Gendron offers up tall tale, hyperbole

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Education Commissioner Susan Gendron came to the Sun Journal last week to tout school system consolidation. During her hour-plus long meeting with a reporter and the editorial board, she emphasized the need for change.

Other Maine groups have called for consolidation for a quarter of a century, she said.

“I can show you a stack of reports that’s almost 2 feet high in the department’s office that these commissions, task forces have for 25 years said we have too many school districts,” Gendron said.

The Sun Journal asked to see that stack of reports. We wanted to take a picture of it.

So the Department of Education officials went looking for them. And looking. And looking.

Largely from memory, Jim Rier, the department’s director of finance and operations, cited six reports between 1995 and 2006. But no more.

So what about that two-foot stack of reports going back 25 years?

While the department does store education reports, according to department spokesman David Connerty-Marin, reporters would have to read them all to determine any shared recommendation to trim districts.

He admitted “They’re not literally sitting in a stack in her office.”

– Lindsay Tice and Bonnie Washuk

Snowe on ‘Hardball’ about Iraq war

After U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, joined other senators Wednesday in a bi-partisan resolution opposing more troops in Iraq and calling for an about-face to the war, Snowe’s name and face was all over the national news.

On Thursday she appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball” along with Senators Joe Biden, D-Delaware, and Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana.

Chris Matthews asked Snowe: What do regular people in Maine say about the war right now?

“They’re very much opposed to the surge. They’re deeply concerned about the fact it’s (war) not moving in the right direction,” Snowe said.

In Matthews style, Snowe hadn’t finished the sentence before he asked another question.

In opposing Bush, Snowe said Congress is fulfilling its role of representing what the people want. “Seventy percent of the people object to the policy in Iraq,” she said.

“Did you tell the president that?” Matthews asked.

Yes, Snowe said.

What did he say in response? Matthews asked.

“He responds with his own specific facts,” Snowe answered.

She said she “laid out my case” to Bush a week ago. “I told him why I was very much concerned.” Iraqis “are not making the tough choices” to stop the violence. “And our troops are put at risk,” Snowe said. “We’re not willing to commit more troops.”

Like Snowe, U.S. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also opposes Bush’s call for more troops in Iraq. Today she and Sens. John Warner and Ben Nelson will hold a press conference to talk about an anti-troop surge resolution they’re working on.

– Bonnie Washuk

An emergency rescue

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Lucien Gosselin loves his new office in the former Pontiac Building. The newly renovated Business Service Center is modern, wired, and pays proper respect to the 100-year-old heritage of the building.

But what he likes best is the silence.

“I’ve got to tell you, the biggest relief is not hearing the fire and ambulance sirens,” he said.

The old offices at 37 Park St. were at about the same elevation as the pitch on Ash Street where fire engines and ambulances would turn to race downtown. As they slowed at the intersection at Ash and Park streets, the sirens would penetrate the building’s walls.

“It was so bad, I would have to stop talking until they passed,” said Gosselin.

And it happened a lot.

“Five or six times a day,” he said.

Now the sirens are distant. But there’s a whiff of yet another distraction.

The Business Service Center is right next door to Country Kitchen bakeries.

– Carol Coultas

Lofty company

New Vineyard’s John Bagnulo, who climbed Mount Everest on his birthday this past May, was among a handful of climbers nominated as “climber(s) of the year” by the readers of EverestNews.com.

He didn’t the win the honor announced last week – that went to Dan Mazur of Washington state and three climbers who were with him when they saved Australian Lincoln Hall’s life a couple of weeks after Bagnulo’s climb.

But simply being nominated for the honor shows how high Bagnulo’s fellow climbers hold him.

Bagnulo reached the peak on his 36th birthday, joining Vermonter Dave Watson, who reached Everest’s summit for his second time in as many years, George Dijmarescu and his wife, Lakpa Sherpa, both of Connecticut, and a Nepalese Sherpa relative of Lakpa’s. For Dijmarescu, it was his 8th trip to to the highest point on earth. It was his wife’s sixth visit. That made her the woman who has climbed Mount Everest more than any other.

– Doug Fletcher

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