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.

If you believe in forever

US_CapitolAnd so it was — amidst all this talk of a government shut down, an “unfair” system of health care delivery and a skyrocketing national debt — that my youngest son was assigned to read Animal Farm.

As so many of us learned in high school, George Orwell wrote Animal Farm as an allegorical reference to the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Matthew finished reading the final chapter last night, and now it appears that our government is about to end yet another temporary shutdown.

Which political party will be blamed for this fiasco remains to be seen. We’ll likely have to wait a little more than a year for that answer.

Allow me to pause here for a moment to ask you a question. Are you surprised that our elected leaders have behaved so foolishly over the past several days? Really?

Maybe we shouldn’t be blaming Congress. Maybe we should be blaming ourselves.

Consider this. Americans elected a man (Republican) who believes that wind turbines “slow down” the wind. We also elected another man (Democrat) who believes that the island of Guam could actually “tip over.”

We have elected members of Congress who enjoy taking pictures of their own genitals and then sending those pictures to porn stars. We have elected members of Congress who believe the internet is little more than “a series of tubes.”

Take these people, put them together in a room with broad Constitutional powers and tell me that is not a recipe for disaster.

But a penchant for stupidity does not end at the DC Beltway. It extends into every nook and cranny of our great nation.

Despite all the rapid advances in technology, we humans have changed very little over the last 2,000 years.

The popularity of Wikipedia should have been a wake-up call. But still, so many of us keep doing the same things and yet expect different results.

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. We have access to so much information, yet we operate politically as if children still learn on chalkboards

We all want a chicken in every pot and repeatedly fail to understand the consequences of actually believing political candidates who make such promises.

All politics is local

In my hometown we will soon be asked to choose a mayor and new city councilors.

The lawn signs have begun popping up all over town. The candidates are working their campaigns and making their promises.

This is where it starts. This is where the numbing process begins.

One of our mayoral candidates is promising “lower taxes” and “more jobs.” Although he is short on specifics, I’m almost certain that he also likes puppies, French fries and cold beer. Why wouldn’t you vote for that guy? Sounds good, right?

Most of us are too busy to peel back the layers of such a perfunctory campaign. We have jobs, families and the Red Sox are playing.

Some local folks are upset about property taxes. They are planning to take out their frustration on an incumbent candidate who is seeking re-election.

Sounds smart, right? Toss the bum out. Vote for one of his opponents.

There’s just a few things you should consider. The incumbent has only been the mayor for two years, and the city council decides the budget.

Why is this important? Four years ago, under the leadership of a different mayor, the city’s voters overwhelmingly voted to approve a $35 million bond in order to finally complete a long overdue renovation at the high school. I supported that bond question but sometimes it feels like I am one of the few people who read the fine print on the ballot.

Yeah, taxes went up because we borrowed $35 million to finally fix a project we ignored for decades. Duh!

When I purchased my truck, I drove it off the lot with no money down. A few weeks later, the bank had the nerve to start asking for payments. How arrogant of them! I am going to get a new bank!

Voters are not blaming the former mayor for the tax increase. In fact, the former mayor is today hoping to get her old job back, a prospect made much easier by blaming the current mayor for a situation that happened on her watch.

Our city has several infrastructure problems that need to be addressed. For decades we have ignored and stalled many of these projects to keep taxes low.

The front stairs of our high school were literally crumbling and the gymnasium roof was leaking before we were willing to invest a dime. Stalling those repairs did not make them less expensive. In fact, we stalled right past the deadline to qualify for some state funding for those repairs.

But hey, let’s blame the guy who has been in the mayor’s office for 22 months. It’s all his fault, right?

For 30 years, our city bitched and moaned about a controversial trash-to-energy incinerator that was located in the center of our downtown area. The stench of burning trash became a humiliating calling card for our community. Merchants and businesses complained. Economic development was thwarted and diminished.

The city spent decades in court, racking up huge legal fees in fighting against the facility’s former owner. Every mayor in the last 20 years pledged to get rid of the facility. It was politically popular rhetoric.

