Thursday, April 30, 2009

State Sens. Bartlett and Brannigan Approve Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Westbrook's two state senators, Phil Bartlett (D-Cumberland County) and Joseph Brannigan (D-Cumberland), each voted yea on LD 1020, "An Act To End Discrimination in Civil Marriage and Affirm Religious Freedom." The Senate approved the bill 21-14, so it will be sent to the Maine House of Representatives, where Rep. Ann Peoples (D-Westbrook) is a co-sponsor of the legislation, and Rep. Tim Driscoll (D-Westbrook) is undecided, at least according to today's American Journal (sorry, no link).

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Westbrook Pastor Speaks Against Same-Sex Marriage Bill (April 22, 2009)
Related: The Augustan: Sen. Brannigan Among Co-Sponsors of Same-Sex Marriage Bill (March 12, 2009)

Bustlin' Bill: Laws Concerning Standoffs Are Too Narrow

[Westbrook Police Chief Bill] Baker said he plans
to write up new language to bring to the Maine Chiefs of Police Association and
eventually to the Legislature in order to be able to charge people like
[Richard] George for creating a standoff out in the open. “It would be my hope
to capture this kind of outdoor standoff where someone with a weapon puts
himself and others at risk and requires negotiations or the use of force to
resolve the situation,” he said.
- John C.L. Morgan

State Police: Taylor Deaths Caused by Murder-Suicide


An autopsy this afternoon revealed that Kenneth
Taylor killed his wife of 14 years, Belinda Taylor, before stabbing himself.
Their bodies were found Tuesday afternoon by their 12- and 14-year-old
daughters. Belinda Taylor’s death is Maine’s sixth homicide this year and the
third linked to domestic violence, said Department of Public Safety Spokesman
Stephen McCausland.
(Update: In keeping with its "break it on the Web, explain it in print" ethos, the PPH has more on the story in today's paper.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Questions Still Surround Taylor Deaths (April 30, 2009)

Department of Ouch: Caption Contest Edition

Not exactly the fate I want to ponder while performing my semi-weekly surf through the Blogroll.

Draft your best caption in the comments section. I'd offer a reward, but I'm two in the hole for other promises.

- John C.L. Morgan

Silver Lining in Swine Flu Hysteria

Idexx is reporting an increase in demand for their swine flu testing kits.

(Update: NECN has more on this story.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: My wife works for Idexx.

Questions Still Surround Taylor Deaths


Kenneth and Belinda Taylor--who police said were in
the process of getting a divorce--were found dead in their condominium of
apparent stab wounds Tuesday afternoon. The incident shocked friends and
co-workers, who described the Taylors as an active, outgoing couple. Kenneth
Taylor, 45, was a transplant from New York who could often be spotted at pickup
basketball games. Belinda Taylor, 43, was an aerobics instructor with a
happy-go-lucky attitude that left a lasting impression, they said.
- John C.L. Morgan

Other media stories on the situation:

PPH (4/29)
WMTW (4/29, 4/28)
AJ (4/28)
WCSH (4/28)
WGME (4/28)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quote, Unquote: Edwin Arlington Robinson

"Two kinds of gratitude: The sudden kind we feel for what we take; the larger kind we feel for what we give."

- Edwin Arlington Robinson, a Mainer who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1922, 1925, and 1928. Three collections of his poems--Children of the Night, The Man Against the Sky, and The Three Taverns--are available for free at Project Gutenberg.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Did You Know? (August 6, 2008)
Related: Good Salary. Little Work. Soft Snap! (April 7, 2008)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More on the Rock 'N Road Tour '09

Whit Richardson of Mainebiz does a much better job recapping the Rock 'N Road Tour '09 than I did.

And I'm not just saying that because his article contains a nod--and a broken link--to this site.

(Update: The link is now functional.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: On the Rock 'N Road Tour '09 (April 24, 2009)

Broadening Horizons: How to BBQ Frog Legs

Sinful, not illegal indeed.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why I Live in the Paper City, Draft One

Besides Rick Wormwood's attempt to manufacture a steaming heap of provincialism, I also appreciated last week's edition of the Portland Phoenix for its thirteen short essays on why various people live in Portland. Below is the first draft of a list of reasons for why I live in Westbrook:

August days on the upper soccer field at the high school (there really needs to be a less bureaucratic way in which to refer to that patch of grass).

Bicycling on a nearly deserted Main Street late at night.

Don's Lunch and their chin-soiling Big One.

Eating The Hamlett with a grilled blueberry muffin on the side at Guidi's Diner.

