Thursday, June 25, 2009

Exit Interview and Other News

At the risk of becoming the Brett Favre of the small pond blogosphere, I do have just one more post.

Besides featuring the full version of my Q & A in the American Journal this week (I got a little too long-winded for their column inches), I also want to use this post to thank everyone for the heartfelt comments and e-mails I've received over the last week.

I've been deeply touched by this experience and would like to extend an invitation to all for an open house/party/strategic bull session at my house on Saturday, July 11 from 3p-5p. I'll supply the beverages and some hors d'oeuvres, so please RSVP ( to let me know you're coming and to allow me to give you my address. I figure it'll be a great chance to put faces with names and would like to thank each one of you personally.

Anyway, without further ado, the (full) exit interview:

Why are you giving up the blog?
Several reasons. Last spring, I juggled the maintenance of the site along with working full time during the day and taking three grad classes at night and I just did not look forward to maintaining the Web site amid an even more hellish schedule next fall and spring. I also owe the Coast Guard a lot of work this summer, along with the usual responsibilities that come with the job that, you know, pays the bills.

There's also the proverbial bit about wanting to spend more time with my wife and sixteen-month-old daughter. I have to say, though, nothing focuses the mind quite like getting nudged out of the house for a night after a, ahem, disagreement that had everything and nothing to do with our Netflix queue.

How many hours a day were you spending on the blog?
On the one hand, not enough. On the other, way too many.

Did you have goals when you started? If so, did you meet those?
I had three goals when I launched the site on the cold New Year's Day in 2008: To build social capital in Westbrook, to learn about the city, and to have fun. From the overwhelmingly positive feedback I've gotten over the last 18 months in conversations and postportem comments and e-mails, the site seems to have made people feel more connected to the city and to their neighbors. I've learned tons about the city and will continue to learn more about it. And, since I'm the type of geek who considers the occasional trip to Room 114 as a night out on the town, I almost always enjoyed myself. Throw in the unexpected (and unrealized) friends and acquaintances I've met solely because of the site, and I'd have to say this site exceeded my expectations.

What did you learn about Westbrook that you didn't already know?
I learned something new about Westbrook almost every time my fingers punched the keys. But the thing I am most struck by is the general civility and respect of my readers. To be sure, there were a couple times when I had an internal debate about whether a comment should remain, but the general thoughtfulness among my commenters was refreshing, especially when you consider how quickly Internet chatter devolves into racism, vulgarity, and nastiness.

What's the wackiest comment you've gotten on the blog?
I'll always remember being called out by a longtime resident of Westbrook in the letters to the editor section in the Press Herald for some comments I made in a March 2008 piece about Westbrook's burgeoning restuarant scene. Besides being told to keep my (wait a minute, I have the letter hanging on my fridge) "extremely rude" remarks to myself, I was taken to task for my inadequate boosterism on the city's behalf and my lack of appreciation for Westbrook's history. Go figure.

What posts or topics have elicited the greatest response from your readers?
The Stroudwater Place hearings, the Skybox saga, the donnybrook between Pike and Idexx et al obviously come to mind. You name the controversial issue that's popped up in the city over the last 18 months, and I'm sure I can dig up a few comments related to it.

What are your favorite blogs to read?
I have a list of blogs on my site that I had been reading nightly, but I'm hoping to live as much of a computer-free existence as I can this summer.

Sure, I'll occasionally check in on an assortment of Maine blogs, The New Republic's blogs, Soccer by Ives, and the Full Circuit Clout to get my Boston Red Stockings fix. But, I'm mostly going to party like it's 1999 by reading books and these really cool things called newspapers.

Would you like for someone else to pick up where you left off?
I was actually always hoping someone would start a similar site while I was going strong. I think the competition would've been good for readers and it would've cultivated a give-and-take environment that would've been healthy for the the city, not to mention a lot of fun for myself. Nevertheless, I'd love to see someone start a similar site.

What's next?
After I lose the twenty pounds I've packed on and iron out the knot that's been wrenching my lower back since I started this project, I'm going to sit down with some people to see if we can't figure out how to take what made this site successful and turn it into something that won't force me to degrade my eyesight and develop arthritis in my hands. In other words, accomplish similar ends by using different means.

In the meantime, I'm going to throw a party for all my readers so I can thank them personally and finally put faces with names and Internet handles.

Here's to seeing you on the 11th.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, June 22, 2009

With Sadness and Gratitude

Since I started this project in January 2008, I've thought about shutting it down exactly three times. Alas, the fourth time is the curse, as professional and personal responsibilities are just too great--and will become even greater in the fall--to allow me to devote the time I need to maintain this Web site like I would want to.

Overcoming the feeling of relief for finally untethering myself from my computer, though, is a sense of sadness for giving up what has become an enjoyable hobby and a feeling of gratitude toward you, dear reader, for making this endeavor last as long as it did.

Your visits convinced me this blog was worthwhile, your comments generally enriched my thinking on numerous subjects, and the flesh-and-bone friendships I've developed as a result of this virtual portal ensure this site will have served a purpose long after it's gone black.

