Things that just occurred to me, in no particular order

Archive for the ‘Maine’ Category

The leprechaun theory

I have a pet theory that I’ve shared with everyone that’s willing to listen. To me, it explains a lot about Mainer’s attitudes about business, taxes and life in general. Maybe the attitude is similar elsewhere, but I can’t be sure of that.

See, it’s a tough economy. Unemployment in Maine is not as bad right now as it is in other parts of the nation, but times are difficult. Groceries, gas, heating oil: they’re all getting more expensive. Raises are less frequent. People want the economy to perk up, especially here at home. They want people to bring money to Maine that’s going to be spread around, raising the standard of living.

At the same time, folks don’t want to be bothered with the stuff that comes with economic development. They don’t want increased traffic on the streets, new bodies at the local schools and lines at the grocery store. They’re pretty wary of newcomers and their annoying ideas about how things should done and frankly want to be left alone.

It manifests like this: Someone comes to town, saying they’re going to bring their business with them. It’s going to mean X many millions of dollars of investment and Y more jobs to the community that pay a living wage. They’re going to pay taxes and they want to be part of the community.

Most folks, I figure, yawn at the news. Sure, they say, that’s a fine idea. More power to them.

But a good-sized minority get all up in arms: it’s going to generate traffic, it’s going to bring the wrong sort of person to town, it’s going to have impacts we can’t imagine and it basically going to change our cozy little community.

I’ve seen several plans march  through Maine communities, and half of them get chased away by these folks. They wind up locating their plant, or store or whatever some place else.

It’s a cousin to the “Not In My Backyard” syndrome and it’s confusing for the community, and especially the economic development folks. Mainers are picky folks: they want economic development, but not that economic development.

It’s a rather tough code to break, but I think I’ve figured it out. We want a leprechaun to wander in to the town, drop his little pot of gold and leave. We’ll divvy it up as we see fit and he can move his little green ass right out of town.

Unfortunately, there has been dearth of leprechauns sighted in these parts lately and even fewer pots of gold.


Just people, just shoes

The woman was wild-eyed, yelling to anyone that would listen.

“Three hours!” she yelled. “Those Somalians have been in there for three hours! Those are our shoes they’re taking!”

The woman was one of the hundreds in Kennedy Park Friday morning waiting in line for free used shoes, donated by a charitable local business. I covered the event Friday and wrote about it for Saturday’s paper and I’m kind of amazed at the reaction it got and to the reaction to  another package we ran this weekend.

Amazed, but not surprised, mind you.

I thought I should maybe elaborate a little, explain just what I saw.

In front of me, there was a line, hundreds of people — mostly white but black, too—  stretching from the center of the park to its southern edge.

At the center, there was a  big cube truck surrounded by cardboard boxes. A group of people, mostly African American, sorted through the boxes, looking for shoes that fit.

Most of the people in line looked anxious, happy to have a chance to get some decent shoes but worried the shoes would be gone before the reached the front. Most were in good spirits — it was a nice day in the park, after all.

But a few were pissed, like the wild-eyed lady. They complained that the Somalis were taking all the good shoes, that they had no respect, that they were being allowed to sort through the piles for three hours.

Never mind that organizers limited shoe giveaways to four pairs per person or that the giveaway had been going for less than an hour. They insisted that those Somalis were hogging all the shoes.

But there was more. Farther to the north, a group had gathered around the Salvation Army canteen truck to get free coffee and sandwiches. While they talked, sipping their coffee, I noticed each one had a shoe box tucked under the arm.

There wasn’t a Somali among them, and yet somehow they’d all managed to get their free shoes before anyone else.

Reaction to the story was typical. We received a lot of comments from folks complaining that we somehow hid the real truth, that un-American hordes had descended on the shoe giveaway, making sure that decent, hardworking folks were shut out. Why didn’t I report that?

That’s not what I saw.

I saw people standing in line to get free shoes, just people, and far too many of them. I saw a great thing, local people and businesses working hard to make sure those less fortunate have decent footwear. What matters is that they were less fortunate, and that they needed those shoes.

And in the end, they were all just people.

Enjoying Autumn’s leaves

The weather might not be the finest, but the leaves are nice. My guess is, this week or next, Maine’s forests will be in  their Autumn glory.

%d bloggers like this: