October 5, 2012

Bill Nemitz: Mayor should reconsider where 'trouble always starts'

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

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Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald speaks at a City Council meeting Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 in an attempt to clarify comments he made about the city's Somali immigrants.

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AIRING IT OUT

Tune in to NewsRadio 560 WGAN at 8:08 a.m. today to hear columnist Bill Nemitz talk about this column and other issues.

"I was not talking about the Somalis. I was talking about the person," he said.

The person? And ... all due respect and all ... what person might that be?

"That was directed, if you look at that, that's a first person," Macdonald continued. "That was directed at the person that was ripping me apart in the paper, OK?"

Sure, whatever you say, Mr. Mayor. Can we get you a glass of cold water, maybe a mild sedative to help you speak in coherent English?

By "first person," we can only assume Macdonald meant Maine Global Institute founder Carmona. Who, for the record, grew up in the Spanish-speaking barrio of East Los Angeles, not Somalia, and, also for the record, has a heckuva lot stronger command of the English language than Macdonald.

But suddenly, it became much bigger than Carmona. In his next breath, Macdonald set his rhetorical sights on "a bunch of people from Portland."

"They started something down in Portland," he complained. "It's always coming out of Portland!"

Actually, Mr. Mayor, if you came down here and looked around you'd find that the only thing "coming out of Portland" is a long, proud history of accepting newcomers with open arms -- not unlike the welcome many in your own community have extended to their Somali brethren.

You'd also find city leaders who generally think before they speak, keep their traps shut when it's their constituents' turn to sound off and, when the chips are down, wouldn't dream of blaming their occasional screw-ups on a neighboring community. (Just imagine: "Portland Mayor Claims Waterfront Rats 'Always Coming out of Lewiston.'")

The problem here isn't that Macdonald is a card-carrying racist. The more I watched the video of Tuesday's painfully long public forum, the more I concluded that the mayor's problem with Somali immigrants pales by comparison to his inability to accept legitimate criticism.

That's why, as I searched for the one comment that best captured the 66-minute discussion, I kept coming back to Mohamed Abdillah, a Lewiston businessman who spoke eloquently about the disconnect between Macdonald and his Somali constituents.

"I'm giving you an advice, Mr. Mayor," suggested Abdillah. "Hire a PR director who can teach you how to do speeches."

The man has a point, Mayor Macdonald. A public relations specialist isn't such a bad idea.

And just so you know, Portland's crawling with them.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@mainetoday.com

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