Monday, November 30, 2009

City, School Department Talk About Sharing Finance Director

The city administrator and superintendent of
schools have been working together on a proposal to hire a shared chief
financial planner--a new position that would replace the school department's
business manager and the city's finance director. The shared position fits into
Superintendent Reza Namin's plan to restructure the school department's
administration. That plan, which school board members approved last week,
includes eliminating four positions and consolidating two others to save more
than $500,000.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Superintendent Looking to Save $500,000 (November 5, 2009)

Quote of the Day

"The Amish were the solution that we were looking for--that we could never have dreamed up."

- Unity, Maine resident and college professor Doug Fox on how the Amish families moving into Unity and elsewhere in Maine are exactly the type of neighbors residents of the town have tried to recruit.

- John C.L. Morgan

Fundraising Underway for Merrill Graduation

The community is rallying to raise money so seniors
at Westbrook High School can have their graduation ceremony at Portland's
Merrill Auditorium. The Westbrook School Department cut the estimated $4,000 to
rent the venue, anticipating the completion of a new performing arts center at
Westbrook Middle School. But the center, which will seat 1,000 people, won't
have the capacity for every family member who may want to attend the graduation.
Superintendent Reza Namin said graduation is a momentous event in a student's
life, so it's not fair to make Westbrook's seniors choose which family members
can attend. Namin has decided to run the Boston Marathon in April to raise money
to rent Merrill Auditorium. He has run the Boston Marathon twice, in 1990 and
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Skepticism Squared (November 24, 2009)

Gartley Mulling Congressional Run Against Pingree

“I’m thinking about it,” said Mark Gartley of
Westbrook, a former Democrat who ran for Congress in the 2nd District in 1974
and ’78, losing to William Cohen and later Olympia Snowe. “I’m really
disappointed in the direction of what’s going on in Washington these days,”
added Gartley, a former Vietnam prisoner of war.
Gartley, who also served as Secretary of State in the 1970s, most recently ran as a Republican in the 2003 Ward 5 race for the Westbrook City Council. He lost to Suzanne Joyce, 52%-48%.

- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy (Early) Turkey Day

The fam and I are heading up to Rangeley for the rest of the week, so we wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving--on the day before Thanksgiving.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. I'm in a meta-kind-of-mood, so I'd be foolish if I didn't beg remind you to check out my
Web site's Web site and become a fan. I've catalogued most of the photos from this site, and the page will allow you discuss or review this site and its contents with fellow readers and me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cinemagic to Host Early Screening of Bob Marley Film

Cinemagic will host an exclusive screening of Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, the sequel to the cult film Boondock Saints, Monday night at 7p.

Maine comedian Bob Marley continues his role as Detective Greenly in the movie, which opens nationwide Friday, December 4.

- John C.L. Morgan

City Council Pushes Back Pike Meeting

Via e-mail, City Council President Brendan Rielly (D-Ward 1) confirmed the City Council will fulfill Pike Industries' request that the upcoming December 7 meeting devoted the re-zoning of their Spring Street quarry be re-scheduled for February 1, 2010.

Citing the original December 7 meeting date as "premature," Pike reportedly requested a new date this morning.

(Update: The AJ has more on this story.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Skepticism Squared

Though I did not hesitate to vote for the new Westbrook middle school in May 2007, I was one of the 36% of Westbrook residents who cast a vote against the new performing arts center that was expected to cost the City $4.1 million dollars over twenty years, including an extra $2 million in interest.

If I remember correctly, the proponents of the auditorium argued in 2007 that the City would be saving money by building the auditorium, because the city's residents would no longer be required to outlay monies for graduations at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. Moreover, I seem to recall proponents batting away opponents' concerns that our current auditorium in the high school wasn't used enough by pointing out the new one would be more functional because it would have better technology, most notably air conditioning.

So color me skeptical when these two arguments appeared to shrivel up under the lights of Room 114 at the Westbrook School Committee's November 18 meeting.