Then, after 30 years of complaining and wringing our hands, our current mayor (the new guy) led a team that was able to negotiate the closure of the facility. The problem is now gone. No more wasted time, energy and resources will be spent on that particular problem.

Results matter. Talk is cheap and empty promises are politically convenient.

We have a responsibility to pay attention. Otherwise, the wind may begin to slow and islands could start tipping over.

Puttin’ on the Ritz

I don’t always agree with Oralndo Delogu, but when I do – – – I shout it from the rooftop.

Delogu is an emeritus professor of law at the University of Maine School of Law and a well-known policy wonk. He is also a frequent contributor to the Forecaster group of weekly newspapers in southern Maine.

With the increasingly controversial Affordable Health Care law looming on the near horizon, Delogu’s most recent column moneyraises a point that has been buried beneath the mounds of political rhetoric and stunning complexity of the new law.

In a nutshell, how do we make health care more “affordable” without addressing the skyrocketing cost of healthcare — even in the non-profit sector?

The first half of Delogu’s column focuses upon the fading memories of the Occupy Wall Street movement and all of its garbled rage toward corporate profits. But the second half focuses like a laser on the growing income disparity found in one of Maine’s largest non-profit health care providers. Delogu shares data he uncovered by Mainebiz about Maine Medical Center.

The state’s largest hospital, which is also Maine’s fourth largest employer, recently announced that it would be cutting more than 200 jobs. The hospital blames the usual suspects: uncompensated care, lower insurance payouts, etc.

But Delogu sniffs something else in the air.

According to Mainebiz, Maine Medical Center is the second largest nonprofit corporate entity in the state, with more than $1 billion in assets.

But here’s where it gets interesting:  Of the 27 highest paid health-care professionals in the state, 25 were associated with a “non-profit” hospital and seven of them are or were employed by Maine Med.

Delogu writes: “Based on 2010 salary data, the average annual salary of these seven physicians or executives was just under $1 million . . . one might ask how many hundreds of employees (at these 13 Maine non-profit hospitals) have annual salaries between $636,000 and say, $300,000?

Although there is plenty of evidence to suggest some outrageous behavior in the private-sector world of corporate America, it’s refreshing to see some analysis that is willing to examine other pieces of the puzzle.

Bravo, professor! Bravo!

Stick a fork in the GOP, they’re done

Maine’s next senator? John Baldacci…Bangor Daily News photo

Senator Olympia Snowe’s abrupt decision this week to abandon the national spotlight has caused widespread power outages, severe coastal flooding and scores of deadly tornadoes throughout the Midwest.

The unexpected announcement has also sparked dramatic spikes of violence, robberies and drug use in newsrooms from Caribou to Kittery, according to high-ranking law enforcement officials who say dozens of overworked reporters and copy-editors have “apparently snapped.”

During the chaos, more than 45 of Maine’s most prominent Democrats have been reported missing by their Facebook friends who do not understand how to use Twitter.

Office supply stores in Bangor, South Portland and Lewiston are reporting several cases of looting by “wild-eyed thugs” who bear a strange resemblance to former governors, state lawmakers and other notorious felons — all scrambling for a diminishing supply of clipboards.

“It was absolute pandemonium,” said Andrea Versay, an assistant manager at Staples in South Portland. “I saw grown men weep when we told them we were out of clipboards. I said we are expecting another shipment on March 16, but that just seemed to make them more upset.”

Senate hopeful? Rep. Chellie Pingree

Ok, so I may be exaggerating just a bit, but so are hundreds of delusional Maine Democrats who seem to think Snowe’s announcement signals the final death-knell of the Republican Party in Maine.

That over confidence can be found on Facebook posts and in the “reader comment” section of online newspapers across Maine.

You would think that someone dropped a house on the wicked witch of Falmouth. The munchkins are beside themselves with joy and dancing in the streets.

The Maine Republican Party is finished, they say.

In fact, one exuberant Democrat wrote: “The Republicans have been out of power in Maine for so long they do not have a strong, experienced bench.”

