Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sausage, letters, and other pork related items….


It’s summer in Maine, and an old man’s fancy turns to thoughts of sausage.  Sausage on the grill, if you don’t mind, thank you.  But here in Brunswick, we often pick up the aroma of Brunswick Sausage smoldering nearby; it’s one of the few aromas more powerful than that of diesel fumes from aged choo choo locomotives.


Though there are other varieties, including ‘meatless,’ most sausage has pork as a key ingredient.  Which sets the stage perfectly for today’s little examination of the passing parade.

To whet your appetite, we’ll begin with a few ‘small plates’ from the TIGER Grant Narrative we recently told you about and posted here:  This is the document the ‘capitolists’ at NNEPRA used to describe the need to spend another $30 million to ‘optimize’ the service between Portland and Brunswick, in addition to the $38 million plus that was spent to initiate the service.

Take a bite of this passage first, found on Page 2 of the Narrative:

“The response to the limited Downeaster service to Freeport and Brunswick has been overwhelmingly positive, exceeding daily average ridership projections by 50% in the first eighteen months of operation and generating millions of dollars in economic impact. Municipalities, tourism organizations, private businesses, developers and others along the entire Downeaster corridor are encouraging NNEPRA to add more trips to meet growing demand.”


Some points in response:

  • Define ‘overwhelmingly positive;’ the average train between Portland and Brunswick is running at 10-15% of capacity, or the equivalent of no more than a single busload.
  • ‘Exceeding projections?’  By who; hired consultants?
  • ‘Generating millions of dollars in economic impact.’  For who?  Portland, Boston, or other points south?  And what evidence is there of any positive economic impact, especially when municipal expenses are factored in?  We’re not aware of a single piece of documented evidence of ANY positive economic impact.  And until we see some, this is all hype and bluster.
  • ‘Others…are encouraging NNEPRA to add more trips to meet growing demand.’  What growing demand?  When trains are running close to empty, how can you justify adding more runs?  And please provide documentation of the ‘encouraging’ coming from all those corridor denizens.


Now, with apologies to the rooster who believes he makes the sun come up, let’s move along to pages 13 and 14 of the Narrative document, where we find this fattier Brunswick Sausage:

“In the past two years, a once barren Brownfield site located between downtown Brunswick and Bowdoin College has been transformed into the bustling Brunswick Station. The complex includes restaurants, medical offices, retail shops, a visitors’ center and a 52-room hotel along with the train station adjacent to the train platform.
The success of the project has exceeded expectations as this area has become a transportation hub providing local and intercity bus services, rental cars and excursion train service to mid-coast Maine. Municipal offices are relocating to the site and plans are already underway to create further development in association with Downeaster service.”  (Two photos are provided to highlight the claims, and are shown below, along with their caption.)



      “More than 125 people are employed by the businesses at Brunswick Station.”

Again, some thoughts in response:

  • Note first that the photo taken in Byrne’s Pub is dated January 2011, nearly two years before the Downeaster began coming to Brunswick.
  • ‘Bustling?’  By what measure?  The slightest inference, suggestion, or other thought that “125 people are employed” at Brunswick Station because of anything to do with the Downeaster is pure poppycock, with a side of Brunswick Sausage.  And a kool-aid chaser.
  • ‘Transformation’ involves a number of tax incentives and other municipal benevolences, including annual costs of platform maintenance and Departure Center operation.
  • ‘Train station adjacent to the train platform.’  Please explain the difference between the station, the platform, and the separately mentioned ‘visitors’ center.’
  • Any notion that the two large medical establishments are there because of tie-ins to Downeaster service is absurd.  No one rides the train to Brunswick to go to a doctor.  Anymore than they ride a Concord Coach bus to do so.
  • If memory serves, the only ‘retail shop’ is a Bowdoin College Book Store, which similarly does not exist because people ride trains to Brunswick to shop there.  News flash; we’ve been told this store just closed!
  • Of the two restaurants, one was a success for many years in a nearby building, though it expanded in the new building.
  • The Departure Center, as we call the so-called Visitor’s Center, sells tickets, is staffed by volunteers, and is not self-supporting.  Town government subsidizes it, and perhaps others as well.
  • ‘Exceeded expectations?’  Whose expectations, and documented where?  Define ‘exceeded’ as it applies here.
  • ‘Transportation hub?’  All the elements mentioned were already in town for years.  Suggesting that the Downeaster had anything to do with that is a stretch too far.


