Wednesday, September 30, 2015

When you’re gambling with OPM, the sky’s the limit, and the possibilities are endless……


We think we’ve told you before that we’re a devoted fan of “The Great American Songbook,” which includes songs like ‘Pennies From Heaven.’ 

Don’t you know each cloud contains…pennies from heaven.  You’ll find your fortune falling….all over town; make sure that your umbrella…is upside down!” 

We can recite the lyrics of the song even now, more than 50 years since we put nickels in the Juke Box at Dee’s Luncheonette, so we could listen to Sinatra sing it.

If only today’s record setting downpour would have left pennies on our roads and driveways.

You know what?  That really doesn’t matter when OPM is so readily available. 

“Stella?  Get Cole Porter on the line, and tell him we have an idea for a new song…..OPM from heaven.  And bring me one of those cigars, will ya’ Hon?”

Shirley, you must remember our friends the Oppem sisters, don’t you?  Moppem, Soppem, and Foppem we call them.

All three joined us at a gala “Rally for Passenger Rail” in Auburn last Thursday night.  At least in spirit.  The event was put on by the Passenger Rail Coalition whose logo is shown above.

On this great occasion, we heard Patsy Quinn, ED of NNEPRA, affirm that her goals are to have “4 to 5 round trips daily” between Brunswick and Boston, and “6 round trips per day” between Portland and Brunswick.  NNEPRA, of course, is the state agency that operates the Amtrak Downeaster, so those of you who enjoy the coming and going of the train at Maine Street Station can look forward to triple the current movements to and fro.

These disclosures were more or less an incidental bonus to the main subject of the gathering, which was the expansion of passenger rail to Lewiston/Auburn, Bethel, and points beyond, like Montreal.

We provided some excerpts of the parameters associated with this sort of expansion a few weeks back in this post.  Here are the highlights:

MDOT Aug 11 Portland North 1

MDOT Aug 11 Portland North 2

For Bethel, the particulars are equally appealing:

MDOT Aug 11 Portland North 3

MDOT Aug 11 Portland North 4

A bit of follow-up on your part will show that capital investments up front include additional train sets, new Layover Facilities, and new stations, among other things.

A friend of ours, a transport professional, looked at the numbers above and determined the operating subsidy would be over $100 per rider.


But as passenger rail advocates in New Hampshire have said, ‘it’s worth the gamble.’  Of course it is in their conception; going to Las Vegas, or in this case, the Oxford Casino, and playing with someone else’s money, can only have an upside.

Seriously; what’s the worst that could happen?

And the best?

Remember the old days when mobster movies referred to cash money as ‘lettuce?’  OPM is the new, non-GMO, sustainably raised version of ‘lettuce,’ and out there in Western Maine, they apparently believe it’s available in ample measure.

With a tasty dip and a few sides to make it more attractive.

Media coverage of the event included this photo:


In case you don’t recognize him, this is Tony O’Donnovan, founder of the Maine Rail Transit Coalition, and tireless lobbyist for passenger rail in Augusta.  The same Toney Donovon who called your humble correspondent a Richard (well, actually, a common nickname for Richard), and who testified in March at a hearing for LD 323 as follows:

My name is Tony Donovan, Portland resident commercial realtor specializing in site location of development at train stations. I have been involved in passenger rail for over a decade. I was the first Realtor to market the Brunswick Maine Street Train Station site, the Realtor who attracted a $100 million dollar investor to the station site in Portland and I am working with municipalities and investors at similar sites
around New England.

The towns and cities served by the Downeaster Amtrak passenger rail between Boston and Brunswick, like their counterparts across the nation, are realizing exponential economic prosperity at the sites served by passenger train stations.

He’s a legend in his own mind in Brunswick, and the authority declaring that we’re experiencing ‘exponential economic prosperity,’ whatever the hell that is, because of the Downeaster.  And he adds the credibility of the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club to that declaration.

How could you not be impressed?

And how could you not tell everyone else that it’s certainly been worth the gamble here in Cape Brunswick?

                   Ladies of Brunswick

Even if the “Ladies of Brunswick,” who formed All Aboard Brunswick, frown on gambling.  Though they’re known to make exceptions for special cases, especially when advocated by handsome young men like Tony.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Brunswick TM promises no budget increase in next fiscal year; Johnny Protocols backs him up


Have you read the article in The Forecaster about the revaluation discussion at the town council meeting this past Monday eve.?  You’ll find it here:   It includes this passage:

“This is a matter of law, we cannot avoid this,” said Councilor John Richardson.