Feeding ducks with Eleanor in Riverbank.

Fresh tulips for the wife from Harmon's & Barton's on Brown Street.

Hanging out with the gals at the Rudy Vallee Fan Club Westbrook Historical Society on Saturday mornings, while mining for nuggets of Westbrook history and taking full advantage of the free babysitting.

Happy hour at Skybox.

(Illegally) sitting on a park bench in Riverbank at night, particularly during the winter.

Italians at Severino's.

Leisurely strolls on the Riverwalk.

Local History Room at the Walker Memorial Library.

NBA Jam and candlepin bowling at Colonial Lanes.

Occasional drives through The Hamlet, my boyhood trailer park bizarrely adorned with the nomenclature of England's gentry class.

Olmsted Field on a crisp fall evening.

Opportunity to leave in an historic townhouse without lining the pockets of a landlord or fretting about foreclosure--knock on Buckfield oak.

Pad Thai at Siam Square.

Patriots games at 19 Monroe Avenue.

Portland is a Metro ride away.

Shooting hoops by Fraser Field, with the mill's looming smokestack as the backdrop.

Smiling Hill Farm milk.

Summer evenings watching Sox vs. Yanks on Stockhouse's deck.

Summer morning canoe trips on the Presumpscot.

Summer nights at Prides Corner Drive-In.

Swimming at Davan Pool.

Thirteen-minute commute to work.

Warren Centennial Gymnasium on a frigid winter evening.

Watching World Cup qualifiers at either Mill Side Tavern or The Frog and Turtle, depending on how thick my wallet is that particular night.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Why I Live in the Paper City, Take Three (June 8, 2009)
Related: Why I Live in the Paper City, Ctd (May 11, 2009)

Decisions, Decisions

BruChu or Chuludacris? The former's advantage is its brevity and simplicity. But the latter--which I cannot claim as my creation, by the way--is just too clever to ignore.

Stand up and state your your preference.

- John C.L. Morgan

Spring Sports Update, Part I

The Blue Blazes baseball team squeaked past Cheverus in Saturday afternoon's season opener to solidy their No. 2 ranking in the first installment of the AJ's SMAA Baseball and Softball Power Rankings.

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Westbrook Politics: April 27- May 1, 2009

There are no political events scheduled for this week.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: April 19- April 25, 2009

High: 69F (April 25)
Low: 28F (April 20)
Precipitation: 2.04 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:43a
Previous Sunset: 7:37p

High: 69F (April 17, April 25)
Low: 28F (April 1, April 14, April 20)
Precipitation: 4.63 inches

High: 69F (April 17, 25)
Low: -16F (Januay 16)
Precipitation: 12.43 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, April 24, 2009

Al-Hamdany Trial Scheduled for June


A Westbrook man, originally from Iraq, will go to
trial on drug charges. Abbas Al Hamdany, 38, pleaded not guilty to charges of
aggravated trafficking of cocaine in November. Police said Al Hamdany was
selling drugs from his convenience store. Friday's hearing was continued from
last week because Al Hamdany fired his lawyer. A trial is set to begin in June.
(Update: WGME has video footage from Al-Hamdany's court appearance.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Al-Hamdany Claims Entrapment, Accuses Westbrook Police of Racism (April 9, 2009)

On the Rock 'N Road Tour '09

I just back from the first installment of the Rock 'N Road Tour '09.

And besides about five members of the
Citizens for Balanced Growth in Westbrook lobbying group (including State Rep. Ann Peoples), two reporters, and a couple public relations handlers, there were about 15 members of the general public on the tour. The time of the day, coupled with the expected entertainment value of a three-hour bus tour of Pike's operations, each probably played a part in the deomographics resembling more of a bus trip to, say, Foxwoods than that of a tour of piled crushed rock and asphalt. (Actually, come to think of it, what should the demographics of a tour of aggregate and asphalt look like?)

Anyway, after quick tours of Pike's maintenance facility on Spring Street, the Five Star Industrial Park on Eisenhower Drive, and the site of the Spring Street quarry in question, the VIP Charter bus eased onto I-95 and turned its nose northwest for Pike's functioning quarry and asphalt production facility in Poland. Once in Poland, John Koris of Pike Industries spelled out the steps Pike undertakes to mitigate visual blight and noise and air pollution at the facility. Then, after about a twenty-minute break to wolf down a
boxed lunch catered by Chefa's, the R-and-R Tour took a jaunt through an adjacent neighborhood to experience the relative calm of a Pike abutter, (though it should be noted the facility is just beginning to re-awaken from its wintry slumber and that we missed the scheduled 1p blast by about thirty minutes) before heading back to the Paper City. Once in Westbrook, the tour guides passed out Pike swag (I snatched a camouflage Pike ball cap for hunting walking in the Buckfield woods next fall), recruited interviewees for the WMTW camera waiting at the maintenance center, and urged each of the tourists to attend the Zoning Board Appeals meeting on May 6.

