Truth in Politics. The Boothbay Selectmen Race and Referendum Issues
Concentrated housing zones and a 100-million-dollar school in a coordinated plan
Boothbay. Maine: Referendums and selectman elections happen on May 1st. Writeups published on April 19. There are no public question and answer sessions but I comment in the Boothbay Register, hoping others would join in, but so far only one comment warning that we could be taken over by the” far left”. Here’s my take on the four candidates running for 2 selectman seats in Boothbay:
The question is Considering the position you are running for, what do you feel are the three most pressing issues?
Eric Bertelsen’s answer expands the number of issues by identifying “housing, a strong local economy, a healthy environment, the needs of seniors, and the importance of our schools to the entire community” and then turns the parameter of “most pressing issues” upside down when he says “Having attended many candidate forums and meetings on local issues, I know that I am not unique in identifying these as important issues for Boothbay. In my view, none of these issues should be viewed in isolation. Clearly, they all matter, are interrelated, and need to be addressed with an eye toward both their short- and long-term impact on the citizens of Boothbay and its economy.” This is a smart way to answer the question in a short amount of space. I give Bertelsen and A+ for recognizing that there are long term effects to how we handle the pressing issues of our day.
Charles Cunningham, an incumbent running for reelection answers the question within its parameters “I would say that the three most pressing issues are all interrelated issues: housing,our schools, and getting the most out of each dollar the town receives to keep taxes down.” He puts in a plug for expanding the TIF zone that he and the other Town selectmen worked on in partnership with the Boothbay Regional Development Cabal, which is technically the Boothbay Regional Development Corporation, but it is such a secret corporation that cabal is a more accurate signifier, so sometimes I will call it what it is. its corporate structure is largely hidden, it is a cabal.
The BRDC seeks to expand the TIF zone and $1.25 million in TIF funds for BRDC’s infrastructure project.
Selectman Dale Harmon says extending the TIF zone will require reallocating space from its original purpose:
The district is already near its maximum capacity. Selectman Dale Harmon advised, the town would have to re-allocate space to meet BRDC’s request. He also preferred using TIF funds for their original intent: Extending water and sewer to the industrial park. “I want the industrial park to become an industrial park. Without water and sewer I don’t think it will ever get there,” he said. source
The BRDC conflates a corporation that has equity investorswith a non-profit corporation. Such a bifurcated identity has to involve undisclosed Model L fiscal sponsorship since traditional non-profit corporations do not have equity investors, by definition. The non-profit- for-profit relationship is marketed to the public through the non-profit face as a solution to a public issue, in this case, affordable housing, underplaying the corporation’s identity as a vehicle for private investment causing certain confused members of the public to identify the subsidized entity as the renters, rather than equity investors.
Commenters in the Boothbay Register disparage the concentrated housing zone as “low-income housing” (60% or less of median income) and call it “socialism” as if the renters are rent subsidized, simply because rental housing is made available that is affordable to those making 80% or below median income for the area, paying no greater than 30% of their income. Despite the habitual portrayal of those who would occupy such a zone as lazy good-for-nothings, affordable “workforce” housing would not be included in the cabal’s plan were it not that the wealthy need their essential workers and the likelihood that the school, as a vehicle for workforce training, and the concentrated housing zone as workforce housing are negotiating tools in the State’s brilliant idea to transform the public educational system into an instrument of corporate welfare negotiations.
Since 2018, Erin Cooperrider, BRDC spokesperson has been intentionally phasing out the legal use of the term “low-income housing” (60% or less of the median income). By eliminating the low-income category under the law and merging it into the affordable housing category (80% or less of the median income), those with the highest income under 80% of the median will be served first. Phasing out the legal use of the low-income “category is an “income bonus” for the equity investors.
Large corporations expect to be generously subsidized. A publicly funded educational system makes it possible to employ corporate welfare to pay corporations to locate in areas that are neither designated Pine Tree Zones nor designated Opportunity Zones. How this will mix with the State’s new short-term rental zones, which is everywhere except in the concentrated housing zones, is not entirely clear but Paul Coulombe thinks it can be done, a man lacking adequate systemic and functional design understanding to make an adequate industrial or community designer, but given great authority because of his willingness to invest large sums of money.
The current Town selectmen behave as acting partners of the BRDC. Cunningham advocates for extending TIF financing to the cabal. TIF funding allows Boothbay to accelerate its property valuation without increasing its county taxes. Mr. Cunningham bemoans that Boothbay, the richest town in the county, actually pays more taxes than the other municipalities. In Mr. Cunninghams view all that matters is achieving monetary advantages for Boothbay. He fails to see beyond the most mechanical economic view to incorporate complex economic, environmental, cultural, and political dynamics. Cunningham’s method of keeping taxes low is to use TIF financing to publicly fund a tax-exempt non-profit corporation for a project projecting a 22% population increase (using US census household size averages) which will cost the town in services without bringing in property tax revenue to the town and all the while maintaining an undisclosed relationship with its equity investors.
