Saturday, February 28, 2009

Crystal Lake Crystals

Crystal Lake Crystals Explained

Carhartt overalls, work horses, and a corncob pipe all made their obligatory appearances at last weekend's ice-cutting demonstration on Crystal Lake in Harrison, Maine.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: On Maine Ice (February 28, 2008)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Freaky Bean Closes Main Street Shop

Two Freaky Bean coffee shops were closed Friday, one just months after opening.
Customers walking up to the Main Street shop in Westbrook were quickly turned
away by a sign explaining the location was closed due to “unforeseen
circumstances.” Owner Gary Woodworth said the shop by Cabela’s in Scarborough
was closed, as well, but wouldn’t comment on details. “The economy is tough for
everybody right now,” he said.
(Update: Hat tip to the anonymous commenter who provided a link to a story in The Bollard about the company's troubles.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Pike Wins I-295 Job


A cheer went up when Pike learned that the state of
Maine had awarded it the $35 million contract to rebuild Interstate 295's
northbound lanes from Brunswick to Gardiner--the mirror image of the project the
company completed last summer on the southbound side of the highway. "This gives
us a lot of optimism--it's a really great thing," said Jonathan Olson, Pike's
regional manager. Pike got the news Wednesday; Gov. John Baldacci officially
announced it Thursday. The I-295 reconstruction is the state's top highway
priority, and the first major initiative to be funded in Maine with federal
stimulus money.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hot Stuff

T. Doc Creative, an advertising and design firm housed in the Dana Warp Mill, was issued a silver medal for designing the second-best label in the "Best Overall Label of 2009" category at this year's National Barbeque Association annual conference.

This is the second wave of recognition T. Doc has received this year for its labeling work for DennyMike's 'Cue Stuff, an award-winning barbeque company based in York, Maine. In January, the Paper City company took home three prizes from the American Package Design Awards for its label designs.

- John C.L. Morgan

h/t: News Pile

Related: On Location: Dana Warp Mill

Westbrook Man Wins Sebago Fishing Derby

James Farrell captured first place in the Maine Chevrolet Derby last weekend after catching an eighteen-pound togue.

Farrell was rewarded with a Princecraft boat and trailer for his efforts, a prize valued at $15,500.

- John C.L. Morgan

Defense Contractor Sets Up Shop on County Road

Titan manufactures components for machine guns and
the marine industry. The company is one of many defense contractors to grow
since the United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan; Brawn said Titan now
employs more than 70, up from six in 2001. He said the manufacturer plans to
continue to expand over the next two years and needed a building large enough to
accommodate that growth. "That particular building was the right size, the right
location and the right price," Brawn said. He declined to disclose the purchase
price. He said the Westbrook property was attractive because it's close to
Portland International Jetport and the Maine Turnpike. The facility was also
within commuting range of most company employees.
- John C.L. Morgan

Factoid of the Day

Buried amid this morning's PPH sports story about the Waterville girls' basketball team's current winning streak of sixty-five games is the revelation that the Westbrook girls' teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s won a record seventy-six consecutive games en route to winning four consecutive Class A state championships.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: When the Shorts Were Short

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Owner of Haven's Candies Opposes Employee Free Choice Act

"It's not good for business, it's not good for the
state," says Andy Charles, owner of the Westbrook-based Haven's Candies.
Charles was at an event organized by the Maine Merchants Association.
Under current law, if Charles' 25 workers wanted to form a union, he could
demand that they vote by secret-ballot. But, under the Employee Free
Choice Act, workers could unionize as long as a majority of them filled out
cards in favor of the move--hence the use of the phrase "card check" by the
bill's critics.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Haven's Candies as Loyal Provincialists--Or Not

Did You Know?

Did you know German prisoners of war helped pick the potato crop in Aroostook County during World War II?

Imprisoned in Camp Houlton from July 1944 until May 1946, the POWs were paid an average monthly wage of $14.00 to replenish a labor supply greatly impacted by Aroostook workers' enlistments in the military and their migration to southern Maine for good-paying shipyard jobs.

- John C.L. Morgan

h/t: Gail Underwood Parker

Reza Namin Named New Superintendent

She [Westbrook School Committee Vice Chairwoman Colleen Hilton] said
Namin impressed the committee with his work at Mahar, where he cut the
district's dropout rate from 5 percent to less than 1 percent and boosted the
share of graduates who attend college to 78 percent from 62 percent over the
past four years. Mahar Regional School, located in Namin's four-town district,
was named one of the nation's "Best High Schools" in U.S. News and World
Report's 2009 rankings guide. The district, in north-central Massachusetts, also
aggressively controlled spending, Hilton said. It has held spending increases to
less than 2 percent for the past two years.
- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Westbrook Politics: February 23- February 27, 2009

Monday, February 23
Growth and Traffic Committee meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

City Council meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Tuesday, February 24
Finance Committee meeting
Westbrook Regional Vocational Center, Culinary Arts Room

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: February 15- February 21, 2009

High: 39F (February 15)
Low: 12F (February 18)
Precipitation: 1.28 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 6:31a
Previous Sunset: 5:20p

High: 51F (February 8)
Low: -1F (February 6)
Precipitation: 1.84 inches
Snowfall: 7.20 inches

High: 51F (February 8)
Low: -16F (Januay 16)
Precipitation: 4.19 inches
Snowfall: 35.50 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bustlin' Bill Reaches Out to Immigrants