Town Manager John Eldridge stressed that the revaluation would not result in the town acquiring more revenue from property taxes, but rather redistribute where those taxes are coming from.

Richardson likened the process to re-dividing the slices of a pie, rather than making the pie larger.


First, we’d like to thank Councilor Richardson for reminding us of how important it is to comply with the law, and for the fine role model he’s been in that regard.

As you can see above, Mr. Manager John Eldridge assures us, in so many words, that the town budget will not be increasing next year, as we had hoped for in this recent post.  In that item, we provided this historic look at the revenue and tax rates surrounding our last revaluation:


Note in the last two columns that while the tax rate initially declined by $2.40, in just three years from the reval, it had MORE than eclipsed that reduction.  Note as well, in column 1, that the year of the revaluation featured a 4.9 % increase in property tax revenue, and the following year, a 9.2% increase.  With constant beyond inflation increases in the ensuing years.                                                                                                                                                                                                     

As Frank Lee might say, we don’t place much stock in Mr. Manager’s assurance.  He does, however, have the backing of Johnny P. on the assertion, using his constant pie size imagery.  Fortunately for the pie-man, he won’t be at the table next year to restate his commitment to Mr. Manager’s tacit promise.

Mr. Eldridge will have to decide whether he wants to borrow the Howie Carr line we use from time to time; you know the one:

“You can trust us on this, because we’re not like all the others.”

The good news for town staff is that they can get to work on next year’s budget, knowing there will be no increase in property tax revenue.  For the very first time that we can remember, a budget bogey has been promulgated for the next cycle, as we have suggested on numerous occasions.

We’re glad Mr. Manager is finally taking the bull by the tail and facing the situation.  But he should heed the lesson learned by the soon departing councilor.  Sometimes, when you mess around with pies, you can end up with egg on your face.


As for the TM and those who subscribe to his public assurances, including our betters on the council, we’d like to advise them to get their orders in early for Humble Pies.  We expect there to be quite a run next spring during town budget season.


There could be a run on cream pies as well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Other Side taken hostage by Brunswick Taxi & Amtrak personnel; escapes with help of MLF construction team (Wed AM revision)

- Brunswick PD called to apprehend; Side narrowly escapes arrest

- Legal options under consideration; wise counsel being sought

Today was “interesting.”  In the fullest sense of that word, which can express a very wide range of meanings.  “Hmmm…that dip has a really interesting combination of flavors.”  Or, “that’s the most interesting preparation of squirrel I’ve ever tasted.”

We recall the “breathtaking” episode of Seinfeld; if that’s not in your personal TV archive, describing it here won’t help.


Our story is simple.  We were coming across town roughly at mid-day, and decided to head to an office on Parker’s Way, just off Church Road, adjacent to the railroad tracks.  As Chance would have it, a Downeaster train set was parked on the tracks just east of the Church Road crossing, where it normally spends about five hours a day between ‘revenue runs.’

As we drove by the train, it appeared to be running at a fairly high idle rate.  We understood this situation had been mitigated by the installation of an Auxiliary Power connection that would allow the train to shut down in the warmer months.  Since the idle didn’t seem any different from what we were used to in the past, we decided to see if the train was connected to the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU.)

We couldn’t see through the trees and bushes on Parker Way, so we headed back out to Church Road to see what we could see.  The dirt/gravel access road that runs adjacent to the north side of the tracks beckoned to us.  Seeing no signage telling us to stay out, we turned on to it, headed east from Church Road.    

Within a hundred yards or so, we encountered a Brunswick Taxi van, license plate “JT-1”, that we recognized from previous visits to the area.  The van was apparently waiting to collect an Amtrak crew from the incoming train that they would transport to Portland.  As best we know, Brunswick Taxi, owned by the King family (the long time town council chair), and beneficiary of a quarter million dollar grant from local taxpayers, has a contract to make this round trip twice a day 365 days of the year.


The van was positioned in such a way as to make it difficult to get by to move further along so the connections to the Amtrak locomotive could be observed.  Still, we made it by the van, and proceeded east, until we saw that the engine was indeed connected to the APU.  This made us wonder why the unit was still operating at a high idle, but what do we know?  We’re not the government; we’re just a private citizen.  Sometime we just don’t recognize the help we’re being given by our benefactors.

Having seen the connection, we decided to turn around and leave via Church Road.  But in the brief time we had been further east, the Brunswick Taxi van had moved adjacent to one of the recently installed power poles, positioning itself such that we could not get by, out to Church Road, and on our way.

