Monday, March 31, 2008

Questionnaire Results, Part One

A couple months ago, I strongly urged you to fill out the City of Westbrook's Recreation, Parks and Open Spaces Questionnaire. Well, here are the results of the first part of the questionnaire which focuses on the "preferences regarding recreation and parks."

How important is it to have a park within walking distance of where you live?
55% Very important
16% Somewhat important
15% Not important
7% Somewhat not important
7% Not important at all

Can you walk to a park from where you live?
73% Yes
27% No

How satisfied are you with the City's current parks and facilities you use for organized sports/activities (e.g., swimming, baseball, soccer, playgrounds)?
44% Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
28% Somewhat satisfied
14% Very dissatisfied
9% Somewhat dissatisfied
5% Very satisfied

How satisfied are you with the City's current parks and facilities you use for passive recreation (e.g., walking, picknicking, etc.)?
36% Somewhat satisfied
34% Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied
15% Very dissatisfied
9% Very satisfied
6% Somewhat dissatisfied

What do you appreciate about the current parks?
23% Ease of access to parks
22% Setting
14% Facilities (playground, ball fields, ice rink, skate park, picnic areas, etc.)
11% Safety
10% Connectivity to other parks or neighborhoods
7% Size (large)
5% Flexibility for multiple groups or uses to be accomodated at the same time
4% Size (small)
4% Other

What types of additional parks and facilities do you feel should be considered in the future?
16% Active recreation parks (mountain biking, x-country skiing, ice skating)
16% Bathroom facilities
15% Small neighborhood parks and playgrounds
14% Community gardening
10% Other facilities not listed
9% Programmable spaces (i.e., group gatherings, dog parks, concerts)
8% Picnic areas or shelters
7% In conjunction with other facilities (e.g., schools)
5% Additional large multi-purpose ball fields

- John C.L. Morgan

Hat tip: Deborah Rumery of Stroudwater Street.

2008 Best Music Poll Nominees

The nominees for Best Heavy Music/Metal Act in the Portland Phoenix's 2008 Best Music Poll are:

You can vote for Best Heavy Music/Metal Act here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Hon. Dr. Jacob L. Horr, Westbrook's Seventh Mayor (1900-1901)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Song of the Week

The song of the week is "Color Spills In," by Honey Clouds.

- John C.L. Morgan

You're Invited!

Westbrook Planning Board meeting
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Westbrook High School, Room 114
The meeting will feature a workshop on the proposed Stroudwater Place development on Stroudwater Street, and it'll be the first opportunity for Westbrook residents to comment publicly about the proposal.
The workshop will be the final order of business of the night, so I recommend you do what Eileen Shutts, a veteran of these types of meetings, has learned to do: Hang out around the house with your t.v. tuned to channel 3 and scurry down to Room 114 when the Planning Board is about to tackle the issue you're interested in (i.e., the Stroudwater Place workshop).

In fact, while you're keeping tabs on the meeting, peruse this reading material that'll catch you up to speed and give you an idea of what people are talking about.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: March 23-March 29, 2008

High: 54F (March 26)
Low: 18F (March 24)
Precipitation: 0.44 inches
Snowfall: 3.6 inches
Previous Sunrise: 6:27a
Previous Sunset: 7:05p

High: 54F (March 26)
Low: 11F (March 3)
Precipitation: 5.26 inches
Snowfall: 12.3 inches

High: 61F (January 8)
Low: -5F (January 4)
Precipitation: 16.53 inches
Snowfall: 63.0 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

2008 Best Music Poll Nominees

The nominees for Best Root Act in the Portland Phoenix's 2008 Best Music Poll are:

You can vote for Best Root Act here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Politics: March 31-April 6, 2008

Monday, March 31
Westbrook City Council special meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114
FMI: click here

Committee of the Whole meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114
Following City Council special meeting (see above)
FMI: click here

Finance Committee Meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114
Following Committee of the Whole meeting (see above)
FMI: click here

Tuesday, April 1
Westbrook Planning Board meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114
FMI: click here

Wednesday, April 2
Westbrook Zoning Board of Appeals meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