The Westbrook Human Relations Committee will serve
as a liaison between minority groups-- including immigrants and refugees--and
city officials. The committee is the brainchild of Police Chief William Baker,
who started a similar group 10 years ago as a chief dealing with a wave of
immigration in Laconia, N.H. Baker said Westbrook is going through a similar
change. He said he hopes the ad hoc committee will help local police build trust
and familiarity with the city's latest immigrants, who have come in increasing
numbers over the past few years. Police are now called more frequently to homes
where residents don't speak English well and too often have misconceptions about
officers' intentions, Baker said.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: WPD Cracks Down on Underage Drinking, Etc.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Public Assistance in Westbrook: January 2009, Part Two

According to a Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) report, Westbrook had 1,375 cases of Food Stamps (FS) in January 2009. The total cost for these benefits was $314,567.

For historical context, there were 1,264 cases in January 2008, and the total cost was $237,368. In January 2007, there were 1,110 cases of FS (described by the DHHS as a program which provides food stamps to help low-income families buy food for good health) in Westbrook, and the program cost $207,411. And in January 2006, Westbrook had 1,164 FS cases, and the cost for the program was $201,383.

And for geographical context, South Portland (estimated 2006 population: 23,784) had 1,260 cases of FS in January 2009, and the cost of the program was $275,356. Windham (estimated 2006 population: 16,546) had 728 cases, and the cost was $161,464.

Westbrook's estimated 2006 population was 16,201.

For a list of monthly DHHS Geographic and Distbribution of Programs and Benefits reports dating back to January 2005, click here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Public Assistance in Westbrook: January 2009, Part One

According to a Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) report, Westbrook had 248 Parents as Scholars (PaS) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) cases in January 2009. The total cost for these benefits was $94,642.

PaS, a program in which parents involved in a two-year or four-year post-secondary education receive a monthly benefit based on guidelines for the TANF program, accounted for 10 of the 248 total cases. And TANF, which is described by DHHS as a program providing temporary help for children and their parents while the family works toward becoming self-supporting, accounted for the remaining 238 cases.

For historical context, the number of cases and the total cost of the benefits in January 2008 were 240 (10 PaS and 230 TANF) and $94,831, respectively. In January 2007, there were 243 total cases in Westbrook (9 PaS and 234 TANF), and the total benefit cost was $91,264. In January 2006, there were 226 total PaS and TANF cases in Westbrook (11 PaS and 215 TANF), and the total benefit cost was $90,600.

And for geographical context, there were 174 cases (9 PaS, 165 TANF) in South Portland (estimated 2006 population: 23,784), and the total cost was $67,078 in January 2009. And in Windham (estimated 2006 population: 16,546), there were 104 cases (2 PaS, 102 TANF) that cost $41,206 in January 2009.

Westbrook's estimated 2006 population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was 16,201.

For a list of monthly DHHS Geographic and Distbribution of Programs and Benefits reports dating back to January 2005, click here.

- John C.L. Morgan

The Augustan: Rep. Peoples Votes Against LD 40

Rep. Ann Peoples (D-Westbrook) was one of nine members (out of 10) on the Maine Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Transportation to vote against LD 40, a bill that would've prohibited drivers from using a hand-held cell phone while operating a motor vehicle.

- John C.L. Morgan

Paper City Streets: Brackett Street

Running perpendicular to William Clarke Drive and parallel to Mechanic Street, Brackett Street was named in honor of Zachariah Brackett.

- John C.L. Morgan

Sticker Shock

Westbrook PD's Sgt. Patrick Lally on thieves using blowtorches to steal inspection stickers off the windshields of cars:
This particular, um, technique is something that's fairly new that I haven't
seen a lot of. We've always had issues with inspection stickers and people
peeling 'em off and trying to stick' em back on.
When you peel off a sticker, it'll show that it's voided because, uh, they're
designed so that you can't just take them from one car to the other. Um, so
that, you know, I think that that's why they're using the torches to try and
back it off slowly so they can get if off.
- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On Location: Davan Pool

With the exception of Riverbank Park, Davan Pool is the most versatile civic space in Westbrook.

Nestled within the Fred C. Wescott Junior High School building on East Bridge Street, the 146,000-gallon pool ensures Westbrook not only serves as an annual dateline for one of southern Maine's premier high school swimming events, but also occasionally plays host to Olympians (Maine-bred Ian Crocker has taken more than a couple dips in the pool and Anita Nall visited in June 2000).

And besides serving as the place where countless Westbrook children have learned to swim, the pool named in honor of longtime athletic coach and administrator John "Paddy" Davan continues to provide a place at which Westbrook's seniors can lubricate their aching joints. And where Westbrook's churches schedule socials, Westbrook's parents throw birthday parties, and Westbrook's Boy Scouts organize outings.

Moreover, vigorous training beneath the taunting gaze of the pool's crimson record board has yielded numerous state champions and collegiate swimmers (thanks to the Westbrook Seals, the most successful youth program you've never heard of), as well as a middle-aged woman's attempt to swim the English Channel (thanks to the pool's adult open swim hours).