As communications director for the city of Real-ville, I would like to offer this news update for my friends and others who just awoke from a long coma:

The governor of Maine? He’s a Republican who got a larger percentage of the vote than John Baldacci did in 2006.

Governor Paul LePage

Maine’s current U.S. Senators? Republicans…well, sort of…but still Republicans who both voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

President of the Maine Senate? Republican

Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives? Republican

Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer? Republican, Republican and Republican.

Success rate of the last Democrat who ran for the Blaine House? 19 percent.

Results from Chellie Pingree’s last campaign in the First Congressional District against Republican Dean Scontras in 2010? 57%

Results from Chellie Pingree’s previous attempt to be a U.S. Senator against Republican Susan Collins in 2002? 41.56%

Total votes for the last Democrat who challenged Olympia Snowe (2006)? 26%

Bottom line? The Munchkins ought to exercise a bit of caution before an explosive fireball catches them off guard and sends them scrambling for cover.

George “Pete” Lamontagne is an uncomplicated man who has seen his fair share of complicated situations.

Political observers say the former city councilor’s laid-back personality and his friendly demeanor often calmed severe storms during especially contentious Biddeford City Council meetings.

He is a self-described man of the street, and he  is widely perceived as a champion of those without friends or power. He is soft-spoken, but commands attention and respect when he speaks. He is a lover of history, politics and art.

He is a simple, courageous man with an extraordinary reputation, and he loves his hometown of Biddeford.

We caught up with Pete in the lobby of the North Dam Mill building, formerly the home of the Biddeford Textile Company, where both Lamongtagne and his  father worked. As always, he was gracious, understated and relaxed.

With the exception of a two-year hiatus, Lamontagne served as a member of the Biddeford City Council for more than a decade, first elected as a Ward 5 Councilor in 1997. He returned to the council in 2001 and remained there, serving as both an at-large representative and council preident, until stepping down last year.

You and several other members of the last city council were roundly criticized  because of the infamous executive session meeting  held with the owners of Scarborough Downs before the city announced its intention to put out a racino referendum. Do you regret that decision?

“In hindisght, sure. We found out after the meeting that it wasn’t right. (Sighs) It doesn’t matter much now, it’s water under the bridge. I can’t speak for anyone else, we just wanted to do something for our community to help bring back jobs…it didn’t work out, and now the city will have to look at other things, but I don’t think we’ll ever see anything that big, anything that could have brought so many jobs here.”

You were a big supporter of the proposed Biddeford Downs project.

“Oh absolutely. I’ve spent a lot of time in both Bangor (Hollywood Slots) and Foxwoods, which are both about 180 miles either way of here. When West Point closed its doors, it was a like a stake in the heart of hope for those of us who worked there.

“I see these unemployed people every day. These are good people, hard-working people; they looked at this proposal and said, you know…maybe I can get a job there. It was something to hope for, and I was relentless. Today, those people are still unemployed.”

You were the president of the UNITE union and you worked in that mill for more than three decades. The closure hit you hard.

Pete Lamontagne examines a historical photo of mill workers who toiked in the same buildings where he and his father worked for the better part of more than five decades.

“Oh yes…. (Pauses) You know, I never thought it [West Point] was going to close. I never planned to retire. It was tough. It was devastating for a lot of families, my friends… A lot of us started taking retraining classes at the Community Center, but jobs are tough to find right now.”

You know a lot about hard times.

(Laughs) “I sure do, but I also know something about good times, and strangely enough, they often overlap.

“I grew up on Water Street, and back then it was a very poor neighborhood, mostly bars. But it was a also a close-knit neighborhood. It was where Raymond Gaudette and [former mayor] Gilbert Boucher grew up. I had lots of friends.

“Two of my aunts and one of my uncles lived with us; back then it was how families did things. Every store had a back room with warm beer, because that’s what people liked. Warm Schmidts …it was their beer of choice (Laughs).”

You were named after your dad.