It was clear they were trying to block our egress from the site.  To make the blockage look unintentional, one of the Amtrak crew members stood outside the van, engaged in an animated cell phone conversation.  After a few minutes of this, we began to surmise what was going on.  Still, tolerant as we are. we waited a few more minutes for the urgent cell phone business to complete.

Which didn’t happen.  But in a few minutes, the rear hatch of the Brunswick Taxi van opened, and we noticed the flash of a cell phone camera taking photos of us in our vehicle.  This confirmed that we were in some sort of standoff.  We exited our trapped vehicle and approached the van, and the Amtrak crew member (we assumed) approached us.  We asked what the problem was, and if he could have the van move a car length or two so we could get out.  He explained that they needed “five minutes” to pick up another crew member.

Fine, we thought.  Then he hopped aboard the Cabbage Car and disappeared.  We pondered our options, and decided to approach the van to ask the driver to move ahead so that we could get by.  The driver, a young lady of 35 or so, said she could not move the van, because “I’m supposed to be RIGHT HERE.”  We said ‘you mean you can’t be 20 ft further this way or that way,’ and she said no. 

Long story short, she had decided to, or been directed to block our exit and be obstinate about it.  We asked her name, and she said she didn’t have to answer.  We asked what required her to be in that exact location, and she said they had a contract.  We asked with whom, like Amtrak, and she declined to answer that as well.  In other words, she had to be right there “because.”

It was now abundantly clear they had orders, via cell phone conversation, to block us from leaving the property, no matter how much it delayed the crew’s return to Portland.  We have little doubt that Brunswick’s most notable FU alumnus was involved in this decision.

In so many words, Side had been taken hostage and held against our will by the Brunswick Taxi driver and her accomplices from the Amtrak crew.

We returned to our vehicle, and resolved never again to head out on the town without our digital camera and archaic flip phone.  As we pondered our options, a huge shiny black pickup truck approached from behind us.  The driver got out of  the truck, came up to us, and asked what was going on.  We gave him the facts we just related.

Turns out he was wearing a polo shirt with a Consigli logo on it, and he explained that he was involved in constructing the MLF on the site.  He also stated that what the Brunswick Taxi unit was doing was unsat, and that he would see that it was taken care of.  And then he advised that we could do a 180, and head in the  other direction to leave the site, which we did, coming out on Turner Street.

This gentleman put himself on the line, at least figuratively speaking, to free us from our forced confinement.  We’re grateful to him for that.  Then, things got even more interesting.  Or if you have a warped sense of humor (and Brunswick civic reality) like ours, more humorous.


Amused by the episode, and wondering what would happen from all the phone calls that were made by Amtrak and Brunswick Taxi personnel, we headed back to Side’s editorial offices.   We have a local craftsman doing some work on our facility, and chatted with him about what had just happened.  As we did, a Brunswick PD vehicle approached.

We raised our hands in surrender, yelling ‘don’t shoot, we did it.’  The officer got out of his car, and gave us the news we had already guessed he would.  A report had been filed on us, and the BPD was obligated to conduct a follow-up investigation.  We’re grateful they didn’t employ the full assault vehicle, since you never know what you might encounter out here in the boonies.   The kids across the street would have loved it, though.

          BPD SRT Truck2

We had a lengthy conversation about what had transpired, and about the vagaries of  railroad ownership, management, and operation, and what the BPD was obligated to do about it all.  He acknowledged there were no signs on the property we had visited, warning journalists like us from sniffing out a good story, but indicated he expected such signs, fences, etc, would soon be appearing on the site.

We asked if he knew who we were, and he said ‘no, but we have someone at the station who can look into if for you if you can’t figure it out.’  All they’d need, he said is fingerprints and a full frontal photo, but only if we were willing.  And then they could assign a new member of the force to sniff out our real identity.  As soon as he’s sufficiently “trained.”


We thought it over for a few moments, and decided we’d just as soon not have to face the truth of who we are.  With that, the Officer thanked us for our cooperation, and headed out to find the next least wanted scofflaw in Cape Brunswick.


Sleep well, dear friends; justice has been done.  Now, if they could just find the Brunswick Taxi driver who was recently seen trying to forge a new approach road to the trackside area, things could get even better.

As we’ve said before, sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.

And other times, you can try to prove you’re the King of the Road.  Using taxpayer funded vehicles if you have to.