So with this post, I say goodbye to the blogosphere and thank you for your readership over the last 18 months.

Stay in touch,


P.S. Here some numbers related to the site, courtesy of Google Analytics:

Number of visits

Number of absolute unique visitors

Most absolute unique visitors in one day

Average number of unique visitors per day during June 2009

Number of countries registering on my visitor list

Number of visits from readers within the United States

Number of visits from readers within Albania

Percentage of visitors who visited this site only once.

Percentage of visitors who visited this site more than 100 times

The value of this Web site, according to

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Quote, Unquote: Charles Colgan

"There used to be three legs supporting the economy in Aroostook County: Loring Air Force Base, the forest products industry, and the potato industry. One of those legs went away entirely and the other two got sawed off."

- Economist Charles Colgan on the exodus of Aroostook residents.

Source: Peter Smith's "You Say Potato" in the July 2009 Down East.

- John C.L. Morgan

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I have to admit this Strange Maine post did cause me to momentarily consider adding another item to my summer to-do list, but I've concluded my provincialism does have limits after all.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Check out Vigorous North for an interesting argument of why such a tattoo might actually be worth getting.

State Board Reinstates Firefighter's Rank

After a hearing, which concluded last month, the
Board of Arbitration and Conciliation ruled Friday that the city’s demotion of
[Donald] Trafford was “a penalty that exceeds the situation,” according to a
written decision from the three-member panel.
- John C.L. Morgan

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

Related: New Fire Chief Hired; Firefighters Demoted And/Or Suspended (December 24, 2008)

Westbrook Comedian to Participate in Bob Marley Special

Johnny Cail, a comedian whose bio describes him as a lifelong resident of a trailer in Westbrook, is among the six comedians who'll be featured in "Bob Marley's Young Comedian Special."

The special, which will be filmed, is scheduled for tomorrow night at Comedy Connection at 8p. Admission is $20.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. If you can't attend tomorrow night's show, Cail is scheduled to perform at Westbrook High School at 7p on Sunday, June 21, as part of a Project Graduation fundraiser.

Broadening Horizons: The Farmington Diva

More on Lillian Nordica here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, June 15, 2009

Class of '09

All about this year's graduating class at Westbrook High School:

The AJ reviews the graduation ceremony.

The PPH compiles a list of highest honors, high honors, honors, graduates, and awards.

Graduate Lori Anne Esmiller is recognized in the PPH for contributing over 430 volunteer hours to Maine Medical Center.

Graduate Mary Maxwell is featured in the AJ for overcoming adversity to earn a college scholarship.

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Westbrook Politics: June 15- June 19, 2009

Tuesday, June 16
Planning Board meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: June 7- June 13, 2009

High: 78F (June 12)
Low: 51F (June 10)
Precipitation: 2.23 inches
Previous Sunrise: 4:59a
Previous Sunset: 8:24p

High: 78F (June 12)
Low: 39F (June 1)
Precipitation: 0.00 inches

High: 92F (April 28)
Low: -16F (January 16)
Precipitation: 19.00 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, June 12, 2009

Reminder for Movies at Riverbank

The Westbrook Historical Society is sponsoring the first installment of its Movies at Riverbank series on Friday, June 26 at 8:15p. The free screening at Riverbank Park will feature Wall-E (2008), and all are encouraged to bring their own chairs, snacks, and bug spray.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Movies at Riverbank: 2009 (June 4, 2009)

WHS Assistant Principal Helps Save Neighbor from Fire

Howard Jack saw the front porch of his nieghbors
house engulfed in flames. While his son called 9-1-1, Jack kicked down the front
door and saw his elderly neighbor still inside. He carried the woman out of the
burning building and then when back in to find what caused the fire.
Sean Bachelder ran to the home to see if he could help. He found the woman clinging
to the back porch, refusing to leave the house. Bachelder saw the fire making
its way though the kitchen, so he picked the woman up and carried her away from
her home.
The fire occurred Monday night.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, June 11, 2009

On Location: Westbrook High School

Besides an interlude of satisfaction bracketed between the first and last pitches of sophomore hurler Scott Heath, today was a cold, gray day for Westbrook baseball.

That's because before Heath opened the second-ranked Blue Blazes' quarterfinal matchup against the #10 South Portland Red Riots, the 2009 Major League Baseball draft closed, and Westbrook alum and collegiate standout Anthony D'Alfonso was not among the 1,521 players drafted. To be sure, D'Alfonso is probably receiving free agent offers as I write this sentence (or at least I'd hope so, considering the kid has swatted the pitching at every level he's played), but I imagine the disappointment cut deep when the rapid-fire pace of the draft's later rounds suddenly halted, and a professional association with a ball club was still lacking.

