And two years ago, Tony Giampetruzzi delved deeper into the senators' positions on gay rights, specifically as related to gays serving in the military. "[W]hile both refused to endorse the Maine Won't Discriminate effort, saying it was their policy to avoid state issues, don't try to pin either senator down on what clearly is a federal issue: 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT)," he wrote. "Activists have tried for years to get Snowe and Collins to speak out against 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' but the response from both senators is a kind of runaround — it appears well-meaning, is unfailingly polite, but in the end is unsatisfactory for its lack of awareness that this is a real problem that affects real people."
But just as often as they disappoint, they impress us with their maverick moves — consider their pro-alt-energy positions, their support of President Obama's economic stimulus package, and Collins's important position as co-sponsor (with Ted Kennedy) of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, which creates federal protections against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. And of course, Maine's moderates will play a crucial role as Congress, and the nation, debates healthcare reform (see Jeff Inglis's piece on page 5).
Building up Bayside
Ten years ago, there was talk of building an arena in the Bayside neighborhood, between Forest Avenue, Marginal Way, Congress Street, and the Franklin Arterial. The plan fell through, and with it fell dreams of neighborhood revival. Mary Lou Wendell documented the disappointment of Bayside residents, as well as their hopes for the future.
"So long as the arena proposal was on the table, talk among city officials was fast and furious about also creating a small playground and affordable housing, among other things, to help rebuild the long-neglected Bayside community," Wendell wrote. "But as soon as the city council rejected the offer of land and money for an arena from the Libra Foundation last month, all scheduled public forums and meetings to address Bayside's revitalization needs were abruptly cancelled. Now . . . a number of Bayside residents and other in Portland believe that's also the last they'll hear of any neighborhood improvements."
We've covered community issues in other areas of the Forest City and beyond; in 2002, Jess Kilby and Chris Barry covered the racial tensions in Lewiston, and earlier this year, I wrote about a crime increase on the streets of Portland — especially in the Bayside-East Bayside area.
State finances and corporate welfare
Maine has been basically broke for the entire 10-year run of the Portland Phoenix. Much of this has been because we don't ask wealthy residents and corporations to pay their fair share of the cost of running the state. Rather, we send millions of taxpayer dollars into their bank accounts ever year, and show no sign of letting up.
As Mary Lou Wendell wrote in January 2000, a loophole in the Business-Equipment Tax Reimbursement program (BETR) allows businesses to get money from the state as "reimbursement" for property taxes never actually paid to municipalities. This continued until 2006, when lawmakers got rid of the double-dip for new equipment (but not for old machinery still in use). At the same time, though, the Legislature promised to cover part of companies' property-tax bills forever, rather than just for the first 12 years of the equipment's life. Wal-Mart, as just one example, will continue to get checks exceeding $400,000 from Maine taxpayers, into the indefinite future.