To be fair, as school committee member Ed Symbol pointed out in defense of his uncharacteristic vote in favor of a graduation at Merrill Auditorium, the Class of 2010's overwhelming preference for that location (I'd link you to the AJ's November 19 story containing more information about the concerns of the Class of '10, but the hamsters at 840 Main Street have slowed their gait) will not cost the taxpayers of Westbrook any more money than if the graduating students had opted for a graduation at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center, because the money for the Merrill auditorium would not be coming out of the budget.

Nevertheless, I tend to agree with the committee's lone dissenter on this issue, Mary Hall, when she pointed out that it's very likely the residents of Westbrook will be digging into their pockets for a Merrill Auditorium graduation, whether it's via the school budget or through some type of fundraising.

Moreover, school committee chairman Greg Smith's observation that the new auditorium will simply not be big enough for a proper graduation (or as he put it, "you can't put ten pounds of flour in a five-pound sack") causes me to wonder if the Westbrook Performing Arts Center will ever fulfill that plank of the proponents' case for building the auditorium. And while this current incarnation of the school committee chose to withhold additional funds for a Merrill graduation, will that be the case in the future?

My attention was further piqued during a presentation of the manager of the performing arts center, Jamie Grant. After informing the committee that the facility should be open for school-related events in February 2010 and will be ready to host professional events by the fall of 2010, committee member Maria Dorn asked Grant why they couldn't host such events earlier in the year.

Grant gave two reasons, the first being legitimate, and the second, head-scratching. First of all, Grant said, we don't know if we'll have the familiarity with the facility's outstanding technology or the staffing necessary to pull off such an event at an earlier date, and we don't want acquire a bad reputation for slipshod productions. That's fair. The second reason, though, made my mind whirl: We won't be hosting events in the summer, Grant said, because there simply aren't audiences for shows that time of year.

I know a vast majority of scientists expect the temperature of the Earth to rise in the near future, but is an air-conditioning system truly needed for a Maine-based performing arts center that'll evidently be closed during the summer?

- John C.L. Morgan

(Update: You can see see now and later photos of the WPAC at the facility's Facebook page.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Online Art Auction

Westbrook Housing is auctioning off Westbrook elementary students' artwork to benefit the Westbrook Food Pantry and the Animal Refuge League.

- John C.L. Morgan

Could This Work in Westbrook?

It takes a number of inputs to make a large data processing center function
well, and it might surprise you to know that Maine is especially well
positioned to host that industry if--and it's a big "if"--we are able to invest
in some missing infrastructure.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Even Arkansas is Laughing

It was easy for Westbrook, Maine police to track
down a suspect in a store theft. That's because he left his name and address on
a job application. Store surveillance video at a Dunkin' Donuts reportedly
showed the man filling out an application, then putting a jar collecting toy
fund donations under his coat while the staff was busy with customers. Zachary
Locke, 26, now faces a charge of theft.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Internationally Ridiculed (April 2, 2009)

Judge Sides with Pike on Question of Shutdown Order

A Cumberland County Superior Court justice
Wednesday granted Pike Industries' request to stay a "cease and desist" order
and allow quarrying operations to continue at Pike's Spring Street quarry in
Westbrook. The decision by Justice Thomas Humphrey allows Pike to crush rock,
and to excavate and remove previously blasted rock and material at the site.
Westbrook had issued the stop-work order on Nov. 7 to prevent removal of
existing stockpiles of crushed rock. Pike had asked the court for a stay until
the full court can hear its case.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: City, Pike Present Arguments in Court (November 11, 2009)
Related: City: Pike is Violating Shutdown Order (November 6, 2009)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nightmare Scenario

In these National Geographic videos, Portland is the victim of a dirty bomb attack:

MPBN has information on the making of this show, and the PPH published an op-ed last Friday about how the federal government would respond to such an occurence.

The one-hour show was made by the Maine-based Lone Wolf Documentary Group.

Have a nice day.