Just like the disappointment ran deep for Westbrook's high schoolers after Heath pitched his final pitch of the game (he apparently suffered a shoulder injury on the final play of the top of the fifth inning), and the Blue Blazes' subsequently squandered a 3-0 lead by giving up five runs in the sixth en route to suffering a 5-3 upset loss.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Westbrook Baseball Collects Individual Accolades (June 10, 2009)
Related: D'Alfonso Eyes Pro Draft, Awaits Fate (June 9, 2009)
Related: On Westbrook's Super Soph (June 9, 2009)

Some Condos and Apartments Could Lose Trash Pickup

The agreement proposes to stop picking up trash at
buildings or complexes with more than six units, which will affect 85
condominiums and 237 apartments that currently receive trash removal service
from the city. City Administrator Jerre Bryant cited difficulty of access to the
units, lack of room on the street to accommodate the 64-gallon trash and
recycling bins and cost of providing the service as the reasons behind the
- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: My wife and I are among the condo owners who'd lose public trash collection under the policy changes, and we voiced our concerns during Monday night's Committee of the Whole meeting.

Related: Some Details on Recycling Program (June 4, 2009)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Did You Know?

Did you know the City of Westbrook's mayor's annual stipend is $400.00 $6,500?

According to the City Charter and Code of Ordinances, the mayor's salary can be changed only with 2/3 approval from the City Council, and the alteration would not take effect until one year after approval.

(Update: A City Councilor just e-mailed to pass along his understanding that the mayor's annual stipend is actually $6,500. I'll get confirmation this afternoon and post a correction if necessary.)

(Update, Part Deux: City Clerk Lynda Adams confirmed the mayor of Westbrook does in fact earn $6,500 per year, a salary level that was last changed in December 1987. So excuse me while I curse my electronic copy of the City Charter and Code of Ordinances that claims to have been updated as of May 19, 2009 and scrub the egg off my face.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Baseball Team Collects Individual Accolades

Zach Gardiner (third base), Matt Foye (shortstop), and Scott Heath (outfield and pitcher) were named to the 2009 SMAA First Team. Zach Collett (utility), Sean Murphy (pitcher), and Christian Hamilton (pitcher) were named to the SMAA Second Team. And Foye (shortstop) was named to the SMAA All-Defensive Team, while Murphy (pitcher) got the nod on the 2009 All-Rookie Team.

The team finished the regular season with a 14-2 record and will play the winner of today's preliminary game between South Portland and Thornton Academy tomorrow afternoon to see who'll advance to the semifinals.

(Update: South Portland beat Thornton Academy, so the second-seeded Blue Blazes will take on the tenth-seeded Red Riots (9-8) in the quarterfinals today at 4p. The game will be played at Westbrook High School.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Woman Chronicles Her Post-Layoff Life

The Maine Switch:

After leaving the circle of comfort and saying
goodbye to my fellow ex-pats, I stopped by the eye doctor to buy a year’s worth
of disposable contacts while I still had insurance. On the way, I called to make
sure my credit card protection insurance option was active, grabbed a reasonably
price bottle of South African syrah and made plans to head to the unemployment
office in Portland. Maybe not quite in that order.
Melissa Nickless's column will begin appearing in the print edition of The Switch on June 25.

(Update: I was just going through my Blogroll and came across a plug for Extreme Frugality, W. Hodding Carter's online journal of his family's experiences of living on $550 a month. The first installment can be read here.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Quote, Unquote: W. Hodding Carter (January 30, 2008)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Voters Approve School Budget

Westbrook voters approved the Westbrook School Department's FY 2009-2010 budget today, 339-256 or 57% to 43%.

Based on October 2008 voter registration figures (14,810 registered voters), the voting turnout today was 4%. Below is a breakdown by ward:

Ward 1
Yes: 65 (55%)
No: 54 (45%)

Ward 2
Yes: 75 (61%)
No: 47 (39%)

Ward 3
Yes: 53 (60%)
No: 36 (40%)

Ward 4
Yes: 41 (51%)
No: 39 (49%)

Ward 5
Yes: 93 (55%)
No: 73 (45%)

Central Office
Yes: 12 (63%)
No: 7 (37%)

- John C.L. Morgan

Stroudwater Place Faces Delays

Jason Snyder, the developer behind the $300 million
Stroudwater Place, says the recession has delayed the project by nine months to
a year as potential tenants are hesitant to commit to signing a lease. But he is
confident that the project will get back on track this fall. "It's a tough
economy, but come fall things will start to uptick," Snyder tells Mainebiz.
"That's what we're seeing, so you'll start to see things move around late fall.
But, in the meantime, it's a matter of staying the course."
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Colgan: Before/After (January 29, 2009)
Related: What Say You, Magic 8-Ball? (January 6, 2009)
Related: Under a Rock Edition (December 9, 2009)

D'Alfonso Eyes Pro Baseball Draft, Awaits Fate

"You don't really ever know," said [Anthony]
D'Alfonso. "It's a dream and goal you set when you're 5 years old and first pick
up a bat. But who knows? Something crazy could happen." The draft starts today
with the first three rounds. There are 50 rounds in all, with final selections
taking place Thursday. If D'Alfonso is chosen, it will be in the later rounds,
and for his power potential. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound left fielder batted .438
for the University of Southern Maine as a senior, with a single-season record 76
RBI, 17 doubles and nine home runs.
You can follow the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft here starting at 6p tonight.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: D'Alfonso Named Second Team All-American (May 21, 2009)
Related: Westbrook Grad Flourishes at USM, Eyes Pro Contract (April 14, 2009)

Voting Reminder

Voters living in Ward 1 are required to vote at Wescott Junior High School (Bridge Street); residents living in wards 2, 3, and 4 are to vote in the National Guard armory (Stroudwater Street); and voters living in Ward 5 are to vote at the Four Seasons Bingo Hall (Elmwood Avenue).

