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Enough is Enough: Low-income housing projects are not a formula for success

By Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

It has been a long five-and-a-half years serving as Lewiston’s mayor. We tried and failed to get any meaningful welfare legislation passed, thanks to Ben Chin and his Maine People’s Alliance, Equal Maine Justice Partners, Pine Tree Legal and a host of special-interest (not your interests) groups whose voices drowned out the majority of Lewiston’s voters’ voices.

You may have elected me as Lewiston’s mayor, but you failed to elect local state legislators who were on the same page.

During my tenure as mayor, Lewiston has been cited by both Forbes and AARP as a great place to retire and live. This has been due to a very unappreciated and hard-working city staff, which through long periods of heavy lifting has started and is bringing to fruition a positive direction toward prosperity.

But the dark forces of the status quo are fighting hard to ensure that Lewiston’s image does not change.

We hail and treat housing developments for low-income individuals as hallowed ground. Occupants in these housing projects will cost local taxpayers a staggering increase in property taxes due to the demand for expanded social services and school costs that will be created.

But poverty and diversity are good—as long as you are not a property taxpayer living in an area without marketable surroundings. Currently, the mil rate in Lewiston is $27.54. Auburn, with its restaurants, mall and car dealerships, weighs in at $22.35. Portland on the Ocean is $20.63.

Their large low-income population is offset by the many businesses and the desire of many well-off people to reside in an atmosphere with the amenities of big-city type of living. Then we have the opulent, well-heeled bedroom communities surrounding Portland. If you were to take the many single-family homes located in Lewiston and place them in any one of these towns, they would, at a minimum, double in value.

These towns contain sprawling neighborhoods and the type of home the average person dreams about when watching TV shows about the well-to-do. Large homes located on land the size of a couple of city blocks. Well-manicured lawns. Swimming pools with cabanas. Homes with attached garages containing two, three, four and more bays, depending upon how well off the family living there is. Living close to Portland, they are afforded the pleasures of both city life and suburban living.

At this point you’re probably saying to yourself, that’s great, but how about their property taxes? Well, I’m glad you asked. If you have a house in Yarmouth, your mil rate is $17.52, $10.02 less than Lewiston. In Cape Elizabeth it is $16.88 or $10.66 less than Lewiston. Scarborough’s tax rate is $15.49, $12.05 less than Lewiston.

Lastly we have Falmouth, the home of Republican State Senator Amy Volk. To refresh your memory, she is the legislator who gutted legislation submitted by Lewiston-Auburn that would have freed us from providing any support to asylum seekers. She then rewrote the law, forcing us to continue to support these illegal aliens. And what is Falmouth’s tax rate? It is $14.63—$12.90 less than Lewiston.

In the last five years, a seed has been sown and is currently starting to bloom. Upper Lisbon Street between Main and Pine Streets is becoming home to many successful businesses, along with upscale condos and apartments. Lincoln Street between Main Street and Cedar Street is slowly coming to life.

Yet we have abandoned mills. They are similar to mills being developed north and south of us, which are being scooped up by developers. This is happening while our empty mills remain empty.

Low-income housing projects and more new school buildings are not a formula for success. We need representatives in Augusta determined to move Lewiston to economic prosperity, not to an award-winning social-service community.

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