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Enough is Enough: Concerns voiced in coffee shops can create city policies

By Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

I ran for Mayor of Lewiston not for fame or notoriety, but because I was an irate taxpayer, sick of special interests and the liberal progressive policies put forth by academic and trust-fund elitists. Policies that ran counter to what the average person experienced every day. Policies embraced by spineless politicians that were opposite of the will of the middle class taxpayers that elected them.

I am a “coffee shop mayor.” I am not going to plant myself in my desk chair, which looks more like a throne, compared to the average executive’s chair, and hold court in an office to create an illusion that citizens who visit the mayor are in the presence of greatness, not their equal.

In coffee shops you hear the truth. The truth of how people feel about issues. In a coffee shop, the emotion put forth in verbal exchanges allows you to take the pulse of the electorate. This availability also allows for meaningful discussions with the public in a comfortable, non-intimidating atmosphere where both parties are equal.

Now to the point: I have heard your concerns and plan to bring up three of them in the coming days. When implemented, taxes will increase in the short term. But these changes, combined with a few others, will hopefully bring a stream of new revenue into the city. This will be followed by a steady decline in property taxes, combined with an increase in assessed property values.

It is time to reinstitute policies designed to keep our city clean and rid us of the derogatory moniker “The Dirty Lew”. It’s time to restore Spring Cleanup throughout our city.

Spring Cleanup in days gone by allowed Lewistonians a simple and convenient way of ridding themselves of clutter built up during the year. Clutter, that if allowed to accumulate, could act as a fire load should a fire occur in the residence or any area used to store it. A majority of the city residents have no means of transporting these materials to the dump.

Will the reinstitution of this program cause a rise in our property tax rate? Absolutely! However, any increase will dwarf what it will cost for residents to take care of it themselves.

Next up is the issue of trash collection. This is not only a fairness issue, but a life-safety issue. Property taxes provide police, fire, snow removal and trash pickup throughout the city. Sometime in the past, a group of city councilors, not wanting to raise property taxes and feel voter wrath, decided to add an additional cost to operate a business in Lewiston by no longer removing trash created by businesses.

This forced the businesses to contract with a private collection company in order to remove their waste. This cut in services also affected many downtown landlords, who also found themselves being forced to hire trash-removal services.

Several councils ago, this might have seemed like a brilliant idea. But we are now faced with the reality of its folly. It is time to stop the blame game and admit landlords, tenants and city officials are all equally at fault for the current display of trash throughout the downtown and the fire danger it poses. Our current city council must undo this past grave error and resume trash pickup for everyone. We can no longer afford to hope another conflagration will not take place, but act to insure it doesn’t.

Lastly, we can no longer put off replacing Lewiston Fire Department Engine 4. This truck has been in service for 26 years. It reflects the care and professional pride exhibited by our firefighters. But pride and care don’t stop wear and tear. We cannot afford to place the lives of our firefighters and citizens in jeopardy.

Last year in Boston, a firefighter was killed and another seriously injured when the brakes of the ladder truck they were on gave way, causing the apparatus to slide down an incline and slam into an apartment building. The replacement of this truck is long overdue.

Over the past several weeks in conversation with the public, they have presented me with their concerns and many ideas on how to clean up our city. Next week we will discuss them.

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