A look back at the week's news

What’s going on in Auburn?

Certain City Councilors don’t like the fact that City Manager Glenn Aho writes a weekly memo and distributes it to the public. It’s just too much information to share with the public.

Say what?

Aho writes the memo on Saturday and delivers it, by e-mail, to councilors and local media on Sunday. The memos are not page-turners, by any means, but do offer updates on city programs and spending and provide some background information about all kinds of city services, such as plowing.

Councilors complain that they don’t have time to read the memo between its delivery on Sunday and when it is published in the local weekly on Thursday. So, because councilors don’t read their mail the public will be deprived of these informative updates?

A vigorous jeer to the complaining councilors.

Aho and councilors will schedule a workshop to discuss the memos and Aho said he might resume writing after that meeting, but is this really something the city needs to take time to talk about? Isn’t it just plain common sense and good government to provide information to the public?

Aho is not publishing city secrets. He’s providing solid, informative summaries of ongoing city business. That’s the public’s business and it’s just plain odd that any public official would object to engaging citizens in their government. 

*

Cheers to interim Maine Turnpike Authority Executive Director Peter Mills.

On the job less than a week, he’s already saved $19,000 by cancelling the Authority’s annual employee recognition banquet usually held in May.

It’s a disappointment for employees, but good news for customers.

And, it’s the proper thing to do.

In announcing his decision, Mills said the Authority is “going to have to live in a different financial atmosphere. We have to be much more careful about how our revenues are spent.”

This is a very different attitude than that exhibited by former Executive Director Paul Violette, who resigned amid legislative scrutiny about how he handled MTA finances.

Mills’ penny-pinching philosophy is refreshing and the motoring public appreciates it.

In the 4-year period between 2005 and 2009, the MTA spent $222,000 to recognize employees with meals and gifts. That’s about $115 per employee per year.

It’s not much, but it is 65 trips through the New Gloucester toll booth.

So, MTA employees don’t get a recognition banquet this year, but the trade-off is a solid bit of public appreciation and thanks. It’s not money, but favorable public opinion is pretty valuable.

*

Cheers to the Legislature –  both chambers –  for voting to uphold Maine’s mandatory seat belt law.

The vote was 91-51 in the House; 18-16 in the Senate to reject a proposal to unravel a recent change to the law that made failure to wear a belt a primary offense instead of the more passive secondary offensive.

By rejecting the proposal and maintaining the current law to buckle up, legislators can be sure they have spared people serious injuries and saved lives.

The collective vote to require seat belts was a true public service.

jmeyer@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

Joe Gray's picture

LSJ losing credibility quickly

The editorial board needs to get their collective head out of their posterior. Your blatant disregard for facts is quickly eroding any credibility you might enjoy.

The weekly review is being questioned not for the reason you state. The councilors in question don't like that the manager releases information without informing the council first. For example, the current weekly review states that we have enough money for spring cleanup. The council was concerned with Mr Aho stating this as we are still in budget talks and last year the on again off again statements regarding spring cleanup from the city really served to frustrate taxpayers. The council is trying to alleviate this type of frustration by asking the city manager to consult the council before publishing it.

The editorial board is truly hurting its credibility when it publishes statements so easily disproven. A quick look at the DVD of the last council meeting should set minds to ease that the council is not looking to keep secrets from the public by questioning the publishing of the weekly review.

Another ploy to sell more papers?

RONALD RIML's picture

Hey Joe.....

Since when are all 'Agendas' only discussed at the 'Open Meeting?' Are you saying there are no private nor personal ones?

You really expect folks to believe that the lack of something being aired in public - "now recorded on a 'DVD" - indicates it never occurred or took place?

I may have been born during the day, but not yesterday.......

So just what credibility do you have as critical commentator on municipal politics, Auburn or otherwise? You profile is very sparse.

Joe Gray's picture

Hey Ron...

I never stated that all "agendas" are aired publicly. I'm sure councilors talk on the phone or email each other. But that is not the subject of the editorial or my response. Please read each again and try to stay on track with your comments. Honestly, when I read what you wrote above I was a bit bewildered as I had never said anything about private meetings and such...