So, if you're interested in being cooped up on a bus for almost three hours (the general public's only respites from the caravan were at a rest stop on our way to Poland and during our lunch break near the entrance of the Poland quarry), but are curious about learning about what Pike does and are eager to hear their side of the argument, sign up for the next two scheduled tours here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pike Organizes Bus Tours

Slipped into today's American Journal is a flyer funded by Citizens for Balanced Growth in Westbrook, the public lobbying group advocating Pike's position in the (newly-minted by yours truly) "Donnybrook in the 'Brook."

Promising a "complimentary box meal," the supplement advertises three bus tours that'll enable the concerned citizen to "[s]ee for [themselves] how Pike is providing rock-steady employment in Westbrook and other Southern-Maine communities."

Dubbed the 2009 Rock 'N Road Tour, the rides have been scheduled for tomorrow and Saturday from 10a-1p, as well as next Wednesday from 5-8p. You must call (207) 221-1076 or go to to reserve a seat.

- John C.L. Morgan

Pike v. Idexx et al Goes Viral

I'm still tracking down the provenance of this catchy little ad (the Knight family of Smiling Hill Farm is apparently involved, but I'm unsure of whether the spot is a production of Westbrook Works or if there are plans to televise it).

(Update: The video is strictly a viral one and was produced independently using iMovie.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: My wife works for Idexx.

Related: To be Continued... (April 14, 2009)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know there are three versions of the The Maine Lobsterman sculpture created by Victor Kahill for the Maine exhibit in the 1939 World Fair?

Southern Mainers are probably most familiar with the installment in Portland, but there's also a replica on Bailey Island (which was the home of the sculpture's model, the late lobsterman H. Elroy Johnson) and on Maine Avenue in Washington, D.C. For more of the sculpture's backstory, see here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Pastor Speaks Against Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Via the PPH's live-tweeting from today's marathon public hearing on same-sex marriage, Rev. Rich Gustafson of the First Baptist Church in Westbrook spoke against legalizing gay marriage:

The Rev. Rich Gustafson of 1st Baptist in Westbrook says children need both
parents. If the bill passes, "the institution of marriage as we know it will
end," he said.
Between this post and an earlier post on marijuana policy in Maine, I'm an abortion-related post away from accomplishing the culture war triumvirate in a single day. Oh, wait, what's that?

Why, it is the hot-button jackpot.

(Update: Rev. Gustafson's testimony made it into Matt Wickenheiser's article about yesterday's hearing.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: The Augustan: Sen. Brannigan Among Co-Sponsors of Same-Sex Marriage Bill (March 12, 2009)

Legislature Scrutinizes Sex Offender Ordinances

Westbrook, which has some of the toughest restrictions on the books, makes a cameo appearance in the PPH article on the statewide debate:
Westbrook also passed restrictions on where sex
offenders could spend their time. The city prohibits lifetime registrants from
living, working or loitering within 2,500 feet of any school, day-care center,
park or other recreational area frequented by minors. Police Chief William Baker
said he believes the ordinance strikes a balance between offenders' rights and
public safety. "There are certainly places in Westbrook where sex offenders are
welcome to live and work," but there are areas where people with a history of
sex offenses should not be allowed, he said.
- John C.L. Morgan

Irony of the Day

Working Waterfront:

With all the hoopla surrounding the opening of the
new, $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium, most media have overlooked one irony: as fans
stream through the massive gates, they walk right by Deer Isle granite, quarried
by die-hard Red Sox fans.

The granite actually came from New England Stone's
Crotch Island quarry, the last major island quarrying operation in Maine. At a
time when other island quarries are silent, Crotch Island (located off the
southern tip of Deer Isle) produces between 55,000 and 75,000 cubic feet of
granite per year, according to foreman Danny Hypes. "Deer Isle granite is
everywhere," he said.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Prince of the Poor Man's Media: Or, This Week's Episode in Shameless Self-Promotion (April 6, 2009)
Related: Sox Blogs (February 12, 2009)
Related: Islanders: A Bite-Sized Review (January 14, 2008)

Pot and the Paper City

No, this post is not about another drug bust in Westbrook.