Anybody have a clue how the FU football team is doing this season?  We think we might have seen their traditional hand salute coming from the van as we ended our visit with them.


One last mystery – we wonder how much overtime the Amtrak crew got for the ‘extenuating workplace circumstances’ we forced upon them.  A phone call of thanks would be nice, but probably not in the offing.  Don’t they know ‘who we are?’

They could always call the BPD to find out.  They have that number, we’re sure.  It’s Nine-FU salute-FU salute.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Immutable Laws: dropping the other shoe….


We told you yesterday we’d be following up on our “Immutable Laws” post soon.  We lied; we’re not going to do that.


Just kidding!  As the old saying goes, ‘if you can’t take a joke….’  Gray and murky as it was outside when we began this post, we thought maybe you could use a chuckle.  Or a reason to chuck, as the case may be.

Our inspiration for this commentary can be found in the agenda for the Brunswick Town Council Meeting this coming Monday, September 21st.

LT Dover, Benjamin Alert


The first item is this:


Turns out we’d forgotten about a prior post on this very issue going back to January of last year; it popped up when we went in search of Ben Dover’s avatar.  Here is where you can find it:

It begins with these inspired words:

It’s been some time since we’ve heard from LT Dover, Benjamin, a young member of our staff who we casually refer to as LT Ben Dover.                          

Which, now that we get into the subject, is taking us down a rat-hole, so you’ll have to bare with us.  Turns out we have some personal experience, and detailed data, on ‘reappraisal and revaluation.’ 


And we still have occasional nightmares in which a well known former town councilor pats herself and her colleagues on the back for “lowering the town’s tax-rate.”

The data that matters here is shown in the ‘snip’ below, taken from a spread sheet of municipal budget records we maintain.  It details the last time we had a ‘reappraisal and revaluation.’  Let us guide you through it.


To begin with, the fourth column is the fiscal year involved.  The first column is the property tax revenue, and the column next to it is the % increase compared to the prior year.  Ignore the 3rd column, and the 5th, through 10th columns as well; they have only to do with our analysis for statistical purposes beyond our interest today.

The next to last column is the tax rate set for that fiscal year. and the last column is the change in rate compared to the prior year.


As you can see, in FY 00/01, the tax rate declined by 11.3%, allowing all concerned to jump up and down jubilantly because of ‘the huge decrease in the mil-rate’ in Brunswick.  None-the-less, property tax revenue that year increased by 4.9%, or nearly $1 million.  Funny how that works; we’ll get to that in a moment.

In the next year, the tax rate went up by 9%, and tax revenue increased by 9.2%, or nearly $2 million.  Property tax revenue increases by app. $1 million per year in the next few years.

As a side note, for the truly curious, the oldest data we have is for FY 87/88, when property tax revenue was in the $10 million range.  We don’t have actual tax rate figures back that far, but it was probably in the $12 to $13 dollar range (per thousand.)  Today, that rate stands at $28.36.

For the FY 15/16 tax year, the property tax revenue is nearly $39 million.  So if you lived in your house in the late 80’s, your new property tax bill is most likely nearly four times what it was then.  Oh well; government spending happens!  Get over it.

Which calls for a brief homily on the insidious nature of the municipal property tax.  Let’s summarize it as follows:

1)  The property tax is predatory because it is adjustable rate.  The mil-rate is set anew each year by municipal authorities in order to meet their obligation to balance budget accounts.

2)  “Living within their means” is simply not part of the process.  No one in authority asks how much revenue came in last year and then figures out how to limit spending to that amount this year.  In fact, the reverse happens; they decide how much they want to spend this year, and then adjust the mil-rate to yield that amount, irrespective of what either figure was in the prior year.

3)  The property tax system is likely understood by no more than a small minority (10% tops?) of those who pay the bills.  Valuation, mil-rate, equalization, assessment ratio, etc, are all esoteric terms that obscure the harsh realities.  Add to this that many pay it indirectly through their rent, and that many homeowners have it impounded as part of their mortgage payments, and you have a situation ripe for obfuscation and budgetary abuse.  As we’ve said many times before, you can govern or you can spend, and the latter view prevails overwhelmingly.

4)  The system provides all concerned with plausible deniability.  The council says all they do is approve the budget, not the tax rate.  The assessor says all they do is ensure compliance with state law regarding valuation ratios.  The finance department says it’s their job to set the tax rate to yield the required revenue from the established valuation.  See?  No single person or entity is responsible for the unending increases in our property tax bills, or even worse, accountable!