- John C.L. Morgan

Top 10 Local CDs: March 17-March 23, 2008

Here are the Top 10 Local CDs for the week of March 17-March 23 (the album's spot in last week's Top 10 is in parentheses, much like this fyi note), courtesy of the Portland Phoenix:
  1. As Fast As, "Destroy the Plastique Man" (1)
  2. Rustic Overtones, "Long Division" (-)
  3. Rustic Overtones, "Light at the End" (2)
  4. Dead Season, "Rise" (4)
  5. Civil Disturbance, "Battle Within" (7)
  6. Cambiata, "To Heal" (3)
  7. Samuel James, "Return of the Small Sugarhouse" (6)
  8. Sly-Chi, ""The Space" (5)
  9. Spose, "Preposterously Dank" (-)
  10. As Fast As, "Open Letter to the Damned" (-)

The list was compiled from Bull Moose Music.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook's Light-Blue Collar

The Press Herald had another article about the 'Cape Ten,' in this morning's paper, and Westbrook is used twice as a contrast to (sniff) Cape Elizabeth.

First, we were lumped with Standish and Biddeford (what about Rumford?) as a working-class community that evidently gets its jollies when battling more prosperous towns--Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, and Cumberland--in high school sports. And then Westbrook's median family income--$47,120--was juxtaposed with Cape Elizabeth's median income of $86,126.

It just shows that despite the whitening of Westbrook's collar, it is still very much considered a blue-collar town.

And rightly so.

- John C.L. Morgan

The Sportswriter: New England Revolution

The New England Revolution opened its season last night with a win over the Houston Dynamo, 3-0. Unfortunately, you probably have no idea who these teams are, or what sport I'm actually writing about.

That's because despite all the talk of New England suddenly becoming a title-rich region, most people remain ignorant to the accomplishments of one of its most successful franchises.

Sure, most everyone knows the New England Patriots have played in four of the last seven Super Bowls (winning three), the Boston Red Sox have won two of the last four World Series, and the once-dormant Boston Celtics now possess the best record in the NBA. But did you know the Revolution, a team in Major League Soccer (MLS), have played in every Eastern Conference Final since 2002 (an accomplishment akin to the Red Sox playing for every American League pennant in that span)? Or that they've played in every MLS Cup since 2005? Probably not.

So next time someone reads the laundry list of New England pro teams' accomplishments in the 21st century, be sure to remind them of the New England Revolution's sparkling success.

Just leave out the part about them being the Buffalo Bills of the MLS. No one likes a very successful loser.

- John C.L. Morgan

Saturday, March 29, 2008

(Far-Fetched) Thought of the Day

I had to drive down to Portsmouth, New Hampshire today. On the way home, I was feeling a little adventurous, so I flicked my dial to 1610 AM, the Travel Advisory station advertised along the Maine Turnpike.

If you haven't listened to the station before, I'll save you the time: It's boring. And repetitive. And basically just a waste of space on our airwaves. But it doesn't necessarily have to be.

Why doesn't the Maine Turnpike Authority get together with some of the promoters of Maine culture (Portland Music Foundation, Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, Maine Humanities Council, Maine Songwriters' Association, etc.) and cobble together original programming to be played on 1610 between all the important announcements currently broadcast?

It would be a better promotion of Maine art than, say, a New York photographer's (gasp!) photographs of Weimaraner dogs.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. For all my ex-pat readers, here's a link to the Maine Turnpike Traffic Cams. You can almost smell the odiforous cocktail of pine and exhaust.

2008 Best Music Poll Nominees

The nominees for Best Indie Act in the Portland Phoenix's 2008 Best Music Poll are:

To vote for Best Indie Act, vote here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Party Like It's 1799

Yeah, call me a sucker for historical re-enactments.

Tonight from 8p-9p, we here at Riverbank Republic headquarters will be participating in the second annual Earth Hour by unplugging all our non-essential appliances for an hour. On the docket is a game of cribbage by candlelight (what can I say, I'm a romantic) and a bottle of the cheapest whiskey Hannafid has to offer.

On second thought, maybe we'll just be partying like it's 1998.

- John C.L Morgan

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Augustan

Westbrook's representatives, State Rep. Tim Driscoll (D) and State Rep. Ann Peoples (D), both supported LD 775 yesterday. LD 775, according to the voting database Maine Votes, would create a special Breast Cancer Support Services license plate to benefit the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition's Support Service Fund, the Maine Cancer Foundation, and the Maine Breast and Cervical Health Program within the the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Maine House of Representatives passed the bill, 143-0.