Instead, it's about a Phoenix story on medicinal marijuana in Maine featuring one of Westbrook's two state senators ("medi-mari supporter" Joseph Brannigan) and a Westbrook resident who heads the Maine Medical Marijuana Resource Center.

- John C.L. Morgan

On Twitter

A month or so after creating a Twitter account, I'm finally tweeting--or is it twatting?

Now, I've been reluctant to tweet for a couple reasons: First, I have become a pro at cluttering my leisure time with largely selfish (and admittedly self-promoting) hobbies, thank you very much. And second, I've had enough difficulty combating my greatest fear using the Bob Graham method, so why would I try to fight against memory holes in public for all (three) people to see? Actually, come to think of it, perhaps the latter reason is exactly why it's time for me to tweet.

So, while most will see this as just the latest expression of egotism writ large, I prefer to think of it as an exercise in "extreme self-discipline."

Or something like that.

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Broadening Horizons: Brian Lamb

Brian Lamb is the founder and chief executive officer of the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN), an organization that celebrated its thirtieth anniversary on March 19. For a Politico interview with Lamb, see here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: My New (Media) Hero (February 16, 2009)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Westbrook Politics: April 20- April 24, 2009

Tuesday, April 21
Planning Board meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Thursday, April 24
Downtown Streetscape Planning meeting
Walker Memorial Library

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: April 12- April 18, 2009

High: 69F (April 17)
Low: 28F (April 14)
Precipitation: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:54a
Previous Sunset: 7:29p

High: 69F (April 17)
Low: 28F (April 1, April 14)
Precipitation: 2.59 inches

High: 69F (April 17)
Low: -16F (Januay 16)
Precipitation: 10.39 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, April 17, 2009

American Journal on the Radio, Take Two

The AJ's Leslie Bridgers was on WGAN yesterday morning and she gave a, er, Reader's Digest version of the Abbas Al-Hamdany arrest and the subsequent change in ownership at Friendly's Discount.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Al-Hamdany Claims Entrapment, Accuses Westbrook Police of Racism (April 9, 2009)
Related: American Journal on the Radio (March 27, 2009)

Back-Breaking Raking Or Eye-Reddening Reading?

The two-day forecast appears yard-work friendly, and the Boston sports scene is stocked to the hilt. Seems like a good weekend to, wait for it, review the City of Westbrook's municipal budget.

For the masochists (and/or geeks) among us, BruChu's proposal can be found here, in all its 56-page splendor. And the City's vault of online videos contains footage from three of the four meetings the City Council's Finance Committee has devoted to reviewing the document.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Westbrook Taxes: 2008 v. 1958 (March 18, 2009)
Related: Did You Know? (May 7, 2008)
Related: Westbrook Taxes (January 31, 2008)

Attention Aspiring Ornithologists

A snow goose was spotted in a field on Pride Street on April 9, via the Maine Bird Alert service.

However, since I haven't followed through on my June 2008 self-reminder to study up on flying flocks of feather, please don't ask me the significance of this find. Perhaps a, uh, bird-brained reader can help out.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Rare Duck Spotted on the Presumpscot (January 8, 2009)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Best of Portland Found in the Paper City

Mister Bagel, Planet Fitness, and the Portland Pie Co. claimed acclamation in the Portland Phoenix's Best of '09 reader survey for best bagel, best health club, and best delivery food, respectively.

- John C.L. Morgan

Podcast of the Day

I was browsing the Maine Humanities Council's collection of podcasts this afternoon and came across Kevin Belmonte's 23-minute talk on the late Maine writer Robert P.T. Coffin.

-John C.L. Morgan

Related: How Real Maine Men Sleep (February 5, 2009)
Related: Quote, Unquote: Robert P.T. Coffin (January 21, 2009)
Related: Quote, Unquote: Robert P.T. Coffin (December 3, 2009)
Related: On Location: Presumpscot River (June 3, 2008)

Blue Blazes Star in PPH's Baseball Preview

Besides being ranked No. 2 on the PPH's list of "10 Teams to Watch," the Blue Blazes baseball team boasts two players (senior Christian Hamilton and sophomore Scott Heath) on the paper's list of "25 Players to Watch."