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: On Location: Warren Centennial Gymnasium
Related: On Location: Westbrook Open Rec
Related: On Location: Riverbank Park

Dogs Down Blazes

Westbrook is now one of the victims in the Year of the Upset:

The sixth-seeded Bulldogs upset second-seeded
Westbrook 55-43 Wednesday night in a Western Class A boys' basketball semifinal
at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Portland (15-6) advanced to the regional
final Saturday night against No. 4 Thornton Academy. The Blue Blazes finished
their season 17-3.
The lower-seeded team has won 7 of 12 games in the Eastern and Western Class A tournament matchups this year.

- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Quote, Unquote

"From Zero to Holy S#*% in 5 Seconds."

- The text of an Arctic Cat advertisement in the 2005 edition of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife snowmobile regulations handbook. In response to the department's concerns that such an ad countered their emphasis on riding at safe speeds, the Connecticut printer responsible for printing the handbooks spent an extra $4,000 to cover the ads with white stickers.

- John C.L. Morgan

h/t: Down East

Got a Little City, Ain't It Pretty?

Considering the widely-reported news of Albert, Texas on sale for about $880,000 and the fact that the subject of urban planning occasionally lurks on this site, there's probably no better time to listen to The New Yorker's podcast of the late Donald Barthelme's 1974 short story "I Bought a Little City."

(Update: Guess I wasn't the only one thinking of Barthelme. Time's Lev Grossman has a piece on the man he dubs "America's weirdest literary genius.")

- John C.L. Morgan

Notable Performances

The Blue Blazes boys' basketball team's Western Class A semifinal game against Portland tonight will attract plenty of attention in tomorrow's paper. These performances, however, should not be overlooked:

Wrestling State Championship (Saturday, February 7)
Andrew Drouin won the 252-pound class.

Harrison Strondak finished third in the 152-pound class.

Boys' Indoor Track State Championship (Monday, February 16)
Tripp Richardson finished third in the 800-yard run.

Daniel Roukey finished third in both the 55-yard dash and the 400-yard run.

Girls' Indoor Track State Championship (Monday, February 16)
Courtney Mailly finished fifth in the high jump.

Boys' Swimming State Championship (Tuesday, February 17)
The relay team consisting of Nick Adrience, Keegan Goan, Kyle Goan, and Derek Hawkes won the 200-yard medley relay and the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Keegan Goan finished third in the 100-yard freestyle and finished fifth in the 500-yard individual medley.

Kyle Goan won the 100-yard and the 200-yard freestyle.

Derek Hawkes won the 500-yard freestyle and finished third in the 200-yard freestyle.

Girls' Swimming State Championships (Tuesday, February 17)
Kelly Smith tied for third place in the 50-yard freestyle and placed fourth in the 100-yard backstroke.

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Keith Luke Responds to "Ideas for a Better Westbrook"

(Editor's Note: This item was originally posted as a response to the posts "James Tranchemontagne's Ideas for a Better Westbrook" and "Taylor Smith's Ideas for a Better Westbrook.")

As I contemplated a response to your wide-ranging posts on how we can continue to make important improvements to both the Westbrook economy and its sense of community, I was pleased with the extent to which we are already well along in the process of addressing many of the issues that have been raised here.

In the coming months, the City will begin overhauling the Web site around the new theme “It Starts in Westbrook." We’ll be integrating new content and new techniques that will deliver more and better information to residents, businesses and prospective new business owners. We’re looking at ways to use new tools like Twitter to pro-actively deliver news and information to residents and those with an interest in the city.

Content creation and management is a challenge for both the public and the private sector, and there are a variety of Web-content delivery businesses that specialize in work with municipal government. When we signed up with GovOffice several years ago, they were among the best. We tend to agree that the tools they provide are dated and ineffective and we anticipate making the move to local talent over the coming year.

There are costs and risks with that as well: The GovOffice service runs several hundred dollars a year, while producing and managing the site locally will cost thousands. The added risk of doing more customized, local work has always been that the local landscape of development talent shifts regularly. We need to be sensitive to the risk of investing thousands of dollars with one developer or one business, only to have them disappear and be forced to start the process from scratch. Despite these costs and risks, we will continue to focus on improving and extending our online services. Mayor Chuluda has challenged the staff to improve this area of customer service because it is the most cost effective way of communicating with city residents.

The Mayor has also called for a plan to communicate a pro-business message about Westbrook. Our community awareness campaign is going to be aggressive, innovative, and as far reaching as resources will allow. The City is fortunate that we have local resources to utilize, so we won’t need to break the bank, either. In 1999, Westbrook negotiated a tax increment financing (TIF) agreement with the television station WPXT, when they moved their operation from Portland to Ledgewood Drive. As part of that TIF, the city received both airtime and production costs for a community awareness campaign. We’ve been working with WPXT on several, overlapping projects to help get the “It Starts in Westbrook” message out.

First, we’ll be creating and airing a series of thirty second commercials spotlighting Westbrook business success stories. Second, we are creating a longer, two-minute infomercial promoting Westbrook as Maine’s leading destination for business development on their Maine Visitor’s Channel, which is broadcast to upscale hotels and vacation properties from Wells to Freeport. (What better way to reach a targeted audience of well-qualified prospects for business development?) And third, we’ll be bringing together WPXT and Cinemagic to present movie- goers with enticing onscreen invitations to visit our downtown restaurants and businesses.
Where does a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night of dinner, drinks, and entertainment begin? It Starts in Westbrook.

