Your Prediction?

Ryan Fecteau

Ryan Fecteau

Which candidate do you think will win the Democratic Party’s nomination for Biddeford’s Dist. 11 Maine House seat?

David Flood

David Flood

Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong (Redux)

Joanne Twomey

Joanne Twomey

This is a story about a bitter, cake-baked politician, a police chief and a little, pink bicycle.

During the most recent Biddeford City Council meeting, former Mayor Joanne Twomey, was once again full of rage and fury.

As she does during most public meetings, she nearly tripped over herself as she stormed toward the podium to rant and pontificate before the council for the televised portion of the meeting.

Twomey uses rage and victimization like most people use deodorant. It is predictable, boorish and sometimes entertaining.

But her tirades of rage and indignation are rarely, if ever, based on logic or fact.

This week, Twomey’s tirade was about “a little pink bicycle” that she says was recklessly tossed into the metal recycling bin at the city’s public works facility by callous members of the Biddeford Police Department.

Twomey, who has lost her last three bids for public office, told the council (and those watching the meeting on television) that she had gone to public works to dispose of some grass clippings, when she witnessed the horror of a massive bicycle dumping in the metal recycling bin.

“They dumped 25 to 30 bicycles in there,” Twomey breathlessly proclaimed. “Bicycles!”

By her own admission, Twomey told the council that “I screamed and caused a scene.” (It’s what she does best)

Twomey said she asked the police officers why they didn’t give the bicycles to “the bicycle guy,” referring to Andy Grief, executive director of the non-profit Community Bicycle Center

“Is this a sense of community?” Twomey bellowed, ready to burst with indignation.

Twomey said she tried to alert the Community Bike Center about the atrocity, but staff was out for lunch. So, what did she do?

Make an inquiry at the police department? Nah.

Instead, she went home to fetch her Canon digital camera “because you have to document everything in this city.”

“I took pictures, and I put in on my Facebook,” Twomey told the council. (Editor’s note, we were unable to find photos of discarded bicycles on Twomey’s Facebook page)

Nonetheless, Twomey says reaction to the photos was overwhelming. “Where is our sense of community?” she asked again. “There was a little pink bike that could be used by some little girl.”

In summary, Twomey said the callous officers who dumped the bikes should be fired.

The rest of the story

Chief Roger Beaupre: Journal Tribune photo

Chief Roger Beaupre: Journal Tribune photo

Biddeford Police Chief Roger Beaupre was watching the May 20 city council meeting from the comfort of his home. After hearing Twomey’s comments, Beuapre decided the council should hear — as Paul Harvey would say — the rest of the story.

Beaupre’s e-mail to the city council appears below, and it offers some revealing insight about both the incident and Twomey’s tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

We routinely and regularly pick up and store bicycles that are left abandoned on the street. In some instances, these bicycles are turned in by people who have discovered bicycles that have been abandoned on their property. The department’s Evidence Technician/Property Manager, then places a property tag on each of these bicycles, logging and recording the description and serial numbers into our records management system.

They are then taken to DPW and stored in one of our property containers. All bikes are hung from the ceiling in a neat and orderly manner. We are required by state law to keep these bikes for not less than 5 months, and if after that amount of time the bikes are unclaimed, we can dispose of them.

Prior to 2003, state law required that we auction these unclaimed bikes and return the proceeds of the sale to the Treasurer of State, less our cost of storage and auction. In 2003, the State Legislature changed the law to read: “…a local legislative body in a municipality may dispose of unclaimed bicycles in a manner decided by that body…” (25 M.R.S.A. 3503-B).

Now then, here is what we do AFTER six months of retaining the bikes. In our “Sense of Community” we have partnered with Andy Grief from the Community Bike Center, and all of our serviceable bikes are given to that center. Process is that at the end of six months, either Andy Grief himself, or one of his staff, accompanies the BPD Property Manager to the storage trailer at DPW. The Community Bike Center representative then inspects each and every bike that is eligible to be released.

With a magic maker he places a large “R” on those bikes he deems unserviceable and does not see as safe to place on the street. Cracked frame is usually the typical problem, or any other problem that they deem not worth repairing. After the representative claims the bikes he does want, our Property Manager selects a convenient time to collect the bikes that are destined for recycling and disposes of them in the metal bin at DPW.

