Monday, January 26, 2015

A new Brigade in the Kool-Aid Parade: AAB

(Ed. Note: time to get back to the ‘theme’ we introduced after the first of the year, specifically as it relates to the use and value of ‘consultants.’)



In the passing parade that is Cape Brunswick, there are literal parades……

and figurative parades….

Recently, a new Brigade has signed up for the latter.  It’s known as “All Aboard Brunswick.”  We’re suspicious, as we often are, that this is the former TrainRiders Northeast Brigade all decked out in new marching costumes.


Judging from public appearances so far, the Brigade is being led by a new Majorette.

Her name is Claudia Knox, and she introduced herself in this role to the town at the council meeting of December 15, 2014.  You can see her speaking for her Brigade at this video link:, beginning at the 6 minute time stamp, and lasting for about 5 or 6 minutes. 

As we understand it, throngs of followers wearing the “AAB” uniform, a simple badge, were there to march with her in perfect lockstep.  Oh how we wish we had witnessed it for ourselves, but we have to make our assessment based on the video alone, and one or two personal reports.


Not long after, in The Ostrich, the Majorette followed up with this stirring “march:”


The above, of course, confirms Ms. Knox’ inspiration from the March Master himself, Major Domo Wayne Davis.  All the more reason we’re so delighted that Davis has the keys to the Brunswick “Visitor’s Center,” even though he has no official connection with this facility, and doesn’t even live in town.                             

We have a few thoughts on why “All Aboard Brunswick” was formed, and how Ms. Knox came to the Majorette role in the group.  Here they are.

First, we can’t help but wonder if AAB might have been created to counter the suggestion we made to the town council that it’s time for a detailed study of the economic benefits the Downeaster has delivered to Brunswick.  As we reported, this was a ‘dead letter,’ and the follow-up item of ours published in the local ‘newspaper’ was similarly ignored.  Attributing the birth of AAB to such events is admittedly self-serving, and ascribes more value to our bloviating than we’ve ever been able to document.


Second, it may be that the real, hidden leaders of the marching band came to realize that their former majorettes, the Brunswick Bobbsey Twins, were not exactly winning over the local fan base.  The Booch and ET, whenever they stepped forward to introduce a marching tune, were anything but harmonious, and frankly, were counter-productive in building support for their compositions.


Ms. Knox, we’re sure you will agree, is a ‘kinder and gentler’ band-master then the adversarial leaders put forth in the past.

Moving on. let’s make note of one obvious point:  “All Aboard Brunswick” as an entity speaks to hauling locals south to spend their economic power elsewhere, rather than hauling visitors north to spend their shekels in our downtown.

Then, take a look at metropolitan NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, and the like.  Do you think visitors and dollars are flowing in, of flowing out?


Now let’s assess Ms. Knox testimony to the council.  While it wasn’t quite up to MSMT production standards, it certainly had the concept of razzle-dazzle deeply embedded.  And as you’ll soon see, there is a Chicago connection.

Ms. Knox delivered her remarks with grace aplenty, and several platitudes about how the Downeaster is the town’s ‘ally’ in controlling property tax growth.  We’ll take that as a ‘future promise,’ since recent increases in our property taxes would suggest just the opposite.

More noticeable, at least to us, since we can see between the lines, was how Ms. Knox completely avoided any specific corroborative testimony for the “economic engine” the Downeaster represents to our town…this one….right here….Brunswick.  We were aghast at this omission, since the speaker is deeply immersed in the Brunswick Downtown Association, which IS the group that should have the necessary proof at hand.  Perhaps it was just an oversight, or she was concerned about taking too long in her salute.

Matter of fact, if you listen to her comments, you’ll note that she didn’t mention Freeport, or even Portland, to substantiate her claims of economic stimulus.  Since the service from Boston to Portland began in 2001, you might think Portland authorities would have collected some useful data on the economic benefits by now, but apparently not.  Maybe those towns had nothing good to say, and were unwilling to serve as Ms. Knox’ sources.

We can’t help but wonder, on the other hand, whether Boston has any data available on how travelers from the north have expanded their economic health.

Working her way down the line, Ms. Knox finally found a source or two that would give her glowing positive quotes in Biddeford, though they were marketing platitudes of the sort we debunked when we reviewed the various letters of endorsement for the 2014 TIGER Grant Application submitted by NNEPRA, and other letters sent to the Governor.  You can review those posts here:

The other thing we keyed on in Ms. Knox’ testimony was her mention of background reference documents she provided to the council before hand.  And this is where we connect the dots about consultants, and how much they mean to us in making our lives better in so many ways.

Focused as always on your needs for complete transparency in such matters, we went after the subject background documents, and succeeded.  Which led to our conviction that the subject of ‘consultants’ was worthy of a ‘series.’  In our first post on the subject, where we talked of a PDI’s school enrollment studies, we made this statement:

But then, you know how it is; reality can be so difficult to change, and recorded history is even tougher.  Better to project your fantasies and wishes into the future, where they can’t be disputed in the present.

And so it is that Ms. Know provided the council with a study performed by CNT for NNEPRA in 2008; you can find the document here:

Wouldn’t you just know it; CNT is located in Chicago, and if you check their web site, you’ll find this….

About Us

We help make neighborhoods, cities, and regions work better. For everyone.

Founded in 1978, the Center for Neighborhood Technology is a leader in promoting more livable and sustainable urban communities. We research, invent, and test urban strategies that use resources more efficiently and more equitably.

