By Robert Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
There are two new sheriffs in Lewiston-Auburn. We have heard your anger and concerns. We are now in the process of addressing them.
Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonté and myself have agreed to work together, like conjoined twins, to start the process of transforming Lewiston-Auburn into a prosperous, vibrant community that will transform from mere exits on the Maine Turnpike and dots on a map into a desirous destination for Mainers and out-of-staters to live, work and establish a business.
This was underscored at a recent meeting with the director and staff of the New England area U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Department. After the HUD director and staff introduced themselves, we were advised that they had come to Lewiston-Auburn with funds to help us in developing our communities.
They were then bluntly advised that if the money they intended to give us was earmarked for additional Section 8 housing—or whatever it is now called—they had wasted a trip.
We pointed out to them that these types of funds, although meant to improve targeted areas of our communities, have done nothing but destroy them, leaving these areas in disrepair.
We told them that if they really wanted to help our communities, we could use funding to demolish our many abandoned and uninhabitable buildings. At last count, Lewiston has about 50 such buildings.
We asked for funding to create a bus service between Portland, Lewiston and Augusta so that our unemployed and underemployed would have a chance at higher-paying jobs in order to better themselves. We pointed out that many of these people are without personal vehicles. For others, gas and tolls present a financial hardship.
We inquired if Federal money was available to help young entrepreneurs create market-rate housing in our downtowns, money that would rehabilitate our buildings in disrepair back to the vibrancy they once exhibited. Success in this type of venture will hopefully make it easier to attract private developers when Phase Two, The Riverfront, kicks in.
The ultimate goal is to transform Lewiston-Auburn into a community that will retain our sons and daughters by offering an attractive venue by which to start a successful business, guarantee good-paying jobs, provide outdoor and indoor recreation facilities and other amenities that will make our cities a destination.
We will add to the many activities already available to our youth, making our cities family friendly. Lastly, our seniors will have activities that will make retired life something to look forward to and not dread.
Further, we need help from both the federal and state governments in order to contain General Assistance (welfare) costs. Legislation is needed to insure that when either entity drops an established program, we at the local level can also drop any similar local programs, freeing us from using our welfare budget to make up any shortfalls.
Lastly, we have spoken with representatives of our federal Congressional staffs, Governor LePage, President of the Maine Senate Kevin Raye and several local state legislators in an attempt to put forward legislation to provide much-needed relief to our already overburdened local taxpayers.
In the near future, Senator Lois Snowe-Mello has invited us to the State House to meet with elected state officials to discuss our concerns. Shortly, we will also be meeting with mayors from Biddeford, Portland, Bangor and Augusta to discuss our common concerns.
That concludes an update of this month’s political adventures. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to catch up with a Public Works crew in order to perform a duty which a mayor is expected to do—fill potholes.