About Town - July, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Portland Budget Collapse Claims First Casualty

Amid cries for blood, the red-ink-stained Portland School Department announced today that the schools' finance director, Richard Paulson Jr., resigned today.

It's unclear just what kind of "finance directing" he was doing while the school department spent $500,000 they were not allotted by the City Council, plus an extra $1.2 million, on top of $850,000 in money from other government agencies that just didn't come in. The total amount of negative figures on the schools' number line could be as high as $2.5 million. So out goes former Portland mayor Paulson from the job he has held since 2005.

One thing is sure - the buck doesn't stop with him. In fact, for the school department to claim that they overspent in part because administrators agreed to a teacher contract that gave more of a raise than budgeted for suggests that top leadership - that's Superintendent Mary Jo O'Connor - is detached from reality.

Does any company actually not look at the budget when determining salary increases? Apparently, the Portland School Department does - they had budgeted for a 2.5 percent increase in teacher salaries, but agreed to a 3 percent increase. And here's the shocker - then they professed to be blindsided when that cost more than they had expected!

The school department's release about Paulson's resignation also said the schools had to pay "higher energy costs." But in 2004, students told the school system how to save $36,000 a year at just one school. And in February 2006, the schools were offered cash for being more efficient. As we reported exclusively in the Portland Phoenix, it took them until February 2007 to decide to get the efficiency ball rolling.

Sounds like something else should roll, and it's not Paulson's head.

7/30/2007 4:51:26 PM by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Summers Plays the Bush Card (No, Not That One)

Republican Charlie Summers, a hopeful in the 1st Congressional District race for the seat being vacated by Tom Allen (who's challenging Susan Collins for her seat), has announced that President Bush has made a donation to the Summers campaign. But not the one you're thinking of, the one who has approval ratings below Richard Nixon.

Summers (who is serving in Iraq at the moment as a member of the Navy public-relations corps) is being supported by the other one-term Bush, the one whose war in Iraq was wildly popular and boosted him to high approval ratings.

Presumably, Summers is hoping that the son is nothing like the father (at least the father knew the value of solid intelligence), and won't actually support him: many Republican candidates for office are politely steering away from having, say, Bush fils make a campaign appearance.

So while Summers is in Iraq, staying the course, he's gotta be wishing someone will pull the troops out, so he can start campaigning.

7/30/2007 2:01:40 PM by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Friday, July 13, 2007

Trafficking in fear - Channel 6's "driver's license" expose (updated)


On July 12, Channel 6 aired a "special report" observing that illegal immigrants can come to Maine and get driver's licenses, and including allegations from US Attorney Paula Silsby that illegal immigrants have come to Maine, gotten a driver's license, used the license to prove residency required under federal law for purchasing a gun, and then used the gun to commit a crime.

Where have those crimes happened? The report didn't say. How many times? Not included. What was the crime? Unspecified. The closest any of it gets is a short note by one of the news anchors that two people have been prosecuted for bringing illegal immigrants to Maine for the purpose of getting driver's licenses. When? No idea. How many people did they bring - 1, 100, 1000? Not said. (These questions are addressed in the update below.)

The US Attorney's office - p