Lewiston mayoral candidates want more development

LEWISTON — Mayoral candidate Robert Macdonald drew grumbles from the audience when he blamed the city's problems on welfare and immigration during a debate at city hall Thursday night. 

Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Lewiston mayoral candidate Robert Macdonald, third from right, responds to a question about how to keep young people in the area during a debate Thursday evening at city hall. Other candidates, left to right, are Walter Morrissette Hill, Ronald Jean, Mark Paradis and Stanley Pelletier. The debate was overseen by Lewiston Youth Advisory Council Chairwoman Mackenzi Masselli, third from left.

Macdonald, one of five candidates for the mayor's seat, said he would refuse federal or state aid that promoted expanding welfare, would call for a 10-year moratorium on Section 8 housing and would seek to demolish old downtown tenements.

"People from two continents and several states to our south flock to our city," Macdonald said, referencing news articles about new residents and migrants.

"Many are unemployable, as they are unskilled, illiterate and speak little or no English," Macdonald said. "And what is the response from our city leaders? Avoid confrontational issues and encourage more of these layabouts to settle here by providing new and more spacious Section 8 housing."

Candidate Stanley Pelletier disagreed with Macdonald about demolishing old buildings. He preferred auctioning the buildings and letting the new owners decide their fate.

"This is developing Lewiston, not tearing down the building because it's ugly," Pelletier said. "It's making livable, low-income housing responsibly."

Pelletier also made a pitch for easing city regulations for new developers.

"We must back off just a little bit, sometimes, when we have people who want to come in," he said. "We need to a be a little lax with some of this, not let them have the city, but work with them to develop something."

It was a mostly mannerly evening, with candidates avoiding political swipes. Candidates Mark Paradis, Macdonald, Ronald Jean, Pelletier and Walter M. Hill answered questions posed by members of the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council.

Jobs, economic development and helping the city realize its full potential were the top civic dreams of the five men seeking to be the city's next mayor.

Development is important for all of the candidates, especially as a way to lure more young college graduates to the city.

"We need jobs, but it's not just that," Paradis said. "You need education for their kids, activities that they want to participate in — theater, movies, walking trails. But the most important thing is the necessary housing for them."

Jean, incumbent city councilor for Ward 4, said creating jobs is one of his main goals.

"It's an old, old story," he said. "To keep people here, you have to have jobs for them. If there's nothing to keep them here, they're simply going to go away."

Hill said he would use Lewiston's culture and history to appeal to young adults.

"This whole city is a resource, and we don't showcase it," he said. "I bristle when I see cities that are 100 years younger than us luring people to their cities and towns to spend money with their heritage. We have heritage: the Stanley Steamer, the Liston-Ali fight. This was the birthplace of the unions here. I'm proud of the heritage in this city."

All five said they would support a casino in downtown Lewiston.

"A casino would bring jobs," Jean said. "People may be for or against it, but if they realize what kind of jobs would be coming here, I think people would be very much in favor of that."

Paradis said his only concern would be providing infrastructure for the casino.

"I want to make sure we can pay for what we need to support this, whether that's train service downtown or work at Exit 80," Paradis said. "But, if you build it, they will come, and that's the greatest thing in the world."

The candidates, as well as the City Council candidates from Lewiston and Auburn, are scheduled to meet Wednesday, Oct. 12, for the Candid Candidates forum, sponsored the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce and the Young Professionals of the Lewiston-Auburn Area. It's scheduled to take place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Voters in Auburn will get a chance to listen to the city's at-large City Council candidates at a more traditional forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, at Auburn Hall. That event is sponsored by the Auburn Democrats.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Catholic Charities

As a point of interest I happen to know that Catholic Charities does not bring immigrants to our community. The Federal Government does. It then contracts with Catholic Charities to help them to adjust to the community. Catholic Charities has no say on when or how many immigrants come. And they would be here with or without the assistance of Catholic Charities. Also, most of the immigrants in Maine came because they wanted to. No one brought them. They came from other immigrant communities within the United States and chose to move here because they thought it was a good place to raise their families. The amount of ignorance and bigotry around this subject is really mind boggling.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Immigrants

Imagine what the MacDonalds and the Peters were saying when all those French speaking people got off the trains on Lincoln street. At its peak they came at the rate of about 1,000 a week. They spoke a weird language prayed in a different church, ate strange food, had huge families and probably looked and smelled funny to the people already living here. Most of the ones who came never did learn much English but their children and grandchildren did and they became doctors, lawyers, teachers, businessmen, drunks, criminals, scientists and everything in between. Were it not for them,however, Lewiston-Auburn would still be the sleepy village on the Androscoggin, pretty much like Mechanic Falls, instead of a population center rivaling Portland and Bangor. The new immigrants are pretty much following in the same footsteps. They are starting new businesses, opening new churches,struggling to fit in and most importantly sending their kids to school to learn English. Some of these kids will grow up to make great contributions to our country and of course some will not. In all, however, we have always benefitted from the energy and drive that came with new waves of immigrants and I have seen nothing different about this one.