We are limited in what we can produce for television and the big screen at the moment, but as soon as the snow melts and the landscape turns green we’ll be filming in and around Westbrook. In the meantime, we will be crafting at least one advertisement that can be shot entirely indoors so we can begin running with the marketing program--people are eager to see what we can do. Will this content be available on the City website? The answer to that question will be a simple yes, and with that you can begin to see how the plan all fits together.

There is also good news for Brown Street and the city’s Frenchtown neighborhood: Westbrook has received almost a million dollars in funding from the Neighborhood Stabilization Act (NSA), and more may be on the way. The City has been working closely with the Westbrook Housing Authority to identify properties on Brown Street and has been working with property owners and lenders to make significant investments in that neighborhood. The Mayor’s priority with NSA funding is to invest it where it will have the greatest demonstrable impact, versus frittering it away on smaller projects that won’t create a ripple effect of additional, positive developments. Now, while this money has been pledged to Westbrook, details on how the program will be administered and exactly when we will see actual dollars flowing into the city are still being worked out in both Augusta and Washington, D.C. This can be a frustrating process, but we are cautiously optimistic that bureaucrats at both levels don’t tie us up too long, because at the local level we are poised to act quickly and effectively.

It’s a bit more challenging to address planning for the potential development at Stroudwater Place when we don’t have much more than a sketch plan of the development to work with at this point. While we remain optimistic that the development will evolve over the next decade, it would be a mistake--especially in the current economy--to invest tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours contemplating a development that has yet to take shape. Having written that, our effort will be to knit Stroudwater Place into the community and mitigate its impact on the environment. We will do this by enhancing transportation links extending access to the downtown with the Metro bus system and extending bicycle and pedestrian trails. The development will also follow industry-leading green technology to minimize its footprint on the environment.

There will be more to it than that. We’ll be looking at communities inside the Route 128 beltway of Massachusetts for examples of how cities like Natick, Waltham, and Cambridge have responded to upscale mall developments in their communities and managed to preserve and promote their downtown business districts. There are success stories out there, and we’ll be looking for them. We’ll also welcome your help in finding them.

In the coming year, we anticipate joining the Cumberland County Community Block Grant (CDBG) program. Once the terms of participation have been worked out, the CDBG program will help promote desirable development throughout the city, while doing things exactly like planning and supporting farmers' markets, community gardens, and parkways. One of my priorities is to bring an arts venue to the Riverwalk, specifically a riverfront amphitheater. While this project did not receive funding from last year’s Riverfront Bond initiative, it is on the City’s list of shovel-ready, stimulus-eligible projects.

The Planning Office is currently wrapping up a draft of Westbrook’s first-ever plan to promote parks, recreation, and open space citywide. The draft plan calls for community gardens as part of an expanded use of the city forest, located behind Wescott Junior High School, as well as an improved public garden at the intersection of William Clarke Drive, Main, and Saco Streets. This will add to the community garden started by residents and our Public Services department in the Brown Street neighborhood. This plan also calls for the extension of the Riverwalk to the north side of the Presumpscot River. Initially the extension will be along Brown Street, then move down to the river. And in the long term, the City would work with SAPPI to safely incorporate the Riverwalk along the riverfront on that side of the river.

Ideas regarding tax policy and ways to promote the benefits of a greener Westbrook economy are all welcome. Unfortunately, with regard to tax policy we are often limited with what we can do with incentives like tax credits by state law. Similarly, while we’ve encouraged SAPPI to install fishways at the Cumberland Mills dam, we also understand that there are additional state and federal implications and are sympathetic to the company’s needs to make these investments on a pace that won’t jeopardize SAPPI’s ongoing viability. Like many publicly-traded companies SAPPI (NYSE:SPP), is currently trading at more than a five-year low.

There are numerous other ways we are positioning Westbrook to really capitalize on the successes that the City has enjoyed in the past decade. We’ve begun discussions with Idexx and other biotechnology companies to host a Biotech Board of Directors Week. We will promote this event to bring together board members from all these firms, who typically represent leading industry firms from around the world, to come together in Maine during the summer to experience what we have to offer. A board member from Idexx already understands that it is possible to succeed in Maine and in Westbrook. I think we’ve been missing opportunities to appeal to that larger group, and we’re building enthusiasm for our Bio Board Week project, which will hopefully be held in the summer of 2010.

One final note on promoting green initiatives in the City of Westbrook: I continue to believe that the best unrealized opportunity the City has to capitalize on is the latent heat energy that escapes into the atmosphere from both Calpine and SAPPI. I’ve been working to identify ways that we can harness these towering plumes of BTUs to heat businesses and homes, and to position Westbrook as a low-cost utility leader for business development.

- Keith Luke

Keith Luke is the City of Westbrook's Director of Economic and Community Development. He can be reached at


"We've reached the point in winter when the snow has gone from fluffy and cute to rock-hard and brown."

- Mary Lake in her Plating Up post on how her homemade Creamy Winter Vegetable Soup fights colds and the winter doldrums.

- John C.L. Morgan

More Skybox

From the PPH's article on the Skybox affair:

City Councilor John O'Hara said the couple [Tom and Ellen Dore] had some initial success, but
complaints about rowdy patrons resurfaced after a couple years.


Councilor O'Hara said he fears a new Skybox would follow the same
trajectory as its predecessor: a couple of good years before things return to
normal. "We could go backwards very quickly down there," he said.

