By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
When I threw my hat into the mayoral race, I did so because Lewiston was unable to shake its reputation as a “welfare city” filled with “dumb Frenchmen.” These characterizations came from those in Southern Maine who repeatedly cautioned and scolded people for using hateful words.
I felt someone had to stand up for our community and start a dialogue. But the special interest advocacy groups, the media and an assortment of numerous other groups set out to destroy me—and for good reason.
I am a threat to their continued employment. No “societal victims,” no job. Many of those who pen Letters to the Editor and Op/Ed pieces written against me should have to disclose their employment, or lack thereof, in order that the reader can judge the veracity of the letter or story. In the media, they make up quotes attributed to me.
In one story that went viral in New England, not one reporter physically covered it. Taking me out of context sometimes serves to guarantee newspaper sales, along with ratings on the TV and radio news.
I have been recently investigated by the Department of Justice. I’ve had a very pleasant visit from the Anti-Defamation League, which felt in many cases that I was being unfairly maligned. Lewiston City Hall has been picketed, my resignation demanded and petitions filed against me. These actions show me I am doing what my supporters elected me to do. I will not abandon my principles. I will not look for the easy road. If they want me out, let them vote me out.
The latest story floating out in media land leads one to believe that Auburn Mayor Jonathan “Lone Wolf” LaBonté and I have gone our separate ways. Nothing could be further from the truth. We both continue to meet and discuss ways to save our cities money.
Mayor LaBonté is spearheading a plan to provide bus service between L-A and Portland. We both feel this will provide affordable travel getting our unemployed, underemployed and “New Mainers” to jobs. Last week we had a meeting in which I had requested that HUD (Housing and Urban Development) seek Federal funds to tear down our condemned buildings.
In the next few days we will be meeting to discuss a move that could save us a good sum of money. We had a spat, it’s behind us and, like conjoined twins, we’re moving on.
In order to move a city forward, municipal officials must listen to and address the everyday concerns and grievances of its citizens—concerns such as crime, roads, welfare, schools and the quality of life within the city boundaries. Economic development is very important to our local economy, but to get there we must successfully address the aforementioned problems.
Lewiston employees have done a great job addressing these problems. Increased aggressive police patrols have kept crime down. Our public works has done a terrific job plowing during this winter season. Working closely with our Welfare Department, three pieces of legislation have been crafted and submitted in Augusta. Our downtown is filled with entrepreneurs that have invested heavily in our city. They are the Founding Fathers and Mothers of the New Lewiston. Their success is paramount to all city officials.
Then there is consolidation. This is a subject clearly on the minds of both Lewiston-Auburn administrators, councils and mayors, but it is a difficult subject to broach. How would we manage employee union contracts; who will lead the cities and the various departments; and where will they be located? Further, how would we handle each city’s debt service
The plan that Mayor LaBonté points out needs public and political approval. It also cannot be done overnight. It will take time, a sharp pencil and an honest discussion on any decisions affecting the public. Lewiston City Council President Mark Cayer and I have gone back and forth on this dilemma. We both feel that the time may be right to combine the Recreation Departments of both cities into one.
Lastly, I hope our school committee scraps their plan for redistricting Lewiston students. It stands to divide our city by turning a neighborhood school issue into a racial issue. The resulting turmoil could thrust our city back into the national limelight.
This is being done so a few social engineers can test their theory by forcing their views on the majority. It is time to scrap this plan and start anew. The time has arrived to include all stakeholders at the redistricting table.