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This week’s edition!

Enough is Enough: Bike lanes draw more interest than city budget

By Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

Last week at a workshop, the Lewiston City Council found before it an agenda item that makes the blood of Lewiston citizens percolate like the coffee in a TV commercial for Chock Full o’Nuts.

This item tends to fill the City Council Chamber with people from both sides of the issue. Perplexed city officials ponder why a discussion on bike lanes draws more people to a City Council meeting than a multi-million dollar budget.

The last time a bike lane was discussed and voted on, a group of citizens began a petition drive to allow Lewiston voters a chance to express their opinion at the ballot box.

The threat of this action was enough to stop a much-needed million-dollar upgrade of upper Lisbon Street to make it more appealing to the general public. It also would have served as a “thank you” to those who believe and have invested in this section of the city.

Title 29A, the section of Maine State Law governing the operation of motor vehicles, allows bicycles on a public way, making them subject to the same rules of the road as motor vehicles. I have had many conversations with members of the public about bike lanes. Their anger appears more directed at those who flaunt the rules of the road than the lanes themselves.

On a daily basis, one continually views the lawless behavior of those operating their bicycles with no concern for public safety. They weave in and around pedestrians walking on sidewalks. They go the wrong way on one-way streets. They continually run stop signs and traffic lights.

They weave in and out of traffic, showing a complete disregard for the law. Anyone challenging them on their behavior will receive a simple hand gesture.

I think it is high time we put an end to this behavior. The most effective way of doing this is through a traffic summons. A day in court accompanied by a stiff fine should instill incentive into these violators to follow the law.

You may have missed it on the news, but a lawsuit filed by the cities of Portland and Westbrook and the Maine Municipal Association several months ago is finally being heard in Cumberland County’s hall of justice. This suit challenges the State of Maine’s right to refuse to support foreign tourists (asylum seekers) who have run out of funds, refuse to go back to their homes and want the local taxpayers to support them.

The Maine State Department of Health and Human Services argues it is following the federal law that prohibits the support of asylum seekers. Portland, Westbrook and the Maine Municipal Association argue that the state is changing the General Assistance rules because over the years asylum seekers have been supported by local property taxpayers with a percentage of the expense being reimbursed by the state.

This sounds like the same argument that Portland officials made when they were caught with their hands in the cookie jar and being reimbursed for homeless people that they shouldn’t have been supporting. We await the verdict!

This week in Augusta, members of the Health and Human Service Committee were engaged in a work session discussing the pros and cons of the various General Assistance bills before them. During these deliberations, both parties found it necessary to caucus (meet with and discuss) with various groups in order to come up with finished pieces of legislation.

The Democrats caucused with Maine Equal Justice Partners. The Republicans caucused with Maine welfare directors. Which party would you say is looking out for the interest of the Maine taxpayers?

On Saturday, the Cities of Lewiston-Auburn will solemnly remember Memorial Day with a parade and a ceremony in Veteran’s Park. It is a time to remember the sacrifice of those who remain forever young. Will you be among those present?

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