By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Well, I made the news again! Not just locally, but around New England, too.
Last Wednesday evening, I went to a meeting at the Geiger School hosted by school Superintendent Bill Webster to discuss and explain the upcoming Lewiston redistricting. I was drawn to the meeting after hearing in various coffee shops over the week that the parents of the Geiger School students were very upset about the redistricting.
For over two hours I listened to parents, their emotions running high, expressing their concerns about the upcoming redistricting. Their remarks and criticism towards the program were straightforward; politically correct be damned.
When speakers expressed a position criticizing the program, many parents would show their support by banging on the tables. They were going to fight for their schools and neighborhoods. They were my kind of people.
When everyone finished, I addressed the remaining parents. I told them that Mr. Webster had been dealt a bad hand, and now it was incumbent upon him to alleviate the overcrowding in several schools. I addressed the crowd, stating that Mr. Webster did not create this problem. I informed them that if they wanted to blame someone, blame me.
I took the blame because, using the Twin City TIMES as a bully pulpit, I have failed to properly articulate the dire straits that Lewiston currently finds itself. I then offered a solution.
Referring to a bill that was killed in the Maine Legislature last session, I informed those present that the proposed legislation was being brought up again—this time, it has the support of the mayors of seven of the state’s largest cities.
Briefing the parents on this past legislation, I estimated that if that bill had passed, it would have reduced our school population by approximately 1,000 children this June. This figure roughly represents the amount of children whose parents would be removed from the TANF welfare program upon reaching their five-year limit. This would either force the parents to get a job or find other verdant welfare pastures.
My solution caused one of the parents, Mohamed Abdillahi, to shout at me, “This is not a solution.” At this point, shouting erupted from an area where many of the vocal parents were located. Seconds later, I had a verbal exchange with a parent.
At this point, I concluded my talk and gave the microphone to Mr. Webster. Upon the conclusion of the gathering, I stayed 10 to 15 minutes after the meeting and received only positive feedback from the people remaining.
I want to note that I never said anything about “discouraging Brockton, Mass. welfare seekers from moving to Lewiston.” The City of Brockton came up in a story that happened two-and-a-half years ago in which an eighth-grade student that had transferred to Lewiston from Brockton could not add three plus two without counting on his fingers.
I did not say anything disparaging about Brockton, Massachusetts, nor the people that live there. The story was about one boy who had probably lived in several towns before taking up temporary residence in Brockton.
The story was reported in our local daily newspaper and was written by a reporter and an editor. Neither was present at the meeting. They relied apparently on interviews done over the phone with people that were present that evening.
When I was called by the editor, she asked me about the Brockton welfare comment. I told her I did not say that, and then relayed to her what I had actually said.
I must now stop and attempt to put out the fires throughout eastern Massachusetts brought on by this story. Next week, we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty of school redistricting, our welfare system and the strain it puts on the taxpayers of Lewiston.
I also wish all the TCT readers and their families a very Merry Christmas.