On the day that Mrs. Twomey happened to bring her brush to DPW, a Public Works employee was helping our Evidence Technician unload the bikes from our Crime Van and place them into the recycling bin. I stress Public Works employee, because I want to make sure it is clear that there were NOT two police officers at the Recycling Center.

I don’t believe that I have to tell you of the city’s liability if someone gets hurt using a bicycle that the Community Bike Center has deemed unfit.

That pink bicycle that Mrs. Twomey so fondly referred to last night was deemed unfit by someone who knows whether or not a bike is safe to ride.

In closing, the system we have been using for about a decade now, keeps our unclaimed bike inventory down, and returns serviceable bicycles to the community to those who can’t afford to buy one. How is that for our “Sense of the Community?”  And for her to state that the police officers should be “fired” is unfair and biased.

Two for the show

Ryan Fecteau

Ryan Fecteau

Of the 151 seats in the Maine House of Representatives, only 19 of them will offer a primary option for voters on June 10.

One of those 19 Primary Election challenges is taking place right here in Biddeford, and I know both of the Democrats who are battling for their party’s favor.

Of course, since this is Biddeford, a city that consistently sends a Democrat to Augusta, at least in this central district, whichever candidate wins on June 10 will most likely be able to coast comfortably onward to Freshman Orientation Day at the Statehouse.

This evening (May 22) Ryan Fecteau and David Flood will participate in a televised debate that will be held in the Little Theater at Biddeford High School.

I will be live Tweeting from the event, but I encourage my fellow voters in Biddeford to attend and learn more about the candidates.

Expect Fecteau to lean toward progressive themes and talk about youth and new energy. Expect Flood to talk about his succesful business experience and moderate views.

Fecteau has been running a visible and strong ground game. It’s not yet clear where Flood’s campaign has been over the past few weeks.

David Flood

David Flood

Added Bonus: Former Mayor Joanne Twomey will be in attendance, rooting for Fecteau. Now, there’s a reason to vote for Flood!

 

Third time is the charm?

Perry Aberle... Sun Chronicle Photo

Perry Aberle… Sun Chronicle Photo

While most people were picking out green outfits, drinking lots of beer or otherwise wasting time on St. Patrick’s Day, one select group of folks were bracing for potential fame and fortune as hopeful members of the 2015 Maine Legislature.

The deadline for wannabe state representatives and state senators came and went at 5 p.m. on March 17.

Given the impacts of last year’s legislative redistricting and Maine’s term limits law, voters will be faced with a healthy crop of fresh faces.

But you can always count on a few perennial candidates: those who think the next campaign will be the magic campaign, the Wonka Golden ticket that will admit them into the strata of being really important and somewhat relevant.Such is the case in Biddeford, where Perry Aberle — undaunted by two consecutive and somewhat epic campaign failures — has once again tossed his hat into the ring. Hopefully, someone will toss him back a working razor.

Aberle won his last election nearly two decades ago, when he was still in high school and was elected to serve one term on the Biddeford City Council. Since then, his campaign skills have deteriorated apparently.  He ran for the seat two years ago and was crushed by incumbent Paulette Beaudoin, the proverbial little old lady who cleaned Aberele’s clock by garnering nearly 64 percent of the vote (2,585-1,471).

A year later, Aberle brushed himself off and decided to challenge Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant. Despite a much larger pool of voters in a city-wide election, Aberle’s vote total shrunk by more than half, and he finished a distant third in a three-way race that also included former mayor Joanne Twomey. Casavant easily won re-election with 2,377 votes, compared to 720 for Aberle.

Today, Aberle is running as a Republican for the Maine House of Representatives in District 12, which includes the central and downtown portions of the city. He will face Biddeford businessman Martin Grohman, a Democrat, in the general election.

Will the the third try be the charm for Aberle? Don’t bank on it, would be my advice.

Over in District 11, which includes western portions of the city, Democrats Ryan Fecteau and David Flood will duke it out for their party’s nomination. The winner of that contest will face political newcomer Debi Davis, a Republican, in the November general election.

In the District 32 State Senate race, Democrat David Dutremble will once again bank on his family’s political legacy and last name recogntion to hold onto his seat for another term. Dutremble will once again be challenged by Arundel businessman James Booth who ran for the seat two years ago as an Independent. This time, Booth is running as a Republican.  Anything is possible, but Booth is facing an uphill battle in a district that historically favors Democrats.

Just like a prayer

Bobby Mills

Bobby Mills

Biddeford City Councilor Bobby Mills has a lesson for all of us who use social media.