- John C.L. Morgan

High School Teachers Gettin' Jiggy Wit It

[Brian] Flynn and [Cynthia] DosAnjos are one of 13
pairs of faculty members competing this year in a fundraiser for the high
school's senior class, based on the popular television show, "Dancing with the
Stars." Each couple was allowed take up to three ballroom dance lessons in
preparation for the first round Thursday, after which all but seven teams will
be eliminated. Next week, the remaining contestants will take free-style dance
lessons at Drouin Dance Studio in Westbrook, and a winner will be declared after
the final dance-off on Nov. 19.
I'm not sure my eyes have recovered enough from watching The Hammer shake his tail feather to allow me to go to the grand finale Thursday tonight.

- John C.L. Morgan

Quote of the Day

"When you watch the movie Bambi, you are looking into the Maine Woods."

- Dick Day, quoted in a great Down East piece about how his father, Jake Day, played an instrumental role in ensuring the New England white-tail deer and other Maine wildlife and scenery were featured in the Walt Disney classic.

- John C.L. Morgan

Planning Board Approves Change in Zoning in Pike Case


The city's Planning Board sent a message to Pike Industries on Tuesday night,
voting 5-1 to support new zoning that would restrict Pike's operations in the
Five Star Industrial Park and rule out its plan to build an asphalt plant. After
the vote, Pike officials charged the Planning Board with rubber-stamping a
proposal promoted by the city and Westbrook Works, a private group that opposes
the company's operations. The City Council is scheduled to review the new zoning
on Dec. 7, said City Administrator Jerre Bryant, who did not attend Tuesday's
meeting. The council will have the final say on the zoning change.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Planning Board Tables Pike Zoning Change (October 21, 2009)
Related: Pike, IDEXX Unable to Reach Compromise (October 16, 2009)
Related: Pike: We've Sued Westbrook (March 2, 2009)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don's Lunch Extends Friday Hours

Kicking it old school, Don's Lunch will be extending their Friday night hours to 2a, starting November 20.

I'll have to keep this in mind when scheduling the next Paper City Pub Crawl.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Why I Live in the Paper City, Draft One (April 27, 2009)
Related: On Location: Don's Lunch (April 29, 2008)

Olympia Sports May Vacate Downtown Portland

"We suspect they [Olympia Sports] will leave
as well," said [FFD Trust trustee Marc] Foster. "I would say that it is likely--
that is why we're marketing it." Bean and Olympia have separate leases, said
Foster, but Bean is the anchor that Olympia relies on. Olympia's president,
Richard Coffey, had no comment. The Westbrook-based sporting goods retailer has
more than 180 stores throughout New England, New York and Pennsylvania,
according to its Web site. On the site, under criteria for new store locations,
the company says it looks at "regional strip centers anchored by big box
discounters and/or department stores."
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, November 16, 2009

Parking Ban Reminder

One more sign winter's on its way: The City of Westbrook's parking ban is now in effect, so don't park your car on the street from 12:01a-6:00a.

Consider the repeal of this ban one reason to look forward to April 15.

- John C.L. Morgan

Charles Lawton: 'The Ball is Clearly in the Court of Local Government'

The other fact that this most recent election has
revealed is that the focus of public initiative has changed from state
government to local government, from Augusta to Town Hall. Whether it is to
resist change or initiate change, the center of action over the next few years
will be in the community, not in the capital. The greatest opportunity for
social creativity lies close to home. The jobs of boards of selectmen, planning
boards, school boards, conservation commissions and economic development
committees will be far more interesting over the next four or five years than
the jobs of state representatives, state senators or even the governor.
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Westbrook Native Followed Father's Footsteps into Military

''He was always my hero,'' Chris [Smith] said
of his father [Donald Smith]. ''He didn't always know that. He definitely is.''
Chris Smith followed in his father's military footsteps, although Chris served
in the Army rather than the Marine Corps.
- John C.L. Morgan

City, Pike Present Arguments in Court

Lawyers for Pike Industries and the city of
Westbrook offered conflicting testimony Tuesday in a court hearing on Pike's
request to operate a quarry on Spring Street while it appeals the city's
decision to revoke its permit. Chief Justice Thomas Humphrey made no rulings in
the 90-minute hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court, but he may do so
within days.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: City: Pike is Violating Shutdown Order (November 6, 2009)

The Way We Get By

MPBN is airing this 90-minute documentary tonight at 9p. FMI.