Regardless of all the mumbo-jumbo from Johnny Protocols and his colleagues on the council both present and past, the only thing that matters (other than compliance with state law) is your personal property tax bill and its year to year change.  That’s where the “truth talks and the rhetoric walks,” to borrow a common phrase.

We can tell you this.  Ours has reliably increased year over year, no matter what else is going on.  Never ever have we been told that we were paying ‘more than our fair share’ while others were paying ‘less of their fair share.’  All the feel good rhetoric of rationalization emanating from the council table is so much poppycock and codswallop.

Everything they do, when you come right down to it, has only to do with spending more and taxing more.  We defy anyone to prove otherwise. 

And trust us, this round of ‘we’re just doing what we’re required to do’ has the only constant, real purpose, and nothing else: to yield more revenue to spend while making it difficult to understand how that could have happened.  Every act of government has that as its primary objective.

You can call that a cynical view.  But cynicism is simply judgment born of experience.  If the council wants to disabuse us, and you, of this notion, their approval of a revaluation project will require that it be property tax revenue neutral in the first year of the new values, and that revenue increase by no more than say…..2%….in each of the five years that follow.

Which calls to mind the image of snowballs in hell.  None-the-less, when you go to the council meeting tomorrow night, get up and challenge them to do what we suggest in order to show a good faith commitment to protecting our interests.  Let us know how that works out for you.

To add to the humor of this situation, wel cite this report from The Ostrich in their September 10th front page article:

The town last had a revaluation in 2000.  According to assessor Cathy Jamison, the town’s assessment ration is at 70% for the 2015 tax year and many properties are selling at 60 percent of fair market value or lower.  She noted the ratios show there is a lot of inequity among different types of properties.

Read that underlined passage carefully; there are two choices here.  First, that the assessor has no idea of what she actually said, or second, that the reporter blew it and her editor has no clue on tax and market value realities.  Likely, both are true.  And then this follows:

“An equalization project is the reappraisal of all real estate to bring about uniformity in property valuations,” Jamison wrote.  “The purpose is to value all properties by the same standard so that each property owner is paying only their fair share of the cost of essential community services.

Anytime a government official talks about “fair share,” you should be afraid, very afraid.  When they add “essential community services” on top of that, head for safe refuge.

Looking at our personal property tax history, we’re more than confident that we’re paying not ONLY our “fair share,” but far more.  And don’t even get us started on “essential community services.”  Both subjects could merit a blog of their own, given their psycho-babble, subjective character.


It seems fitting and appropriate to end this part of our discussion with a quote on the subject from Johnny Protocols, the presumptive next state senator for Brunswick, as he climbs his way back to the Governor’s office.  That right there says a lot about how “we” govern ourselves, as if we needed any more to improve our outlook.

“There’s all the reasons in the world to do this as one of our top priorities,” John  Richardson, councilor at large, said. He stressed that a lot has changed in the past 15 years: coastal and rural property taxes have increased, and in-town and commercial property tax has gone down.

“In town property tax has gone down?”  What exactly is Johnny smoking, or drinking, or both?

The second item is this:



So that ‘new High School’ of ours, now 20 years old, is starting to crumble.  Better start the planning for a new one now!  And raising the money!  Somebody call Lyndon “Kaching Kaching” Keck at PDT, and have him start working up a plan!


From the same Ostrich column on September 10:

Paul Caron, the facilities director for Brunswick School Department, said the low bid process, in his opinion, isn’t as effective as finding a reputable contractor to design a system that will work for the department.

Ponder those words; who decides, and by what objective rules and procedure, who is a ‘reputable contractor,’ and what will ‘work for the department?’  The same guy that let the roof on Jordon Acres fail, and the floors and toilets in Coffin and BHS fall into terrible dis-repair?  You want us to trust HIM?  AYFKM?

Then, let’s put some scale to this.  Let’s say you could do a first class, bang up job replacing and upgrading the ‘boiler and domestic hot water system’ in your house for $10,000.  Sounds like a pretty comfortable figure, don’t you think?

That means the boiler and domestic hot water system in 57 houses could be done for the amount they want to spend to do the same at BHS.  We’d like to believe that doing all the work in one location would lead to economies of scale at BHS, but then, we can be so unrealistic.

57 houses!  How much of Meadowbrook would that encompass?  Yeah, we know, we’re just another anti-tax, anti-government extremist.

That aside, we believe at the very least, a detailed bid package and contractor response should be made available for public review before proceeding on this initiative.  There are any number of residents here in town that can quickly and astutely review and assess such a proposal.