Polls are open until 8p, and a sample of the ballot can be read here.

(Update: I just returned from the armory, where poll workers described a very slow day. As of 2:30p, the workers estimated the turnout for wards 2, 3, and 4 to be about 130 voters. I hope to have citywide and ward-specific totals later tonight.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Broadening Horizons: Mike Brown

I won't pretend to know much about human cockfighting mixed-martial arts, but I am at least aware of who Maine native Mike Brown is. Some behind-the-scenes looks at Brown are here and here, and a preview for the championship match Brown won Sunday night is here.

- John C.L. Morgan

On Westbrook's Super Soph

This season, the left-handed pitcher [Scott Heath] has a 6-0 record and
hasn't given up an earned run in 35 innings. He has 50 strikeouts, and opponents
are batting a paltry .086 against him. At the plate, Heath is batting .476 with
a team-high 20 RBI. Last year as a freshman, he batted .479 with 17 RBI. He had
a 1-0 record with one save. "At this stage, he´s more advanced than any pitcher
I've had," said Westbrook Coach Mike Rutherford, in his 23rd year of coaching.
The second-seeded Blue Blazes baseball team (14-2) open the playoffs Thursday afternoon at home.

- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why I Live in the Paper City, Take Three

The Westbrook Together Days auction.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Why I Live in the Paper City, ctd (May 11, 2009)
Related: Why I Live in the Paper City, Draft One (April 27, 2009)

Ordinance Awards

While browsing the City of Westbrook's 616-page charter and ordinance code for a couple side projects, I compiled the first--and likely last--edition of the Ordinance Awards. And the winners are:

Best Ordinance Title: Bitches in Heat.
Talk about an ordinance ripe with opportunities for out-of-context quotes: "The owner of any bitch in heat shall keep the same confined or on a leash at all times and shall not permit such dog to be at large within the city or on any premises other than those of the owner. Each bitch found in violation hereof is hereby declared a nuisance and shall be impounded, and the owner shall be deemed guilty of a civil infraction." Just think of all the possibilities a strategically-placed ellipsis here and a sentence-killing period there could accomplish... (Sec. 4-38)

Least Enforced Ordinance: Spitting in Public Spaces
Though it faced stiff competition from pretty much every ordinance pertaining to bicycles (especially the seven sections governing bike inspections, registrations, and license plates), the ordinance barring people from spitting "upon any floor of any public building or place of amusement or upon any sidewalk," wins--by a cherry pit spit. (Sec. 22-9)

The Go Faster! Award: Ice Cream Trucks' Permitted Sales Locations
Sure, residents generally want the speed limits on their streets to decrease. But I'd submit that's only because they're unaware of the fact that ice cream trucks are allowed to sell ice cream only on residential streets with a speed limit of 30 MPH or less. (Sec. 20-42.A)

Ordinance Most In Need of Revision: Farmers' Market Location
This is a very subjective category, because I bet (good thing I didn't just write that word while standing in the streets, as I'd be violating the "Games of Chance in Streets" ordinance, Sec. 22-4) fifty people would pick seventy-five different ordinances they'd want to revise. Nevertheless, the ordinance requiring any farmers' market to be located in the CVS parking lot alongside William Clarke Drive has been a minor pet peeve of mine for some time. (Sec. 20-156)

Anti-Social Behavior Most in Need of an Ordinance: Littering
Even though I am among those who think the City's list ordinances could probably use some trimming, this is one annoying behavior that I think can use some municipal muscle and enforcement.

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Could Vote on the Fluoridation of Tap Water


A citizens' group based in Portland [FLOW] will announce today its plans to start
a petition drive aimed at forcing the Portland Water District to stop adding
fluoride to the drinking water it extracts from Sebago Lake.


If FLOW can get [8,954] signatures, a November referendum question would be
presented to voters in the affected communities of Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland,
Falmouth, Gorham, Portland, Raymond, Scarborough, South Portland, Standish,
Westbrook and Windham.

- John C.L. Morgan

How Westbrook Grads Are Preparing for Their Speeches

Westbrook High School's graduation takes place
Wednesday, and valedictorian Hilary Perrey's speech is almost locked. Once she
found inspiration--in Greg Mortenson's book "Three Cups of Tea"--the speech fell
into place, she said. The story of Mortenson's attempt to climb the world's
second-tallest mountain and build a school in a Pakistani village felt right
because it's about challenges, she said. Perrey said the Class of 2009 needs to
be ready to face adversity because it's not a matter of if it comes, but how
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Alum's Track Record Was Equaled

Thornton Academy's Dan Smith matched Westbrook High Alum Joseph Kennie's record for the longest discus throw when he heaved the discus 173 feet, 10 inches. Kennie set the record in 1986.

