The Battle of the Boothbay Common Simmers While the State Implements its Newly Claimed Power Over Municipal Ordinances
Will options emerge to save our future?
Yesterday was a hot day in August. It had been a long time since we have seen rain. As I drove by the Boothbay Common, fountains sprayed water on a bright green lawn that stood out against the surrounding brown landscape. At once It was beautiful and disturbing as a spectacle of abundance amidst scarcity. So perfectly symbolic of elite entitlement that I wondered am I dreaming? I thought about the new irrigation costing 22000.00 paling in comparison to the income generated on a yearly basis by the historical uses of the Common, that now face increasing restrictions so as not to damage the irrigation system, say the selectmen and the Town Manager.
The irrigation system is part of developer Paul Coulombe’s reimaging of the Boothbay Peninsula as a well-manicured community, but the controlled imagery cannot manage the message of cultural dissonance conveyed to a world larger than his own kind. The water falling on the super green lawn of the Town Common sparkles in a discordant tone against the severe drought conditions on the Southern Coast of Maine with coastal towns like Boothbay rated as “exceptional drought conditions”. The social disconnect brands Paul Coulombe's development philosophy or lack thereof, as cluelessly insular.
Daily I make the turn from the main thruway winding around the Common to Back River Road. As I wait for the traffic to pass, my view is blocked by the tall grasses and bushes of the road decor representing the priority given by Town leadership to appearances over safety. The turn I am making used to be part of a four-way stop which local leadership claimed was so dangerous that Corey Lane needed to be moved to meet the main thruway across from a one-way road that is now a two-way road around the Common serving as an exit and entrance to the Country Club owned by Mr. Coulombe and justifying a roundabout that creates traffic congestion where once there was none. I can only imagine that the purpose of this change is to make Boothbay appear more successful by concentrating all the traffic at one focal point, but it never ceases to be irritating to jump through hoops of absurdly bad road design to satisfy the whims of local leaders who prioritize appearances over everything.
Supporters point to the roundabout, a beautifully landscaped circle that abuts the town common and was possible largely because Coulombe covered a third of its $3.5 million cost, as a clear example of his track record. Portland Press Herald: Mogul’s empire ignites fight over Boothbay Harbor’s coastal identity
Yes indeed, the roundabout is a clear example of Coulombe's track record of prioritizing appearances over function, which he obviously doesn’t understand at all. We should use the roundabout as an example of Coulombe’s track record but it is flabbergasting how many people fail to understand that the function of our roadways is not consistent with branding decor. Since so many do seem to think so, should we have a discussion about how our community is being branded, why, and by whom? In August we are being branded as the community that waters our Common to a bright shade of green during extreme drought conditions and uses that shade of green to drive away the use of the Common by small entrepreneurs. For those trying to establish Boothbay as an elitist community habituating at the top of the wealth divide, it is unsightly to have to view the lifestyles of the independent working classes while passing by the Common grounds. Consequently, they complain about a small entrepreneur making a profit- or so they claim by ignoring the expenses the entrepreneur invests and counting only the two-dollar fee. The irony is inescapable as our community Common is being incrementally re-imaged to blend seamlessly into the Country Club high above on a manufactured hillside, a country club that charges some of the highest fees in Maine.
And the golf course is indeed improved, but it now has a gate at the entrance and amenities that only the wealthy can afford. Memberships start at $3,450 annually, plus an initiation fee of $7,500. The daily rate is $125, which is among the highest in Maine. source Portland Press Herald: Mogul’s empire ignites fight over Boothbay Harbor’s coastal identity AfterNote: this article was written in 2018. It has been reported that the initiation fee recently increased from 25000.00 to 30000.00
Per the Department of Transportation Guidelines, Paul Coulombe was in charge of the design of the four-million-dollar road renovation said to be needed to fix the allegedly dangerous four-way stop. The new turning lanes make the transition safer but the intrusive road decor needs to be replaced with low-lying easy to maintain ground cover so that drivers have an unobstructed view of the oncoming traffic that races rapidly by at this time of year. First, the designers failed to put a traffic light where one was needed at the corner of Twenty-Seven and Country Club Road, which would create a pause in the traffic, and then they put road landscaping with very tall grass obscuring the view of the oncoming traffic.