As for my credibility as a critical commentator on municipal politics is simply as a concerned taxpayer. I have never portrayed myself as anything but that...I don't profess to have years of experience. I was never a policeman like you claim. I have never worked for a municipality. But I do live in one and I attend nearly every council meeting and follow the news or our city. My comments here are merely an expression of my opinion and should be viewed as such. I believe that is the nature of this forum.

I don't try to hold myself up as an authority on anything - unlike some here...

RONALD RIML's picture

Joe - Better read your own posting again

Joe Gray wrote at 6:07 am on Mar 26, 2011: "The editorial board is truly hurting its credibility when it publishes statements so easily disproven. A quick look at the DVD of the last council meeting should set minds to ease that the council is not looking to keep secrets from the public by questioning the publishing of the weekly review."

Joe, would you mind telling us how anything said at the last Council Meeting disproves any allegation that the council may not be looking to keep secrets (information) from the public? Are you so gullible to believe that every word spoken is entirely the truth?

Hate to tell you Joe, but Babies aren't brought by the Stork, the Easter Bunny doesn't lay any Eggs, and the City Councilors on both sides of the Androscoggin aren't alway completely straightforward, honest, and above-board on what they do nor their intentions in doing it. There are those things they hold very close to their collective vests, and don't doubt that for a second.

Joe Gray's picture

Cynical Ron

With a cynical world view like you possess, I am certainly glad you were not a cop around here. Perhaps you should take off the hate colored glasses and try to respect people and give them the benefit of the doubt. Not everyone is out to screw everyone else. I do think a "healthy" dose of skepticism is critical, but let's not go overboard.

RONALD RIML's picture

To paraphrase this Joe

(While cynical Ron takes off for Maple Syrup Sunday with a Nasty Politician and our wives.....)

Joe believes: Politicians don't lie.

Ron knows: Politicians Lie.

Who the hell is living in reality????

RONALD RIML's picture

My experience with L/A Government wasn't limited to yours

Joe Gray writes: I don't profess to have years of experience. I have never worked for a municipality. But I do live in one and I attend nearly every council meeting and follow the news or our city. My comments here are merely an expression of my opinion and should be viewed as such.

My involvement with the Cities of both sides of the River was much closer and intimate than yours. I worked with both councils and staffs of each City, and attended numerous - numerous meetings. Don't, for one second, refuse to believe that a person will state one thing at a meeting - then do something entirely different. Your comments are based on opinion, while mine are based upon actual experience and fact. Time to join the real world there, Joe.

Chris Blake's picture

Quotes aren't facts?

When the SJ ran the story about the review being pulled, it was full of direct quotes from Mr. Aho and Mr. Herrick, a city councilor, about why it was being pulled. Those direct quotes make it clear that while the scheduling may be the point they're claiming is at issue, it really has a lot more to do with a few councilors upset about how they come across when their actions are made known. Here's the link http://www.sunjournal.com/city/story/1004553

So please explain to me how directly quoting the individuals involved is hurting the paper's credibility.

Besides, I'm not sure what your point is exactly. The editorial above says councilors don't like the timing of the review, just like you did. I don't see anything inaccurate about pointing out how and why their reasoning is specious and then calling them on it.

Joe Gray's picture

Editorial is not based on fact.

The original request came from Belinda Gerry at the last council meeting on Monday evening. During that meeting she stated she was dissatisfied with the manager releasing information prior to consulting the council. She worried, as I stated, that the public would become frustrated with differing stories coming from the council and/or manager. That was the original complaint, though Councilor Gerry has questioned Mr Aho use of the weekly review on prior occasions for this exact reason.

What was quoted in the paper in the story you reference "We, as a council, ought to know and discuss what goes in the review before it gets printed," Herrick said. "I don't mind if he writes it and I think it's great to get it out in the public, for people who missed the meeting, if that's the kind of discussion he writes." was not stating a direct opposition to the writing of the weekly review, just for the manager to consult prior to publishing. Councilor Herrick goes on to state he has been "thrown under the bus" by the city manager in the weekly review. He further states he is not opposed to the weekly review.

No where in the article you reference or in reality did any councilor state or imply that the weekly review is "just too much information to share with the public." This statement would leave the casual reader thinking the council is trying to hide or cover something up, and that is simply not the case. The councilors seem to want to avoid being blindsided by something the manager writes. If the manager were your employee, wouldn't you feel that way as well?