- John C.L. Morgan

Idexx v. Pike Cliffnotes

I've picked through the three articles dealing with the mess that is Pike Industries v. Idexx Laboratories (here, here, and here) and have created a rough timeline of the brouhaha surrounding Pike's plans for expansion on Spring Street:
  • Mayor Bruce Chuluda proposes a change in zoning to 'light manufacturing' that'll effectively stymie Pike's plans for expansion on Spring Street.
  • City Councilor Brendan Rielly grouses about Idexx's complaints about Pike's expansion.
  • Pike blames Idexx for muddling an expansion plan that was initially received favorably by the City of Westbrook.
  • Mayor Bruce Chuluda says the city had planned to change the zoning of the area to 'light manufacturing' before Pike announced its expansion plans, and pooh-poohs Pike's allegation that the city knew (and approved) of their expansion plans before Idexx raised a stink about it.
  • Idexx announces it has halted work on its expansion plans.
  • Pike complains the Mayor's proposal for a zoning change would render the site of its proposed expansion worthless, and is questioning the legality of such a zoning change.
  • Idexx points out that a change in zoning to 'light manufacturing' in the area was one of the factors the company considered before it announced its expansion and job growth in the Westbrook in 2006.
  • City Councilor Rielly forces Idexx officials to admit zoning was not discussed in the city's negotations with the biotech firm prior to the 2006 announcement.
  • City Councilor John O'Hara accuses Idexx of not living up to its original vision of the area (Idexx initially planned to construct an administrative building across the street from its original building--the former Sanmina building--on the corner of Eisenhower Drive and Saco Street, but they're now simply adding the administrative offices to their original building).
  • Idexx contends it doesn't matter where on Eisenhower Drive the adminstrative buildings are built. They don't want Pike's expansion to ruin the "bucolic and beautiful" image of the area.
  • Pike proposes to mitigate the noise, dust, and odor associated with its industry.
  • Idexx doesn't care about Pike's efforts to mitigate the noise, dust, and odor. They simply don't want an asphalt plant as its neighbor.
  • Idexx threatens to leave Westbrook ("[t]here are lots of business parks in the Greater Portland area").
  • Committee of the Whole, a committee of the City Council, votes to table Mayor Chuluda's proposal for a zoning change.
  • D&G Machine Products expresses concern the Mayor's proposed zoning change will hamper its business.
  • Mayor Chuluda is unsure of how stubborn Idexx will be and expresses concern about the future of Idexx's plans in Westbrook.
  • Idexx reiterates its preference for rezoning and says its beef lies with the city, not Pike.
  • City Councilor O'Hara expresses his wariness for the city to be involved.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Full disclosure: My wife is employed by Idexx.

A Cure for Doggie Dehydration

There's a story in the Business section of the Press Herald about a Westbrook company that produces flavored bottled water. For pets.

Aqua Plus, a company that is still testing its marketing efforts, mixes Sebago Lake water (read: tap water) with organic strawberry flavoring to produce bottled water with a "beautiful bouquet" that'll apparently inspire Fido to lap up more water than he would otherwise.

- John C.L. Morgan

Anatomy of the Tattoo Parlor Ordinance

The Westbrook City Council gave preliminary approval to a new ordinance regulating tattoo parlors Monday night. Here are the particulars:
  • Acquirement and maintenance of a $100 license from the city.
  • Applicant must not commit the following crimes within 10 years of obtaining a tattoo license: Assault, drug offense, sex offense, terrorizing and criminal threatening, or other crimes of moral turpitude.
  • Applicant must be current on all property taxes, registration fees, sewer fees, and other charges associated with with the business.

City Councilor Michael Foley proposed an amendment to strike the phrase 'crimes of moral turpitude' from the ordinance, and City Councilor Suzanne Joyce proposed an amendment that would've removed the section requiring the applicant to be current with the financial fees associated with running the business from the ordinance. The amendments were combined, but were rejected with a 3-3 vote (Dotty Aube, Foley, Joyce in favor; Drew Gattine, John O'Hara, Brendan Rielly opposed).

And City Councilor John O'Hara's amendment to prohibit minors under the age of 18 from entering the parlor without an accompanying adult failed by a 4-2 vote (O'Hara, Rielly in favor; Aube, Foley, Gattine, and Joyce opposed).

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Hat tip to Leslie Bridgers of the American Journal.