Both Mr. Bertelsen and Mr. Cunningham express what I have long believed, that the concentrated housing zone and the 100-million-dollar school are coordinated in a master plan to fundamentally transform the peninsula.
Our school population is declining and has for years. Housing would allow families to move into Boothbay and hopefully reverse that trend. As a Selectman I was part of the process with our School Officials (School Committee and Trustees) to redo the School Charter. The document that was agreed upon was a work of compromise and is better than the outdated one that we had. School Officials are working hard on the vision for our schools moving forward and I believe that level of compromise will be needed again. Incumbent Selectman Candidate Charles Cunningham
Another way to save tax payer dollars is to not build a 100-million-dollar school on a peninsula where the school population has been declining, and then to solve the problem of not enough students to justify the school by building a concentrated housing zones hoping it will attract families as an affordable way to live on a peninsula being reinvented as vacationland for the wealthy only.
The new school charter has yet to be revealed to the public. The most recent article. last January says the charter will be sent to the State Legislature but makes no mention of what is in it. Given that educational amendments enacted a year ago allow for special demonstration schools wherein rules that generally govern public education do not apply, and given the massive redevelopment plans for the Boothbay school system, and considering that the choice was made to use conditional gifts for funding rather than tax-deductible contributions, it is concerning that the school charter was changed but not disclosed to the general public.
The intent to expand the population artificially is another developer opinion that goes unchallenged. The if and how of a population increase and the why of the housing shortage is not up for discussion. All we need to do is build housing en masse, not considering the diverse needs of the missing middle sector of the economy. Why do we need to do so other than to accommodate large plans of developers? Why should Boothbay increase the population by about 22% on a small piece of land in one location to be owned by an anonymous group of investors? This is a mechanical plan for developing population growth. It amounts to a city block in rural surroundings, governed by a corporation. It is top-down control over an inordinate percentage of the working populous on a small peninsula. The corporation can potentially decide who can live in the units based on their employment.
In 2018 Erin Cooperrider, spokesperson for the BRDC said:
“It's also important to understand that unlike traditional affordable housing, there are no specific programs targeted to workforce housing, which makes it hard to build." source
That interprets as the belief that housing availability should be a function of workforce needs. If you work for a corporation or perform a job on our list, you can apply for housing in our community. Otherwise, sorry! That’s central control, and discrimination. LD 2003 includes sections against discrimination. Soon we may need legislation to include prohibitions against work discrimination
The alternative is to encourage small builders and to develop channels to return ownership to the individual, which I talked about in my last post. Two external considerations for moving ahead on a smaller scale, rather than attempting to execute large developments at this time are the looming collapse of the Thwaites Glacier and the unfinished discussion about housing in Maine, which continued after the enactment of LD 2003 with a study that includes short term rentals, intentionally left out of the first study
The discussion in the link above is a mish mash of ideas and thoughts on the housing shortage problem. One point made is that people move to Maine from away to work remotely for a corporation that can pay more than people can earn working locally. In other discussions I have read that corporations cut pay when people work remotely. A reason for the reduced pay might be that corporate welfare is negotiated as “jobs that pay higher than average “for the area”, so if a worker moves to another area, it changes the rate of pay that the corporation is required to pay per corporate welfare deals, which is still higher than average for the area where the worker is located. This is how state corporate welfare expands the wealth divide. The whole economy subsidizes “higher than average paying jobs” which means most of the taxpayers subsidizing the job make less than the jobs they are subsidizing. If a small community works with small entrepreneurs and builders, the high corporate welfare cost of paying large corporations to locate in your neighborhood will be a lot less or not at all, saving tax payer dollars.
It is good to see that remote working is part of the conversation as remote workers are workers in residence, a zoning category that I am advocating, which requires space to work in a home. Self-employment or independent contracting does not provide the security of working for an employer but it also does not limit income growth opportunity, which is a key feature of worker in residence zoning. It’s a trade-off.
The unit sizes quoted for the Boothbay Regional Development Corporation in a paragraph discussing housing for a family of four says “the group envisions selling 1,200 square foot homes at a below-market, subsidized cost. ”source. However, A 1200-square-foot home is about 50% of the standard comfortable average house size for a family of four quoted at 2400 square feet in numerous sources. Such undersized spaces would not accommodate a remote working environment. That is why we need workers in residence zoning which can be developed at a small scale and individualized.
One of the main objections to HP 1489 (LD 2003) is that it is one solution fits all which is clearly untrue. Boothbay as an isolated rural peninsula is very different from other places. The Constitution allows that we can develop our own solutions based on our unique community needs but the new State law says that a solution appropriate to a large city can be used here- so that the plan is to build a city block for the working classes in the midst of a rural community. There has long been a cultural divide between the year-round residents and seasonal residents. The concentrated housing zone solution can only amplify the divide enormously.
The spokesperson for the Boothbay Regional Development Corporation was one of three unelected commissioners who wrote the framework for the law that took away municipal rights to determine housing density and community character. Mr. Cunningham does not think that is an issue. I do.
The concentrated housing zone was not legally possible until after LD 2003 was enacted, but the law may be amended, and there is growing opposition to the law as a constitutional violation of the home rule amendment.