The Dores received approval to open the bar in March 2004. As of May March 2006--a fair definition of a couple years, in my modest opinion--then-Police Chief Paul McCarthy had this to say about Skybox under the ownership of the Dores: "It really has turned around. There is new ownership. They have cooperated and invested some significant time, energy and money into making the place better." Moreover, as of February 2008, Skybox was only slightly more disruptive than other bars in town.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: A Couple Thoughts on the Re-Opening of Skybox
Related: No Bar For You
Related: (Deep) Thoughts on the Skybox Closure

Broadening Horizons: Bobby Fischer

Parts two, three, four, and five.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, February 16, 2009

Photo of the Day

WMTW's photograph of 15-year-old Ricardo Agrinsoni, a Westbrook teenager who fell into the frigid Presumpscot this evening around 5p. Agrinsoni was rescued by Westbrook public safety officials and was released from the hospital as of 8:15p, according to the PPH.

- John C.L. Morgan

Prison Laborers in Westbrook

Last Thursday, the PPH had an article about some of the reasons lawmakers oppose Governor Baldacci's plans to export some of the state's prisoners to out-of-state facilities, including the fact that some prisoners provide cheap labor for towns:

Minimum-security inmates are allowed out of prison, under supervision, to work on projects in
area towns, including Windham, Gorham, Westbrook, Raymond, Gray and
others, [staff development specialist Carol Waig] said. In 2008, they
contributed 9,097 hours of labor to towns, valued at roughly $109,173, she said.
In her town [Windham], the prisoners clean cemeteries and built the park across from Town
According to City Administrator Jerre Bryant, inmates constructed a lunch room at the Public Services garage about five years ago, painted the interior of the Mechanic Street fire station in 2007, and painted the exterior of the Route 302 fire station last year.

- John C.L. Morgan

My New (Media) Hero

Move over, Brian Lamb.

Dr. Marc Chasse, a chiropractor cum documentarian, has been recording the events and personalities of northern Maine since 1983, some of which can be seen here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Fire Department Hemorrhaging Overtime Pay

The priciest month for Fire Department overtime so
far was December, when the city anticipated spending about $15,800 on overtime
pay but shelled out just over $48,500. The total was the most the department has
spent on overtime in more than four years, according to the expense report. The
department paid more than $212,000 in overtime from the beginning of the fiscal
year in July until the end of January. That's $63,000 more than the city
budgeted for the entire fiscal year.
Reporter Elbert Aull points to short-staffing caused by the sexual harassment complaints of two firefighters as the cause for the explosion in overtime pay. Besides the two firefighters who filed the complaints being placed on paid leave, five full- or part-time firefighters were suspended for various lengths of time as a result of the City's investigation into the complaints.

- John C.L. Morgan

Why Society Pages Dried Up

Michael Shaffer on the near-death of the local celebrity:
Once upon a time, residents of non-Hollywood cities
had lots of locally famous people to gawk at. There were hometown tycoons and
hometown heiresses and hometown department-store bosses, a local elite that
might not appear in movies but had a way of popping up in the society pages. In
the past few decades, though, local bankers have morphed into regional
vice-presidents of banking conglomerates and local industrialists have turned
into regional sales managers for diversified multinationals. With the decline of
local elites, the market for gossip globalized just as surely as the market for
IT support services.
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Life: February 16- February 22, 2009

Per usual, the calendar is stocked at
Cinemagic. For music, drop by The Frog and Turtle to check out Joe Farren on Wednesday (7:30p), the Tony Boffa Trio on Thursday (7p), Pam Baker and the SG's on Friday (9p), and Poor Howard on Sunday (4p). Also, aspiring photographers might want to look into the Bakery Photographic Collective's workshop on wet plate collodion scheduled for Friday and Saturday, 10a-6p.

Westbrook-Gorham Rotary convenes their weekly meeting Tuesday morning at 11:30a. The Westbrook Women's Club meets Tuesday, from 12-1p. Take Pounds Off Sensibly (TOPS) gathers Tuesday night at 5:15p, Wednesday morning at 7:30a, and Wednesday evening at 5:15p. And the Westbrook Kiwanis meet Thursday at 6p.

Check out Westbrook's
Virtual Pew for links to all you want to know about Bible studies, prayer groups, and worship services.

Davan Pool is open Wednesday and Friday mornings from 6-7:30a. And it opens again Tuesday-Thursday, from 8-9p. If you want a game of pickup basketball, the Westbrook Rec is open Monday-Friday, 11:30a-1p, and Tuesday-Thursday, 6:30-9p. The Westbrook High indoor track teams have their state indoor track meet today at 10a, the hockey team takes on Portland Tuesday at 8:30p, and the boys' basketball team is playing Portland in the Western Class "A" semifinals Wednesday night at 5:30p.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. If you know of an event I can add to this week's roster or a future schedule, e-mail me at

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Song of the Week

The song of the week is Sara Hallie Richardson's "Bottom of the Sea."

