Council avoids legal tangle

After fighting to keep the Department of Health and Human Services from moving from Bayside to the jetport neighborhood, it can’t have been fun for the Portland City Council to approve easements that will allow the project to move forward.

But that’s what the council did this week, and it was the right thing to do.

It’s not that moving the offices is a good idea. Leaving a walkable neighborhood near a public transportation hub for a suburban office park barely accessible by public transportation is a terrible idea. It will disrupt the agency’s ability to deliver state services with efficiency and dignity. Needy people will suffer needlessly.

As tempting as it must have been for councilors to delay the project by refusing to grant the easements, as Mayor Michael Brennan wanted them to do, all eight members voted to meet the city’s contractual obligation and grant the easements.

Brennan’s anger is understandable, but the city should not be playing games with developers who want to do business here. And Portland certainly doesn’t need another lawsuit, which would have been filed in short order if the council had followed Brennan.

It was the right cause but the wrong tactic, and cooler heads prevailed. 

Weak ‘loonie’ reason for worry

The dollar is getting stronger, but that’s nothing to cheer about.

The Canadian dollar has dropped to 90 cents American, and experts believe that it could fall to 85 cents this summer. As the Canadian dollar drops in value in relationship to ours, Americans can expect to see less business from our northern neighbor.

That is bad news for the people in the tourism industry, who can expect to see fewer Canadian visitors, and retailers, who will find that the Canadian customers who do come here will have less money in their pockets.

It could go deeper than that. Half of Maine’s exports, worth $1.3 billion annually, go to Canada, and Maine brings in about $2 billion in Canadian goods each year. A shift in the relative value of the two currencies could hit Maine’s economy from many angles.

With our economies so intertwined, we hope we won’t get too strong this year. 

Shutdown shut off tourism revenue

Tea party Republicans shut down the federal government last year to protest the Obama administration’s economic policies.

Now we have an idea how much that exercise cost our economy.

In the neighborhood of Acadia National Park, the cost was about $16.2 million. Shutting down the nationally known tourist attraction for 16 days in the height of fall foliage season crippled six weeks of a six-month season for many local businesses. The number of visitors last October totaled less than a third of the people who came during the same month in the two previous years.

People like to complain about government waste, but the cost of managing without government can be even more wasteful. 

Who’s the most frugal of them all?

There seems to be no end to how amusing the rest of the country finds Maine.

The latest proof is a new reality show called “Down East Dickering,” which is scheduled to premier April 2 on the History cable network.

The program features a group of men who buy Uncle Henry’s Swap or Sell It Guide and then drive around the state to haggle over bargains.

It’s a reality show, but not one based on competition, where prizes are awarded. It will just bring to a national audience a cast of thrifty Yankees doing what they do best.

The cast members are as of now not identified, and they won’t be available for interviews until after they appear on the screen.

But a YouTube trailer gives a flavor of what “Down East Dickering” will offer and provides us with our quote of the week:

In the video, one man brags, “I brought a guy four loads of horse manure for a bicycle.”

Who got the better end of that particular deal?