- John C.L. Morgan

Why I Am Slowly Morphing Into Howie Carr

I haven't listened to the Boston-based radio ranter for quite a while, but I imagine Howie Carr is still as cantankerous and cynical as I remember. So it is with some sadness that I've recently found myself acquiring some of his mindset, especially the state of mind that informs one of his oft-repeated axioms that "[n]o good deed goes unpunished." Or, for the purposes of this post, no good deed goes appreciated.

As an earnest communitarian, I've contributed a relatively small chunk of my leisure time over the last couple years to the annual clean-up of Westbrook's public spaces. And though I wasn't able to contribute as much time or sweat to the cause this year as I did last, this year's edition has left me far more cynical. To be clear, this cynicism has nothing to do with my forty-something fellow volunteers, the event's organizer Joyce Perrey, or the Westbrook Public Services. The volunteers were active, the organizer was, well, organized, and the bureaucrats were helpful.

Instead, the proverbial sour taste in my mouth has everything to do with the couple strolls I've taken along the Riverwalk since the May 16 event.

Only a few days after I spent about ninety minutes climbing up and down the banks of the Presumpscot armed with a trash bag in one hand and my trusty PikStik in the other, waste had already begun to flutter to the very spots I had scoured for all types of rubbish just mere days before. And my walk home from Saturday's festivities at Westbrook Together Days further pissed me off, as the number of Dunkin' Donuts cups, potato chip bags, etc. had built up to the point that my efforts from a month ago are no longer evident and I can't help but feel I wasted my time picking up after people who (a) probably did not participate in the clean-up themselves and (b) just don't give a fuck.*

So a few suggestions for next year's event. First, revise the City's Code of Ordinances to include a punishment for litterers that includes both a fine and a requirement that they participate in the annual cleanup. And second, schedule the cleanup on a date after Westbrook Together Days, as that event generates more pedestrian traffic and litter in Riverbank Park and along the Riverwalk than any other event in Westbrook.

- John C.L. Morgan

* Again, excuse the harsh language. Inspired by a Sister Wendy video clip I had seen in high school in which the octogenarian nun's utterance of the word erotic had a strange degree of power (certainly more power than if a porn star had said it), I try to adhere to a personal Sister Wendy Rule that says vulgarity should only be used sparsely. That way, when you actually have something to fume about, your diction still has a few lively octaves of range remaining and the dynamism of our language's most powerful words isn't wasted on the banal.

Don't Forget to Vote

The school budget is up for a citizen yea or nay vote tomorrow. Check out Mayor Chuluda's June 4 edition of "Call-In Westbrook" featuring School Superintendent Stan Sawyer and City Clerk Lynda Adams for more information about the budget and the voting process.

(Update: Polls are open from 7a to 8p, and the voting locations are as follows: Ward 1 at Wescott Junior High, Wards 2-4 at the National Guard armory on Stroudwater Street, and Ward 5 at the Four Seasons Bingo Hall on Elmwood Avenue.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Westbrook Politics: June 8- June 12, 2009

Monday, June 8
City Council meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Committee of the Whole meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Facilities and Streets Committee meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Public Safety Committee meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Wednesday, June 10
Zoning Board of Appeals meeting
Westbrook High School, Room 114

Thursday, June 11
Wescott Junior High School Re-Use Committee meeting
Wescott Junior High School, Cafeteria A

- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Almanac: June 1- June 6, 2008

High: 74F (June 2)
Low: 39F (June 1)
Precipitation: 0.00 inches
Previous Sunrise: 5:01a
Previous Sunset: 8:20p

High: 74F (June 2)
Low: 39F (June 1)
Precipitation: 0.00 inches

High: 92F (April 28)
Low: -16F (January 16)
Precipitation: 16.77 inches

Source: National Weather Service

- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, June 5, 2009

Summer To-Do List

A few of the things I'd like to accomplish this summer:

Attend a screening of The Way We Get By at SPACE Gallery (June 19-21).

Attend Cool Water concert at Riverbank, one of eight shows in the Summer Concerts in Riverbank Park series. (July 15)

Attend a Sanford Mainers game.

Attend the Maine Lobster Festival. (July 29-August 2)

Attend Movies at Riverbank. (June 26, July 24, and August 28)

Attend the Old Port Festival. (June 7)

Attend Reggae Sunday on Peaks Island.

Attend Westbrook Together Days. (June 5-6)

Bring Eleanor to Open Farm Day. (July 26)

Drive golf balls and (attempt) to play a round of golf at Sunset Ridge.

Have a brew at Gritty's, a cocktail at Grace, and a nightcap at the Top of the East.

Paddle from Saccarappa Falls to Mallison Falls to go fly fishing.

Participate in a full moon canoe tour at Scarborough Marsh.