It doesn’t matter much if the NSA has tapped your phone or if Google is using your online data to create a psychological profile, you have a responsibility to be careful about what you share on social media outlets.

Mills, an elected official, is upset that he was contacted by a local newspaper regarding a potential conflict of interest issue. According to Mills, the newspaper received an anonymous tip regarding something he posted online.

I’ll let Mills tell the story . . .

Interesting enough I just got a phone call interview from the Courier. Someone made an “anonymous” complaint about the unsuccessful Go Fund Me page I set up back in October/November for assistance in our down payment for our lease to own home. Since this page was only created for my family and friends on Facebook I’m simply amazed.
“The complaint was about public officials creating pages seeking donations and conflicts of interests that it may generate.  Seriously.  My family doesn’t live here and any friendships in Biddeford would never be in a situation to assist us if they could. Nonetheless conflicts of interests? Amazing.
 Everytime I’m reelected,  there’s always some “anonymous” nonsense. Hey. Why don’t you call me? 207-[redacted].  Your welcome to come and visit as well. Obviously you know where I live”

Bobby Mills and I have not always seen eye to eye. In fact, I’ve often been one of his loudest critics. But in this story, I feel some of his pain.

Please note: I said some.

Mills and every other adult who uses social media ought to understand how those platforms work. Social media is a power tool in the realm of mass communication, and like any other power tool, you can expect really bad results if you don’t follow some basic guidelines.

Mills said he posted his personal request for the benefit of his family and friends. He didn’t expect criticism or harsh comments about his financial situation from outside his circle of family and friends.

While I sympathize with Mr. Mills’ situation, his defense is extremely weak. He wanted to raise a lot of money (thousands) to help secure a down-payment for a home. You don’t post something online if you don’t want a lot of people to see it.

Rule No. 1 of social media: Never post or tweet anything that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper.

Bobby Mills likes to use social media. In fact, he’s set up a Facebook page for a second run at becoming Maine’s next governor. Criticize him for that, if you want (and I will . . . later), but don’t knock the guy for being in a tight financial spot and then attack his character because of that fact.

Times are tough for a lot of people. There’s nothing wrong with asking family and friends for help. It’s a tough situation. If you haven’t experienced it, thank your lucky stars.

Raising questions about whether Mills’ original fundraising post constitutes a potential conflict of interest is a bit of a stretch.

By all accounts, Bobby Mills is a good husband and father who loves his kids. He holds several jobs and works hard. He gives a lot back to his community. His only crime here is being a bit naïve about how social media works.

However, if Mills still serves as a member of the Biddeford Housing Authority, and if the home’s sale is connected in any way to that agency, then Mills needs to put some distance between his personal objective and his role as a city official.

Elected officials are treated differently by the media for good reason. When you run for office you have to expect that.

And when you post something on Facebook, you should expect that a lot of people will see what you may not want them to see.

UPDATED: Bobby Mills is NOT a member of the Biddeford Housing Authority.

Hello, goodbye . . . and some predictions

DSCN1587I noticed something this morning. My dogs are oblivious to the calendar. The could not care less that it is Wednesday, or even the first day of a new year. They were ready to tackle the new day with the exact level of enthusiasm and ambition they display on any other day.

Dogs, unlike most people, live in the moment. They do not reflect on the past nor do they worry about what the future may bring. They have no regrets and apparently make no predictions.

Dogs are always more than ready to eat, play and love. I think that was the name of a movie starring Julia Roberts.

I have long since abandoned the idea of making New Year’s resolutions. I live by the motto that “expectations are pre-meditated resentments.”

Two years ago, I publicly pledged on these pages to do a better job in how I conduct political debates with friends, acquaintances and strangers:  I will listen more than I speak. I will ask those who disagree with me how they came to their conclusions; and I will push myself to consider and reflect upon the contrary arguments I encounter along the way.

That resolution seemed to go the way of so many other resolutions, but it still seems more important than quitting smoking, losing weight or better organizing my sock drawer. Thus, I offer the same resolution this year.

In many ways, 2013 was a good year, and I have much to be thankful for. But, there were also some challenges. I lost a good friend to suicide. My wife and I both racked up some huge medical bills and the future seems uncertain. But the future is always uncertain. That’s why it is the future. It is unknown, full of possibility and ripe with potential.

Dogs don’t make predictions. Dogs avoid resentment. Dogs have low expectations. Dogs ignore the calendar and live completely in the present.