2008 Best Music Poll Nominees

Here are the nominees for the Best R&B/Soul/Blues Act in the Portland Phoenix's 2008 Best Music Poll:

You can vote for the Best R&B/Soul/Blues Act here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Kate's Homemade Butter


(Editor's Note: Each Friday, we will spotlight a Maine-made product that can be bought in Westbrook.)

Winner of the 2006 World Dairy Expo Dairy Champion in the Salted Butter category, Kate's Homemade Butter is made in Old Orchard Beach. The company's products include unsalted and salted butter that come in two, 4-ounce sticks; four, 4-ounce sticks; and in an eight-ounce tub.

Kate's Homemade Butter can be found on the shelves of Hannaford (7 Hannaford Drive) and Shaw's (31 Main Street).

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, March 27, 2008

American Journal One-Liners

Here is the bite-sized news of the March 27 edition of the American Journal:

City Council gave preliminary approval to a new ordinance regulating tattoo parlors.

Westbrook police arrested an off-duty Portland police officer for reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and domestic violence assault.

Wescott Junior High School Jazz Band placed second in its division at the Maine Music Educators Association State Middle School Jazz Festival.

Brendan Moran: Hannaford should've notified their customers of security breach sooner, banks and credit card companies should cover the costs associated with fraud, and consumers should understand electronic fraud is a way of life.

Rodney Quinn: Profiling is a double-edged sword.

Mike Mack: Support the Mission Possible Teen Center by attending its benefit gala.

Proposed school budget will increase by $1 million, or 3.3%, next year.

City Council denied the developer of a neighborhood being built in the Mitchell Farm area a waiver to avoid installing granite curbing.

Planning Board will be hosting its first meeting devoted to the proposed Stroudwater Place on April 1.

Idexx, Pike at odds over respective expansions.

- John C.L. Morgan

From Uganda to Westbrook

Pallaso, a Ugandan rapper who now lives in Westbrook, was featured in this week's 'Music Scene' section of the Portland Phoenix.

In her review of Pallaso's March 17 performance at the Big Easy, Sonya Tomlinson (aka Sontiago) wrote, "[t]his unsigned star is sure to achieve his dream of being internationally known."

According to the short article, Pallaso has already released four albums (including platinum-level sales in East Africa), and he has opened for the well-known Shaggy.

- John C.L. Morgan

Rogues Gallery, Redux

Last month, I published an 'On Location' post about the opening of the Rogues Gallery store in Portland. Well, Rogues has since posted photos from the event, so I thought I'd send you a link to complement my old post.

Consider this post part of my spring cleaning.

- John C.L. Morgan

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Maine Switch has a story in this week's issue about the need to tune your bicycle now that the snow's melting away. Besides featuring some how-to tips, the piece also includes a plug for Ernie's Cycle Shop, 105 Conant Street.

A tune-up at Ernie's will set you back between thirty and forty dollars, depending on the type of bike.

- John C.L. Morgan

2008 Best Music Poll Nominees

The nominees for Best Jazz Act in the Portland Phoenix's 2008 Best Music Poll are:

You can vote for Best Jazz Act here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Good Idea, Unfortunate Location

The City of Westbrook is working on rejuvenating a farmers' market for this upcoming spring and summer. That's the good news. The bad news is that it'll be located in the parking lot sandwiched between William Clarke Drive and Main Street (think CVS, Martini Lane, etc.).

According to Deputy City Clerk Kathy Jones, the market will be located there instead of, say, Riverbank Park because of city ordinances.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. The market will be open on Thursdays and Fridays from 6a-6p, but vendors are needed. All that is required (besides goods to sell, of course) is a license fee of $15 and a phone call to Deputy City Clerk Kathy Jones (854-9105, extension #216).

Quote of the Day

"I don't want to make Westbrook sound like Darfur. It really is a nice city."

- Mike Mack, a probation officer who lives in Windham, in an American Journal guest column about the upcoming Mission Possible Gala Dinner and Dance on Friday, April 5.

Despite his butchering of the name of Westbrook's premier park (it's Riverbank, not Riverside), I'll give Mr. Mack some advice: Prepare for an onslaught of letters to the editor demanding you keep your rude remarks to yourself.

- John C.L. Morgan

Just Do It

Sign up for MARVEL!

The self-described virtual library of Maine is an excellent resource that features many different search engines, including the indispensable "Maine Newsstand," an archive of newspaper articles that dates back to the mid-1990s.

And best of all, it's free.

