Saturday, March 8, 2014
GOVERNOR ISSUES A RANSOM NOTE
Maina Handmaker in front of the former freight barns in Brunswick where she hopes to see a permanent farmers market. Carrying out her plan will take a lot of work, but it’s a proposal that will have notable upsides if it can be realized.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer
Gov. LePage told business leaders this week that he plans to sit on millions of dollars in voter-approved bonds if lawmakers go ahead and pass a bill to dip into the state’s savings account instead of cutting $40 million from municipal revenue sharing.
This is a familiar tactic on the part of the governor, who refused to issue bonds during his first two years in office, finally holding them hostage until the Legislature came around on his priorities. But it’s not the Legislature that suffers – it’s people who could be working and businesses that would benefit from infrastructure improvements but instead have to wait out another gubernatorial temper tantrum.
The governor’s comments came shortly after the House voted 114-21 to spend from the “rainy day fund” instead of cutting aid to cities and towns. He told people attending Thursday’s Chamber of Commerce dinner at Sunday River that he’d refuse to issue transportation bonds if the Legislature went ahead and partially funded revenue sharing, which he had proposed last year to eliminate completely.
Gov. LePage announced that government spending on roads and bridges would be the centerpiece of his job-creation campaign. But at the first sign of conflict with the Legislature, he is willing to jettison job creation for political advantage.
Lawmakers of both parties should not back down and should pass the revenue sharing bill, over a veto if necessary. Cities and towns would be forced to cut services and raise property taxes if the revenue sharing cuts went through. The governor should not be rewarded for treating bond money as political leverage. Voters should remember on Election Day his willingness to put their needs second to winning a legislative power play.
FEEDING A NEED, SAVING A SPACE
Brunswick already has three farmers markets, so securing space for a permanent market would seem to be a solution in search of a problem.
Maina Handmaker’s plan, though, makes a lot of sense. It would give two of the markets a permanent home and allow workhorse buildings to find new life. Executing the proposal will take a lot of work, but the effort deserves further exploration.
Then-Bowdoin student Handmaker conceived the idea in 2009, wanting to make use of two former freight sheds near the railroad tracks, and was granted a lease by the owner.
Now Handmaker is poised to present the findings of a feasibility study to the Brunswick Development Corp. The price tag of revamping the sheds is loosely estimated at $1.7 million, which Handmaker foresees raising through grants and private donations.
The fundraising won’t be easy. Organizing the farmers who are the space’s potential tenants is another challenge. But Handmaker, a farmer herself, is known and trusted. And she realizes the current situation’s drawbacks. The 15-vendor, three-season Brunswick Farmers’ Market tears up the town green and could lose its winter space at Fort Andross to a year-round tenant. A separate market at a local farm has major parking problems.
The year-round farmers market would save two buildings on Maine Preservation’s Most Endangered list and benefit farmers by providing a centrally located outlet for their products. It’s a plan that will have a lot of upsides if it can be realized.
BEACH RULING UPSETS BALANCE
Tourism in Maine has flourished with a balance between private land and public access. A court ruling involving Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport could put that balance out of whack.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the property line for 29 beachfront homeowners extended to the low tide mark. That means that the property owners could decide that no one should be allowed to swim, picnick or even go for a stroll without their permission.
This ruling could put an end to more than a century of beach use by the beach’s neighbors. Proximity to the water has been factored in to property values of homes even if they don’t have beachfront, because the right to use the beach was understood.
Interpretations of this could be used to exclude Mainers from other beaches, hiking trails or historic rights of way if that’s what their owners want to do.
Maine has never had much land in public ownership, but that may have to change if the courts won’t recognize public use rights. Tourism is too important to the state’s economy to limit the places people know they will be able to visit.