We can’t wait to hear what they might say.  Sure; $575,000 is only $30 or so per town resident, so why make such a big deal?


Because sooner or later, and every now and then, the right thing should be done.

That’s why. 

No matter how many feathers it ruffles, and on whom.  It’s time for you to get mad as hell, and let your betters know it.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Immutable Laws: A Reprise

                 Ladies of Brunswick

As we reflected on emerging news here in the perfect little town in America, with our peerlessly pulchritudinous purveyors of public policy proposals and prescriptions, we realized that some lessons are important enough that they should be reviewed from time to time.  And so we bring to you this offering of ours from two years ago, both here and on the Maine Wire.

We originally treated the subject on Side with this collection of posts:

Just for grins, we’re going to repeat the original article, in toto, below.  Please read it, reflect on it, and absorb it.  We hope to make it clear why this is relevant in the next day or so.  For now, just think of it as Friday night homework.



June 11, 2013

By Pem Schaeffer — Dr. Thomas Sowell, the prolific scholar and author at the Hoover Institution, sometimes writes columns he calls ‘Random Thoughts.’  He passes along seemingly unconnected thoughts on a variety of subjects, so he can cross them off his ‘to do’ list.

Sowell is brilliant, and to the dismay of many, a black conservative, which makes him persona non grata in most serious discussions about social and political policy. Especially in enlightened places like Maine.  Would that I could spend an internship under his tutelage.

Here’s hoping he won’t take offense at my borrowing of his ‘random’ theme.

Random Observations on Town and School Budgeting:

  • Those advocating ever higher spending like to remind us that “you get what you pay for.”  You’re damn straight; if you increase teacher pay, you get higher paid teachers.  Further, if you increase school spending, you get a more expensive school system.
  • Accountability is a largely unknown concept, because the average taxpayer thinks this is what Certified Public Accountants study.  And that it rates their competence when they complete their studies.
  • Elected officials are the last to acknowledge there is no tooth fairy, and that free lunches have a cost.
  • There’s never enough money for ‘public servants’ to be good stewards of what we already own, by keeping existing physical assets in good repair.  But there’s always enough money to tear such assets down and build something new in their place.
    • Imagine if your private structure was crumbling and in danger of being condemned. You’d be seen as irresponsible, unprincipled, and someone who didn’t care about their neighbors.
    • If private property was managed the way public property is, ¾ of downtown Brunswick would have had to be torn down decades ago, especially those properties in the historic district overseen by the Village Review Board.  Half the houses in town would have to be torn down as well…those 40 years old or more.  Including yours, more than likely, if you happen to live in an ‘older’ home in town.
    • Corollary: there’s never enough public interest, let alone a mandate, that officials maintain existing facilities as a first priority, but always great public clamor to support ripping down and replacing existing facilities that were ALLOWED, consciously, to fall into disrepair.
    • In sum, government ‘staff’ is rewarded for letting things fall apart, instead of being penalized or held accountable.
  • Town officials, and the vast majority of their constituents, act as if no state or federal revenue sharing or subsidy comes out of local pockets.  Witness the resolution making its way through various town governing bodies regarding state revenue sharing and general purpose aid to education.
  • School system professionals are masters learning from masters on how to manipulate local leadership and voters.  Local union leadership learns from highly paid state union leadership, which learns from even higher paid national union leadership.
    • You, the local taxpayer, learns from no-one.  You have no one advocating for you.
  • You can fool all of the people some of the time; and you can fool some of the people all of the time.
    • Sadly, you can fool enough of the people most of the time to get them to support shooting themselves in the foot.  Or, if you prefer, most of the people enough of the time.
  • All congress critters and elected state officials are sons-a-bitches, except ours, who are OUR sons-a-bitches.
  • “What belongs to you, you tend to take care of; what belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair.” (Thanks to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy)
    • Which leads to the premise that tearing down buildings that were mis-managed into irrelevance and unusability is an “investment in our future.”
    • In Brunswick, look at the old town hall, the ‘Old High School;’ the Times Record  Building.  Now, watch Jordan Acres School, the Rec Center, the current Town Hall, Coffin Elementary School, and Brunswick Junior High School rise on the platform of the public chopping block.  All for ‘community pride.’  We gave away the beloved Longfellow School, criminally mismanaged care of Jordan Acres School, and now, because we couldn’t figure out how to keep Coffin and BJHS in serviceable condition, we need to replace them “for the children,” with zero repercussions for those responsible.  What’s more, just to prove how benevolent we are, we’re about to give away the Federal St. Rec Building to benefit the School Department.
  • You can govern, or you can spend.  The latter is a 10-1 favorite over the former.
  • Spending more always trumps courage, commitment, and stewardship.
  • “Tough choices” are only tough because officials embrace no immutable, rock solid principles.
  • “For the children” has about as much relevance as “for the taxpayer.”
    • It may be ‘for the children,’ but there’s no denying ‘it’s from the taxpayers.’
  • “Costs beyond our control” are almost without exception those approved in prior year actions.
  • The property tax is the most insidious, predatory form of taxation there is, because it is adjustable rate.
    • It ignores the scarcity of resources that is the fundamental law of economics.
    • Bring six worried mommies and a real estate agent to a municipal government meeting, and you can up the tax rate by 10% without even breathing heavy.
    • If the feds and state did the same thing, we’d all be penniless in a few years.
  • Government is the only form of human enterprise that has no competition, never goes out of business, or terminates employees for incompetence.
    • And no human enterprise more needs these influences and consequences for ineptness.
  • Government operated public schools have been declining in performance in national and international rankings for years, regardless of spending more and having smaller class size.
    • Thank goodness, in Brunswick we have the one exception.  I’m confident that YOUR town is similarly exempt from this characterization.
  • Henry Hazlitt’s ‘economics in one lesson’ reads as follows:
    • ‘The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
    • Elected officials reject this lesson, along with the law of scarcity, as they rush to spend for the short term and to quiet the squeakiest wheels.
  • Mission creep is the order of the day; good intentions are the only justification required.
    • Schools are now soup kitchens, health clinics, social service providers, behavioral interventionists, and babysitters.
    • Town charters are as ignored as State and Federal Constitutions.
  • Proactive leadership and guidelines for budget preparation are to be eschewed for theatrical wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth in reaction to budget submissions, especially when it comes to school budgets.
    • This is the ‘leading from behind’ approach embraced elsewhere in our governance.  In this case, ‘leading from behind’ is ‘leading from a corner.’


