Ship of fools

VGThere’s a right way and a wrong way to handle social media, and in the city of Biddeford, orange can now step aside because Facebook is the new black.

Biddeford’s political machinations have always been colorful and somewhat interesting.

But lately, our city’s colorful political landscape has gone from an interesting mix of pastels to a nightmarish blend of bright acrylics that looks like something from a Van Gogh nightmare.

Just four hours after Mayor Alan Casavant announced on Facebook that he will be seeking a third term, an anonymous Facebook identity popped up and started sending out “friend” requests.

“Joe Biddeford” says he (she?) wants to keep his/her identity anonymous “to keep trolls from attacking me as opposed to contributing to the important dialogue on local issues.”

Since I routinely blog about Biddeford politics and often play in political circles, I was curious about what this “dialogue” would be. So I sent Joe a friend request. As of this writing, Joe has not accepted my request.  I am heartbroken by this.

Many of my friends have received friend requests from Joe Biddeford, but not me.

Joe Biddeford’s Facebook page is public, and last I checked he had 10 friends. Wow! 10 friends.

But wait, it gets better. Only two people have posted anything on Joe Biddeford’s Facebook timeline. One of them is my friend Fred Staples, a former city councilor who has 407 Facebook friends.

The other person is Paul Pelletier, a familiar enough surname in a community with a Franco heritage.

But get this: Paul Pelletier has zero Facebook friends. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Paul Pelletier seems to be a ghost raised from the dead just a few weeks ago, according to his/her Facebook profile, which is also public. Unlike Joe Biddeford, “Paul” says he/she does not want friends. (All the makings of a sociopath)

In the “About” section of his Facebook page, “Paul” dazzles us with this brilliance: “I don’t wish to share information over Facebook. I use it for informational purposes and to engage in political conversations.”

Someone needs to tell Paul that he should not be on Facebook if he doesn’t want to share information on Facebook.

He says he uses Facebook for “informational purposes.” That’s generally what  all stalkers say.

“Gee, officer, I know I followed her through the mall and into the parking lot, but I was just gathering information about shopping trends.”

I’ve got some news for “Joe Biddeford” and “Paul Pelletier:” There are several places where you can go to engage in social media conversations about Biddeford or its politics.

On Facebook, there is Biddeford Today, a page that features news about the city and profiles of its residents. There is a nostalgia page called You Know You’re From Biddeford If . . . There is a Facebook Page for the for the city’s dog park, and even this blog has its own Facebook page.

Heck, once upon a time there were two other blogs about Biddeford Politics: Game Over: The Premier Blog of Biddeford; and “Biddeford’s Best Blog: B3. Both of those blogs (critical of Mayor  Casavant) went radio silent shortly after Casavant won his last election in 2013.

The point is: there are plenty of places to go on the internet to talk with Biddeford residents.

The power of the internet

Let’s face it, the internet is an extremely powerful tool that enables instant, global communication. And social media has been used to topple governments, win presidential elections and showcase cute kitten videos.

Sometimes, if you use it properly, social media can bring attention to things that might otherwise go ignored. Social media can be used for noble purposes (crowd funding) and for bad purposes (child pornography).

A couple of years ago, I used social media to bring AT&T to its knees after the company failed to address one of my complaints. More recently, I have tried the same tactics with American Airlines, but have yet to accomplish my goals. (I’m not done yet).

If you want to be “social” on the internet, social media outlets are a great place to start. It’s also a great place to stop because an increasing number of people are reporting being addicted to social media.

Sometimes, the best way to be social is to turn off your computer, pick up your phone and call a real friend. Go for a walk, have a cup of coffee. You don’t have to be anonymous or play silly little games.

If you really need to connect, try stepping away from the keyboard and breathe some fresh air.

[Edited: “Joe Biddeford” accepted my friend request. Yippee! Now I can finally take part in the “important dialogue about local issues.”]