Participate in a morning birdwalk at the Gilsland Farm Audubon Center.

Participate in shape note singing at Sabbath Day Lake Shaker Village. (June 6)

Picnic at Fort Williams.

Take Eleanor to the Maine Wildlife Park.

Take in a movie at the Prides Corner Drive-In.

Tour Cold River Vodka.

Visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

Visit the Farnsworth Art Museum.

Visit Northeast Historic Film.

Visit the Penobscot Narrows Observatory.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Movies at Riverbank: 2009

The schedule for this summer's edition of Movies at Riverbank, the series of free public film screenings at Riverbank Park sponsored by the Westbrook Historical Society.

Friday, June 26, 8:15p
Wall-E (2008)

Friday, July 24, 8p
The Palm Beach Story (1942)

Friday, August 28, 7:30p
Cool Hand Luke (1967)

- John C.L. Morgan

Paper Moon Proprietors' Q & A

Almost every day is terrifying when you work for
yourself. I disagree that it’s a bad time to start a business. We had an
existing business that was sustaining itself and people always needs cards,
birthday cards, sympathy cards. It’s ingrained in us to celebrate occasions with
a card. The card industry, I don’t want to say is immune, but it hasn’t taken
the hit that so many businesses have. We also feel that if we can start a
business in a down economy and have it grow, then our growth will just be that
much stronger when the economy rebounds.
- John C.L. Morgan

Some Details on Recycling Program

In a June 2 memorandum addressed to condominium and apartment house owners, City Administrator Jerre Bryant has outlined some of the details involved with the new trash pickup and recycling program scheduled to begin this fall. A few highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view) of the new program:
  • Collection will continue to be weekly and will include the use of one green 64-gallon container devoted to recycled materials and one blue 64-gallon container devoted to non-recyclable rubbish. The containers will be paid for by the contractor (Casella Waste Systems) and will be distributed to eligible households. Trash placed outside of the blue 64-gallon container will not be picked up and will become the responsibility of the owner.
  • In the case of multi-family housing units, trash collection will be limited to buildings with six or fewer units. Buildings containing seven or more units will be required to pay for private trash collection, a policy change that lowers the threshold for private trash collection down from the current 10-unit building minimum. According to the memo, such a change in policy will directly affect 261 units and 23 property owners.
  • Encoded with a serial number assigned to a property's address, the containers are the property of the City of Westbrook and will remain with the property in the case of a tenant or homeowner selling or moving from the property.
  • Besides continuing the policy of requiring condominium complexes to pay for the collection and disposal of their trash, the memo also recommends three unidentified "grandfathered" condo complexes now assume responsibility to collect and dispose of their trash.
  • Forty-five unidentified narrow or dead end streets or portions of streets will be required to place all trash on one side of the street to enable the automated truck to back onto the street and collect trash and recycables when driving forward.
  • Factoring in Casella's agreement to pay for the automated pickup trucks and 64-gallon containers, Bryant estimates the City of Westbrook will save $56,283 in annual costs, despite the increase in services (e.g., curbside recycling). The costs of advertising and promotion (from $4,006 to $11,500) and collection (from $300,903 to $623,191) are expected to go up under the new program, while the costs of rentals (from $64,040 to $54,845) and disposal (from $638,820 to $300,903) are expected to decrease.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: New Recycling Program to Include Automated Pickup (April 3, 2009)

The Sportswriter: On the Americans' Annoying Loss to Costa Rica

Besides the fact that I had to wait until my usual bedtime (10p) to begin watching the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) World Cup qualifying match between the United States and Costa Rica last night, the Americans' 3-1 loss was annoying for the following reasons:

1. One frustrating streak continues, while another frustrating streak was (barely) snapped.
Costa Rica's shredding of the Americans last night stretched the latter's winless streak in that Central American country during World Cup qualifying to eight games. Entering last night's match, the Americans were 0-6-1 in World Cup qualifying games played in Costa Rica, with a goal differential of 13-4. Of course, the Yankees' punchless attack and flaccid defense last night ensured the winless record was stretched to 0-7-1 and the goal differential widened to 16-5.

The only bright spot in the evening was Landon Donovan's penalty kick in extra time--in other words, well beyond the point in which it was obvious the Americans would lose--was the first goal the Americans had scored in a World Cup qualifying match in Costa Rica since July 2000.

2. The United States lost to a country smaller than West Virginia.
The United States is nearly 200 times larger than Costa Rica, has 75 times more people than the Central American country, and its GDP is nearly 300 times greater. So when the Americans win a CONCACAF qualifying match, I must always temper my enthusiasm, because, really, shouldn't we always win against such teams as Honduras (Saturday, 8p), El Salvador, and Trinidad and Tobago? To be sure, the passion for soccer in each of these countries is probably 100 times greater per capita than in the United States, where the sport barely registers a blip on the Richter scale of our sporting scene. But still, we lost to puny Costa Rica--again.