We are not dogs, however. We are humans and strive to control our lives, our futures. We enjoy making predictions because it helps quell the anxiety of what is ahead: the unknown.

A few days ago, I asked some friends to submit their best predictions for 2014. Here they are:

The future’s so bright?

Governor LePage: winner or loser in 2014?

Governor LePage: winner or loser in 2014?

Bad News for the GOP: It would be hard to know that my friend John Lovell is a die-hard Democrat if he never opened his mouth or approached his keyboard. John and I spar frequently, and I have immense respect for his intellect, wit and compassion. But I was not at all surprised by his predictions, which included Republicans losing several Congressional seats. He predicted Sen. Collins will lose her bid for another term and that Gov. Paul LePage will lose his re-election bid, describing him as  “the worst governor in Maine history.”

Bad News for Democrats: Matthew Angotti of Saco has a different perspective: “Obamacare woes will continue, and partially, as a result, Republicans will keep the US House, take the US Senate and even take one Maine Legislative body. Further, LePage will be reelected as Governor with 41 percent of the vote. Also, Seattle wins the Super Bowl.

Karen Moore, a Biddeford native who now lives in Colorado, is one of my favorite political foes. She is feisty, stubborn and thoughtful. She is an enigma to me, and I doubt she has any idea how much I love debating political and public policy issues with her. Karen offered a hodgepodge of predictions, saying former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez will be found guilty of murder during his trial this year.

Karen also predicted that George Zimmerman will kill again; and that Paul LePage will lose the Blaine House to Democrat Mike Michaud, who will then become Maine’s first gay governor. She also predicted that Republicans will lose their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and that Democrats will maintain control of the U.S. Senate; and says that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in favor of gay marriage in 2014.

Beyond politics, Karen predicted two “hurricane super storms” next fall – one of which, will hit Rhode Island, Mass and Maine. Sadly, she also predicted another mass shooting incident that will involve “50+ children” and  will be committed by “a card-carrying NRA member who passed background checks and was formerly “responsible”.

Zimmerman will kill again?

Zimmerman will kill again?

She also predicted that there “will be a huge pipeline disaster on US soil,” and that John Boehner will resign in disgrace. On a final note, Karen predicts that a former U.S. president (unnamed) “will pass away and there will controversy at the State funeral – such as Putin won’t be invited but the North Korean or Iranian dude will attend.”

Let’s pause here to pop a couple antidepressants or partake in some recreational drugs. Whew.

On a much lighter note, my friend Ernie Corrigan, a former reporter and political advisor to Tip O’Neil, predicted that Sarah Palin will travel to Maine to advise Gov. Paul LePage on “how to stop saying every crazy thing that comes into his head.” Coincidentally, he says,  Columbia Pictures announces the release of Dumb and Dumber III.

Corrigan also predicted that “Republican leaders will announce they are going to continue to try to scuttle ObamaCare with legislation they say will provide affordable health care insurance for all. They are calling it The Affordable Care Act and it is instantly embraced by Republicans as the cure for ObamaCare.”
Corrigan also predicted a major shift in federal domestic policy, when Congress “announces that it wants to spend $100 billion on mental health, saying it will reach out to people who appear to be talking to themselves while walking down the street.”  Verizon, Corrigan predicts, will immediately file a class action suit in federal court, claiming the government is targeting their customers.
Racial tensions will continue in 2014, according to Corrigan’s predictions: Democrats, he says. will announce they are going into federal court and charging Republicans with a persistent pattern of federal election violations aimed at keeping African-Americans from voting.  “During simultaneous press conferences, only African-Americans attend the Republican press conference and only white Americans attend the Democratic press conference.”
 Corrigan also places a high degree of confidence in U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Corrigan predicts that Kerry will engineer a peace accord in the Middle East with agreement from Israel, Syria, Iran and Iraq and the PLO. Soviet leader Putin attacks the accord as an attempt to destabilize the region, he adds.

Palin: Coming to Maine in 2014?

Palin: Coming to Maine in 2014?

Corrigan also says the U.S.  jobless rate will drop below 6 percent for the first time in 15 years, and that Leonardo DiCaprio will win Best Actor for his performance in The Wolf of Wall Street.  Wall Street CEOs, according to Corrigan, will say the award confirms the strong work ethic of traders on Wall Street, despite the  film’s depictions of excessive patterns of group sex, infidelity, massive drug abuse and a persistent pattern of stock fraud and greed.”