Dime Store Mystery

Moments after learning that she had been ousted from the mayor’s seat, Joanne Twomey declared that the citizens of Biddeford “don’t deserve me.”

She was right.

We deserve better.

In my last newspaper column, published in December 2005, I tried to explain what motivated that column for so many years.

“Political bullies are very much like their school-yard counterparts. They’re just not as clever, and they often cloak themselves in robes of self-described nobility and purpose,” I wrote.

Many people have described Maine Governor Paul LePage as a political bully.

Regardless of your feelings about the governor, what happened this week during one of his “town hall” events was an embarrassment to an entire community.

Joanne Twomey (Portland Press Herald photo)

Joanne Twomey (Portland Press Herald photo)

I suppose it would be easy to understand Ms. Twomey’s irrational outburst — which included lobbing a jar of Vaseline at the governor — if this were a one-time event: a tipping point of rage and resentment triggered by emotion.

But that’s not what it was.

Instead it was just one more incident in a long line of emotional outbursts from Ms. Twomey, a woman who  loves creating controversy, grabbing headlines and listening to herself roar with self-righteous indignation.

Twomey has a long history of creating scenes. These outbursts serve no other purpose than to draw attention to Ms. Twomey.

If you listen to her speak, no one cares more than she does for the poor and afflicted, but don’t expect to see her volunteering at a soup kitchen or nursing home. Generally speaking, there are no TV cameras at such places.

Some people have applauded Twomey’s latest tirade. They say the governor got what was coming to him.

But what would they say about her angry outbursts that were directed at other governors, including Democrat John  Baldacci and Independent Angus King?

It’s not about politics; it’s about Joanne Twomey and her rage du jour.

In the early 1990s, Twomey was removed by police from City Hall, following another hissy fit, when once again her rage trumped manners and decorum.

As a state representative, she cried on the House floor when she did not get her way. She is a professional victim and the consummate hypocrite.

And her only real accomplishment is tarnishing the image and reputation of my hometown, which is now undergoing a transformative renaissance.

Since Twomey was ousted from office, the city of Biddeford has closed MERC, a controversial trash incinerator. Since Twomey was ousted from office, the city has attracted millions of dollars in new investment, started a curbside recycling program and has seen dozens of new small businesses open in the downtown area, and worked with the neighboring town of Saco to create the River Walk.

But Twomey’s tirade gets far more media attention. Following Thursday’s incident, social media, radio stations and television crews have repeatedly linked Biddeford to Twomey. “The city twice elected her as mayor,” they say.

They don’t bother to mention that she has lost her last three elections. Finally, the people of Biddeford see through her charade of indignation.

Over the last few years, many of our residents have poured blood, sweat and tears into revitalizing Biddeford.

Twomey’s contribution to that effort? Zip. Zero. Nada.

So once again, my community becomes a laughing-stock, a portrait of dysfunctional government, despite all the progress made over the last few years.

Twomey will tell you that she is principled and fighting the good fight on the side of the angels. But let’s look at her track record.

1.) The woman who once bemoaned the idea of a casino in Biddeford — testifying before the Biddeford City Council in 2003 by saying  — “In my Christmas village, there is no casino,” suddenly flipped when she got herself into a budget pinch, and she quickly became a cheerleader for a proposed casino. Principled? Really?

2.) The woman who built her political career on the backs of criticizing the owners of the MERC facility was giving them hugs in front of news cameras just two weeks before the 2009 mayoral election.

Just a few weeks later, after winning re-election as mayor, Twomey once again reversed her position. Principled? Really?

3.) During Biddeford’s Democratic caucus in 2012, Twomey said the city needed a “real Democrat” in Augusta, failing to mention that she encouraged Democrat State Rep. Paulette Beaudoin to run for her former legislative seat.

For such a principled person who professes to believe in the people, Twomey does not hesitate to play political hardball, but her victim routine is wearing thin.

