Maine Towns Vote, Vote and Vote, Again
Maine voters are sending a message. As soon as Central Intelligence Agency code experts manage to translate it into English, we’ll let you know what it is.
Take Cape Elizabeth, for example. In a June 10 referendum, the town rejected the school budget. On the same ballot, Cape voters were also asked to indicate if they were opposing the spending measure because it was too high or too low. Sixty percent said the town was being a tightwad. So, municipal officials increased the $19.6 million budget by almost $300,000. On July 22, that plan was shot down at the polls. This time, 66 percent said it was too much.
A third vote will now have to be scheduled at the convenience of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
One day after the Cape vote, Monmouth rejected its $7.62 million school budget for the third time.
Voters there weren’t asked if they thought the spending level was too liberal or conservative, but it seems obvious that many on the prevailing side were upset about a budget that carried a proposed increase of nearly 7 percent. Both proponents and opponents are threatening to leave town if their views don’t carry the day in a fourth round of voting.
If so, maybe they should consider relocating to Wiscasset. It took three tries for that town to get its school budget approved, but the $9.32 million plan won majority support on July 22.
Wiscasset’s education spending plan underwent some significant cuts after each of the earlier rejections.
Repetition wasn’t limited to municipal financial matters. It was also déjà vu all over again in the reptile world. One week after an 8-foot reticulated python was discovered in a washing machine in Gorham, an even bigger snake was discovered trying to steal a pickup truck in Wilton.
OK, I admit I can’t be sure about the 9-foot python’s motives in crawling up under the engine of Harley Burgess’ vehicle. But hot-wiring seems likely. An animal control officer was summoned to take the creature into custody. State officials say reticulated pythons aren’t legal in Maine unless the owner has a special permit and no history of illegal entry into either cars or washing machines. The origin of these two reptiles remains a mystery, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had something to do with influencing the outcome of local education votes.
In other animal-related news, if you’re walking through a field in Portland’s North Deering neighborhood, and you happen to encounter a Galerucella beetle, be polite. The bugs are there to do important work. They were released in the area by city officials to eat … I bet you thought I was going to say pythons. Don’t be silly. Maine doesn’t have enough pythons to feed that many beetles. Yet.
Which I swear is a real plant, and it invades the terrain of native species, forcing them to live lives of servitude and despair. The insect liberators will restore democracy.
If only there were a bug that ate bad economic news. A new poll by Critical Insights of Portland.
shows 91 percent of Mainers think the state’s economy has gotten worse in the past year. Eight percent say it’s stayed the same. One percent believe it’s improved. I want whatever the people in that last group are drinking.
On a more positive note, the state ended its fiscal year with a $56 million surplus, although much of that will have to be used this year for python defense and loosestrife containment.
Twenty-eight percent more people used the train, compared to the previous year, making it more likely that in the near future, passenger service will be expanded into parts of Maine where pythons have been showing up.
Also on the upswing: lottery revenues. The state gambling concession wrapped up (no python pun intended) its fiscal year $600,000 ahead of budget.
While sales of scratch tickets fell over the last 12 months, that shortfall was more that covered by a 4 percent jump in Powerball and Megabucks buyers.
More increases. Maine Educational Assessment scores for grades 3 through 8 showed significant improvements in reading and math, although writing scores were down 14 percent, which aren’t good. Are it?
State officials claimed that decline might have been caused by problems with the test, rather than with the students. Does you believe they?
Also growing: dump-store recycling. A state survey of 137 of Maine’s 308 dumps found that nearly 4,000 tons of stuff that would have gone into the waste stream instead went into swap shops and on to new homes.
The town with the most recycled treasures was Skowhegan at 271 tons.
The town that lost the most treasures this week was Swans Island. Early on July 24, lightning struck the local library, setting it on fire and destroying most of its 10,000-book collection, as well as numerous historical records.
The old schoolhouse that housed the library was insured and islanders have already started a fund to rebuild.
Is oil heat cleaner than wood heat? It’s one of those questions – like: Are pythons a bigger threat to Maine than purple loosestrife? – that are difficult to answer. But that hasn’t deterred the Maine Oil Dealers Association, which released a study on July 22 showing its product produced less air pollution than wood pellet stoves.
The results were hotly (ouch!) disputed by members of a gubernatorial task force that recently recommended converting 10 percent of Maine homes from oil to wood heat.
And finally, we come to a story that has nothing to do snakes, invasive plants or contrary behavior by voters. It has to do with sticky notes.
Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, the Buckfield-based guys who made it on to national TV with their dropping-Mentos-into-Diet-Coke-bottles-and-having-them-spray-all-over-the-place routine have come up with a new presentation.
Their weirdness with sticky notes will get its premiere on Sept. 5 on the ABC Family channel show “Samurai Girl,” which I have to admit I’d never heard of until I watched Grobe and Voltz’s preview video, and now I’m giving it all this free publicity. If you want similar treatment, you should definitely hire odd-looking Maine dudes in lab coats. While you’re at it, have them get rid of the loosestrife in your backyard.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.