- John C.L. Morgan

More Ink on Chief Baker's Mental Health PSAs

PPH columnist Bill Nemitz addresses Bustlin' Bill Baker's efforts to broadcast public service announcements about mental health care:
The chief's admittedly "outside the box" idea: Why
not produce a public service announcement acknowledging that times are tough and
urging people to get the help they need before things escalate into a full-blown
police standoff? "When these things happen, we so often hear from people
interviewed at the scene by the media who say, 'My God, I never thought it could
happen here,'" Baker said Wednesday. "Meanwhile, we're sitting here saying we've
been to 101 mental-health interventions since January, just here in
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Bustlin' Bill to Create a PSA About Mental Health (April 13, 2009)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quote, Unquote: Sarah Orne Jewett

"Tact is after all a kind of mind-reading."

- Sarah Orne Jewett in her book The Country of the Pointed Firs.

- John C.L. Morgan


A reader reminded me about the City of Westbrook's vault of legislative video on its Web site, which in turn reminded me of my YouTube channel.

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Westbrook Grad Flourishes at USM, Eyes Pro Contract

Westbrook High alum Anthony D'Alphonso hopes Major League Baseball comes calling after he's shown he can shred collegiate pitching at the University of Southern Maine:

D'Alfonso, you see, came to USM last season after
two years playing community college baseball. This is his final college season,
and his goal is to parlay his power to a future in pro baseball.
Those who see him daily say he's on his way. "His power is better than any I've ever
seen," said USM Coach Ed Flaherty. "I'm talking about legitimate home run
hitting power. At batting practice everyone stops to watch him hit."
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Diamonds in the Rough (August 2, 2008)

To Be Continued...

The latest in Pike v. Idexx et al:

Zoning Board of Appeals members called an end late
Monday night to public testimony on Pike's controversial expansion plans, ending
an information-gathering process that consumed four nights over the past two
months. Board members said they will resume their deliberations May 6 in an
effort to determine whether Code Enforcement Officer Richard Gouzie was correct
in concluding that Pike Industries may continue to mine rock from the Spring
Street quarry but may not operate an asphalt plant on the property.
- John C.L. Morgan

(Full disclosure: My wife is employed by Idexx.)

Related: MPBN Takes a Look at the Pike Affair Through Colored Lenses (April 8, 2009)

Broadening Horizons: Dancing Diego

Related: The Sportswriter: Thoughts on Tonight's U.S. vs. Mexico World Cup Qualifier (February 11, 2009)

Related: The Sportswriter: Three Ideas for a Better American Soccer Fan (November 1, 2008)

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, April 13, 2009

On Scarborough Downs

At the risk of turning this Web site into vice central, I encourage you to ring in the new season at Scarborough Downs with my small stable of past posts about the racetrack:

Why You Should be a Scarborough Downer (April 25, 2008)

On Location: Scarborough Downs (April 15, 2008)

- John C.L. Morgan

Bustlin' Bill to Create a PSA About Mental Health

Chief William Baker said he wants to create a
public service announcement that urges television viewers to seek help if they
know someone struggling with stress or depression. Baker is working with the
Maine Council of Churches and the Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians on
the project. He said he hopes the groups involved in the project will be able to
raise grant money to get their message on the air as soon as possible.
- John C.L. Morgan

Richardson: Obama's Proposed Tax on Energy Would Hurt Mainers

Ray Richardson, the co-host of WLOB's morning show, penned an op-ed in Saturday's PPH:
But let's call this proposal what it really is: a
regressive tax that reaches into the pockets of average people by raising the
cost of filling up the family car and the heating oil tank. No industry can
absorb $31.5 billion in new taxes without passing them on to consumers. Surely
that's not a revelation to the administration or the Congress. Maine families
are already feeling the economic screws tightening. The January unemployment
numbers, announced this month, show a seasonably adjusted unemployment rate of
7.8 percent, the Maine Department of Labor reports.
- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Westbrook Politics: April 13- April 17, 2009

Monday, April 13
Zoning Board of Appeals
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Tuesday, April 14
Budget and Finance Committee meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: April 5-11, 2009

High: 60F (April 5, April 10)
Low: 29F (April 10)
Precipitation: 1.72 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 6:03a
Previous Sunset: 7:22p

High: 60F (April 5, April 10)
Low: 28F (April 1)
Precipitation: 2.59 inches
Snowfall: 0.00 inches

High: 60F (April 5, April 10)
Low: -16F (Januay 16)
Precipitation: 9.67 inches
Snowfall: 54.20 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Contributors are Welcome

"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."

Though George Orwell's well-known quote was inspired by his observation that it is very common in politics for inconvenient facts to be sacrificed on the altar of knee-jerk ideology and/or intellectual laziness, I think it also inadvertantly captures a truth about our inreasingly global lives: To paraphrase Orwell, to see what is in the shadows of the 353-foot Sappi smokestack is a constant struggle.

