Thursday, January 26, 2017

Time’s up! What’s your answer?

A few days ago, in this post, we posed a question to our readers:

So we wondered, in a moment of fanciful reflection, what might happen if our gorgeous downtown neighborhoods were maintained by those charged with the stewardship of our schools and other municipal buildings?

We don’t know whether you’ve thought it through, but we’d like to bring this particular discussion to a close, if only temporarily, with an assertion that if the same behaviors exhibited by our officials were applied to Brunswick overall, there wouldn’t be much ‘downtown’ left for anyone to see.  Visitors would alight from incoming Downeater runs and wonder what happened.

We’ll start by reviewing various materials associated with ‘preserving’ the historical nature of Brunswick.  Here’s a map of one in-town district viewed as worthy of special treatment because of how it fits into the evolutionary ‘arc’ of our town.


Then there’s this diagram showing the ‘town core area,’ which for the most part consists of buildings that are old and older, even older than we are.  And maybe older than you are.


Brunswick advocates are fond of pointing out how many historic buildings we have, mostly in the ‘downtown’ area, but in some cases not.  Here’s a 3 page list of the top 100.


Here’s a snip of page 1.


You can study the document to determine how many of these structures are 50 years old or less, which is the emotional barrier for public schools.  When you look at the list, you might notice that no Bowdoin College buildings appear on it.  The College is more than 200 years old, with numerous buildings that date back centuries and are still vital parts of the campus.


You might also enjoy this treatise issued by the Village Review Board, which considers itself the official guardian of our unique architectural ambience.

VRB Design Guidelines:

The building below, if you are familiar with it, currently shows what happens when you look the other way on maintenance, like we do with schools.


Our education establishment here in town likes to emphasize that public schools are built with an expected useful life of 40 years, so anytime we ask or expect them to get more than that out of them, we’re sacrificing the interests of our children and being unrealistic.


So what does this picture we’ve just painted tell you?  We’d like to think it’s obvious, but we’re going to review the essence anyway.

With few exceptions, the various properties (“historic”’) in the references and links cited above are owned by somebody(s), which is to say private parties, and specifically NOT government.  These individuals or other private entities do not have the ability to extract funds from the rest of us through taxation and the force of law.  So if they want their assets to survive and maintain their value and utility, they have to take care of them at their own expense.

Come to think of it, that’s the way we have to deal with our own home, and probably you do as well.  Ours is relatively ‘new’ at only 20 years of age, but we’re guessing a good many of you live in structures that are older than 40 years, and in a lot of cases, much much older.  Presumably, you tend to the needs of your home to maintain it as a viable, desirable place to call home, no matter when it was built.

This is distinctly the opposite of the way our local government entities operate.  Knowing full well that they can compel funds from us if they have to, they fall into a cycle of build, demo, replace as if it’s the natural course of things, even though it obviously isn’t.  And they have the enthusiastic assistance of a plethora of professionals in forwarding their specious arguments.

Leaving the rest of us to absorb the barage of insults if we don’t agree unequivocally, and to have no choice but to go into shoulder shrugging mode.

Which reminds us of the slogan we’ve uttered numerous times in the past: “you can govern, or you can spend.”

So suck it up, suckers.  You do support the common good, don’t you?

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