(Laughs) “Well, sort of, . . . his name was Pete. He was a big guy. He worked at the mill as a mason in the late ’50s and early ’60s. People called me Little Pete or Pete junior. Actually, my middle name is Alphonse, but don’t print that.” (Laughs)

Did you get the political bug from your father?

“Well, you know, he ran for the council as a Republican, and he got trounced. I mean, he was a French Republican.”

Did he live long enough to see his son get elected?

“Yes, he passed away just after I won my first election. I think he was very proud.”

You served under three mayors: Dion, Nutting and Twomey. Is Biddeford’s political landscape as tough as its reputation?

“Oh yes, Biddeford politics can be very tough. You have to have a thick skin. I got to serve with [Jim] Grattelo and [Marc] Lessard. Those were my best days. (Smiles)

“There were times when I had to break up physical fights; and there were many times when Mayor Twomey and I found ourselves in very heated disagreements, and we didn’t always see eye-to-eye.”

So how did you broker the peace?

“I don’t look at the oyster shell, I’m always looking for the pearl inside the shell.”

You and Joanne Twomey go way back.

“She was a pretty, little blonde girl. When I was a young boy, my family spent a lot of time out at Hills Beach. She used to visit, and we would sit on the beach together and talk. I guess you could say she was my first girlfriend.” (Smiles).

You also befriended Rory Holland, a former mayoral candidate who is now in jail for murdering two young men.

“A lot of people didn’t like him. He was not well, but I think he understood where I was coming from. I would let him visit my house, but I was always firm with him, and told him I would not hesitate to throw him out. I think he respected me, but I also think he needed a friend.

“I woke up to the news about the shootings, and I was in shock. It took me more than three days to get my head around it, what a terrible tragedy. It still hurts to think about it.”

Your service in the Army didn’t get much respect from former mayor Wallace Nutting.

“His four stars had a big impact on me. I wasn’t intimidated by them, but I had a high degree of respect for his military service and accomplishments.

“I was a mail clerk in the Army, a desk jockey, serving with the Adjuntant General’s staff. But still, here was this 19-year-old Biddeford boy in France.

“Mayor Nutting had a different way of doing things. He would always ask for your input or opinions, but you always knew what the answer was supposed to be.” (Laughs)

Who did you vote for during the last election, Casavant or Twomey?

“No answer.” (Laughs)

You wanted to serve as a citizen member on the council’s Policy Committee, but you were never appointed. What happened?

I don’t know. Alan and I met shortly after the election, and I told him I wanted to be on the policy committee. We were in his office at City Hall, and I saw him write it down. Then, the council agenda didn’t include my name as an appointment.

“At first, I was mad….Bastard!, I thought, until I saw the two names of people who got appointed to that committee, Laura (Seaver) and Renee (O’Neil). Those were perfect choices, so I decided not to say anything. It could not have worked out better. I think those two will do a wonderful job. I was very pleased with the mayor’s picks.”

Burnin’ down the house

If you don’t know anything else about Biddeford politics, you ought to know about the Dutremble family, one of the city’s most prolific, political families.

For more than 50 years, the Dutremble family has been — in one way or another —  deeply entrenched in local political circles.

Biddeford Firefighter David Dutremble will make a bid for the state senate seat that was previously held by his cousin, Dennis “Duke” Dutremble

Lucien “Babe” Dutremble, one of 13 children, never lost an election during a political career that included several terms on the city council, six terms in the Maine House of Representatives, the mayor’s office and serving as a York County Commissioner. Babe’s brother, Richard, was a York County Sheriff. Babe’s son, Richard, today serves as a York County commissioner.

Just as Babe’s political career was winding down, his second eldest son was making a name for himself. Dennis “Duke” Dutremble served several terms in the Maine Senate before being tapped as the senate president. But he retreated from the public spotlight after losing his bid to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Flash forward nearly two decades, and yet another Dutremble is making a foray into the city’s political establishment, banking on his family’s legacy and his “outsider” perspective.

David Dutremble is a lieutenant in the Biddeford Fire Department, the youngest of Babe Dutremble’s nephews, and is now a candidate for the District 4 State Senate seat.