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: February 8- February 14, 2009

High: 51F (February 8)
Low: 13F (February 9)
Precipitation: 0.56 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 6:41a
Previous Sunset: 5:11p

High: 51F (February 8)
Low: -1F (February 6)
Precipitation: 0.58 inches
Snowfall: 0.30 inches

High: 51F (February 8)
Low: -16F (Januay 16)
Precipitation: 2.93 inches
Snowfall: 28.30 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Another Day, Another Drug Bust

This time a Westbrook Police/Cumberland County SWAT/Maine Drug Enforcement Agency/Windham K9 raid in my backyard nabs three, plus an unnamed mother of two who used "between ten and twenty bags of heroin a day."

- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, February 13, 2009

Skybox Timeline

With this week's American Journal reporting Skybox Bar and Grill will not be re-opening due to zoning non-compliance (sorry, no link), I've patched together a snarky synopsis of how the City of Westbrook rewarded the investments and improvements made by one couple (Tom and Ellen Dore) by driving them out of business, while subsequently forcing another couple (Allen and Lynn Moore) to invest their hard-earned capital into lawyer fees, instead of into their business and job creation:

March 2008
Westbrook City Council rejects the Dores' application for a liquor license for dubious reasons.

August 2008
City Council rejects the Moores' application for a liquor license for equally dubious reasons.

October 2008
Maine Liquor Licensing and Compliance Division and the Attorney General's office holds a public hearing concerning the Moores' application for a liquor license at the Westbrook Public Safety Building. Community clamoring for the bar's closing is so great,
no one from the public bothers to attend.

Janaury 2009
Lt. David Bowler of the Maine Department of Public Safety finds the City's denial of the Moores' application for a liquor license to be "without justifiable cause." However, before the Moores can secure a liquor license, it is determined they must physically separate the tavern from a catering business run in an adjacent space by the Dores.

January 2009
The Dores renovate the building to satisfy state regulations, only to have Westbrook Code Enforcement Officer Rick Gouzie determine the renovations make the business non-compliant with neighborhood zoning rules. The Moores subsequently appeal Gouzie's judgment.

March 11, 2009
The saga continues, as the Skybox owners' zoning appeal goes before the Westbrook Zoning Board.

Question: Why do I suspect that if you asked the Dores or the Moores what starts in Westbrook, they would be justified for spitting invectives, instead of singing the City's praises?

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: A Couple Thoughts on the Re-Opening of Skybox
Related: No Bar For You
Related: (Deep) Thoughts on the Skybox Closure
Related: Is Skybox a Victim of a Brown Street Bias?

Haven's Candies as Loyal Provincialists--Or Not

Haven's County Road factory has evidently been very busy preparing for tomorrow's celebrations of the 195th anniversary of the incorporation of Westbrook:
[T]he workers dipped strawberries all night,
starting at midnight wrapping it up around 8 a.m., dipping about half of the
estimated 35,000 strawberries they will sell today and tomorrow.
Just imagine how many strawberries they'll go through when we celebrate our bicentennial in five years. Wait, what's that? There's some other to reason to celebrate tomorrow? Oh.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sox Blogs

The view outside your window notwithstanding, baseball season unofficially kicked off this week, as Red Sox pitchers and catchers have reported for spring training.

So, for what's it worth, I recommend Full Circuit Clout, a old-timey blog (the only performance-enhancing drug you'll read about there is Duffy's Pure Malt Whiskey) that has thankfully stirred from its winter slumber, and Kevin Thomas's Clearing the Bases, the Press Herald blog that mixes Sox tidbits with Dog news.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Taylor Smith's Ideas for a Better Westbrook
Related: The Sportswriter: Boston Red Sox

Islander Reminder

Don't forget Warren Memorial Library is offering a public screening of Islander tonight at 7p, for a recession-friendly fee of $0.

- John C.L. Morgan

Getting There From Here

Westbrook is one of four towns or cities that have been invited to participate in a thorough transportation study conducted by the Maine Turnpike Authority and Maine Department of Transportation:
Officials said the study will take 18 to 24 months
to complete and will consider everything from new land-use policies and roadways
to bus service, biking, walking and the use of passenger and freight
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know Matt Donahue is the all-time leading scorer in the Westbrook High School boys' basketball program?

Playing before the three-point shot existed, Donahue (Class of 1970) accumulated 1,513 points in his career, including a record-setting 57-point performance against Deering on February 13, 1970. He then went on to become the second-leading scorer in University of Southern Maine history (1,975 points) and still holds an assortment of other scoring records at USM.

- John C.L. Morgan

The Sportswriter: Thoughts on Tonight's U.S. vs. Mexico World Cup Qualifier

"In the litter of empty soda cans and empty dreams, Gregg Thompson had a question burning across his face. The young defender from Minnesota strode across the rudimentary locker room and blurted at the American soccer coach, Alkis Panagoulias: 'When are we ever going to play a home game?' The answer from Panagoulias was equally blunt: 'Never.'"

- New York Times sports journalist George Vecsey describing the aftermath of a 1986 World Cup qualifying game the U.S. played against Costa Rica in which the Americans played before a "largely hostile crowd" in Torrance, California.

There are a few interesting storylines attached to tonight's FIFA World Cup qualifying match between Mexico and the United States.

Attracting the most media buzz recently is the foolish infatuation Mexican supporters have developed for voodoo dolls. Then there is, of course, the ever-present geopolitical aspect of the match in which political issues such as immigration, citizenship, and economics add a social and cultural layer to the on-the-field rivalry that does not surround, say, a U.S. vs. Barbados game. And don't neglect the hopeful fact that the Americans have turned the tide in the historic rivalry, compiling a nine-game home unbeaten streak (seven wins and two ties) in friendlies or World Cup qualifying matches since the tricolores beat the Yanks 2-1 in San Diego in a March 1999 friendly.