  • “Cock-a-doodle doo” is the sound a rooster makes to cause the sun to rise.  Apparently the ‘toot-toot’ and acrid smells of a choo-choo made Brunswick Municipal Offices relocate.  The latter can also make you bite your tongue and wear funny hats.  Once again, any notion that the train caused the Town Hall to move to the McLellan defies credibility.  But hey, this is NNEPRA, and credibility is not a top priority.
  • Some times the cock crows twice, hoping two suns will come up.  Hence the mention of ‘plans….already underway to create further development in association with Downeaster service.’  To which we say, what form will that association take?

You see, we prefer plain, specific, unambiguous english language, instead of marketing. In short………


One of these days, since we have some experience in the field, we’ll explain to you the difference between marketing and business development, but not now. 

Instead, we’ll move on to a subsidiary document to the TIGER Grant Narrative referenced above.  You can find it here:

The first thing you will see in the document are three letters dated April 2014, including one dated on the cover date of the document itself.  Then you will find this page:


This page is followed by a string of letters, all of which, save one, are dated 2012; the odd one is dated 2013.  These letters, plus the language of the paragraph at the head of the list, create the distinct impression this is the third year in a row that NNEPRA has applied for the same grant.  One can’t help but wonder why the grant was denied in past years, and how helpful it is to attach letters of support whose “sell by” date has long since passed.

We note as well that Brunswick’s Town Council did not submit a letter of support for either the prior or current applications.  Hm… wonders what lies between the lines, doesn’t one?

Note as well that the Downeaster didn’t start coming to Freeport and Brunswick until late 2012; these letters, save one, were written before the effects of that extension could be known.

Two of the letter writers, Dana Connors, and John Bubier, are NNEPRA Directors.  Not that it matters.  Herewith a glimpse at some ‘highlights’ in the letters of endorsement, with observations by Side.



Notice the careful wording: “underway within walking distance.”  You can decide whether the train has led to all or nearly all of the $350 million in development.   We fail to see how ‘optimizing’ service between Portland and Brunswick has anything to do with Biddeford.

Biddeford-Saco Chamber:


Three bowls full of less traffic and reduced fossil fuels because of optimized service to Brunswick.  How about making the case with a critically thought out analysis, instead of taking the words NNEPRA and their consultants handed you.  And you might want to rethink your use of safety and tough winter travel after reading about Downeaster track repairs and other ‘safety’ items in recent months.

Brunswick Downtown Association:


Let’s see: Bowdoin students and ‘many of us’ taking the train south to other places to spend money; revitalizing the downtown business district, which is going in the wrong direction since the train began coming to town;  accelerating redev of the former Navy base; and helping fill over 1000 available housing units.  Are you serious?  Affecting ‘hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses’ along the coast?  Next time, why not exaggerate a little?  Instead of a lot.

Durham, NH:


So; Durham, NH will benefit from train service to Brunswick from Portland being ‘optimized.’  And at long last, UNH and Bowdoin college will have ‘connectivity.’  Apparently, until the train came, you ‘couldn’t get there from here.’  Nor could folks in Durham find Brunswick.  Maybe their horses couldn’t handle the trip.

Freeport USA:


Isn’t this the group that gave Patsy Quinn an annual award this year?

Boston Visitors Bureau:


You think Boston’s Visitor’s Bureau would be endorsing this if the train was going to be hauling net visitor traffic and economic activity northward to Maine and Brunswick?  Or because they see the train as creating suction for visitors and dollars to come south to that area?