Keeping it local, State Senator David Dutremble (D-Biddeford) predicts that Rep. Paulette Beaudoin, facing term limits, will challenge him in the June 2014 Democratic primary. Reason for this prediction?  “She has openly asked me to swap seats so she can have one term as Senator and I could take her Rep seat,” Dutremble said. “She previously said she didn’t originally run to play games and step down just so someone else could just have the seat, but now she has publicly endorsed another person for her  seat, leading me to believe she will challenge my seat. I have no proof, just a prediction.”
Former colleague and award-winning columnist John Swinconeck kept his tongue firmly in cheek with his predictions for 2014:
“Early one morning in 2014, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will wake up on a bed of Hefty bags outside a Portland night club wearing a torn, black cocktail dress,” Swinconeck opined. “Hung around her neck like a pendant will be the severed ear of “Fox and Friends” co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck. She’ll have no memory of what transpired the night before, she only knows that she is filled with a sense of peace she has not felt for years. That day, Sebelius sneaks aboard a freighter bound for Cairo. As the vessel sails from Casco Bay, Sebelius will offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the god of second chances, grateful that the voices in her head have finally ceased. Back in Washington, the tumult over the Affordable Care Act will continue.”
My friend Harvey Ardman, an accomplished writer and journalist, predicted that “Eliot Cutler will withdraw from the Governor’s race  two months (or more) before the election and [Mike] Michaud will collect most of his votes, winning handily over LePage.”
Jesse Ventura: Maine's next governor?

Jesse Ventura: Maine’s next governor?

See if you can guess the political leanings of my friend Sally Melcher McKeagney: Jesse Ventura moves to Maine in January 2014. He is drafted to run for governor. Ventura  wins in November. Governor LePage is very angry about the loss, so angry , he tries to blow up the PPH building. Though the explosions are little more than smoke and soft pops, LePage is forced to flee  to Jamaica.  He applies for refugee status.  Jamaica doesn’t really want him. They  offer to extradite him–they say they will even pay us to take him back. But the State of Maine cites his residency status–which is not Maine–and tells Jamaica “You’re on your own!”  Jesse Ventura turns out to be just as interesting as Paul LePage, and Democrats wonder how they can get Ventura to Jamaica.”

My friend Bob Meyers predicts that the Times Record newspaper in Brunswick will cease publication as a daily in 2014 and go to 2 or possibly 3 issues per week.
My friend Bob Mentzinger, editor of the Times Record, also predicted that George Zimmerman will kill again.  Mentzinger thinks LePage will be re-elected because Independent Eliot Cutler will remain in the race too long, waiting for a repeat of the 2010 surge.  On a final note, Mentzinger predicts the Carolina Panthers will win the Super Bowl, it will snow through April; and that the Dow will hit 18,000.
So there you go! Let the games begin and bring on 2014! Be careful out there, and remember: it’s never a bad idea to hold hands and keep your expectations in check.

The (not so) usual suspects

David Flood

David Flood

Another Biddeford politician has thrown his hat into the ring to replace State Rep. Paulette Beaudoin in the Maine Legislature.

While some observers were thinking that newcomer Ryan Fecteau has all but clinched the June 2014 Democratic primary for the District 11 seat, it looks like voters could have several choices.

Former Biddeford city councilor and one-time mayoral candidate David Flood announced this week that he also will be running for Beaudoin’s seat, and he’s already received her endorsement.

Flood is best known in the city as the founder and publisher of the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier and five other weekly newspapers that he and his wife sold in 2007, only months before he won an at-large seat on the city council. In 2009, Flood lost his bid to oust Mayor Joanne Twomey, but two years later voters returned him to the city council.

Flood and Fecteau both have some advantages and challenges.

Fecteau, 21, is certainly eager and appears to have built a decent foundation for his campaign. In an unprecedented move, he publicly announced his candidacy last year.

Previously, Fecteau served on the city’s Charter Review Commission and as chair of the city’s Democratic Committee.  He has already set up a web site, social media pages and did what no other state representative candidate from Biddeford has done before: he coordinated a fundraiser and campaign event for himself in Washington, D.C., where he is a student at Catholic University of America.

Fecteau posted some photos from that Washington D.C. event and sent press releases to local newspapers. The photos show a bright-eyed kid with big dreams, holding a microphone and rallying a group of his peers who would be hard-pressed to find Biddeford on a map, never mind being able to vote for him.

