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“Enough is Enough!” Lewiston mayor wants to create “Destination Lewiston”

This is the Inaugural Address delivered by Lewiston Mayor Robert E. Macdonald on January 3 at the Franco-American Heritage Center.

By Mayor Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

I would like to begin this evening by expressing my appreciation for the opportunity to serve as Mayor of Lewiston. I am honored and humbled as I assume this office. I am also enthusiastic and pledge to do my best to make Lewiston an even better place in which to live, work, play, raise a family and do business.

I would also like to recognize the newly elected members of the City Council and School Committee. I look forward to working closely with each of you as we strive to further enhance our community.

Last month, the final American combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq. Many of our friends, neighbors and family members were called to serve our country in this conflict, as well as in other current and past conflicts. Some of them made the ultimate sacrifice, and others will carry emotional and physical scars for the rest of their lives. Please join me in a moment of silence to honor all who have served in the United States military, especially those who are no longer with us.

As a veteran myself, I would urge veterans and family members who are experiencing difficulties to seek the assistance that they’ve earned and deserve. For years, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) went unacknowledged—but no longer. This condition is widely recognized today; however, too many individuals who need help have not sought it or been offered it.

It is my hope that veterans and family members who are struggling with this condition will contact the Lewiston Veterans Center on Westminster Street, which is the premiere place for assistance with PTSD. I can assure you that you will be greeted with open arms and provided with the services you have earned.

I’m also pleased that a new Veterans Center on Challenger Drive will open in the near future. This center will bring vital health services to veterans in our region. I again urge veterans to make use of the services that are theirs by right, especially since this local center will be easily accessible. In addition, I extend my thanks to the veterans, their organizations, and other local, state, and federal officials who worked to bring this center to reality right here in Lewiston.

As I come into office, I want to meet with residents, community leaders and other elected officials. I want their input and to explore with them what’s possible for Lewiston’s future and how it can be accomplished.

I plan to be a “transitional mayor,” someone who will help facilitate the continued transformation from where we are today to where we can be in the future: a full-fledged destination community with a thriving creative economy where residents and newcomers make their living by thinking and creating. I want Lewiston’s future to serve as a stellar example of what’s possible and what can be achieved by working together.

Thankfully, we are well on our way. We have an abundance of activities, businesses and opportunities that are already present. From performances at The Public Theatre and the Franco-American Heritage Center to activities ranging from Artwalk Lewiston Auburn to the Great Falls Balloon Festival to the Bates Dance Festival to the celebration of our history and heritage at Museum LA, this community is already “on the map!”

We also have an outstanding school system and are fortunate to have a variety of opportunities for higher education in our midst. Thankfully, this community encourages the aspirations of its youth, stresses the importance of a college education and supports its young people’s goals for their future. A college degree opens doors for our young people, and entities such as College for ME Androscoggin are to be commended.

Truly, the City of Lewiston is an on-the-move, happening place to be! Therefore, right here and right now, I believe it is time for all of us to join together and say “Enough is Enough!” to those who do not recognize how Lewiston continues to flourish. “Enough is Enough!” to those who focus on the past and not on the future.

“Enough is Enough!” to those who emphasize what we have not yet achieved and denigrate what has already been accomplished. I ask you to stand with me and send that message loud and clear.

Over the last 20-plus years, this community has established a solid foundation for growth and development. Collaborative efforts have paved the way for us to continue developing as a versatile destination and to become known as the place in Maine to establish a business and grow a family. Destination Lewiston is not only in our grasp, but numerous steps in that direction have already been taken.

The client bases of Fuel, Fish Bones, the Franco-American Heritage Center, The Public Theatre and the Bates Dance Festival conclusively prove that we can and do attract people from out of town. That must continue and expand.

As mayor, I will work to ensure that Lewiston becomes the “must visit” location when individuals, organizations, and businesses consider a personal or professional move. I will work to ensure that we cannot be ignored when seeking out employment, education, entertainment, cultural opportunities and recreation.

This is a great community. You know it. I know it. We must make sure others know it. We must become the cheerleaders for our own community, and I will partner with those entities that already have initiatives in place that share our successes and what we have to offer with others, both throughout Maine and beyond.

Indeed, many in this community have diligently worked and persevered in the challenging, yet rewarding, task of revitalizing Lewiston. I extend my gratitude for their dedication and hard work and look forward to working along side them.

