Saturday, May 9, 2015

FOAA and Brunswick’s _itch hunt

The English language is a funny thing, full of ambiguities and other opportunities to be misled.

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As one example, we’ve never quite been sure whether “witch hunt” refers to witches going out on a hunt, or others going out to hunt witches.  Not to mention other words that share the  same ‘-itch’ root, many of which have multiple meanings.

This past Sunday, we posted on an issue of accountability here: 

In that item, we mentioned a letter we had seen ‘on background,’ and gave you some hints as to its contents, from what we could remember. 

We also promised to pursue the actual letter via Maine’s Freedom of Access Act.  We did so, and promptly received a courteous response from the responsible office with the letter attached.  Here it is:



You might find it helpful to go back and read the post from Sunday.  For our purposes, we’re going to repeat the “Takeaways” we posted there:


Takeaway 1:   What did the Kings hope to accomplish by having this letter written and submitted to the GOC that oversees OPEGA?  While we can’t know what their hopes were, we can opine on what it actually accomplished.  “The Lady doth protest too much, methinks” comes to mind, adding some Shakespearean drama to the investigation.  We expect the letter will raise the level of interest in how this arrangement came about at both municipal and state levels.  Tally one more egg cracked that can’t be put back into the shell.

Takeaway 2:  The details surrounding Brunswick Taxi’s arrangement provide a near perfect glimpse into the responsibility/accountability void at NNEPRA.  It seems to us the perfect admixture of ‘it’s not my job’ with profuse amounts of OPM.  Virtually no-one of importance has to worry about job security or the survival of the enterprise.  It’s not in their DNA.  Amtrak was created out of the ashes of passenger rail history, by a congress believing it could be made to work again, on a for profit basis, if you can believe it.  As one congressman recently said, Amtrak is the Post Office on rails, and just as profitable.

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Here’s an archived photo you might enjoy of the three OPM sisters, Municipal (MOPM), State (SOPM), and Federal (FOPM.)  (“OPM,” for the uninitiated, stands for Other Peoples’ Money; pronounced O-pee-em, most of the time.)  Here, though, we admit to liking the sound of “Moppem, Soppem, and Foppem.”  It rolls off the tongue with a certain lilt.


We think immediately of who is ‘responsible and accountable’ for the recent derailment just outside the Portland depot?  NNEPRA?  Amtrak?  Pan American Railways?  What organization, and what employees within that organization?  Are there subs involved that work for any of them? 

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What about their governing bodies?  Just where does the buck stop?  Who will step up and say ‘this one stops at MY desk?’  Where is the single point of accountability?  In truth, there likely isn’t one.  Government, as clearly demonstrated in recent years, is genetically indisposed to such petty considerations afflicting the private sector. 


Perhaps you built your house, like we have, and employed a general contractor, who brought with him his subcontractors, and took overall responsibility for all aspects of the construction.  Pretty straightforward.  Now ask yourself these questions:

What is the NNEPRA Governance model?  Who do NNEPRA and Patsy Quinn work for?  Their Board?  Who does the Board work for?  The Governor, or one of his Departments?  No.  The legislature?  No. The Governor  nominates for the Board, and the legislature consents, but then what?  How many layers of subcontractors does NNEPRA have?  Amtrak?  PAR?  Parsons Brinkerhoff?  Consigli?  Food service?  Drummac?

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Who does Pan American Railways work for?

What is the Amtrak Governance model?  Who does Amtrak work for?  The President/Executive Branch and one of the Departments?  No.  Congress?  No.  A Board that oversees them?  Who does the Board report to?  How many layers of subcontractors does it use?  CTS?  LJK Companies, Travelliance, others?  Brunswick Taxi?

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There are simply too many bucks involved to keep track of.

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In a word, who gets the 3 am phone call when things really go off the rails?  What if there’s an environmental emergency at the MLF?

And why has track maintenance gotten to the point where 6 weeks or so of Construction Alerts are necessary?

But wait; it’s  only “temporary: ”  If memory serves, way before the damage from the winter just passed was assessed, there was a residual of 22,000 ties still to be replaced after last year’s ‘hard winter.’  Most would agree the recent winter was worse than the one before; who knows how much will be added to the scope known at this time.  Hence, these encouraging words:

The specific timing of the 2015 Tie Replacement Project is subject to change, but will likely end on or about June 15, 2015.


We hope you’ll agree there are more than enough “GA” concerns here for OPEGA to sink their teeth into.  (Government Accountability)


If you’ve been following Other Side for a while, you may have discerned that we have some favorite movies and favorite actors.  We love “A Few Good Men,” starring Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise.  We love “As Good As It Gets” starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.  We love “Something’s Gotta Give” starring Jack Nicholson and DIane Keaton.

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We also love “The Witches of Eastwick.” starring, you guessed it, Jack Nicholson, in what we consider a particularly ‘delicious role’  set in a classic, historic New England town.  As chance would have it, the town’s name ends in ‘-wick,’ and the plot is built around the battle between a man who seems to have inordinate powers and several well-known women in the town.

The women attempt to seek revenge, through a variety of witchy methods.  If you’ve never seen the movie, we suspect you may enjoy it.  We find a number of the scenes hilarious.

None of them specifically involve attempts to intimidate elected officials, but use your imagination, and you might just see the connection. 

Brunswick ain’t Hollywood, you know.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own drama queens.  Or whatever else you might want to call them.   

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