Ditto for Portland; are they looking to send dollars and people north, or pull them south?

JHR Development:


“Will directly and profoundly impact each and every tenant at Brunswick Station.”  Including the Credit Union?  The now empty book store?  The Orthopedic practice?  The Medical Clinic?  The Bowdoin College dance rehearsal spaces?  Their ‘futures may well hinge on the train?’

Oh come on; get serious.  You just want some more pork fat to drizzle around the development because the local pork fat is beginning to go rancid.  We have no doubt it’s a ‘huge priority’ for you.



Let me translate: “ the train hasn’t begun to run up here yet, but we believe all the extrapolated hype about optimization on top of the hype for the basic train that will be coming in less than a year.”  We have limited anecdotal reports on actual effects, but they all say not making any difference at all.

Maine Development Foundation:


We can’t speak to Portland, but anyone who thinks Freeport and Brunswick are ‘economically vibrant and growing communities’ is going to Portland for smoking materials.  Or maybe they’re being transported north on the train.  Of course, this was written more than two years ago, so it’s a bit ‘aged.’  Note the reference to ‘connecting us to larger Boston and New England markets;’ those are fancy words for giant sucking sound.

Maine Eastern Railroad:


Our understanding is that the MERR summer tourist train is hanging on by a thread, so we’ll cut them slack for looking for any life-line at all.

Maine Chambers/Dana Connors:


Another sitting Director on the NNEPRA Board.  People who head Chambers, especially state level units, are known for arm waving and expansive hyperbole, and Connors sure qualifies.  “Optimizing” service between Portland and Brunswick will support more than $150 million in private development projects in Maine alone?’  Get real, pilgrim.

And after that, please send us your list of known developments that are waiting for this grant before they pull the trigger.

City of Rockland:


We’re pretty sure this is the winner among all the letters for ‘stretching’ credulity, in more ways than one.

Southern Midcoast Chamber:


We’re giving this letter the award for most egregious Bravo Sierra out of the whole lot.  “Transform Southern Midcoast Maine;” what happened to Wallace anyway?  Is it too late for him or one of the staff to list in writing those merchants and businesses ‘from Wiscasset to Edgecomb’ who repeatedly express the benefits they see from this project?  Especially since that in March 2012, when this letter was written, the trains had yet to come North of Portland?

“The Downeaster opens my business up to the entire East Coast!”  Wow!  The internet opens it up to the whole world, you silly goose.  And air and auto travel open it up to the entire nation.



TrainRiders Northeast is the lobbying affiliate of NNEPRA, so what else would you expect.  No wonder the head lobbyist gets birthday cakes from the Executive Director.


Town of Wells:


How improving the service to Brunswick helps Wells is beyond us.  But note that Wells Station has as many  passengers using the bus and Park and RIde as it does the train.  Even so, the writer trips all over himself by saying without the train, there would be no option but using ‘the automobile.’  True believers, see the TRN item above.

We think a critical reading of the materials above, if you can stomach them all, is ample proof that truth-telling is not a key component of such grant pursuits, nor for that matter, anything to do with chasing the wiley porkers.

We are in the minority, but still, we can’t help but say:


And remind you that pork-chasing and gratuitous boot-licking (GBL) go hand in hand.




To repeat our favorite song, can someone knowledgeable in the subject area please explain to us what an Amtrak Downeaster Train can do that a bus can’t do more efficiently, unobtrusively, inexpensively, reliably, flexibly, and with less carbon footprint and front end ‘investment?’ And with no requirement for perpetual operating subsidies?

Oh wait….no-body has ever had a model bus layout, have they?  Oh yes they have!  So now what’s the excuse for the choo-choo lovers?  Maybe we can invent a bus that makes a choo-choo sound, goes clickety-clack and rolls from side to side, and emits noxious fumes.



Well, this may be one of our longest posts ever in pure column inches.  But admit it; you loved every word and every graphic.

You did, didn’t you?  Because we need to ask you for a letter of endorsement, if you don’t mind, and we’ll write it for you.

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