The Maine Wire link is

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lewiston jumps aboard the Kool-Aid Train; will Auburn be far behind?

       Image result for Kool-Aid train

We’ve reported in recent years on the incredible success of Downeaster expansion to Brunswick, and now the enlightenment has spread to other communities in Maine.  As you might expect, they’re jealous of the economic benefits our perfect little town has reaped.  The evidence is everywhere, and we should have known that sooner or later, the secret would get out.

Here’s the news from Lewiston:

Lewiston-Auburn |

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 9:59 pm

LEWISTON — The city will pay $50,000 to study extending Amtrak rail service from Portland to the Twin Cities.

Councilors voted 5-2 Tuesday night to back a $400,000 Maine Department of Transportation analysis of rail market demand of the new line, a service plan, new construction needed, ways to pay for the work and potential environmental impacts and alternatives.

The study was approved by the Maine Legislature and requires Lewiston and Auburn each to pay a $50,000 share. Auburn councilors are expected to vote on the matter before Nov. 1.

"Our legislative delegation worked very hard to get state money to fund 80 percent of this study," Councilor Nate Libby said. "It will lay out the steps to bring the train 18 miles up the track to Lewiston-Auburn and reconnect us with train service."

Darby Ray, director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships at Bates College, said regular train service between L-A and Portland would be a good recruiting tool for the school. The college regularly hires faculty and staff who choose to live in Portland, where their spouses work.

"I firmly believe that more faculty and staff would consider locating here — especially as property values skyrocket down there — sending their spouse down on the train to Portland," she said. "I think we need to study this to move forward."

Councilors agreed to pay Lewiston's share of the study out of money left over from the road and utilities development of Gendron Business Park. They also agreed to pay for two other programs with that money: a $5,000 matching grant for L/A Arts to study arts and culture and $20,000 to the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council for a grant to pay for marketing.

Councilor Leslie Dubois said her frustration with paying for studies was why she voted against the rail study funding.

"We have a lot of studies and plans," she said. "What I'd like to actually see is for us to pick one of those plans and spend money on implementing it, rather than spending more money on more plans."

Sounds like Leslie Dubois is headed for the ash-heap of ‘community pride.’  How could that happen?

They must have a spin-off of AAB up there by now; we figure the head cheerleader and the Booch are up there organizing as we type.  “AAL” and “AAA;” we can see the cute little stickers in our mind’s eye.  We hope they can make a convert of Leslie, before she’s driven out of town on a rail.