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Surf the Web Like It's 1999

The Internet Archive has what it calls the Wayback Machine, a mind-blowing feature that allows one to see what a Web site looked like in past years.

Check out, for example, what the City of Westbrook's Web site looked like on, say, January 25, 1999.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, November 9, 2009

Westbrook Students Greet Troop Greeters

Nine students, some from Westbrook High School and others from Fred C. Wescott
Junior High School in Westbrook, traveled to the [Bangor
International] airport Monday to interview members of the Maine Troop
Greeters group for the students' Veterans Day project. Four teachers, including
Hermon native Natalie Bell, accompanied the group.
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Businessmen Profiled

Jim Ratner and John Reichenbach, co-owners of the Premier Rental-Purchase franchise on Main Street, were profiled in the online publication of the Rent-to-Own Industry News. For those interested, you can get a good rundown on the rent-to-own market in Westbrook during the 12-minute interviews of each of the men.

And yes, this was officially my Crowley Moment of the day.

- John C.L. Morgan


- John C.L. Morgan

Related: It Starts in Westbrook (February 7, 2009)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Weekend Reading

Check out Lawrence Sargent Hall's "The Ledge," an award-winning short story about a Maine fisherman's Christmas Day duck-hunting trip with his son and nephew.

I challenge you to read it (or better yet, listen to it) without getting choked up.

- John C.L. Morgan

The Paper City Foodie's Guide to Westbrook

According to the PPH food writer, Meredith Goad, Westbrook is now a destination spot for growling stomachs.
Below is a collection of all the accessible reviews of Westbrook establishments, from 2008 to the present:

April 23, 2008

Baker's Bench
May 8, 2008

April 27, 2009; July 6, 2008; and January 24, 2008

Casa Novello
June 2009 and February 22, 2009

Don's Lunch
April 29, 2009

Fajita Grill
February 5, 2009

July 23, 2008

December 16, 2008; June 17, 2008; and January 19, 2008

Siam Square
October 5, 2008

Thanksgiving's Bakery and Eatery
November 26, 2008 and February 14, 2008

The Frog and Turtle
September 9, 2009; July 1, 2009; February 5, 2009; April 13, 2008; March 24, 2008; February 17, 2008; February 13, 2008

- John C.L. Morgan

Hat tip: Portland Food Map

City: Pike is Violating Shutdown Order

Pike Industries is hauling crushed stone from its
quarry on Spring Street in Westbrook, which the city says violates a shutdown
order it issued to the company in July. Pike says the city doesn't have the
authority to stop its operations unless it gets a court order. The dispute will
likely be settled by a judge, who will hear arguments next week on the company's
appeal of a Westbrook zoning board ruling that revoked Pike's permit.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Frog and Turtle Owner to Open New Westbrook Eatery

James Tranchemontagne, the owner/chef of The Frog and Turtle, is planning a November 16 opening of an additional eating establishment in Westbrook, The French Press Eatery.

Located on Main Street in the space formerly occupied by Riverwalk Cafe and The Freaky Bean, The French Press Eatery will be a deli-style eatery featuring sandwiches, soups, salads, coffee, and The Frog and Turtle's donuts.

In an e-mail, Tranchemontagne said the new place's decor will have lots of local overtones, and that he has plans for the restaurant to be as environmentally-friendly as possible.

