There are few guarantees in life, but if you are sure you cannot do something, you are right. Our vocal opposition was sure that merging Lewiston and Auburn won’t work even before we got organized. The glass they hold is always half-empty.

Clearly, the Lewiston and Auburn Joint Charter Commission has been conditional with words and careful with projections. We will not overstate or over-promise. With no authority to implement changes, we can only shine a light on what might be. Final decisions will rest with a future city council, hopefully one with a glass half-full mindset. Without condition, we are saying our future can be bright if we are One LA.

Short on facts? Hardly. A couple weeks ago we made public an 88-page study and a 16-page rationale for merging. Department-by-department, line-by-line, and job-by-job, we detail where money can be saved. Over a 10-year period those savings add up to at least $23 million — and as much $42 million or more as integration plays out in full. Our documented facts are posted at

A merger will require some one-time costs, but given a 26-month transition period and with the governor offering to support the joining of school districts, those costs will be manageable and pale in comparison to the millions of dollars saved year after year. It is a certainty, if we do not merge the cities, we will not find annual savings of $2.3 to $4.2 million. Taxes will rise at a faster rate, services will be reduced, or both.

When it comes to a success model, we have referred to the Princeton, New Jersey, merger because it was recent, a similar-sized community and a big success. We used the same consultant to help us here, and we have taken advice from people who were directly part of their process. A friend of mine who lives in Princeton enthused that the merger “has been great for cost savings and improved services.” Want more facts? Read “A Tale Of Two Tigers: Princeton’s Historic Consolidation.”

Our opponents acknowledge the very real demographic and economic headwinds we face in the years ahead. They also express frustration about excessive city bureaucracies and ineffective agencies. OK, now what? Certainly, staying with the status quo can’t be the answer.


Our initiative is not about erasing a cherished invisible border, and we’re not dealing in emotion. It is about rethinking how our new city is organized and re-engineering how work is done — that is — making our government more efficient and effective. Without the requirement to combine, what will change? It is precisely because of no action by city councils, even after three consolidation studies during two decades, that our Commission is taking this directly to the people in November.

Particularly worrisome is that the Twin Cities are actually moving away from each other, with Auburn’s abandoning joint economic development being one significant example. Given our financial and economic challenges, does it make sense for a city of 23,000 that sits next to a city of 36,000 to be in competition with each other?

In the end, the choice will come down to our being two rival cities or one city that rivals others.

When he was in town a few weeks ago, George Mitchell said, “You have to stop thinking of your grandfather and start thinking of your grandchildren.” Some are wrapped in warm remembrances of a past, when we shopped on Lisbon Street and our factories churned out bedspreads and shoes for the world. That time is gone, and it is not coming back. We hope that most people understand the necessity of looking forward and preparing for what will be.

Through our work, we learned and project that we can be one community with one vision, where everyone is pulling in the same direction. As a city of nearly 60,000 we can raise our stature and change how others see and react to us. We can have an efficient city that saves money and delivers quality services — and where a safe city is made safer.

Focused and not competing, we can push through our headwinds for economic growth and quality jobs. To attract the talented people who attract the businesses that create the jobs that bring growth and an elevated quality of life, which, in turn, attract more talent, we can — we must — reinvent and revitalize our schools so that they are the best in Maine.


The fact is we have presented a model for how Lewiston and Auburn can have more jobs, better schools and safer streets. LA can be Maine’s best place to live, learn, work and play.

We can if we are One LA.

Gene Geiger is chairman of the Lewiston and Auburn Joint Charter Commission.

Gene Geiger

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