In other words, media is so ubiquitous and so far-reaching today it is not inaccurate to say most of us are more familiar with the events and cultures of places we've never even visited than we are of the city that surrounds us for most of living and sleeping hours. That thought, in the proverbial nutshell, is why I launched this Web site (and its late sister-site, last January. And that's why I continue today.

The goal when I started was to give the Paper City a streaming narrative that didn't previously exist. So, besides focusing on the decisions coming from 2 York Street and Room 114, I wanted this site to be a place where Westbrook's annoying, eclectic, humorous, mundane, quirky, sublime, and tragic qualities were explored and debated. And though I recognize this site has largely played the role of news aggregate since I began grad school in January, that goal still remains. Which is where you, dear reader, comes in.

I envision this site as the place where all Paper City things are considered. A place where reviews of the city's Northside's Italians are posted just above, say, the latest news on the Pike v. Idexx donnybrook. A place where self-promoting bowling alley owners weigh in on the best Westbrook has to offer just above a post in which a self-promoting legislator lays out his plans for governance. And, most important, a place where my shoddy perspective on the city is trumped by smarter takes, whether it be "Ideas for a Better Westbrook" or why Mr. Bagel has the best homefries in the city.

I've been lucky to attract commenters who are thoughtful and civil, so I'd love it if I could attach names to similar takes and slap them on better real estate for all to read. Contributions or inquiries can be sent to, or you can call me at (207) 766-8554. All thoughts, great and small, are appreciated.

- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, April 10, 2009

Beware of Car

It's been a crazy two weeks on Westbrook's streets.

Eighteen-year-old Shaun Geisenger crashed his car into the porch of a Longfellow Street home on March 30 and was subsequently arrested for a variety of charges, including Operating Under the Influence (OUI). Then, of course, there was the infamous hit-and-run outside Mill Side Tavern on April 3. And when you consider Randy McDonough's fatal collision with the Dana Warp Mill and the reckless driving of Scott Shepard, both of which occurred yesterday, this recent spate in vehicular attacks on man and structure almost make you want to hibernate for another five months.

Either that or long for the days when Westbrook served as the typical dateline for the drug bust du jour.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Teen Dies After Crash Into Dana Warp Mill


Randy J. McDonough was pronounced dead at the scene
after his 2001 Volkswagen Jetta slammed into the side of the Dana Warp Mill on
Bridge Street around 1:40 a.m., police said. Police Chief William Baker said
the department will conduct toxicology tests to determine whether alcohol was a
factor in the crash. Baker said excessive speed contributed to the wreck, but
that it was too early to draw any further conclusions. The crash damaged a
section of the mill at 90 Bridge St.--now a diverse commercial complex--which
was boarded up later that day.
(Update: The AJ has a brief article and a photo of the crash site.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Westbrook Police Arrest Hit-and-Run Suspect

Police say 47-year-old Douglas Smilie drove onto a
sidewalk outside of the Millside Tavern and crashed into a man standing on the
sidewalk on Cumberland Street. Police say Smilie has an extensive criminal
history that includes previous convictions for robbery, arson, kidnapping,
aggravated assault and burglary. He's now charged with aggravated assault and
aggravated reckless conduct.
In related news, Mill Side Tavern's fifteen minutes of infamy went national today, as this story--and accompanying video--briefly starred on CNN's Headline News this afternoon.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Bar Talk (April 8, 2009)
Related: Holy S#!& (April 7, 2009)

Al-Hamdany Claims Entrapment, Accuses Westbrook Police of Racism

[Abbas] Al-Hamdany said he often did drugs with the
informant who turned him in, but didn't sell drugs, except for the one time he
was caught. He said the informant called him more than a dozen times the night
he was caught, begging him to come over and provide coke. Al-Hamdany said of the
informant, "He introduced me to drug dealers. We do drugs at his house. And he
makes me into the bad guy. I do coke. He makes me out to be the biggest drug
dealer. It's 2 grams of coke. They make me out to be the largest drug dealer."
Al-Hamdany accuses the police of coming after him because some officers are
friends with other white business owners that were jealous of his successful
business. He said other drug addicts have not gotten as much attention.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Busted (November 21, 2008)
Related: Diamon Addresses the Media's Role in the Al-Hamdany Arrest (November 24, 2008)
Related: Follow-Up to the Al-Hamdany Arrest (December 1, 2008)