- John C.L. Morgan

Two Firefighters Formally File Lawsuit Against City

Explosive charges about obscene and discriminatory
behavior in the Westbrook Fire Department have been made public for the first
time in a lawsuit filed last week against the city by two female firefighters. A
lawsuit and request for a jury trial, filed in Cumberland County Superior Court,
claims offensive conduct in the department, including masturbation in the fire
station and inappropriate touching of victims while being transported in a
rescue vehicle.
The PPH also reported on this development, though their tardiness on the story earned them a knuckle-rapping by Maine media critic Al Diamon.

Good thing I don't do this for a living, because I'm only, what, more than two weeks slow with this post.

- John C.L. Morgan

School Board Candidate-To-Be Wins Gaggie

Al Diamon:
Candidates often have a lot on their minds and
can’t pay attention to every little detail about running for office. Take, for
example, Martha Henderson, who was seeking a Westbrook school board seat as a
Democrat. According to the American Journal, Henderson’s candidacy was derailed
after city officials determined she was actually a Republican. To Henderson, we
present the Hayes-Gahagan-Will-Be-Conducting-Your-GOP-Orientation trophy.
- John C.L. Morgan

Superintendent Looking to Save $500,000

Effective July 1, [Dr. Reza] Namin is eliminating
the director of student services, held by Tim Walker; the gifted and talented
coordinator, held by Kathy Legett; and the curriculum facilitator, held by
Cynthia Martin, as well as the assistant superintendent, Jan Breton. The
salaries for those positions total about $340,000. As of Jan. 1, Breton will
take over as interim transportation director when Penny Esposito, the current
director, retires. That move will save the department about $29,000. Namin said
he'll later consider his options for filling that position permanently in July.
Including an estimated savings of about $120,000 in benefits for the four
positions being eliminated, the department will realize total gains of about
- John C.L. Morgan

On Question 1

In a post published Tuesday morning, Down East political blogger (and newly registered Westbrook voter) Mike Tipping wrote that "there's still the uncertainty and expectation of election day. We don't yet know how we'll think of our state tomorrow."

In an effort to follow up at the second half of that elegant truism, here's a round-up of what we--and national pundits--think of our state, two days removed from the referendum election that positioned the Pine Tree State at the forefront of a burgeoning national debate:

Matthew Gagnon
writes about how the No on 1 campaign underperformed in urban and suburban areas, thereby failing to compensate for the drubbing they took in rural areas.

Katie Connolly
reasons that supporters of same-sex marriage should be comforted by the fact that a generational shift and changing cultural norms are in their favor, even if No on 1's defeat represents an enormous dissapointment.

Rod Dreher
argues that advocates of same-sex marriage should not label their opponents as bigots--even if many of them are (editor's note: his words, not mine)--because such a strategy has yielded a 0-for-31 success rate for same-sex proponents in referenda around the country.

Andrew Sullivan reminds proponents of same-sex marriage about the progress that has been made on this issue and encourages them to keep the defeat in perspective.

Jeff Inglis
is reminded of what it feels like living in the political wilderness.

David Gibson
points to religion, class, and culture as the reasons the Yes on 1 campaign won.

Maggie Gallagher
thinks Yes on 1 won the referendum because most Americans believe same-sex marriage is a civil wrong, not a civil right.

Bridgette P. Lavictoire
calls on proponents of same-sex marriage to boycott lobster as a way to help Mainers live by God's Law--and, of course, to punish the state economically.

W. James Antle III
instructs social conservatives to temper their enthusiasm following Yes on 1's win, because social trends favor proponents of same-sex marriage.

Derek Viger wonders what good a boycott of Maine products would accomplish for supporters of same-sex marriage.

Nate Silver
admits his prediction for a win for No on 1 was wrong, but he believes neither campaign deserves credit or blame due to the strong opinions many people already have about this subject.

Jesse Ellison thinks Maine voted for Yes on 1 because we are an odd, little state populated by non-conformists.

Sandip Roy
looks at how No on 1's defeat in Maine will affect efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in California.