3. I hate artificial turf, I hate artificial turf, I hate artificial turf. Did I mention I hate artificial turf?
Turf and soccer mix about as well as, well, I'm too tired (see above) to think of a sharp analogy to stress just how much artificial turf and soccer do not complement one another. Besides all the romantic reasons associated with an anti-turf outlook (the fragrance of grass and earth vs. the stench of plastic and rubber, for instance), there's the simple fact that a quick surface such as the turf at Costa Rica's Estadio Saprissa simply robs the Beautiful Game of all its nuance. Too often, a nice touch or clever pass is simply negated by the ball skittering out of play, beyond the pace of an attacker who would've reached the ball had the game been played on natural turf.

I curse the day when FIFA gave such a playing surface the stamp of approval.

- John C.L. Morgan

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)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Westbrook Together Days Rings in 30th Year

The Westbrook City Band and Motor Booty Affair will
kick off the event in Riverbank Park on Friday, June 5. As is the tradition, the
Boy Scouts’ pancake breakfast will get things going again early Saturday. At 10
a.m., the parade begins, with Mike Sanphy, who retired last year after 40 years
with the Westbrook Police Department, serving as grand marshal. Continuous
entertainment on stage, starting at noon and lasting through the evening, will
include performances from an a capella group, the high school jazz combo and
chamber singers, a dance company and a swing band.
- John C.L. Morgan

Quote, Unquote: Galina Rusanova

"It's typical of me. I sometimes do crazy things."

- The Siberian-born, United Kingdom-based artist Galina Rusanova, to the FBI after she was jailed in Bangor for allegedly attacking flight attendants during a trans-Atlantic flight from Maine to Europe. According to published reports, Rusanova mixed prescription drugs with wine, chugged liquid hand soap, attempted to bite a flight crew member in the leg, and was "snapping like a dog." She has since pled "very guilty" and was sentenced to time served (22 days) in prison.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Don't Drink (Soap) and Fly (May 4, 2009)

Economic Director Named to Real Estate Board

Keith Luke, the City of Westbrook's Director of Economic and Community Development, has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA).

- John C.L. Morgan

Walker Memorial To Host "As Maine Grows..."

The guys who produced the 2006 play Taxing Maine, David Greenham and Dennis Price, will be at Walker Memorial Library on Tuesday, June 9 to perform As Maine Grows..., the pair's latest theatrical look at public policy in Maine.

Described as a comprehensive (but entertaining) look at economic growth and development throughout the Pine Tree State, the play is scheduled to run from 5:30-6:30p in the library's Gathering Room. The performance is free and will be followed with a discussion about some of the issues addressed within the play.

- John C.L. Morgan

Property Taxes Will Increase 3%

Thanks to a couple of my readers, here's the closing paragraph to an article I linked to yesterday:

Also Monday, the council gave final approval to a
nearly $56 million city budget that will raise property taxes by 3 percent. The
tax rate will increase from $15.43 to $15.90 per $1,000 of assessed
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Westbrook Taxes: 2008 v. 1958 (March 18, 2009)
Related: Tale of Two Cities (July 14, 2008)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Broadening Horizons: YouTube EDU

For those who've wanted to sit in on classes at Yale (or MIT, Stanford, Harvard, etc.), without receiving the eye-popping tuition bill. See here for more information.

- John C.L. Morgan

City Council Looks to Extend Underage Curfew to 10:30p

The City Council on Monday gave preliminary
approval to a measure that would extend the city's 9 p.m. curfew for underage
residents by 90 minutes. Police said the curfew helps them thwart vandals and
thieves and should not be changed. Councilors called the 9 p.m. curfew "too
restrictive," saying it punishes good children for the behavior of their
delinquent peers. "I just think that's too restrictive," City Councilor Lyle
Cramer said of the 9 p.m. curfew. "We're punishing the majority of nice kids
simply because we can't get a handle on the minority."
- John C.L. Morgan

Al-Hamdany Pleads No Contest in Drug Case

The no contest plea means that [Abbas] Al-Hamdany denies
any wrongdoing but admits that a jury could find him guilty based on the state's
evidence. He will face as many as five years in prison when he is sentenced Aug.
10. His lawyer said he will ask for no prison time.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Al-Hamdany Trial Scheduled for June (April 24, 2009)

Quote of the Day: Lt. David Bowler

"I would bet my next 10 paychecks that 20 percent of the people in that game were at other games we've gone into."

- Maine State Police Lt. David Bowler, defending that department's raid on a charitable game of Texas Hold 'Em in Buxton. No word yet on whether an investigation has been opened to scrutizine Lt. Bowler's invitation to participate in an unlicensed game of chance.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. While I'm on the subject of gambling in Maine, check out this Winter 2007 article in The Bollard on the subject.