Flood, 58, said he believes his experience as a successful business owner, entrepreneur and father makes him a strong candidate who understands the challenges of a struggling state economy and the real-life, day-to-day issues that impact voters. “This is an important time in our state’s history,” Flood said. “We need someone who knows what it’s like to pay taxes, to meet a payroll, to raise a family and deal with the complexities of life.”

 Flood also has Paulette Beaudoin’s endorsement, saying she called him and asked if he would consider running for the seat she now holds.

Flood is the founder of the Heart of Biddeford, a non-profit group that is working to revitalize the city’s downtown area. He also owns commercial properties on Main Street, including a previously empty building that he co-purchased and developed with Biddeford architect Caleb Johnson. Today, 265 Main Street houses Elements Cafe and other tenants, including Engine, a non-profit arts center. Earlier this year, he launched a new magazine, Innovation Maine.

Ryan Fecteau

Ryan Fecteau

“I think of myself as a newspaper guy,” Flood said. “Carolyn and I opened the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier on July 13, 1989. I had just turned 34, and our two sons were eight and five years old. We know what it’s like to start a business and work as hard as you can to make it work.”

By the time the Floods sold the company, it had increased to six newspapers with 28 full-time and a dozen part-time employees.

“I do not want local governments to have to raise property taxes because the state isn’t doing its job,” Flood said.  “This is an exciting time in Biddeford’s history – this is a way I can help.”

But Flood does have some challenges. Only weeks after winning his last election, he abruptly announced that he would be resigning his seat from the city council to return to the newspaper business. “It would have been a huge conflict of interest if I remained on the council,” he explained in 2011. “That opportunity came along right after the election, it’s not something I planned to do while campaigning.”

Flood’s return to the newspaper business was also short-lived, and he said he has no problems talking about that turn of events with voters.

Other Democrats who may be considering the seat include former Biddeford Mayor Joanne Twomey, who lost her primary challenge against Beaudoin two years ago; former city councilor Roch Angers and (because the district’s boundaries have changed) former State Sen. Nancy Sullivan.
 
Republican Perry Aberle is also considering another run for the seat. Aberle was trounced in his first bid for the seat by Beaudoin in 2012. A year later, in November, Aberle finished a distant third in a three-way race to be Biddeford’s next mayor.
 
District 11 was formerly known as District 135. Beaudoin held the seat for eight years and is being forced out because of term limits.
 

Meet the ‘new’ boss

In about 24 hours, I will have the privilege and honor of being the first to introduce members of my community to the new members of the Biddeford City Council.

I will be the master of ceremonies at the inauguration of Mayor Alan Casavant, the nine members of the city council and the seven members of the school committee.

Many of these “new” councilors have previously served on the council, but some of them have been out of the public eye for a few years.

So, what can we expect from this new council?

For starters, I think Biddeford voters knew exactly what they were doing when they chose Clement Fleurent, Roger Hurtubise, John McCurry and Marc Lessard for a return to the council.

Each of these men are proven commodities. Each cares deeply about their community. We will all benefit from their previous service, their years of experience and their own, unique connections to the city we call home.

They are fiscally conservative and generally politically conservative. McCurry and Lessard have both previously served as council president; and both men made unsuccessful bids for the mayor’s seat (McCurry in 2007; Lessard in 2003).

While McCurry and Lessard have much in common and often see eye-to-eye on major policy issues, there is a not-so-subtle difference between the two men, at least based on my observations of their past civic performance.

McCurry is a stickler for process and he makes no bones about his priorities during annual budget battles. What you see is what you get. McCurry can be outspoken, but not for the sake of being outspoken. He has strong opinions, but he’s also a good listener. He can be stubborn, like a dog with a bone, once he has made up his mind.

McCurry is secure and confident without being arrogant. If he tells you he is going to vote for Plan A, he is going to vote for Plan A, not use his prior statement as either a political tool of manipulation; nor subject his opinion to the ranging barometer of public opinion.

But Lessard was a much different character on the council. I honestly hope that his brutal loss for the mayor’s seat a decade ago forced him to take an extra dose of humility. I will opt for optimism. It’s been 10 years. We’ve all grown and matured over the past decade.

Lessard is a political animal. Taken under the wing of former Mayor James Grattelo many years ago, Lessard often mistook his public service role as some sort of baseball game, complete with strategy, secret signals, orchestrated deals and plenty of red meat rhetoric for the spectators to gnaw upon.