State Sen. Bartlett: Cut Income Tax, Broaden and Increase Sales Tax

One of Westbrook's two state senators, Phil Bartlett (D-Cumberland County), co-authored an op-ed in today's PPH about the need to cut the income tax in Maine from 8.5% to 6.5%, while simultaneously expanding the sales to include some previously untaxed goods and services, as well as increasing taxes on such things as lodging and car rentals:
In addition to putting several hundred dollars more
in your pocket, [tax reform] will make the state budget more
predictable, reducing the likelihood of large deficits and the painful cuts that
accompany them. Equally as important, it will make Maine a better place to do
business. Nearly all of Maine's small businesses will pay less in income taxes
and will have more money to reinvest in growing their business, hire more
employees or give existing employees raises. So how will the state reduce the
tax burden of Maine people so significantly? The proposal cuts the income tax
rate by more than 20 percent, from 8.5 percent to 6.5 percent, and establishes a
series of refundable tax credits that will lower most people's tax burden even
further. To pay for the income tax cut, the plan proposes to extend the sales
tax to a few areas that will be paid in large part by tourists and modestly
increasing the taxes on rental cars, meals and lodging.
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bar Talk

The buzz at Skybox during Happy Hour this afternoon was about the news crews hounding Mill Side all afternoon with their coverage of the hit-and-run incident outside that tavern Friday night.

And when Mill Siders weren't philosophizing about smoking's relationship to the incident (besides grousing about how the state law prohibiting smoking in bars contributed to Kevin Peterson's close call, patrons were complaining about how they had to abandon their favorite puff spot on Cumberland Street for fears of wayward vehicles and prying camera angles), they were trading scuttlebutt about the two Paper City Sherlocks reportedly prowling Skybox for leads on the two women whom police think may have instigated the vehicular attack.

The funniest stretch of thirty seconds, though, occurred when WGME's Doug Ray was doing a live promo for the story at 5p. While most savored the meta experience of watching a flesh-and-blood Ray appear on the bar's television screen, a couple troublemakers were rehearsing the fake drunken stagger they'd use to lend the spot a little comedic relief.

Alas, it was apparently too early in the evening for the liquid courage to kick in, so all were resigned to wondering what could've been.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. All this was just a really long-winded way of telling you to watch WCSH's story on the incident.

Related: Holy S#!& (April 7, 2009)

MPBN Takes a Look at the Pike Affair Through Colored Lenses

Maine Public Broadcasting Network:

Plans to expand a quarry in Westbrook have led to a
showdown between Pike Industries, the quarry's owner, and a coalition of
local businesses. It's a dispute which, according to some observers, has taken
on a symbolic significance--a conflict pitting blue collar against white collar,
old against new, hi-tech against low tech.
Wanted: An artist who can somehow create a palatable shade with globs of blue, white, green, brown, and whatever other collar-color that might exist.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: (Virtual) Prize Fight (March 27, 2009)
Related: Pike: We've Sued Westbrook (March 2, 2009)

Freaky Bean Goes Kaput

Freaky Bean is officially out of business. And besides the obvious effect its closure has had on Westbrook's Main Street visage, the company's demise means Westbrook businesses such as The Sunrise Guide LLC and (I believe) The Baker's Bench are owed some money.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Freaky Bean Closes Main Street Shop (February 27, 2009)

Department of Clarification

Yesterday, I implied that the upcoming deletion of the Facebook group Save the Warren Memorial Library! was a sign the Friends of the Warren Memorial Library (FWML) were petering out of existence. Now, while my report that the Facebook group will shutter its virtual doors on Friday is still true, I should've clarified the FWML is still very much alive and that they've simply set up shop in a different Internet location (here).

According to an e-mail sent by Kelly Watters, the new Web site was created to include those not affiliated with Facebook, and the FWML has readjusted its focus "to push for a branch library up to the old Jr. High once it opens."

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Three Thoughts on the Closing of Warren Memorial (April 6, 2009)

Westbrook Man Reminisces About "Top Dog"

Marty "Deputy Dog" Jensen of Westbrook talks about working alongside the late Harold "Top Dog" Lucas, a well-known program hawker at Hadlock Field:
"I think we handed out thousands (of magnets),"
said Jensen. "I'd tell the women to cut them in half and throw Lucas' half away
so he wouldn't scare their kids." He laughs but there's an echo of sadness in
his voice. Jensen, who lives in Westbrook, lost his wife and other family
members in the past year. He's had some health issues of his own. "Lucas and I
talked. At our ages, how long are we going to keep this up? We thought it was
never going to end. We were there to sell programs but we wanted people to be
happy they were at the park. We had fun."
- John C.L. Morgan

Owner of Skybox Threatens to Sue City

[Allen] Moore said he plans to file a lawsuit asking that the vote be
overturned. "We're not going to give in. I want a bar in this neighborhood," he
said. A group of city councilors, however, does not. They said history shows a
bar cannot work in the neighborhood. "Why try to open a business up when you
know it is, has been, and always will be detrimental to the property values and
the peace and quiet of a neighborhood that has suffered for a long time?" asked
Councilor John O'Hara, a longtime opponent of Skybox and its predecessor, Andy's
For those keeping score at home, Moore's lawsuit would up the number of pending lawsuits against the City of Westbrook to at least three.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: And the Beat Goes On... (April 7, 2009)

Did You Know?