Related: How Cribbage Explains the Two Maines (January 31, 2008)

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Look at Efforts to Secure a Rudy Vallee Commemorative Stamp

Ventura County Star:
A key Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, a mix of
celebrities and academic types that meets quarterly, last month rejected the
idea of putting Vallee on postage. The Vallee camp says it will appeal the
decision, which it can do next year.
As mentioned in the piece, Westbrook is hosting a re-dedication of Vallee Square on Saturday, July 25. Details of the event will be forthcoming.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Rudy Vallee: Modest Inspirer of Goose Flesh or National Menace? (January 22, 2009)
Related: Quote, Unquote: Brad Butler (October 8, 2008)
Related: Sign It (September 9, 2008)
Related: On Location: Movies at Riverbank (August 26, 2008)

Westbrook's Most Influential People

From February to now, I've been collecting results of a survey* for the most influential people in Westbrook. Delayed by a heavy spring workload and a hope to collect more responses, I figure four months is long enough. So below is a list of the ten most influential people in Westbrook, followed by also-rans, a list of the respondents, and a small note on methodology:

Most Influential:
1. Bill Baker, Chief, Westbrook Police Department
1. Jerre Bryant, City Administrator, City of Westbrook
3. Bruce Chuluda, Mayor, City of Westbrook
4. Colleen Hilton, Vice Chair, Westbrook School Committee
5. Brendan Rielly, President, Westbrook City Council
6. Jonathan Ayers, CEO, IDEXX Laboratories
7. Jason Snyder, developer, Stroudwater Place
8. Stan Sawyer, Superintendent, Westbrook School Department
9. Tim Flannery, developer, Dana Warp Mill
10. John O'Hara, City Councilor, Westbrook City Council

Also receiving votes:
Phil Bartlett, State Senator, Maine State Senate; John Bernier, President, Cornelia Warren Community Association; Ann Bittner, Director, Good Samaritan Fund; Evelyn Blanchard, Executive Director, Mission Possible; Joe Brannigan, State Senator, Maine State Senate; Daniel Brock, Chief, Westbrook Fire Department; Phil Brown, Chair, Zoning Board of Appeals; Donna Cassese, Mill Manager, Sappi; Bob Collins, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, Cinemagic; Rene Daniel, Member, Westbrook Zoning Board; Maria Dorn, Member, Westbrook School Committee; Tim Driscoll, State Representative, Maine House of Representatives; Bruce Dyer, Substance Abuse Counselor, Westbrook High School; Susan Eldridge, Deputy Director, Westbrook Housing Authority; Don Esty, former mayor, City of Westbrook; Michael Foley, City Councilor, Westbrook City Council; John G. Gallagher, Executive Director, Westbrook Housing Authority; Drew Gattine, City Councilor, Westbrook City Council; Rick Goss, Westbrook Democratic Party; Marc Gousse, Principal, Westbrook High School; Mary Haggerty, Westbrook Arts and Culture Committee; Sandra Hale, School Health Coordinator, Westbrook School Department; Wendy Hysko, former director, Warren Memorial Library; Ellen Joyce, Chair, Westbrook Arts and Culture Committee; Suzanne Joyce, City Councilor, Westbrook City Council; Al Juniewicz, Co-Chair, Wescott Junior High Re-Use Committee; Roger Knight, Smiling Hill Farm; Warren Knight, Smiling Hill Farm; Ken Lefebvre, former mayor, City of Westbrook; Kristen Lemay, teacher, Congin Elementary School; Caren-Marie Michel, Treasurer, Warren Memorial Foundation; Al and Lynn Moore, Owners, Skybox Bar & Grill; Brendan Moran, Editor, American Journal; John C.L. Morgan, Editor, Westbrook Diarist; Jonathan Olson, Regional Manager, Pike Industries; Arthur and Llewellen Randall, farmers and landowners; Ed Reidman, Chair, Westbrook Zoning Board; Ray Richardson, radio talk show host, WLOB; Jeanne Rielly, Director, Westbrook Food Pantry; John Roberts, Disability RMS; Eileen Shutts, Member, Westbrook Development Collaborative; Ed Symbol, Member, Westbrook School Committee; James Tranchemontagne, Owner, The Frog and Turtle; Karen Valley, Director, Walker Memorial Library; and Anna Wrobel, Member, Westbrook Zoning Board.

Bill Baker, Leslie Bridgers, Anne Bureau, Lyle Cramer, Rene Daniel, Rev. Ed DeLong, Phil Gagnon, Marc Gousse, Wendy Hysko, Caren-Marie Michel, Brendan Moran, John C.L. Morgan, John O'Hara, Stan Sawyer, Eileen Shutts, Ed Symbol, and James Tranchemontagne.

- John C.L. Morgan

* Respondents were asked to rank the most influential people 1-10, with No. 1 receiving 10 points, No. 2 receiving 9 points, No. 3 receiving 8 points, and so on. Respondents were not allowed to vote for themselves.

Westbrook Police Looking Into Alleged Adoption Fraud

Westbrook Police Chief William Baker said the
pregnant women had promised multiple couples the adoptive rights to their babies
over the past several months. Each woman allegedly received more than $20,000
from those couples and the agencies that represented them, without intending to
make good on their promises. The number of couples victimized in these cases
could be more than a dozen, Baker said. "I'm aware of various other kinds of
adoption fraud, including those that involve international agencies," the chief
said. "But this particular type of scam, I have not seen before."
- John C.L. Morgan