- John C.L. Morgan

Vintage 'Brook

Though the Westbrook Historical Society remains the best place to check out the Westbrook of yesterday and the day before that, the Maine Memory Network allows you to view photos of historical Westbrook without even leaving your house. And if video is more of your thing, click here to watch an RSVP (now Martini Lane) commercial from 1985.

I apologize if that annoying jingle rings in your ears for the remainder of the day. The price of research, I guess.

- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Stick Figurists Need Not Apply

Consider this one registration form I am unqualified to fill out.

But if you're an artist (or at least if you think you're an artiste), fill out this form to show off your stuff at the Riverbank Art Festival. Registration carries with it a $40 fee (if received before July 1st),and the deadline for registration for the September sixth event is August 9.

If you're on the fence about this one, consider the winner of the Mayor's pick is awarded both a ribbon and a smooch from BruChu.

Okay, so maybe the latter award isn't exactly an incentive to sign up.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Anyone know if the high-minded website,, will be something other than just the virtual staging area for this registration form?

Quote, Unquote

"Praise the Lord. The double-wide is coming."

- The voicemail recording of Shirley Kalloch, a Farmingdale woman who was convicted in late February for arson. Kalloch was found guilty for setting her trailer on fire to make space for a new modular home.

- John C.L. Morgan

Jerks (of Grass) Sprouting in WML

The Jerks of Grass, arguably the best bluegrass band in Maine, will be performing at the Warren Memorial Library Friday night at 7p. And did I mention it was free!

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Check out the JoG's gig on a February episode of '207.'


Four good things about the City of Westbrook's website:

If I remember correctly, the city wasn't always all that diligent about posting upcoming meetings or the agendas and minutes of those meetings. But the 'Upcoming Meetings' is somewhat thorough (it neglects to mention today's School Committee meeting), and the 'Meeting Agendas' and 'Meeting Minutes' sections are up to date, at least as far as the City Council is concerned.

I've already written about the fun you can have with the website's Geographic Information System.

A nice consolidation of all the boards and committees of the city. It also includes a brief description of each.

  • News updates

The City does a decent job of posting updated 'news you can use' on the site's homepage.

And four things that can be improved on the City of Westbrook's website:

Leap ahead of the curve by creating a C-SPAN-like Internet channel and post long-form video of City Council meetings, School Committee meetings, Mayor call-in shows, etc. It's only a matter of time before posting such content on the Internet will be the norm for all of Maine's cities and towns. Why not be one of the first?

  • Revamp photos

Replace the stagnant photo of a pontoon boat on a body of water (Highland Lake?) with a vibrant slideshow of photos that features the location and the date of the photo taken. Also, update photos each season, so viewers are not treated to an autumn scene in, say, the middle of July. You could even make it a contest out of it, a la

  • Re-post the city's promotional video

Sure, I poked some fun at the video, but it wasn't actually that bad. Re-post it, but this time in a more prominent location.

  • Update information about representatives

Ed Symbol is no longer on the City Council, but his photo and contact information are still posted on the council page. And Colleen Hilton is no longer the chairwoman of the School Committee, but, according to the website, she is. Moreover, the e-mail address listed on City Councilor Dotty Aube's online profile seems to be inoperable. Small things, for sure, but important.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. To see another appealing city-related website (besides this one, of course), click here. I love the clean lines and text, the use of video, and the comprehensive nature of this site.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2008 Best Music Poll Nominees

The nominees for Best Female Vocalist in the Portland Phoenix's 2008 Best Music Poll are:

You can vote for Best Female Vocalist here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Council Committee Rejects BruChu's Zoning Proposal

According to the Press Herald, the Westbrook Committee of the Whole, a committee of the City Council comprised of all six City Councilors, rejected Mayor Chuluda's proposal to alter the zoning of the Spring Street area to a 'light manufacturing zone.'

To read about the background of BruChu's proposal, click here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Just the Messenger

Stroudwater Street will be closed to traffic on Saturday, March 29.

The Westbrook Fire and Rescue Department will be conducting training, so the street will be closed for 8 to 10 hours beginning at 9a. Traffic will be diverted to Forest Street.

Don't cheer all at once, Forest Streeters.

- John C.L. Morgan

On Location

A couple dozen bleary-eyed Red Sox fans were at Stockhouse Restaurant on Main Street this morning to catch the Red Sox season-opener at 6:05a. Instead of witnessing Daisuke Matsuzaka being battered, though, fans at the Westbrook restaurant were treated to the spectacle of the DirecTV logo bounding around the screen ceaselessly, while the Stockhouse owner scrambled to secure the feed from Japan. When I left at around 7a, the crowd had melted away, and the game still wasn't on.

