LEWISTON — None of the ideas mayoral candidate Bob Macdonald champions are new to Lewiston residents, he said.
Residents worry that there's too much welfare and that the city's culture is changing, he said. They're impatient to turn the city's fortunes around.
"But nobody's listened," Macdonald said. "It's not what they wanted to hear."
Macdonald said that all changes if voters pick him at the Dec. 13 mayoral runoff election.
Macdonald promises to do what he can to limit public assistance and subsidized housing — even though those are federal and state programs and out of the mayor's control.
"I can't change anything that's in place," he said. "What I've said is we need to pass a moratorium and we limit it — no further Section 8 housing or affordable or whatever you want to call it or whatever name it goes by next week. No more of that."
Reducing Lewiston's affordable housing will lure new business and encourage redevelopment of the city while boosting its image around the state, he said.
"This is what people are telling me, what they've been saying for years, and I've listened," he said.
Macdonald hasn't said how he'd accomplish what he wants. But knowing what he wants to accomplish is the most important thing right now.
"I may not know all the codes and program names, but knowing all that hasn't helped us so far anyway," he said. "That's who's been in charge, and look where we are."
Macdonald said he has the public's support, and he plans to use the mayor's job as a bully pulpit to shape things. The job's main responsibility may be running City Council meetings, but Macdonald said that should be enough.
"The sort of people that are my supporters, they will fill up the City Council meetings," he said. "They'll demand that things will change."
Macdonald moved to Maine in 1977, attended the Maine Criminal Justice Academy and joined the Lewiston Police Department. He spent 23 years on the job, reaching the rank of detective before retiring in 2000.
Many of his political views grew out of that time on the force.
"I'd see hardworking people here in the same downtown area, going to their jobs in the mill," he said. "The streets were clean enough you could eat off of them."
He watched that change over the years, with more and more people moving to the community and living on public support and welfare.
What frustrates him are people who don't work and don't contribute to society. During the campaign for Lewiston's mayor, he's called them layabouts and deadbeats.
"These people just don't care," he said. "They have no responsibility. They think that everybody else is supposed to do something for them, buy their food and pay their rent."
Macdonald said he doesn't have a problem with any ethnic group.
"I say 'welfare recipients.' I'm talking about the whole crew on entitlement, whether they are white, black, yellow, green, purple or whatever," he said.
Macdonald spent the last 10 years working as an education tech at Lewiston Middle School, and that helped shape his views on Lewiston's newest Somali residents.
He has nothing but respect for Somali women. They are hardworking, serious and smart, he said.
But many of the Somali boys he saw at the middle school were different.
"They have to take all these standardized tests, filling in the bubbles with a pencil, and they'd just go down the line, filling in the same bubble," he said. "They'd mark 'A, A, A ...' and hand me the paper and say they're done. 'What do you mean you're done,' I'd say. But they just didn't care."
People who want to contribute are welcome in Lewiston, he said, but he hopes to make the city a less desirable place for those who don't want to work. With less subsidized housing and less public support, they'll have to go someplace else.
And then Lewiston can get back on track and turn itself around. He's excited about plans to develop Lewiston's riverfront and hopes to make that area a new downtown with a Lincoln Street exit on the Maine Turnpike feeding directly into it.
He says he's a one-issue candidate and that if he can leave office in two years with a 10-year moratorium on subsidized housing in place, he will have won.
Whether he is successful or not depends on his friends and supporters.
"I'm not a career politician, but I have a lot of support," he said. "I can get in and I can articulate what I want, but I need help. This is a we thing. It's not a me thing, and I'm not Larry Gilbert. It's not about me."