The current rulership of the Boothbay Peninsula consists of the Town Selectmen of the various towns, Paul Coulombe and a circle of dark money, and the currently dormant Joint Economic Development Council, a public-private spending organization. At times they work at cross-currents, ignoring the plans of the others but they all stand together on one thing. The goal of economic development is to increase property values. The events of recent times have been good to them, except for one unanticipated issue. It is becoming harder and harder to find essential employees because employees can’t find affordable places to live, bringing back home that the true source of wealth is the productive working class.
In addition to the local power mix, the Legislature recently passed a new act granting itself central management over municipal ordinances. The State is formulating a collaboration of private sector groups which will be awarded grants to participate in a Ten Year Plan guided by the State. In practice, the State is a special interest corporation with the added value of the authority to write the rules that govern the field. Since I have studied our State legislative history since 1976 when the Legislature took over central management of the economy, I saw early on that the Maine Legislature identified the goal of economic development as attracting wealthier people to the state, as was clearly written in the statutes even though it made it blatantly obvious that the Legislature did not see its role as serving those who elected them but rather as replacing the electorate with wealthier people. Now, with extra support from the Airbnb industry, that goal has been attained and the State is reaching the same realization as Boothbay, that the wealthy citizens need servants and affordable servant quarters must be provided. The solution is to take total control of municipal ordinances. The municipalities have the residential homes needed by the Airbnb industry for expansion, a primary Maine industry. The State centrally manages the Maine economy so it needs to centrally manage municipal ordinances.
The invitation to municipalities softens and diverts attention away from the fact that the State just assigned itself central control over municipal ordinances and mandated “Priority Zones” for every municipality where housing for local residents will be located and housing density can be at 2.5 that of the surrounding area. The local residency zones should be called “Concentration Zones”. The real priority zone is for the Airbnb industry to expand into former residential homes in the old-style New England Villages once admired by Lewis Mumford for humanistic town planning during the Industrial Revolution, another era when living spaces became smaller and smaller. Today New England, like most of the rest of the world, is succumbing to the Airbnb Revolution that squeezes local populations into smaller and smaller spaces.
Here’s Lewis Munford talking about New England in a former time:
..the New England town during this period ceased to grow beyond the possibility of socializing and assimilating its members : when near crowding, a new congregation would move off under a special pastor, erect a new meeting house, form a new village, lay out fresh fields. Hiving off to new centers discouraged congestion in the old ones ; and the further act of dividing the land among the members of the community in terms of family need, as well as wealth and rank, gave a rough equality to the members, or at least guaranteed them a basic minimum of existence….A democratic polity-and the most healthy and comely of urban environments : a typical contrast to the despotic order of the dominant baroque city. To describe it is almost to define everything that the absolute order was not. Lewis Mumford, The Culture of the Cities pg 141
Coulombe expresses no philosophical or social perspective beyond the power of wealth. To solve the paucity of young people on the Peninsula, build a seventy-seven million-dollar school, formerly the fifty-million-dollar school, a cost that suddenly escalated by over 50% without explanation in the serial stories glued to the spotlight section of a one-newspaper town. Coulombe says the school will attract “well-heeled families”, his solution for the lop-sided age demographics of a peninsula so distinctive, that it could be called the Boomer Penisula.
In the middle of a drought, the Boothbay Town Common is an enhanced shade of green, in a field of brown. The message is clear, a common that exists to be seen and not for use, preserving the cultural values of the wealth divide in a time capsule buried in the rolling hills of the golf course.
In content coming from the younger generations, Paul Coulombe epitomizes the boomer generation whom they blame for the unaffordability of homes for the working classes, but in fact, Coulombe is an elitist and so cannot really represent an entire generation. He represents the top of the wealth divide. What goes on at Paul Coulombes Country Club stays at Paul Coulombe’s Country Club, sitting atop the artificially constructed hillside adjacent to the Town Common. However, we can take a guess based on some of the public attacks launched on our long-standing cultural values, often engineered by newcomers, some make no secret about being attracted to the Peninsula for its manicured scenery.