The most interesting phenomenon about this matchup, however, melds the latter two narratives together: Namely, it is fascinating how the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the governing body of soccer in the United States, shrewdly embraces ethnicity when scheduling exhibition games to maximize revenues, but shies away from ethnic enclaves when scheduling important home games (like a World Cup qualifying game) as a way to ensure as much as support for the home team as possible--even if it means a financial sacrifice for the organization. Consider, for example, the discrepancy in the USSF's scheduling of exhibition games and World Cup qualifying games against tonight's opponents, Mexico.

Since their aforementioned 2-1 loss in March 1999, the U.S. has hosted (or will host) Mexico for seven exhibition games and three Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) World Cup qualifying matches.

Of those seven exhibition games, six of them took place in pockets of the country populated relatively heavily by hispanics in general, and Mexican immigrants in particular.* In October 2000, for example, the U.S. hosted Mexico in Los Angeles, a city whose population is nearly one-half (47%) hispanic, about two-thirds of whom are Mexican (64%). And the subsequent games--Denver in April 2002 (31% hispanic, 69% of whom are Mexican); Houston in May 2003 (37% hispanic, 72% Mexican); Dallas in April 2004 (36% hispanic, 83% Mexican); Phoenix in February 2007 (34% hispanic, 83% Mexican); and Houston again in February 2008--all indicate the USSF is willing to sacrifice home-field advantage for a large gate receipt for exhibition games, as crowds for those games were 61,072; 48,476; 69,582; 45,048; 62,426; and 70,103, respectively.

All three qualifying games against Mexico since 2000, on the other hand, have not only been played (or will be played) in Latino-light Columbus, Ohio, a city whose relatively sparse population (at least compared to L.A. et al.) consists merely of 2% hispanics, 49.7% (or 8,686) of whom are of Mexican descent. But they have also been (or will be) played at Columbus Crew Stadium, a soccer-specific facility (read: not a cavernous football stadium plagued with many empty seats), whose capacity of only about 25,000 ensures the crowd figures--and dollar signs--from tonight's game will not match those of the friendlies against Mexico.

Now, considering the Americans' stellar record in Columbus (they are unbeaten in five WC qualifying games played there), and the advantage Ohio's February climate gives the Americans (one of those five qualifying wins took place in February 2001, when the U.S. beat Mexico in a game played in weather chilly enough to inspire the Mexican press to dub the game La Guerra Fria--The Cold War), it could be argued Columbus's demographics have little to do with the USSF's decision-making.

But by saying the USSF considers only past performance and an advantageous climate when making scheduling decisions--a limited scope the soccer press has persistently maintained--would ignore the American side's sore history of playing home games in front of the opposition's supporters, as well as neglect the USSF's habit for scheduling friendlies that cater to a region's ethnic proclivities.

Consider the discrepancy in the USSF's scheduling, even when friendlies and World Cup qualifying games not against Mexico are concerned.

Since 2000, the U.S. national team has hosted twenty-two World Cup qualifying games at only nine locations, with Columbus (6); Foxboro, Massachusetts (5); and Washington, D.C. (4) hosting the vast majority of the games. Of these three recycled sites, only Foxboro's urban neighbor Boston even remotely approaches the national average for hispanic population (14.4%, compared to the national average of 14.7%). Moreover, when you consider some of the other, one-time hosts--cities such as Kansas City, Missouri in April 2001 (6.9% hispanic); Birmingham, Alabama (1.6% hispanic) in March 2005; and Nashville, Tennessee scheduled for June 2009 (4.7%)--it is not coincidental that the USSF schedules World Cup qualifying games within a hispanic-heavy qualifying group (besides Mexico, CONCACAF includes such countries as Cuba, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama) in cities with a relatively low hispanic population. Especially when you consider the USSF's willingness to schedule friendlies with an eye toward embracing a region's immigrants, not avoiding them.

Besides the five Mexican friendlies I mentioned earlier, there's the June 2000 exhibition game against Ireland played in the backyard of Irish-heavy Boston, the March 2004 exhibition played against Haiti in Miami, and the July 2004 exhibition against Poland hosted by Polish-heavy Chicago. And don't forget the three friendlies played against Asian squads--China in January 2001 and June 2007, and Japan in February 2006--played in the Asian-heavy San Francisco Bay area (Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, respectively). So it appears that when the USSF is not throwing a bone to underrepresented soccer regions--Birmingham in March 2000 and March 2002; Seattle in March 2002 and March 2003; Richmond, Virginia in 2003; Albuquerque, New Mexico in March 2005; Cary, North Carolina in April 2006; Cleveland in May 2006; and Hartford, Connecticut in May 2006--it embraces ethnicity as a way of maximizing revenue for an exhibition game, even at the risk of ensuring the American national team does not enjoy overwhelming home-field advantage. Sadly, a lack of home-field advantage would not be foreign to an American national team.

