The following article appeared in the Times Record and was submitted by an AMGer. He will remain anonymous as he chooses to be on AMG. It is not the anonymous that has been posting.
At the end of his article he finishes with “I’m beginning to wonder just what drives their new consciousness and enlightenment and I am afraid I don’t like the answers I’m coming up with”. His failure to mention the Town Council directly or the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Association MMRA or individuals by name and the fact he did not share the answers are the only reason this article was published.
I too have written similar letters or oped pieces for the Times Record and when they, in any way, deviated from the politically correct they were not printed. I therefore resorted to AMG where I am not afraid to name names and cite facts, nearly all of which have never been refuted. That I do not hide behind innuendo or others when stating an opinion has been a credo I have followed for most of my life and I am proud of it. Needless to say it has subjected me to name calling, some of it vile to say the least, and ridicule all of which I am sure most of you have seen through.
I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who responded to someone who called him “two faced” that “if I were two faced, would I be wearing this one”?
“A "Tale of Two Cities"
The classic novel by Charles Dickens begins with these words:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was [he spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way..... "
In the past few months, I've invested a good deal of time studying the outlook for Brunswick as closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station approaches. Recently, I looked into the experiences of Portsmouth, New Hampshire following closure of Pease Air Force Base in 1991. You're not going to like what I found.
As I reflected on this situation, the words above seemed wonderfully appropriate; they capture the wildly divergent extremes our future could hold. We have the "best of times" folks — those "forward thinkers" who feel base closure is a gift from above, and who believe Brunswick is poised for "continuing" and "exceptional growth."
Then there are those of us who believe that closure of the base, coupled with the exceptionally dismal demographic and economic outlook in our region, foretell the "worst of times." We are especially concerned that town leaders are behaving as if they haven't yet seen the memo about closure, but are instead practicing business as usual.
Ours is a tussle between denial based optimism and fact based uncertainty, and only one of the two is considered acceptable by the "Brunswick is special" crowd. To help you decide where you fit in, let me describe what I found.
Pease Air Force Base, a 4,255 acre facility adjacent to Portsmouth, NH, was selected for closure in 1988. In 1989, 3,461 active duty military and 1,080 civilians were employed at Pease. It's estimated the base created 2,466 secondary jobs in surrounding communities. Military personnel began departing in June 1990, and the base closed in March 1991. (www.strategic-air-command.com)
Portsmouth had a population in excess of 26,000 in 1980, and reached a peak of 29,000 in 1987. By 1989, it had dropped to 25,000, and two years later, was in the 22,000 range. By 2000 it had declined to 20,784. The estimate for 2006 is 20,618. (www.nh.gov; City of Portsmouth) Clearly, Portsmouth's population dropped steeply following base closure, and has never rebounded, in spite of aggressive redevelopment of Pease.
Let's talk about that. Now known as Pease International Tradeport, it includes Portsmouth International Airport, a golf course, an Air National Guard facility, and an astonishingly large list of tenants — 225 by my count. With very few exceptions, these are commercial, for profit enterprises. There are a smattering of colleges, non-profits, and small public sector facilities, such as a post office and fire station. (www.peasedev.org)
This is, in the opinion of many, a world class business park, with proximity to a deep water port, direct access to Interstate 95, and its own major air transport capability. It's the antithesis of the "Brunswick is perfect just the way it is" view, and the "public use" approach driving BNAS planning: gardens, homeless housing, college expansionism, conservation, rec centers, and municipal facilities. Regardless of this spectacular conversion into a bustling Tradeport, Portsmouth population is over 8,000 below its preclosure peak, a decline of nearly 30%, and has been treading water for years.
School enrollment information has not been easy to come by; I am awaiting response to inquiries. The data I do have for Portsmouth shows total K-12 enrollment of 2,870 in 1998, 2,706 in 2000, 2,634 in 2006, 2,572 in 2007. (NH Department of Education; Brunswick Times Record) So while overall population is more or less stable, school enrollment continues to decline, rather than stabilize, let alone rebound.
To summarize, the experience in Portsmouth is aggressive and successful economic base redevelopment, with severe decline in overall population and continuing decline in school enrollment. This is in New Hampshire, with a state and local tax burden that ranks 48th compared to ours at number 2. They have no income tax, and no sales tax. Their business friendliness is very high, ours is amongst the worst in the nation. Their economic health and average incomes are substantially higher than ours. Their location trumps ours by every measure. Their population is younger. They are better educated, and they are far less dependent on government provided health care and social services. Even with these advantages, the population and school enrollment consequences of Pease closure are demonstrably singular-down, down, down. One wonders how these realities compare with predictions by "forward thinkers" before the base actually closed.
I don't see how anyone can look at these facts, our distinctly gloomy regional economic and demographic conditions, the pervasive anti-business, anti-development local attitude, and be anything but afraid, very afraid for what the future holds.
I challenge one and all to explain what Brunswick is going to do differently and better than what was done at Pease to somehow make a miracle occur, and to fulfill the highly touted consultants' predictions for post-base closure population and school enrollment growth. I'm beginning to wonder just what drives their new consciousness and enlightenment, and I'm afraid I don't like the answers I'm coming up with.
And please, keep the "always look at the bright side" lectures to yourself. I'd prefer something more credible.”
The answers I believe he failed to give, allude to the consequences of the actions of the legislature and continued skullduggery of not only the MRRA but of the Brunswick Town Council. The legislature was amiss in the establishment of the MRRA and it dominion, the town of Brunswick Landing, formerly the Brunswick Naval Air Station because it was unconstitutional in two respects, it was passed hastily as an emergency piece of legislation when there was no emergency and that it is a corporation disguised as a town that Brunswick treats as its own and collects no taxes from. As a consequence, the taxpayers have pumped over $250 million for its development when for $30 million that the Navy should have paid to leave it like they found it and returned the property to the town for development by private interests.
This cost is a drop in the bucket because every day that goes by the firms there get the benefit of Pine Tree legislation that allows them to keep a portion of their labor’s income tax, have no tax on their profits and pay no property taxes for at least 10 years. On top of this the MRRA borrowed $15 million to build a manufacturing plant for one foreign owned firm, allowing it to go into business with that much less capital investment at risk to compete with American firms having none of such benefits.
This information was presented in writing, with constitutional citations to the Governor, his development aide and the Attorney General and completely ignored. The writer I cite was with me in Augusta when I first broached the subject the Governors aide.
The message is that we are led to believe that we may petition the government for redress of grievances but what they will not tell you is that instead of them being your servant it is the other way around and if your grievance is against them you will be ignored unless it suits them.