- John C.L. Morgan

(Update: Bishop Richard Malone thanks Mainers for defending traditional marriage, and Ana Marie Cox cries while listening to the "Glee" soundtrack and thinking about Tuesday's result.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Election '09: Westbrook's Referenda Results

The Bangor Daily News has posted the results from Westbrook on the five referenda questions, the bond issue, and the proposed constitutional amendment.

- John C.L. Morgan

Election '09: Voters Choose Hilton for Mayor, Dems for Council

As of 10 p.m., unofficial results showed Hilton won 95 more votes than Bruce
Chuluda, who has held the city's top post for six years. Hilton received 3,431
votes to Chuluda's 3,336. Hilton held a celebration gathering with supporters
Tuesday night at Mr. Bagel on Main Street, where she has met with her campaign
team every Saturday morning.
In the City Council races, Victor Chau (D) beat David Tapley (R) in Ward 2, 54%-46% (667-568); Dotty Aube (D) beat James Tranchemontagne (R) in Ward 4, 60%-40% (638-427); Suzanne Joyce (D) beat Al Juniewicz (R) in Ward 5, 65%-35% (1,239-662); and Michael Foley (D) and John O'Hara defeated Michael Lawson (D) for the two At-Large seats, 40%-34%-26% (3,798-3,275-2,500).

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, November 2, 2009

Go to Photo-A-Go-Go

From the November/December 2009 issue of maine. (pages 57-63 in its digital magazine):

Despite the early winter storm that slammed into southern Maine, the crowds made
their along slippery roads to Westbrook on the obligatory white-knuckle
pilgrimmage. They searched for parking on residential side streets, slogged
through slush, and trekked up the stairs of the Dana Warp Mill. They
came seeking photographs. Their destination: Photo-A-Go-Go.
The 2009 edition of the Baker Photographic Collective's annual silent auction will be on Saturday, December 11. And, according to writer Jessica Tomlinson, Photo-A-Go-Go's become the "go-to party of the season."

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: On Location: Dana Warp Mill (February 5, 2009)

The Frog and Turtle to Host Gubernatorial Hopeful

Gubernatorial candidate Les Otten will be at The Frog and Turtle tonight from 5:30-7p for a greet-and-meet with Westbrook voters.

- John C.L. Morgan

Election '09: Westbrook Voters' Guide

Voting Locations
Ward 1- Fred C. Wescott Junior High School, 426 Bridge Street (sample ballot)
Ward 2- Westbrook Armory, 120 Stroudwater Street (sample ballot)
Ward 3- Westbrook Armory, 120 Stroudwater Street (sample ballot)
Ward 4- Westbrook Armory, 120 Stroudwater Street (sample ballot)
Ward 5- Fred C. Wescott Junior High School, 426 Bridge Street (sample ballot)

Polls will be open from 7a until 8p.

Mayoral Race
A Look at the Mayoral Race (October 23, 2009)
Introducing Bruce Chuluda (October 23, 2009)
Introducing Colleen Hilton (October 23, 2009)
Bruce Chuluda on the Issues (October 30, 2009)
Colleen Hilton on the Issues (October 30, 2009)

Ward 2 City Council Race
A Look at Ward 2 (October 19, 2009)
Introducing Victor Chau (October 19, 2009)
Introducing David Tapley (October 19, 2009)
Victor Chau on the Issues (October 26, 2009)
David Tapley on the Issues (October 26, 2009)

Ward 4 City Council Race
A Look at Ward 4 (October 20, 2009)
Introducing Dotty Aube (October 27, 2009)
Introducing James Tranchemontagne (October 20, 2009)
Dotty Aube on the Issues (October 27, 2009)
James Tranchemontagne on the Issues (October 27, 2009)

At-Large City Council Race
A Look at the At-Large Race (October 22, 2009)
Introducing Michael Foley (October 22, 2009)
Introducing John O'Hara (October 22, 2009)
Michael Foley on the Issues (October 29, 2009)

Election '09: Referenda (October 30, 2009)
Election '09: Candidate Profiles (October 29, 2009)

- John C.L. Morgan