By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
It’s time for Lewiston city government to take two steps back and call a time out. A time out to examine the whole city. An examination of our limited yearly resources to determine where we will get the best bang for our buck.
Where can we invest our money so that it will show a return?
Every day I speak to people from throughout Lewiston who relate to me problems in their neighborhoods they would like addressed. Many of these issues are quickly addressed by a simple phone call to one of the city’s departments.
Some can be rectified by a meeting between the taxpayer and city officials. Others, because of budget restraints, must wait their turn. This occasionally turns into a lengthy wait. All this while the city focuses on the downtown.
But let us pause for a minute and examine what is considered and described as “downtown.” First we have Lisbon, Main, Canal and Lincoln Streets. These are areas in which local businesses, shops, restaurants, banks and offices are located. They provide jobs. They bring in people from outside the community to our downtown businesses.
Many of these outsiders are so charmed with our city they continue to return. Our Art Walks, Film Festival, Dempsey Challenge and the Balloon Festival result in people flocking to our city. This creates commerce and further business expansion in Lewiston.
But to create these favorable conditions the city must invest in this area of our downtown. Signage, clean streets, functioning traffic signals, well-marked cross walks, bike paths, etc. are all needed to continue the growth of our tax base. This will hopefully bring up property values and decrease property taxes.
Then there is the other downtown. An area plagued with blight, many condemned and abandoned buildings and buildings in serious disrepair. Streets full of litter. Yards and sidewalks filled with trash. Keeping guard over these conditions are layabouts who sit on their stoops drinking beer. They do their part daily to insure our police officers earn their salary.
Then step into one of these buildings (if you dare). They present a real test for a Febreze commercial. Halls and apartment emitting the odor of animal urine. Animal feces, bedbugs and cockroaches throughout many of the buildings. Holes in the walls and trash in the hallways. The frequency of these conditions throughout the downtown area has forced our code enforcement officers to no longer view these conditions as code violations, but as normal living conditions.
This is the other downtown, which comprises 1% of our land area and at least 30% of our city services. This has got to come to a stop. Pouring limited local tax money into this section of our downtown is like going to the Oxford Casino and pouring money into a cold slot machine: no return on your investment.
It’s time to change our philosophy and start investing in our local neighborhoods. The pride of the people living there will guarantee it will be money well spent showing a return.
Lastly, the Tim Horton coffee club got a little smaller this week with the passing of a well-respected name in our community, Bob Gladu. Bob’s success story is an example to all. Although being born poor, through hard work, determination and an encouraging spouse, he showed us that the sky’s the limit.
For the people living in the Grove Street area, Bob’s death has resulted in a less safe neighborhood. Bob was a very slow driver, so slow that he could have been cited for his pokey driving. His vehicle operation resulted in long, slow lines of traffic on Grove Street. We’ll miss him in the neighborhood and at Tim Horton’s.
Rest in peace, my friend.