As I was out and about recently, I had the pleasure of sharing a few minutes with a resident whom I had never met before. As I walked up his driveway, he invited me to sit down at a table in his yard under a large oak tree.
After chatting about the weather, the condition of his street and the peacefulness of his property and surrounding neighborhood, we began to talk about the merger. He expressed his concerns about things such as the duplication of street names and how those issues might be resolved.
I let him know that I was looking forward to the public hearing in Lewiston and the opportunity to listen to the thoughts of residents. As I got up to leave, he turned to me and said, “You know, despite being two cities divided by a river, we have always been one community.” I have been reflecting on that statement ever since.
While I can’t speak to Auburn’s successes, and there have been many, 2016 was a busy year in Lewiston.
The city saw more than $29 million in economic development, mostly entailing the renovation or redevelopment of existing buildings. In 2017, an additional $18 million in mostly new construction projects have been approved or have begun construction.
The city had the opportunity to work with local artists on the development of a “public art plan” that allowed us to experiment with concepts such as creative crosswalks, murals and painted fire hydrants. We were also fortunate to see an expansion of our Art Walk series through L/A Arts, which now runs from May through December.
May saw the ground-breaking of the new Robert V. Connors Elementary School, slated to open in the fall of 2019, which will replace and combine the Longley and Martel elementary schools and upgrade the athletic fields at the high school. In addition, several educators were recognized for their service to the students of Lewiston, including Jenn Carter of Lewiston’s 21st Century Program, Nesrene Griffin and Kristie Clark of Longley Elementary School, Jake Langlais of Lewiston Middle School, Abby Dix of Farwell Elementary School, and Jason Fuller of Lewiston High School.
As a community, we have much to be proud of, and as individual cities, we have worked hard to accomplish what we have. When we look at these accomplishments, it is easy to say, “Hey, we are doing very well!” The real question is, “How much more could we do as one city?”
Will we have more potential for economic growth as one city?
How would we learn to think outside the box if we remain two cities?
How much better could we have been if we built one new library instead of two?
What kind of advantages would our children have if we had one school system that could pool its financial and human resources to create new opportunities for children?
What kind of vision would we have if we had one mayor and one expanded council to create a single comprehensive plan?
These are big questions, but they are ones that every resident must consider, for it is the potential of the Lewiston-Auburn community that is at stake.
At the end of the day, regardless of whether the merger question succeeds or fails, the residents of Lewiston and Auburn deserve a local government that is comprised of individuals who will respect the will of the voters and who will uphold the interests of their respective cities, while continuing to collaborate with the other in whatever manner best serves our “one community.”
Kristen Cloutier is president of Lewiston City Council and represents Ward 5.