He loved to quote articles from USA Today, demonstrating his vast knowledge of the nation’s economy and why Biddeford should be thankful to just be alive. He delighted in being coy and mischievous. He grinned slyly when he won; but his temper was rarely hidden on those rare occasions when he lost.

He once told me: “Randy, you could say a zebra is black with white stripes; or white with black stripes,” as a way to defend one of his positions.

I wasn’t buying it. “No,” I responded. “A zebra is just a zebra.”

Marc had a tendency to exaggerate and was no doubt frustrated that I routinely called him out about those distortions during my newspaper days.

But my newspaper days are over.

Marc and I were never best friends, but I have admiration for his zeal, his passion and his belief in his own ideas. He has never been anything less than polite and cordial with me. He is a hardworking man. By all accounts, he is a good husband and father and plays a mean game of baseball.

Conventional wisdom holds that a leopard cannot change his spots, but I still believe in Marc Lessard’s potential as a city leader. I think the people of Biddeford can be well-served by his firebrand style and his fiscally conservative approach. I think he can provide a good counterweight to some of Mayor Casavant’s idealistic leanings.

I strongly suspect that Marc has not given up on his dream of being the city’s mayor. If he asked me for my political advice, I would urge him to be a lot more like his friend John McCurry and a lot less like that guy who finished third in a three-way race 10 years ago.

Can a leopard change his spots? Let’s hope so because this council has the potential to be the best city council Biddeford has seen in a long, long time.

Dangerous Type

Richard Rhames

Richard Rhames

During the last official meeting of the 2011-2013 Biddeford City Council, Mayor Alan Casavant said, ” . . . history will look favorably upon this council.”

I think he was right, but that may be a hard pill to swallow for the four councilors who lost their re-election bids: Roch Angers, David Bourque, Rick Laverriere and Richard Rhames.

Similar to what Dorothy said to the scarecrow just before waking from her dream, I think I will miss Councilor Richard Rhames the most.

You may be shaking your head, especially since I did not encourage people to vote for Rhames in the last election; and because I have previously (and rigorously) criticized his positions on a variety of policy issues.

But it should be noted that I also previously described Richard as “the city council’s conscience.”

Roughly two years ago, I ranked Rhames as ninth of the 25 most influential public policy masters in Biddeford-Saco politics.

From that previous post: Rhames began his political career by driving a grassroots effort to stop a planned expansion of the Biddeford Airport in the late 1970s. He then became one of the most outspoken opponents of the Maine Energy Recovery Company. Even his most ardent detractors concede that Richard is extraordinarily intelligent and that he commands a core following of people with similar political persuasions. He despises pragmatism and often rails against a “political class” that seems way too cozy with business interests. He is an unapologetic FDR Democrat, who believes the power of government should be reserved for those who are otherwise powerless.

Richard’s strength is his ability to point out the hypocrisy and greased skids tactics of the politically well-connected. He does not want to “get along” simply for the sake of “getting along.” His frequent and long-winded monologues follow predictable themes: opposing corporate influence, raising awareness about labor issues and the sorry-state of media (local, national and global).

Richard is the real deal. An authentic rabble rouser, who is arguably one of the best known people in Biddeford.

During my stint as the editor of the Biddeford-Saco Courier, I often poked fun at Richard in my weekly opinion column. Admittedly, I often crossed the lines of good taste and always cringe when I recall those rants about his “pony-tail politics.” Richard, however, was fair game, despite my sophomoric criticisms. He consistently injects himself — without hesitation — into the city’s political arena, and he could never be accused of being a shrinking violet. He also knows a thing or two about taking swipes.

But over the last 15 years of closely observing Biddeford’s political theater, I have developed a genuine respect for Rhames.

Although I am sometimes vexed by his approach and still disagree with some of his positions, he consistently (although indirectly) forced me to pause and question my own political bent. I admire his honesty and his consistency. There are no games with Richard. He is who he is. He says what he means and means what he says. Unfortunately, that makes him a rare breed among elected officials.

Rhames has always been an outspoken champion for the poor and the powerless. Yes, he can be snarky, condescending and sometimes hypocritical but he never pretended to be anything more than a flawed individual who was at least willing to speak up, even when he knows doing so is not in his own best interest.

Jimmy Carter may not have been a good president, but I am hard pressed to think of a more decent and honest man.