Despite his legacy name and strong local connections, David is facing some challenges on the road to Augusta.

1.) A crowded primary field could split the city’s Democratic base and allow someone like businessman James Booth of Arundel to take the seat as a unenrolled candidate. Booth, a native of the neighboring city of Saco, is the son of former Saco Mayor Haley Booth and served on the Saco City Council.

2.) Expect his primary opponents (which could include former State Rep. Stephen Beaudette and former city councilor James Emerson) to question whether Dutremble can effectively balance his city job as a firefighter while serving in the State Senate.

A chart that outlines the Dutremble family’s political influence

Furthermore, we were stunned that David has yet to seek the counsel of his cousins, Duke Dutremble and County Commissioner Richard Dutremble.

CAN’T WE JUST GET ALONG?

David Dutremble graduated from Biddeford High School in 1985. Since 1988, he has been a Biddeford firefighter. He and his wife, Charlene, have five children.

Why jump into the fray for a state senate seat without any prior political experience?

“Honestly, I would have gone into local politics a long time ago, but the city’s charter prevents city employees from holding municipal offices.  Initially, I was thinking about running for the House until I talked to Alan [Casavant] and found out he is hoping to keep his seat.”

You have all the political muscle you need, given your last name.

(Laughs) “It’s an intimidating last name, you know in local politics…absolutely, but it also carries a lot of expectations.”

Aren’t you busy enough. Why run for public office?

“I think we need more people in Augusta who can reach across the political divides. I think government has a responsibility to do good things for the people. Government should be creating an atmosphere that promotes economic development.”

You sound a little like a Republican.

(Laughs) “I’m a life-long Democrat, but I think both parties want to see Maine succeed. It’s time to stop all the political bickering and blame. It’s time to think about the people we serve. I don’t care who gets credit, as long as we do good things for the people.

“When my kids grow up, I want them to have the same opportunities I had. My step son had to move out west to find a good job. I think that’s really sad. It bothers me to see local kids miss out on the same opportunities we had growing up here.”

How can you be a firefighter and a state senator at the same time?

“I’ll use vacation time, and swap time. I’ve already run it past the guys in the department. I know I have support and we can swap shifts to accommodate my schedule.”

You haven’t talked to Duke about your decision to seek his old senate seat?

(Laughs) “He’s in Florida for the winter. I sent him an e-mail on Facebook, but I haven’t heard back. Maybe he doesn’t check his Facebook.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rank Governor LePage’s performance?

(Pauses) “I’d probably give him a four. I just think his priorities are out of whack…like going after the labor mural.”

Same scale for President Obama?

“I’d say a 7. No matter who won in 2008, it was a no-win situation for our economy, whether we elected a Republican or Democrat. I don’t think we would be any better off if John McCain had won. I think President Obama has done a decent job.”

Do you really think you can change the political dynamic of partisan bickering?

“Yes, but you have to start small. People used to say that women would never be able to vote. We used to say that a black man would never drive the bus. I believe things can change for the better. I think elected leaders just need to focus on working in collaboration to solve problems.

Original or extra crispy?

(Laughs) “Extra Crispy.”

Coke or Pepsi?

“Pepsi…Diet Pepsi.”

Ginger or Mary Anne?

“Mary Anne, for sure.. (Laughs)

Like a virgin

A new mayor took the city’s helm a little more than 60 days ago, but he’s not the only one getting accustomed to the slow and tedious grind of public policy making in Biddeford, where even routine matters, such as liquor license applications or a purchase of road salt, can quickly morph into a an all-out, fist-to-cuffs brawl that requires 32 legal opinions, 14 SWAT officers, two paramedics and one obligatory 35-minute monologue by City Councilor Richard Rhames.

Brad Cote's Facebook profile pic

Welcome to Biddeford, boys and girls!

Sure, Mayor Casavant should know better. After all, he spent several years as a Biddeford City Councilor during the Eisenhower Administration.

But what about the council’s political newcomers?

Of the nine city councilors, three of them are just now waking up to the grave realization that they actually got elected to the Biddeford City Council.

