By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Before discussing this week’s topic, I have some great news, both for Lewiston property taxpayers and those whose goal in life is to relieve taxpayers of what little money we have left.
Apparently, the new roar reverberating throughout Lewiston neighborhoods, home to the underclass and societal victims, is: “Vermont, it’s happening there!”
Yes, Vermont, the Green Mountain State, apparently is providing unlimited green (money) in the form of “No time limit TANF.” After hearing this news, several distinguished members of the Lewiston-Auburn community have offered to rent buses in order to shuttle any and all lay-abouts to Vermont, thus fulfilling their community-service expectations for 2012.
So spread the word to our deadbeat population: take their pit bulls, tattoos and body piercings and head West to the verdant pastures of Vermont, spread their table and partake in the limitless benefits of the Green Mountain State.
Now let’s focus on this week’s topic—The Maine Turnpike. The years of wild, uncontrolled spending and stealing is now resulting in a 75-cent increase in tolls needed to pay for the turnpike widening to our south. This will add an additional $1.50 per trip to the many Lewiston-Auburn commuters traveling south to Portland or north to Augusta. To be fair, many possessing EZ Passes will not get stung as hard.
The tollbooths also act as psychological barriers, obstacles to keep the local population penned up and the rest of the world out. Add to that a parallel highway system that provides people from north and south the ability to bypass these tolls.
Are the citizens of Lewiston and Auburn the red-headed stepchildren of Maine? Are these barriers set up to act like the Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall or the Iron Curtain, limiting our ability to interact with other parts of Maine? Can’t one of our local legislators cry out, “Mr. (Peter) Mills, take down these barricades!”
There are many immigrants and poor people living in Lewiston’s inner city who want to work. Unfortunately, the job market in Lewiston-Auburn is tight and limited. Since coming into office, Mayor Jonathan LaBonté and I have been lobbying our local congressional delegation, and at one point Senator Susan Collins, for bus service between Portland and Lewiston-Auburn. We also asked for additional service to Augusta.
This transportation would enable those who want to work the ability to make inroads into a greater job market. In talking with representatives of the visible and immigrant communities, they are solidly behind it.
Unfortunately, it is now apparent that Mayor LaBonté and I were going in the wrong direction.
It seems that in Southern Maine such a service exists. It’s called the Zoom Bus. It runs daily between Biddeford and Portland, making stops in Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Scarborough and South Portland. It is funded by the Maine Turnpike Authority, the Maine Department of Transportation and bus fares.
In the first regular session of the 125th Maine Legislature, LD673,“An Act to Expand Fiscally Responsible Transportation through Increase Zoom Bus Service,” was introduced by Rep. Bradley Moulton (R-York). The bill would have expanded Zoom service to Lewiston, Auburn, Augusta, Kennebunkport and Wells. The bill called for 16 daily round trips between Lewiston, Auburn and Portland, along with limited weekend trips.
The bill also provided four daily round trips between Gray, Auburn, Lewiston, Sabattus and Augusta.
The enactment of this bill, establishing public transportation between Lewiston-Auburn, York, Portland and Augusta, had the potential of luring people from north and south of us to our local businesses and restaurants. It also would have opened up Lewiston-Auburn to people who would not otherwise venture here, thus exposing them to the real Lewiston-Auburn—not the one created by myths.
The bill died in committee. Maybe in the next legislative session, Androscoggin-area legislators could introduce similar legislation, push and pass it.
Lastly, I promised you I would keep you informed of the number of people coming off TANF and applying for General Assistance in Lewiston. From June 1 through 3 p.m. on June 7, a total of 19 families, totaling 94 individuals, have signed up for assistance. At this time, I am unable to give you the dollar amount.
When you see your local state representative either campaigning or in public, make sure to give them your opinion of the job they are doing.