DOROTHY PETERS's picture

Mayoral candidate Bob Macdonald grew grumbles......

Bob Macdonald is right on the money. The politically correct folks in the audience are wrong as usual. It may be politically correct to welcome throngs of welfare folk to the community, but it is absolutely stupid for the resident population. Immigration is a wonderful thing when done in moderation. Immigrants can be wonderful additions to communities when they meld into the culture and accept the collective social establishment that already exists. Catholic Charities dumping and encouraging thousands of immigrants to move to Lewiston may make people feel good, but it certainly has destroyed the economic compass direction. These new folk need to learn English, accept the existing social customs, become educated and accept American values, and begin to accept personal responsibility and contribute positively to our economy. They left their country because its political and social model did not work, and they have no business dragging that model along and living it in Maine. I am sorry I do not live within the city limits of Lewiston. All other issues being equal, Bob Macdonald would get my vote. Every thinking person in Lewiston should consider his honesty a virtue.

David  Cote's picture

The future of Lewiston

From what I read the mayoral candidates are utilizing the same old talking points...Create jobs, develop the downtown area, etc...Then all five fall back on the casino idea and that's not the solution. However, I do find candidate Hill's vision of showcasing the city as a whole and using that to move forward. A great example is the revitalization of the Bates Mill area where not too long ago it was a depressing maze of decrepit brick buildings and old parking lots overgrown with weeds pushing through the cracks in the pavement. These days we are fortunate to have attracted businesses and eateries to set up shop in the newly renovated buildings. That section of town looks fantastic. But I don't believe adding a casino to the mix will enhance the area the way these candidates believe it will. I would like to see development near exit 80 of the turnpike. There are many opportunities to make a positive statement there. I also disagree with candidate MacDonald about his stance on the immigrants that now call Lewiston their home. A number of them have tried making a go at establishing a business, but how successful does anyone think they can be if we as a community cast aside their efforts and question the legitimacy of their intentions? The Somalians residents of today, like the French-Canadian residents of years ago immigrated her for a chance to live their lives in a place with boundless opportunity. We need to give them that opportunity. There are solutions to the welfare situation as well. Institute a program whereas welfare recipients are required to partake in x amount of hours a week of community service. And I'm not talking about picking trash up in the park, but rather to place them in postions where they can be of some real benefit, and in turn, instill in them a sense of purpose and belonging. Meaningful tasks they can hang their hats on and say at the end of the day they made a positive difference. None of this happens until it is realized that each and every person, from all walks of life have purpose and value. So, in retrospect, the challenge is not in how we rebuild this city, but rather, how do we rebuild the mindsets of the residents of this city?

GARY SAVARD's picture

Robert McDonald probably

Robert McDonald probably won't get elected mayor, but he does make some very good points. With ample low cost housing, a full boat of social services, and in a State with very liberal entitlement, (welfare), programs, Lewiston, just like every other city of any size in Maine, attracts elements from away that we could definately do without.

 's picture

we are in a recession. all

we are in a recession. all of america is hurting. you have to build and create jobs to keep people here-however with our economy in crisis... there are jobs all around us failing.

what has been failing lewiston is the people who have been running it and not paying attention. rather than blaming immigration and welfare for lewiston's problems (as macdonald so freely expresses ignorance in a close-minded manner-lest he forget he is running for a position of ALL lewiston people) we need to take a look at where-in the problem lies. lewiston is a forgotten town-forgotten as in forgotten by the people who should be responsible to run this city. you have everyday average people who have a profound love for this town trying to make a difference because the people who were to run this city failed us time and time again. you have landlords who have been able to get away with everything and not being held responsible for the upkeep of their buildings-however there have been changes. if the city leaders don't care about us? and want to tear down our homes? our lives? why should we care about it as well? its a cycle... until someone breaks it. well-i tell you what-we do care. there are big changes for lewiston and i firmly believe in that. we need more people to care. there are resources out there that are available for people to get involved with and speak up-that have a chance to voice there concerns and BE HEARD.

we are a melting pot of beautiful souls and stories. america is not the white mans land... its america-culturally diverse... one thing that remains clear is that this is not going to change so people who are filled with hate or ignorance need to get over it. its all about uniting. we all bleed the same, feel the same... go through similar thoughts, emotions, events... and we have something in common-who knew!?! we love or live in america and have love for it... we can blame immigrants for all our problems, but its not going to help our complaints. instead of pointing fingers like a high school bully try coming up with a solution for all RESIDENTS (immigrants included).

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