So while Melissa Bednarowski, Brad Cote and Michael Swanton are learning the ropes at City Hall, we thought you should know a little bit more about them and about what makes them tick.

If I were a reporter, I would have to pick up the phone or actually go meet these people to get a better understanding of what butters their bread or frosts their socks.

Luckily, I’m not a reporter. Thus, I can do what every other basement-dwelling blogger does during those long stints between dates, experiencing daylight or bathing:

I looked at their Facebook pages.

We’ll start with the council’s most inconspicuous member, who represents the good people of Ward Three.

BRAD COTE:

It’s not hard to win an election in Biddeford when your last name is Cote. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 387,000 people with the last name of Cote living in Biddeford.

Brad is an affable man who was born in 1981, five years after I was first arrested and three weeks before I flunked my driver’s exam for the second time.

He is the living, talking definition of easy-going, non-confrontational politeness. He graduated from Biddeford High School in 1999, and today works as an “internal audit consultant,” which makes him somewhat dangerous. Imagine a city official who can add and subtract without a calculator. The mind reels.

Apparently, Brad and his lovely wife, Lori, recently had a baby. Or his profile picture could be his own; taken by one of his 205 friends who were not at all surprised that this mild-mannered auditor would actually want to sit through long-winded, unproductive meetings about the perils of re-opening Bradbury Street Extension.

Brad went to St. Mary’s College, a school well-known for producing some of the nation’s most notable internal audit consultants.

His interests are almost as boring as his occupation. He “likes” Redbox, the Saco Drive-In and It’s ah Hair Thing Salon.

I wanna party with this dude.

In all seriousness, expect Cote to be on the same side as Mayor Casavant and fellow Councilors Mike Swanton and David Flood 99.9 percent of the time. But he will also deliver hand-written apology notes to councilors he disagrees with.

Brad, your Delta Chi name is “Cub Scout.”  Let’s move along.

MICHAEL SWANTON:

Mike Swnaton's Facebook profile pic

You have to respect a man with such a serious moustache. Swanton, a plumber who originally hails from Garden City New York, looks like a contract assassin from a Quentin Tarantino

movie.

He attended Biddeford High School and rides a motorcycle in some of the city’s prettier neighborhoods.

Apparently, he’s not big into the whole “social media” thing. He has 18 Facebook friends, including yours truly, Mayor Alan Casavant and several of the other city councilors. He says on his Facebook wall that he “caved” to the pressure of his friends for not being on Facebook. Don’t expect this guy to have a backbone when a controversial liquor license application comes before the council.

But Swanton is his own man. He is quiet, studious and unassuming. The new councilor from Ward One also exceeds the council’s average height metric by a whopping two feet.

This next part is true: as of today, and according to Facebook, Swanton only has two things that “interest” him, one of which is this blog. Psst, Mike…time to get a hobby, dude.

Mike, your Delta Chi name is “Chipmunk”

MELISSA BEDNAROWSKI

Melissa Bednarowski's Facebook profile pic

Finally, it’s time to meet the only female member of the Biddeford City Council.

A former planning board member, Bednarowski was unopposed for her Ward 4 seat. It’s a good thing because the city clerk’s office could not fit any other names on the ballot under Ward Four.

Originally from Manchester, New Hampshire, Bednarowski seems to take her new position seriously, listing it as her occupation on Facebook.

Melissa is a bit of an enigma in the social media realm. She keeps her list of friends hidden from public view, but apparently fellow Councilor Roch Angers and I belong to a very elite and discreet club known as Melissa Bednarowski’s Facebook friends.

Melissa spends most of her time on Facebook posting photos of herself, her dog and some of her friends. She also likes to share thought-provoking quotes that seem to match her matter-of-fact style.

It’s hard to know how Melissa will fare over the next two years of her term. Expect her to be independent, stubborn and well-prepared for whatever debates may come down the line. She is a stickler for details and a true-believer of “government service.”

Melissa, your Delta Chi name is Wolverine.

Welcome to the club, folks!