Last year, Twomey huffed and puffed before the Biddeford City Council, accusing the city’s police department of discarding perfectly good bicycles that could be given to disadvantaged children.

It was later discovered that those bicycles were deemed beyond repair by the non-profit Community Bicycle Center.

Did Twomey apologize. Nope. Apologizing is not in her DNA.

In summary, Joanne Twomey has become everything she once despised: a petty, vindictive politician who keeps an enemies list.

But she was right about one thing: Biddeford does not deserve her.

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PS: Here’s what syndicated columnist and radio talk show host Howie Carr had to say about Thursday’s incident: (At 12:50, he gives a hat-tip to this blog)

Does anyone really care

 

For those of you who are excited that the Lincoln Mill Clock Tower has been “saved,” it’s a bit early to put on your party hats and break out the champagne.

Sure, the clock tower was moved from the ground where it sat rotting for seven years, but it’s hardly saved.

It will likely take hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the dilapidated structure, replace the missing bell and weathervane.

But now, I fear, the clock tower has been moved out of sight — out of mind.

It has been moved to another place behind the building so that its rotting carcass will no longer be a public nuisance, an eyesore.

The story of how the clock tower landed on the ground is a complicated one, and detailed here.

Along with a few dozen other curious spectators, I was there on Thursday night, watching the giant crane hoist what remains of the clock tower onto a flat-bed truck.

I spoke briefly with the building’s new owners and asked if the tower would ever be placed back on its perch.

The response? “No way.”

And who could blame them? They inherited a mess created by the building’s previous owners.

Everyone in Biddeford, it seems, has an opinion about the clock tower, ranging from “it should be scrapped” to “it should go back on top of the building.”

But only a handful of people have stepped up to help save this iconic symbol of the city’s storied past.

My hat goes off to a group of passionate Biddeford High School students who last year tried to raise interest in saving the structure and organized yet another fundraising drive.

Like the fundraising drive that I helped coordinate in 1999, neither effort met its goals. Though the students have not stopped yet.

Will the residents of Biddeford step up to truly “save” the clock tower?

From my perspective, it’s a long shot but one worth taking.

As I said before, we save what we care about. Now I wonder, does anyone really care?

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PREVIOUSLY:

A new fundraising effort

A look at the clock works from the late 1990s

 

 

Back to the future

image022There is no denying  a new energy in the city of Biddeford.

This looming sense of optimism and a sense of renewed vibrancy in the city’s downtown core is visible to visitors and residents alike.

Sadly, however, despite the abundance of new energy pouring into the city,  an iconic fixture of Biddeford’s past glory sits on the ground, rotting into oblivion.

It is a timepiece that no longer keeps time. Instead, what remains of the Lincoln Mill Clock Tower is running out of time.

How the clock tower ended up on the ground is a complicated story that I detailed previously.

But the good news?

Thanks to a dedicated group of Biddeford High School students, there is a renewed interest in preserving and restoring this iconic piece of Biddeford’s history.

Check out their video:

To make this happen it will only cost $5.

That’s right: just five bucks, so long as every resident of the city would kick in $5 (the cost of an extra-large coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts)

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

Just imagine; for only $5 you can play a role in history. If you choose to ignore this opportunity, just remember that once it is gone, it is gone forever.

Dou you throw away or discard old family photos? Of course not, because we save what we value.

If this latest fundraising effort falls short, what remains of the clock tower will be demolished.

Imagine burning a family scrapbook.

We save what we value.  Play a part in history. Show the world what Biddeford Pride means.

Please visit this link to make your $5 donation (or more) today. Because time is running out.

Side note:

For decades, Paul MacDonald of Saco made a weekly climb every Sunday into the belfry of the Lincoln Mill Clock Tower to set and maintain its clock work gears.

Paul’s son, Fred, recently shared some photos of the now missing clock works with me, and I’m sharing those photos with you here.

 

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!