At least the breakfast was decent.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, March 24, 2008

2008 Best Music Poll Nominees

The nominees for Best Male Vocalist in the Portland Phoenix's 2008 Best Music Poll are:

You can vote for Best Male Vocalist here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Hon. King S. Raymond, Westbrook's Sixth Mayor (1898-1899)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Song of the Week

This week's song is "Rompi Rompi" by Okbari.

- John C.L. Morgan

2008 Best Music Poll Nominees

Here are the nominees for the Best World-Music Act in the Portland Phoenix's 2008 Best Music Poll:

You can vote for Best World-Music Act here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Politics: March 23-March 30, 2008

Monday, March 24
Committee of the Whole meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114
FMI: Click here

Westbrook City Council special meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114
FMI: Click here

Tuesday, March 25
Wescott Jr. High School Re-Use Committee meeting
Wescott Jr. High School cafeteria

Wednesday, March 26
Westbrook School Committee meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114
FMI: Click here

Thursday, March 27
Mayor Bruce Chuluda Call-In Show
Channel 3
FMI: Click here

- John C.L. Morgan

Top 10 Local CDs: March 10-March 16, 2008

Here are the Top 10 Local CDs for the week of March 10-March 16 (the album's spot in last week's Top 10 is in parentheses, much like this fyi note), courtesy of the Portland Phoenix:
  1. As Fast As, "Destroy the Plastique Man" (-)
  2. Rustic Overtones, "Light at the End" (1)
  3. Cambiata, "To Heal" (2)
  4. Dead Season, "Rise" (4)
  5. Sly Chi, ""The Space" (3)
  6. Samuel James, "Return of the Small Sugarhouse" (-)
  7. Civil Disturbance, "Battle Within" (6)
  8. Cambiata, "Into the Night" (7)
  9. Hiss & Chambers, "Making Eyes" (-)
  10. Lost on Liftoff, "Mixtape Blackouts"

The list was compiled from Bull Moose Music.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: March 16-March 22, 2008

High: 43F (March 18)
Low: 20F (March 18)
Precipitation: 1.09 inches
Snowfall: Trace amount
Previous Sunrise: 6:40a
Previous Sunset: 6:57p

High: 53F (March 4)
Low: 11F (March 3)
Precipitation: 4.82 inches
Snowfall: 8.7 inches

High: 61F (January 8)
Low: -5F (January 4)
Precipitation: 16.09 inches
Snowfall: 59.4 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Saturday, March 22, 2008

2008 Best Music Poll Nominees

The nominees for Best Electronic Act in the 2008 Portland Phoenix's Best Music Poll are:

You can vote for Best Electronic Act here:

- John C.L. Morgan

Yeah, I'm Pretty Much an Uppity Twenty-Four-Year-Old

This morning while I was juggling my omelet-slathered fork in one hand and my babe in the other, I read something in this morning's Press Herald that nearly forced me to choke on my homefries: I was being attacked in the letters to the editor section. For not being proud enough of Westbrook!

Responding to quotes I made in this piece, fellow Westbrookian Priscilla D. LaSalle evidently took exception to my quote about how "[u]p until now it probably wasn't all that fashionable to say you were from Westbrook." To be fair, I understand how that quote could be considered rude.

Nevertheless, I stand by it.

Judging from my conversations with some city elders, and from my experiences at the Westbrook Historical Society and Walker Memorial Library's Westbrook History room (see, I've done a little research on the lives of "locals"--a strange place for quotation marks considering the article identifies me as a Westbrook native), Westbrook was once a lively and happening place. But in my admittedly brief lifetime, 'thriving' and 'first-class' haven't necessarily been the first words I'd think of when asked to describe Westbrook's shopping and culinary eminities. In fact, the whole point of the article Mrs. LaSalle cites is that Westbrook has only recently become notable for its restaurants.

The irony associated with criticizing a self-proclaimed cheerleader of Westbrook for a lack of Paper City pride is delicious. Unfortunately, though, Mrs. LaSalle's request that I keep my rude remarks to myself are a little too late and a little too unconvincing.