I agree with Mayor Casavant. I think history will look favorably upon this outgoing council, but I think it will look especially favorably upon Councilor Rhames.

Dead letter office

Source: City Clerk's office; 2004 data not available

Source: City Clerk’s office; 2004 data not available

I was speaking with a friend yesterday  about the recent municipal elections in Biddeford.

“I bet you’re glad it’s over,” he said.

“Over?” I responded. “It’s hardly over. Already candidates are lining up for local legislative races that will be decided next November. There’s always another election around the corner.”

He shook his head and smiled. “Who cares about who we send to Augusta,” he said. “It’s not like it matters.”

It’s understandable that most people feel a bit burned out by the political process.

Only a few weeks after arguing and ranting about Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, political junkies turned their attention to controversial referendum questions pending in South Portland and Portland. While local candidates were seeking city council and mayoral seats, Congressman Mike Michaud, the likely Democratic nominee for the Blaine House, announced that he was gay and thus strategically overshadowed Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s announcement about his own official re-election campaign this week.

I almost expected Independent Eliot Cutler to announce that he was bi-sexual, pledging allegiance to neither heterosexual nor homosexual preferences; a true Independent — just like Maine –  in a desperate attempt for some much needed press during a tough news cycle.

It’s no wonder that voters have become a bit apathetic and cynical about politics.

For the record, I could not care less about a candidate’s sexual orientation. I also don’t care about their favorite color or whether they like their chicken original or extra crispy. I want the candidates and the media to focus on the issues that are affecting every day people who are struggling under the weight of a difficult economy. I want to hear new ideas. I want to hear each candidate describe their vision.

Although I am pleased that an overwhelming majority of voters in my hometown chose vision over fear, positive over negative; I also expect those who won their seats to get real busy, real quick and to focus with laser-precision on economic development, creating streamlined efficiencies and encouraging private investment.

Voter turnout in Biddeford this year hit a 10-year low. Fewer than one-third of the city’s voters bothered to cast a ballot. Sure, there were no sexy referendum issues like a casino or marriage equality driving people to the polls; but the decisions we made yesterday impact every part of our lives: our roads, our schools, public safety, our sewers and yes . . . our tax bills. The people chosen on Tuesday will be responsible for making decisions that could have long-lasting impacts.

So why was voter turnout so pathetic? The weather was beautiful. There were no long lines at the polling places. What gives?

It’s always difficult to gauge voter sentiment, but there are a few likely reasons:

a.) Voters are content with the way Biddeford is being managed. They sensed Alan Casavant had a commanding lead and, therefore, their vote was unnecessary;

b.) Voters are upset with the way Biddeford is being managed and feel disenfranchised. You can’t fight City Hall;

Or c.) the most likely reason: voters just didn’t care. Period.

If you belong to any of the above three groups, you are an idiot.

Members of Group A risked a potential loss and a step backward for the city. Members of Group B missed a real opportunity to send a powerful message about their discontent; and members of Group C ought to be required to take a remedial civics lesson.

Voting is important. You are an equal shareholder in this community. Your voice matters. Imagine how different the election would have been if only 20 percent more of the city’s register voters had bothered to participate?

Of course, it’s too late to speculate. And those who did vote sent a pretty clear message. They want a fiscally responsible council. They want a positive and professional mayor leading the city. They are not afraid of making long-term investments in their community (all five state bond questions passed easily).

Sure, it’s more fun to get wound up about a particular, controversial issue, but if you can’t be bothered to exercise your civic duty, then be prepared to accept whatever comes down your path.

Voters tend to turn out for things they want; things they support.

Throughout this last election cycle, many of Casavant’s loudest critics failed to articulate who they supported. They were against someone, but for no one. A sure-fire prescription for voter apathy and a stunning loss at the polls.

Sure, Casavant’s opponents split their opposition, but looking at the results tells an even stronger story. Even if you add the total votes of each opponent, Casavant’s numbers were still higher. Fifty-seven percent is a clear victory. Winning each of the city’s seven wards reaffirms the voters’ decision.

If the opponents are struggling to accept the results, maybe they ought to spend a little less time bitching and a bit more time convincing their friends and neighbors to get to the polls two years from now.

I said it before, and I will say it again: Campaign signs do NOT win elections; Facebook or other social media tools do NOT win elections; debates or endorsements do NOT win elections. What wins elections? It’s about how many people you get to the polls. Game over.