As a “transitional” mayor, it is also my goal to encourage our youth, college-age students and members of the Young Professionals of the Lewiston-Auburn Area (YPLAA) to become even more involved in Lewiston’s government and community happenings. Young people bring new life, new vision and new zeal to the table. Their presence in our community and in our downtown is essential to our vitality and in attracting other young entrepreneurs to invest here.

Since young people will play a vital role in our future, we must engage them in the present. To those young people here tonight, please share with your friends and colleagues that we need more of you, more of your energy and more of your ideas and creativity. The future of Lewiston is indeed in your hands.

Another essential key to our future as a destination community is Riverfront Island. The master planning process now underway is essential to developing a vision for this area that is not only attractive to those who currently call Lewiston-Auburn “home,” but also to the creative and energetic residents needed for our future. There is no more important task confronting us than developing and implementing a shared vision for the Island. To achieve this, we need everyone’s involvement, everyone’s support and everyone’s hard work.

Riverfront Island must become a vibrant, multi-faceted area providing the arts, cultural amenities and recreation built around a rediscovered Androscoggin River. It must also provide space for commercial and retail activities and the market-rate housing that will attract young professionals and empty nesters seeking an urban experience in close proximity to a vibrant downtown and natural beauty.

We must also continue to work with those who have begun the process of reinventing Lisbon Street. In recent years, we have seen new restaurants, shops and market-rate housing develop on this corridor. We must continue to support those who have made these investments and encourage others to step forward and do the same. Success begets success.

We must also address the age and condition of our housing stock, particularly in our downtown neighborhoods. Abandoned and condemned properties must be removed or rehabilitated. We must help landlords to achieve sufficient income that will enable them to provide safe, quality housing. At the same time, building codes must be fairly and uniformly enforced to ensure that tenants are protected.

We must also work together to encourage the new, market-rate housing that is necessary to attract young professionals to our urban core. To this end, I am partnering with Auburn Mayor Jonathan Labonté to propose a joint committee to explore housing issues and develop the policies needed to encourage the housing options that will attract these individuals to our downtowns.

We must also work to grow our economy, create jobs and increase incomes. To do this, we must work closely with our partners from Auburn, the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council, the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce and others. The past 20 years have demonstrated a successful transition from our proud industrial heritage to a new diversified economy with its mix of industries and professions, ranging from health care to education, financial services to information technology. Lewiston is also home to nationally recognized businesses such as Geiger Bros, LL Bean, Bourgeois Guitars, Compounding Solutions and System Logistics.

While these and other local businesses provide us with a base, we can and must grow. We’ve proven in the past that Lewiston is open for business, and that remains true today. I will urge the City Council and our staff to continue to be responsive to business interests and work to expand and enhance Lewiston’s reputation as a business friendly and welcoming community.

One of the first issues the new council will face is the future of the Multi-Purpose Center, which houses various city and community programs including our senior program. Our seniors have worked long and hard and have contributed to our community in more ways than we can count. I pledge to work with the City Council to ensure that the senior program will have a home where it can continue to thrive. While we must acknowledge the needs of our growing student population, we must also recognize the needs of our growing senior population. Our seniors must not be forgotten.

I’ve used the words “Enough is Enough!” in my address this evening to hopefully inspire us to further excel as a community. However, I also used those words throughout my mayoral campaign because they reflect the shared frustration of many within this community. These are not easy times. Unemployment is high. Many have lost their jobs or fear for their futures. We are concerned about the future for our youth. We wonder whether those in government are hearing us.

In some areas, “Enough is Most Definitely Enough!” We must end the cycle of generational poverty and welfare by demanding that our children complete their education and that those who can work do work and contribute to our economy and community.

At the same time, “Enough is not Enough” when it comes to growing the Lewiston-Auburn area as a destination; supporting businesses, growing jobs and securing livable incomes; redeveloping Riverfront Island and continuing the positive progress on Lisbon Street; and creating market-rate downtown housing to attract young professionals.

If we commit to a shared vision of our future; if we invest our time and energy in our community; if we pledge to work toward making our vision a reality, we will grow and prosper. We can become a multi­faceted destination and an unwavering example to other cities. We can ensure a bright future.

In closing, I pledge to do my best to work with each of you; with our friends and partners in Auburn; and with others throughout the region to focus on today’s progress, its challenges and tomorrow’s promise. Please join me in this effort. With your involvement, support, and encouragement, it’s safe to say that the best is yet to come. Thank you.

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