I have a blog devoted to all things Westbrook I've got to attend to.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. I tried to address all the criticisms Mrs. LaSalle jotted in her letter. But I couldn't confront her comment concerning my criticism of the mill, because I have no idea what she's talking about. I never mentioned the mill, or its stench, in the article.

Friday, March 21, 2008

2008 Best Music Poll Nominees

The nominees for Best DJ/Dance Act for the Portland Phoenix's 2008 Best Music Poll are:

You can vote for Best DJ/Dance Act here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Who Needs the Office of Tourism?

Cookie, "the lifestyle magazine that celebrates the joys of parenthood," features a travelogue of the Blue Hill region.

Besides scouring Robert McCloskey's One Morning in Maine for packing tips (sweaters, bugspray, thick-soled waterproof shoes, and your own food), the article features this, um, enthusiastic endorsement for vacationing in Vacationland:

"Maine is a place that doesn't reveal itself to outsiders--or even insiders. The locals often ignore you, the roads wind around confusingly, and the weather can flat-out suck."

I don't know about you, but those are definitely the qualities I look for when I'm deciding the next spot for my rest and relaxation.

- John C.L Morgan

...Catch a Tiger by the Toe

The Press Herald has an article in today's edition about the conflict between IDEXX Laboratories and Pike Industries surrounding the expansion plans of each company. IDEXX, it seems, has enlisted the help of 2 York Street (the Mayor's Office drafted a letter outlining BruChu's plans to seek a zoning change at Five-Star Industrial Park and the Westbrook Heights Business Park that would effectively curtail Pike's plans for expansion at its Spring Street facilities). But City Council President Brendan Rielly seems a little annoyed that IDEXX is raising a stink about the issue.

Between this issue and the lively granite sidewalk debate, Room 114 should be an interesting place to be Monday night.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Full disclosure: My wife is employed by IDEXX.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

(Deep) Thoughts on the Skybox Closure

Nearly three weeks after the Ciy Council decided not to renew various licenses for the Skybox Bar and Grill, the owners of Skybox decided to drop their appeal to the state and closed their doors Tuesday night. Here are a few thoughts regarding the closure of Skybox Bar and Grill:
  • Brown Street will be harmed in the long run.

Yes, we all know Brown Street has its share of, um, interesting characters and events. Considering the gradual exodus of hipsters from Portland to Westbrook, though, the Munjoy Hill neighborhood in Portland is a good example of what Brown Street may look like in the future: It has the potential to be transformed from a history-rich neighborhood with a soiled reputation to a thriving and proud neighborhood that features diverse businesses within walking distance of its neighbors. A bar (and other businesses that attract people, activity, and all the other things that make life worth living) should, therefore, be seen as a good thing to have in a neighborhood. But by essentially admitting that the rejection of Skybox's various licenses--and the bar's subsequent closure--had more to do with the bar's location than its conduct, the City Council is setting a frustrating precedent for future small-business owners. It's too bad this debate seemed to be more about Andy's Tavern than Skybox or the future bar that might complement the other businesses involved in the revitalization of this potential jewel of a neighborhood.

  • City Councilors need to get out more.

Is anyone else a little disturbed that one of the city councilors voted to effectively shut down this small business ripe with improvements and investments, despite admitting he'd briefly been to bar only once? Call me naive, but I think the most effective way to know the city and businesses you are governing is to, you know, actually experience it for yourself a few times. It would be interesting, therefore, to poll the councilors to learn how many times they actually frequented Skybox, or any of the other businesses they're responsible for regulating (cough, tattoo parlors, cough).

  • It was nice knowing you, Profenno's, Mill Side Tavern, et al.

Actually, I'm just kidding. Does anyone actually think the other bars in Westbrook will face as much scrutiny and suffer the same consequences as Skybox? Yeah, me neither. But if they do, I'll applaud the City Council for its consistency (Profenno's did, after all, generate only four fewer complaints to the Westbrook Police than Skybox from February 2007 to 2008).

But then I'll mutter profanities because by consistently shutting down the other bars in Westbrook, the council will effectively hamper the city's ability to attract younger people and give its citizens something to do without being forced into the car (or the bus) en route to other cities to spend their money. To be fair, the City Council (especially the councils before it) deserves credit for playing an instrumental role in cultivating Westbrook as a destination spot for an increasing number of Greater Portlanders. Now it's their jobs to protect our appeal and to grow it.

Shutting down solvent, law-abiding small businesses is not a step in the right direction.

- John C.L. Morgan