA2013AnnualReport_web.pdf:
      • food service revenue was $611,812; food service operating expenses were $773,420.  That’s a loss of 21% on food service.
      • total operating revenue was $9,182,012 against total operating expenses of $16,762,301.  That’s an operating loss of 45% overall -  $7.5 million.  With ample reason to expect the loss will grow in the current year and in the future.
    • In round numbers, fares on the Downeaster would have to double for the operation to approach financial ‘sustainability.’  What effect would that have on ridership?
    • Capacity for riders between Portland and Brunswick is 1200 per day with two round trips.  Average ridership (143 per day) is barely 12% of this capacity, yet we hear constant talk of ‘expanding service to Brunswick.’
      • MLF is ‘required’ to store trains in Brunswick because of severe limits on track slots between Brunswick and Portland; how can service be expanded?


  • How do you sustain a ‘non-profit business’ operating at a loss of 45%?  How can such performance, under any definition, be considered award worthy?
  • All things considered, shouldn’t the award given to Quinn be redesignated ‘The Biggest Losing Enterprise Leader of the Year” Award?’


Now we’d like to ask Maine Biz how they could have missed other more deserving candidates for their “Non-Profit Business Leader of the Year” award.

Did they completely miss the news about the Brunswick Development Corporation (BDC) and their grant of nearly a quarter million dollars to Brunswick Taxi?  Compared to the numbers for Quinn’s “business,” which lost only about 45% on the year, the Brunswick Taxi deal alone had a net loss of 100% (or more), and was heralded by many as a remarkable contribution to local economic vitality.  The BDC followed up on this success by entering into other ‘business arrangements’ that had going in losses in the range of 50%.


Surely they deserve a statewide forum to describe their model for success, and a gushing series of citations and awards for what they’ve achieved.  Ridership increases for Brunswick Taxi could be cited along with other compelling evidence.

In a related category, we understand the newly formed Maine Association of School Architects and Builders is planning to create an award recognizing school administrative districts that have done the most to further their growth in both design and construction.  An inside source tells us the Brunswick School Department has the inside track for receiving the inaugural award, in recognition of creative methods for causing school collapse, innovative rationale for school swapping, and exemplary neglect of capital asset stewardship.

When you think of the economic ‘leadership’ of federal, state, and local government authorities in the few simple examples we’ve just touched on, is it any wonder we’re staring at economic collapse on every level of our public enterprise?  And why those in charge can’t come up with any other idea other than compelling more personal assets from us by force of law?


The way we see it, it shouldn’t be all that hard to recognize what they’re doing wrong, and how to change their ways.

But maybe they don’t want to change their ways.  Maybe what they’re doing is too easy, too much fun, and has no real consequences for their personal circumstances.

Nah.  That couldn’t possibly be.

Or could it?

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Poppycock: I would like to nominate two more candidates for your 5 donkey award. They are the Brunswick Explorer.and Steve Levesque and the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (MRRA). The later should get at least 10 donkeys as they and their counterpart at Loring have spent over $250 million creating less than "500" jobs and the cost is still rising.