Alternative Transportation for Chicagoland (formerly IGO CarSharing*), working to make it possible for the Chicago region’s residents to live well without having to own a vehicle, and to create an integrated, multimodal transportation system.

As you can see, CNT brings a Chicago sensibility to our area, and elevates us all to ‘urban’ status, not something many in Maine would agree with.

Here’s an excerpt from the CNT study; TOD is “Transit Oriented Development:”


Can you imagine having sat through the presentation of this study, hearing the Chicago consultants talk of how the estimates were ‘conservative?’  We’re already halfway into the study time period; isn’t it time for a follow up review to test the predictions?  Not likely, we’re guessing.

Here’s another excerpt:


So Brunswick will end up with nearly 2,000 new housing units, and over 800 new jobs.  We’ll leave it to you to study the rest of the report.  In our quick review, we found many of the premises for the study, like Maine’s population growth projections, to have been overcome by decidedly less rosy reality.  But no matter, when you’re chasing OPM and building a new rail empire, pull whatever numbers you need out of that consulting hat of yours.  Or wherever else you get them from.

The second ‘background document’ Ms. Knox provided to our town leaders is this; besides the cover, it amounted to two pages, a cover letter, and a montage of sorts:



We think a bit of study will show that most of the info on the second  page above was lifted from other documents compiled by consultants, including the CNT study we talked about above.  Frankly, we think Ms. Knox should be embarrassed, if not ashamed, for putting forth this equivalent of a post card that throws all sorts of unsubstantiated claims and projections around, without ever addressing ROI in the real fiscal sense.  But such is the way of hired cheerleaders, also known as consultants, helping in the chase for the endless stream of taxpayer funds.

We should point out, by the way, that correlation is not causality in matters such as those cited above.  If you’re not sure what we mean by that, you may not be ready for a critical analysis of these matters, but bear with us.

Making things even better, as we reviewed the CNT study from 2008, we found mention of this study performed for Maine’s Department of Transportation in 2005, conducted by EDRG:


We found this table in the document:


Do you grasp what this says?  Brunswick will see ANNUAL business sales of $1.8 MILLION A WEEK?  And reap nearly 1,000 new jobs?  Are you kidding us?  This is so far out of the ball park that refunds should be demanded, and companies put out of business.  The implication of these figures, if nothing else, is that everyone who rides the train to Brunswick spends THOUSANDS of dollars while here!  While those who ride the train to Freeport spend, oh, less than $100?

We found this passage as well:


You’ll have to excuse us, but we just can’t take any more of this absolute garbage, and we’re even more disgusted by the fact that our tax dollars rewarded those who compiled it, and that our ‘leaders’ used it to rationalize/justify further ‘investment’ of taxpayer funds.  There is a big difference between ‘investment’ and wild speculation, akin to spinning the roulette wheel.

A couple of closing thoughts cross our mind.  We wonder if Ms, Knox and the All Aboard Brunswick Brigade would like to correlate business closures in the area over the last two years or so with the arrival of the Downeaster in our midst.  Of course not, we presume.  Only positive consequences, none of which were or are cited, can be laid at the rails in Maine Street Station.

And then there’s the thought that the Downeaster is simply the most convenient distraction for the loss of the Brunswick Naval Air Station, and the thousands of residents we lost along with the millions upon millions of very real economic activity they represented.

Shame on us for thinking such things, but thoughts are thoughts.

We’ll leave you with a few favorite quotes, before a final musical note.

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
George Bernard Shaw

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana

Those who misremember the past are pleased to repeat it as `proof'.
Mike Huben

The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder's lack of rational conviction.
Bertrand Russell, Skeptical Essays


And then, the essence of Chicago…


Roxie, you got nothing to worry about.
It's all a circus, kid. A three ring circus.
These trials- the wholeworld- all show business.
But kid, you're working with a star, the biggest!

Give 'em the old razzle dazzle
Razzle Dazzle 'em
Give 'em an act with lots of flash in it
And the reaction will be passionate
Give 'em the old hocus pocus
Bead and feather 'em
How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

What if your hinges all are rusting?
What if, in fact, you're just disgusting?

Razzle dazzle 'em
And they;ll never catch wise!

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle

Razzle dazzle 'em
Give 'em a show that's so splendiferous

Row after row will grow vociferous

Give 'em the old flim flam flummox
Fool and fracture 'em

How can they hear the truth above the roar?

Roar, roar, roar!

Throw 'em a fake and a finagle
They'll never know you're just a bagel,

Razzle dazzle 'em
And they'll beg you for more!

Give 'em the old double whammy
Daze and dizzy 'em
Back since the days of old Methuselah
Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-lah

Give 'em the old three ring circus
Stun and stagger 'em
When you're in trouble, go into your dance

Though you are stiffer than a girder
They'll let you get away with murder
Razzle dazzle 'em
And you've got a romance

COMPANY(The same time as BILLY's)
Give 'em the old
Razzle Dazzle

Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle
Razzle dazzle 'em
Show 'em the first rate sorcerer you are
Long as you keep 'em way off balance
How can they spot you've got no talents?
Razzle Dazzle 'em

Razzle Dazzle 'em
Razzle Dazzle 'em

And they'll make you a star!

We apologize to you; we didn’t realize when we undertook this ‘theme based’ series, just how disgusted the material we are bringing to you would make us.  But it has, and so we’re pulling the plug on it for now, and counting snowflakes instead.



…..of a different sort, we think.  Or so we hope.

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