Something’s different about Portland this morning. An air of normality restored to the zone between the West End and the Old Port. A pleasant lack of concrete barricades, traffic cones and police vehicles. The gates of Fort Williams Park reopened to both summer visitors and local opportunists. Ah, that’s right. The governors are gone.

For the past three days, our city has been at the beck and call of a group of state governors attending the summer meeting of the National Governors Association. Nineteen governors, to be exact, and few, if any, of the most high-profile among them.

Some of the accommodations made for this partial group – which were creative, heavy-handed, and culminated in the largest security presence the state has seen in decades – strained the limits of credulity.

On the three-day NGA conference agenda was, among other items: the youth mental health emergency, K-12 computer science education, early literacy (enlivened by contributions via video link from one Dolly Parton), the health of the tourism sector and the appointment of a few new officers, including the chair of the charming-sounding NGA Spouses’ Program.

In the end, though, it was the inconvenience caused by the rather more closely guarded social agenda that got people talking. If the phenomenon of pandemic pent-up demand applies to event security services, some of that was loosed on the city of Portland in recent days.

The governors’ jamboree led to the arrival of private bodyguards, out-of-state troopers and the closure of Portland streets, bars, restaurants, wharfs and, ultimately, some 90 acres of Cape Elizabeth’s Fort Williams Park. In most cases, very little advance notice was given.


“We are going to bill this out to the National Governors Association at no cost to the taxpayer,” Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Paul Fenton, referring to his portion of the proceedings, reassured us. Not that the use of a public park on a summer’s day is something that can be reimbursed.

Postings on social media from gubernatorial attendees were mostly diligently committed to relaying photographs of Powerpoint presentations from a dimly lit ballroom. Portland was not, however, selected for the ballroom of the Holiday Inn on Spring Street. Further scrolling revealed entourage-generated evidence of platters of oysters, string music and at least one coastal marquee.

Views on the special allowances for the visitors’ party differed. “Tourists are Maine’s life blood,” one Press Herald reader noted, “not 19 governors, their families and 500 lobbyists.”

Others were of the mind that this was much ado about nothing – or, much ado about something that should have been welcomed. “Not a word about the prestige and notoriety it brought to our city,” another reader observed yesterday. “Why always look at the glass half empty?”

As is the case with both prestige and notoriety, the economic impact of these things tends to be difficult to quantify. It will be a while before the ultimate cost to the state is disclosed. The day-to-day imposition, however, and how the decision-making that led to it leaves us feeling, can be totted up more easily.

All that’s to say, we’re happy it’s Saturday.

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