Mr. Cunningham’s political history includes that he serves on the Boothbay Administrative Code Review Committee. This is interesting to me as it has almost an identical name to a commitee that I saw advertised on the Town Website calling for applications to serve but when I went in to apply, I was told by the Town Manager that no such committee existed. There after I took this screenshot of the application as it was posted online:
Candidate Karen Kusnierz cites her occupation as “Grover’s Hardware, Artist”
Education: New England School of Communications. Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations. Beal College. Medical Transcription.
Political History (Board, Committees): Fraternal Order of Eagles; #3177. I ran for Vice President and got elected for Inside Guard. Fraternal Order of Eagles
It’s good that Ms. Kusnierz is a working-person in the classes that are being frozen out of the housing market. We need people with direct experience in our leadership. She also has many skills that are useful in a selectperson. For her political background she lists the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a people-to-people organization. Ms. Kusnierz would bring a fresh perspective to the selectboard. She is responding directly to what is around her and that promises that she might bring fresh insights to the select board and pay attention to off-the-radar details.
Candidate Julie Roberts
I mentioned a while back that “they” were going to get Julie Roberts to run, they being the cabal, which by definition is made up of unknown persons but Paul Coulombe is the visible ring leader and Julie Roberts is visibly supportive of Coulombe through her Boothbay Register comments.
In my comments to the candidates write up I observed that no one directly mentions the 100-million-dollar-school but that since I put in an FOAA request, I know that Julie Roberts, through her Popcorn company, was one of the donors who contributed funds to pay the architects to design the plan for the school. The intent of my comment is to say that Ms. Robert’s financial contribution to the architects indicates that she supports the 100-million-dollar school.
This comment drew a response from candidate Roberts who denied profusely that she had said she wanted her contribution to remain anonymous and would not say with any clarity, her position on the school. I said I was only repeating what the public was told, not going into further detail to say that what the public is told is not necessarily true.
Candidate Roberts writeup states”
Any other thoughts on why you are running or what you can bring to the office?
I have no personal agenda. The selectboard serves at the leisure of the citizens of the town. I am here to listen to them. I am a very gray area person. I can see any view of many topics and try to be open minded about anything anyone wants to discuss or share. I want to make sure the citizens of our community continue to feel they can approach the board with concerns or ideas…source
So I took up her invitation and discussed and shared some of my ideas on different topics, to which Candidate Roberts responded:
…….. I will not continue to go back and forth with you in this format. I wanted to clear up your assumptions of me to the public. I sleep very well at night knowing my intentions with the area I was born in, went to school in and raised by children in and work in every single day. I am an open book...If anyone has any questions or concerns, they would like to speak with me about before voting, I would be more than happy to speak with them. I can be found Monday-Friday at Coastal Maine Popcorn, Saturday-Sunday outside with my chickens or by email anytime! email@example.com
Candidate Roberts is consistent with the acting policies of current leadership who have entered the Boothbay Region comment forum to announce that a public newspaper forum is an inappropriate forum to discuss political matters affecting this community. and suggesting that the only appropriate forum is one supervised by leadership. Candidate Roberts will only discuss the issues on her terms, on her turf, and she will not discuss matters with me but she will speak with anybody. Hmm. Go figure!
I recently condensed points in my arguments against this plan to 350 words as a Letter to the Editor titled, A corporation asking for public money ought to tell us who it is, which is featured in the Letters menu on the Talk Page.
To learn more about the referendums read Selectmen’s race highlights Boothbay town warrant
I was searching for a link to substantiate the “equity investment” claim, a term frequently used by Erin Cooperrider. I could not find an article referencing it by using Boothbay Register’s search function, trying several search terms including “Boothbay Region Development Corporation” so I searched through the post on this newsletter and found the substantiation I was looking for in my own post, What's in a Study? Besides Political Motivations? I found the link to the article Boothbay approves $50K in ARPA funds for housing project but it would not open as it linked to an address with https struck out in red with https://icle/ placed in front of boothbay-approves-50k-arpa-funds-housing-project/165456. I edited the post and reentered the address even though it looked exactly as what I saw in the edit box. Afterward, the link properly connected to the Boothbay Register article.
Then I tried searching for
ARPA funds and then Boothbay approves $50K in ARPA funds and finally Boothbay approves $50K in ARPA funds for housing project, using the Boothbay Register search bar but the article does not display in a Boothbay Register search. However, it is accessible by searching the title with Google.
If I were not so adamant about substantiating what I say, I would never have discovered this anomaly.
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The article I located does not use the term “equity capital”, but it uses the term “private capital” which according to this site is the same thing:
The Definition of Private Capital
Private capital is the umbrella term for investment, typically through funds, in assets not available on public markets.
Preqin defines private capital as private investments encompassing the following asset classes: private equity, venture capital, private debt, real estate, infrastructure, and natural resources. source
Since I have been publishing for many years, to find my links changed after the fact by an unknown agency so that the link no longer connects to the intended source is not unusual.