After the leadership class, there is everyone else. The current leadership isn’t listening to the outside world and appears unaware that the old order is in a state of collapse due to all sorts of causes, from environmental, channels of distribution, geopolitical realignment, rapid technological change, and people being fed up with being chained to the yoke of corporatism. The people are throwing the hierarchical system down, not because there is an identifiable viable alternative but because hope speaks louder from the outside than the inside.
A new order of complexity ascends in the swirling currents that are deconstructing and reconstructing the order. The forces of change are larger than anyone but everyone is affected by the currents. It is a time when new leadership can emerge, but will it?
Constitutionally, Maine is a Home Rule State even though the State just took a huge amount of power away from the municipalities, forbidding them to write any ordinances prohibiting overcrowding or affecting the character of an area, the municipalities and other organizations still have a say. It will take effort and ingenuity to use the remaining local power to retain the historical humanistic character of New England. The “Priority Zones” are sitting ducks for corporate developers who become corporate landlords and sell single-family housing in packages that can be traded on the stock exchange.
It is important for people to speak up in defense of their own interests because the local leadership class represents its own pockets of interest. The spoken voice leads, sometimes for the worse. These days in Boothbay it seems there is an unusually high occurrence of citizens attacking other citizens. I do not know if this is more apparent because of the internet but It seems like a very different community than it once was.
I started speaking my voice because it is what I could do. I started writing and realized there is a story that wants to be told. One day I received a request from an organization that I had never heard of before, Humanities and Social Sciences Communications. They asked if I would do a peer review. I said yes and that meant I got a Researchers ID from Orcid, which I have since realized is a good thing to put in a resume. I had not published with any academic organizations and so the only way that HSSC could have found me is through my own independent publishing. Fortunately, we live in a time when it is possible to metaphorically send a message in a bottle that travels far and wide.
Recently, I was contacted by another organization I had never heard of before, The Field. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that The Field is a Model A fiscal sponsor which I had given up on finding. Once again, I had no knowledge of The Field until they found me. I have tried googling them but they are not found by googling their name. After I was fiscally sponsored by The Field I started receiving grant notifications from other organizations that I was not previously aware of. Two days ago I submitted my application to the John Templeton Foundation. The John Templeton Foundation allows me to apply for my core purpose related to my family ceramic art and design business, which Fractured Atlas, the only other Model A fiscal sponsor that I had come across would not allow claiming it was because I used the word “production”. The grant is not a grant for a specified amount. It asks the applicant how much they are asking. I asked for an amount that would provide a solid foundation for my project. It’s a long-range application. One does not know the final outcome until next July and then there is a six-week gap before the project begins. The grant opportunity appeared in my Facebook stream and I chose it because it showed up when it did. Only later did I realize the logic of applying for such a major funding source first. A major funding opportunity takes a long time so it makes sense to apply for it before moving on to other smaller funding opportunities, That’s the plan- to keep on applying as part of my routine, which means less time to focus on this newsletter but this newsletter keeps me going. It’s what got me here. I just wrote and ignored all the rules given to content providers (see my long paragraphs!). I followed a beat of a different drummer. It seems to be leading me where I am going! So speak your voice.
Anyone is welcome to submit n article to this newsletter for the Society of Correspondence Section, Subscribers have been added at an increasing rate lately.
In closing, I leave you with a quote from an article that Mark Stover sent me. It is a good example of why people need more than minimal personal space to live creative and productive and fulfilling lives. It is also an interesting journal and organization that accepts articles.
Two primary sources for learning to read music are school programs and at home piano lessons. Public school music programs have been in decline since the 1980’s, often with school administrations blaming budget cuts or needing to spend money on competing for extracurricular programs. Prior to the 1980s, it was common for homes to have a piano with children taking piano lessons. Even home architecture incorporated what was referred to as a “piano window” in the living room which was positioned above an upright piano to help illuminate the music
….What can be done? First, musical literacy should be taught in our nation’s school systems. In addition, parents should encourage their children to play an instrument because it has been proven to help in brain synapse connections, learning discipline, work ethic, and working within a team. While contact sports like football are proven brain damagers, music participation is a brain enhancer. source Intellectual Take Out
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