Chris Blake's picture

Covering up

Thanks for largely repeating the article I thought i'd made it clear I've read.

Based on several factors, I feel like the editors do, that the stated reason of wanting to review it before it's released, is specious at best, since they have time to do that. It seems a procedural quibble the councilors bothered by the review have come up with in order to get more control over it. I've seen councilor Herrick and Gerry in action enough to know they're in cahoots more often than not, and it doesn't really matter who raised the objection first. Neither of them have acted very responsibly on a number of issues that have caused contention when released in the weekly review, and the fact that they're trying to stop it sounds more like a cover up or an attempt to put their own spin on things than anything else.

Your own quibble about the line in the opening paragraph is making a mountain out of a molehill in and of itself. So what if one sentence is based on something we may or may not have seen in other articles or council meetings. The substance of the editorial is about the timing of the release of information, and how the editors feel the complaints of some councilors are unfounded.

You clearly disagree with their conclusions, but you're nit picking one phrase and saying that means the entire editorial's facts are incorrect, at the same time you're agreeing with most of the facts presented in it.

Joe Gray's picture

Misunderstanding?

One of us misunderstood and it may be me. I understand that the city manager emails the weekly review to councilors and the Twin City Times on Sunday evening. Therefore, it is already at the publishers when the councilors read it - making any comments they would like to add irrelevant.

Look at this week's review and you will see the hedging that the councilors are talking about. The manager states "we expect to have enough money for spring clean up" (I'm paraphrasing) And his final sentence states that things could change and if there is a storm or some unforeseen event, we may not have enough for spring cleanup. So again, it is not a definite. He also states there may be a $10.00 charge depending if the city council wants it or not. So, again, more confusion. What is wrong with waiting until you have the information complete before publishing it?

Whether or not Councilors Gerry and Herrick are in cahoots, that would probably depend on where you stand politically. Do you support things they believe in (they are in sync) or do you oppose their common held belief (they are in cahoots). Some issues I agree with each of them, some I oppose them. I am at the meetings and I make my view known. Sometimes I think a particular councilor is a genius and other times I think the same councilor is an idiot. It all depends where their opinion and mine meet (or don't).

I think the sentence that I quoted earlier kind of set the tone for the editorial and I still feel it is not based in facts. Not one person is quoted as saying too much information is being presented to the public. The only thing that was said is that the information may not be completely accurate or clear.

RONALD RIML's picture

Essentially the Legislative Branch want to Censor the

Executive Branch in making any Press releases.

So who in the Legislative Branch is the head censor, or do they have to call a City Council Meeting to Vote on the press releases???

Joe Gray's picture

Horrible analogy

Proving your bias and ignorance again Ron. The analogy you use is so far off base it is ridiculous. The city manager is an employee of the city. The position is not equal to the city council. Therefore, it is not one branch controlling another branch.

Do you use this forum simply to fight just for sport or are you interested in offering any solutions to actual or perceived problems?

RONALD RIML's picture

Things not going well for you, Robert?

Had you applied for that Military ID at 17 as I did, you might have got a head-start on life, wrapped up a few careers and pensions earlier, and not have to complain about other folks having time on their hands.

What were you doing back then, marveling over puberty???

RONALD RIML's picture

Robert - Do you have Alzheimers or are you a Liar???

Robert, you wrote above "I'm not sure what a military ID is"

Yet, if we go back to your posting of Mar 18, 2011, at 11:56 pm (see http://www.sunjournal.com/comment/76729#comment-76729) you wrote the following:

"do you have a passort? drivers license? how bout military ID to get your benefits and healthcare as a retiuree - ever have to show any of that ID...."

We see what that makes you, Robert Reed. For everyone to witness. An abject teller of mis-truths. You are indeed a pitiful wretch.

RONALD RIML's picture

So you were still in High School at 70, Robert

That explains a lot of your postings here.......

Steve  Dosh's picture

A look back at the week's news

Board members , Friday 19:40 HST •
Per usual ; nice , balanced editorials . T M I ( Too Much Information ) from Aho ? “Information is the currency of democracy.” Thomas Jefferson (American 3rd US President (1801-09). Author of the Declaration of Independence. ..." h t h ( hope this helps :) /s, Dr. Dosh
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...