Indeed, David Wangerin's history of soccer in America during the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, Soccer in a Football World, is littered with references to instances in which the American national team has hosted World Cup qualifying games on their own soil, only to play before a mostly hostile crowd. In a 1957 qualifying game played against Mexico in Long Beach, California, Wangerin notes the decision to stage the game at that locale was "tantamount to playing away" and that "[a]lmost all of the 12,500 in attendance came to support the visitors, and took pleasure in the 7-2 hammering of yet another slapdash American collective." Ditto a qualifying game for the 1966 World Cup--once again, against Mexico--when Wangerin describes the game site as "hostile Los Angeles" and wryly blankets the phrase home crowd with a pair of ironic quotation marks. This phenomenon even occurred as late as 2001, when the Americans hosted Honduras for a key qualifying game in Washington, D.C. In his book How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, Franklin Foer describes how, despite the USSF's letter to the Washington Post urging American supporters to wear red (a cause the USSF is also championing for tonight's game) to distinguish its cheering bloc from Hondura's supporters, "the Washington stadium might has well have been in Tegucigalpa."

Thanks to the USSF, though, it is unlikely Columbus, Ohio will not be mistaken for Morelia, Michoacán tonight--for more reasons than two.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: The Sportswriter: Three Ideas for a Better American Soccer Fan.

* Population figures are based on the 2000 U.S. Census.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Broadening Horizons: Clam Digging

- John C.L. Morgan

Hiring Committee Whittles Superintendent Field to Four

School officials in Westbrook have narrowed to four
the list of candidates to replace outgoing Superintendent Stanley Sawyer. They
expect to name Sawyer's replacement next month, following a final round of
interviews and background checks in the coming weeks.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, February 9, 2009

American Journal's Leslie Bridgers Wins NEPA Award

Leslie Bridgers, a reporter for the American Journal, won first place in the "Social Issues Feature Story" category at the 2009 New England Press Association's (NEPA) Better Newspaper Contest for a March 2008 story she wrote on the increasing drug use and enforcement in Westbrook. NEPA's verdict:
Great lede--really manages to draw the reader.
Reporter clearly did her homework and performed exhaustive research. The story
has a good range of sources.
- John C.L. Morgan

Not Quite

In a Kennebec Journal piece on a teenager running for a Board of Selectmen seat in Randolph:
Michael Starn of the Maine Municipal Association
said Obama's campaign has inspired young people to volunteer more. He noted the
town of Westbrook now has student advisory members on the City Council
Actually, a proposal to seat student advisors on the Council has yet to be approved.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Press Herald: Teen Advisors Should Be Considered
Related: Youth Advisory Seats Proposed for City Council

Westbrook Life: February 9- February 15, 2009

For all you bibliophiles, the Walker Memorial and Warren Memorial libraries' book clubs are meeting with this week. And for those who prefer their storytelling with an electronic cackle and a hue of blue, Warren Memorial is offering a free screening of Islander on Thursday at 7p, not to mention a full week of showings at Cinemagic. For music, check out the Waxmen Duo at The Frog and Turtle Wednesday and Friday evenings (7:30p and 9:30p, respectively), the Tony Boffa Trio on Thursday night (7p), the Waxmen Trio Saturday night (7:30p), and Poor Howard Sunday (4p).

The Knights of Columbus have a business meeting Monday evening at 7p. The Westbrook Historical Society opens its collection to the public Tuesday and Saturday mornings from 9a-12p. The Westbrook-Gorham Rotary convenes their weekly meeting Tuesday morning at 11:30p. And the Westbrook Kiwanis meet Thursday at 6p.

Check out Westbrook's Virtual Pew for links to all you want to know about Bible studies, prayer groups, and worship services.

Davan Pool is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 6-7:30a. And it opens again Monday-Thursday, from 8-9p. If you want a game of pickup basketball, the Westbrook Rec is open Monday-Friday, 11:30a-1p, and Tuesday-Thursday, 6:30-9p.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. If you know of an event I can add to this week's roster or a future schedule, e-mail me at

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Song of the Week: Dick Curless

The song of the week is Dick Curless's "Loser's Cocktail."

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Politics: February 9- February 13, 2009

According to the City of Westbrook's online calendar, there are no events scheduled this week.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: February 1- February 7, 2009

High: 41F (February 2)
Low: -1F (February 6)
Precipitation: 0.02 inches
Snowfall: 0.30 inches
Previous Sunrise: 6:51a
Previous Sunset: 5:01p

High: 41F (February 2)
Low: -1F (February 6)
Precipitation: 0.02 inches
Snowfall: 0.30 inches

High: 41F (February 2)
Low: -16F (Januay 16)
Precipitation: 2.37 inches
Snowfall: 28.30 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Al Hawkes Earns Boston Bluegrass Union Heritage Award

From the Boston Bluegrass Union press release:
Al Hawkes has contributed to bluegrass and country music in nearly every possible
capacity. In 1956 in Westbrook, Maine, he founded Event Records and released
early recordings by such key artists as The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover,
Charlie Bailey (of the Bailey Brothers), Dick Curless, and many more. Born in
1930, Hawkes formed his first band in high school, singing and playing an array
of stringed instruments. To this day, he continues to be an active performer,
and has received over 25 awards. In addition to releasing a number of important
recordings on Event, Hawkes is one of the foremost record collectors in New
England, whose archive includes over 40,000 45s, 78s, and LPs.
- John C.L. Morgan

Hat tip: John Trout's Bluegrass World

Related: Song of the Week: Over a Cardboard Sea
Related: Westbrook Roots