Did you know the State of Maine purchased the Blaine House to serve as its executive mansion in December 1919 for $184,548?

Purchased from the family of nationally-renowned politico James G. Blaine, the Blaine House was subsequently remodeled by the architect John Calvin Stevens and has served as the home for nineteen of Maine's First Families.

- John C.L. Morgan

FMI: Check out the Maine Humanities Council's "Blaine House Oral Histories."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Presumpscots of Cumberland Mills

The Presumpscots of Cumberland Mills Explained

Nearly 119 years before the Boston Red Sox vanquished the Tampa Bay Rays in this afternoon's opening game, the Presumpscots of Cumberland Mills trekked to the Atlantic coast of Canada to take on the Frederictons of New Brunswick.

Consisting of just enough players to field a team (front row, l-r: Fred Files, J. Campbell, Arthur Smith, Chas. Elkins; back row, l-r: F.E. Bachelder, S. Clark Morton, Bill Webb, C.S. Clark, and Gene Harriman), the Presumpscots split a morning-afternoon doubleheader with the Frederictons on May 29, 1890.

- John C.L. Morgan

John Ford Country

My earlier reference to spaghetti Westerns reminded me of Buzz Bissinger's piece in the March 2009 Vanity Fair about how Arizona and Utah's Monument Valley influenced the career of Maine-bred film director John Ford:
Nobody used Monument Valley like Ford did, so much
so that the valley became known simply as John Ford Country. There was a little
bit of irony in that perhaps, given that Ford wasn’t of the West at all but a
native of southern Maine from the environs of Portland. He was born John Feeney,
in 1894, his father an Irish saloonkeeper and his mother a woman of rigid
emotional demand. They had 11 children, 5 of whom died in infancy, leaving John
the youngest. He had diphtheria as a child and, due to being quarantined, missed
an entire year of school. But at Portland High School, he played football tough
enough to earn him the nickname “Bull.”
- John C.L. Morgan

Holy $#!&

WMTW has raw footage of a hit-and-run incident that took place outside Mill Side Tavern Saturday night.

According to the short write-up on the incident, the victim wasn't seriously hurt, and police are still looking for the culprit. If you have any information, call 854-0644.

(Update: The PPH has more on the events leading up to the incident, as well as a report that the incident occurred Friday night, not Saturday night per the WMTW report. WGME also weighed in on this story with the name of the victim and they too are reporting the incident took place Friday night.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Not Your Father's Mill Side Tavern (June 30, 2008)
Related: Neal Dow Pub Crawl: A Review (January 19, 2008)

And the Beat Goes On...

As though the past year hasn't been any indication, the City of Westbrook has officially cultivated an obsession for finding ways to bureaucratically harass Skybox Bar & Grill. The PPH:

The status of the Skybox Bar and Grill, the
controversial pub at the corner of Brown and North streets, is up in the air
again. The city’s municipal officers--its council and mayor--voted not to renew
the bar’s license to sell food last night. The vote is the latest blow to
resident Allen Moore, who has sought to re-open the pub since last summer and
has clashed with City Hall over licensing and permitting issues ever since. The
decision effectively blocks his plans to open the establishment, because bars
are required to sell food to maintain their liquor licenses.
I hereby channel my inner spaghetti Western version of Clint Eastwood and challenge any City official to an unedited debate about this bar's right to be open on this site.

Loser buys the victor a dollar pint of PBR--at Skybox.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Skybox Set to Re-Open--For Now (March 12, 2009)
Related: More Skybox (February 17, 2009)
Related: Skybox Timeline (February 13, 2009)
Related: A Couple Thoughts on the Re-Opening of Skybox (January 29, 2009)
Related: Skybox Update (January 16, 2009)
Related: No Bar For You (August 7, 2008)
Related: (Deep) Thoughts on the Skybox Closure (March 20, 2008)
Related: Is Skybox a Victim of a Brown Street Bias? (March 7, 2008)