The article above mentions Legislative plans to spend nearly half a million studying the idea.  Funny, because just four years ago, Maine’s Department of Transportation issued a 100+ page study of exactly this subject.  From the looks of the report, it must have cost a goodly number of taxpayer shekels, only to ge relegated to a file cabinet somewhere.

You can find it here: MDOT Aug 11 Portland to LA Feas.

Perhaps you don’t want to take the time to open it up and read it.  Fine; that’s what you have us for.  Here’s a telling excerpt from the study that addresses passenger rail expansion to Auburn:

MDOT Aug 11 Portland North 1

MDOT Aug 11 Portland North 2

How could anyone refuse such a stunning opportunity?  Only $107 million to $234 million to create this new expansion.  But the return on ‘investment’ makes it all worthwhile, at least if you’re a “Koolie,” which is what we’re going to call the passenger rail groupies from now on.  Per this study, the service will only require about a 75% (or higher) annual operating subsidy, which means the investment will have been paid back NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS!

The Downeaster, in the current time frame, operates with a subsidy of about 55%, so by comparison, it looks like a real winner for use of public dollars.


As we hear things, Tony Donovan, a Portland based real estate developer, has been the primary advocate pushing the Lewiston City Council to fund their share of the new study.  Donovan reportedly promised to provide Lewiston officials with economic benefit data documenting  Brunswick’s remarkable rail driven success, but was unable to deliver the data on time because of ‘car troubles.’ 

He should have known he could call Brunswick Taxi anytime, and get a free ride courtesy of Amtrak and Brunswick taxpayers.  As you might expect, the council approved the expenditure anyway, knowing that real estate developers looking to do business in town are as trustworthy as they come.  So the keepers of the public trust are certain they did the right thing.

Inquiring minds, of which there are not all that many, might wonder why a new study is required, when a comprehensive one on the exact same subject is already on the record.  We could suggest that if at first you don’t get the results you wanted, just keep doing more studies until you do.  We could, but we won’t, because we’re not in the business of second-guessing unscrupulous developers looking to enrich themselves at the expense of local taxpayers, and state taxpayers as well.  As you well know, we have a reputation to protect.

While Mr. Donovan gets his car fixed, we thought he might want to read the series now running in the Ostrich that documents local commercial/economic success in the Cooks Corner area.

    TR article on Cooks Corner sept 15 2015

It’s going to be a four-part series, so Donovan has plenty of time to get his car repairs done.

You might recall that we did our own report on this subject a few months back, but only the Ostrich can bring the credibility of mainstream journalism to the subject.   You can see what we wrote here:

Ostrich staff is a good three months behind on keeping up with us, but we’re use to it.  Imagine if we hadn’t stuck a pin in that feathery behind of theirs; they still wouldn’t have come up for air.


Now that they’re on the trail, maybe they can look into this consulting team, lined up by our friend Tony, now planning its campaign in Auburn.  All it takes is the right medicine to work municipal miracles.

You can trust us on this; we’re not like all the others.  We’ve seen the dream come true, right here in Cape Brunswick. 

Shirley you have too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Maine Wire: O’Sullivan’s Law and Political Gravitational Pull?


An intriguing column appeared on the Maine Wire today; you can read it in it’s entirely at the link provided below.

Some will consider it a bit partisan in its expression, and at first blush that almost seems true.  Which would make it run counter to our typical neutral stance here at Side.

We think of it more as an excursion into political science, where we attempt to show a connection between that field and the natural sciences.  Which might suggest that ‘poly-sci’ is an “unnatural science.”  As they say on BBC’s House of Cards, “you might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.” 

Further, the subject can hardly be discussed without mentioning our established political parties.  Astute readers will note that rather than lift up what most would perceive as our preferred party, the column actually makes sport of it at the very least, and demeans it, at the worst.

For those interested, whenever anyone inquires of Side where his political loyalties lie, we always respond that we are a conservative.  That term is far more definitive than the formal name of either political party, especially in this day and age.

The other warning we’ll provide is that the thesis of the referenced column may seem a bit esoteric for those without appropriate technical education.  In which case you can consider it a learning opportunity.  The author attempted to bridge this gap in the narrative, but may have failed.

At the very least, everyone should be able to grasp O’Sullivan’s First Law; those who can’t have a long way to go in understanding our political landscape, and the consequences for our governance.

Here’s the link to the subject article: