Let's look at some of the pros and cons to the things that are happening in Millinocket.
The cons first.
I have been stewing about the recent article that appeared in the 7/17/08 issue of the Bangor Daily News, entitled "Business group wants more say in Millinocket."
Well, why wouldn't they? Take a look at the members who were listed in that article. Few of them are actually from Millinocket but have rather come, at one time or another, to line their own pockets; or they have bought into Matt Polstein's tourism-only agenda in the hopes that it will ultimately benefit their businesses, and hence their own bank accounts.
One of the things that I found interesting in the article was that there was no mention of a divorce between Jean McLean and Dan Corcoran; yet Corcoran is named as the stepfather of Bruce McLean, Executive Director of MAGIC, while no mention was made that Jean McLean is his mother. Has Nick Sambides Jr. done his homework or is he simply printing what "they" want to have put out to the public? Is it possible that they didn't want everyone to know that two of the key members of this "new" group are related to MAGIC's executive director?
In case you haven't read between the lines of this "puff piece," as I see it, MBA was formed for several reasons. Among them, they wish to be the rebirth of the MAGIC organization, minus the scandals; and to further Polstein's tourist agenda. It also appears as though they are working their way up to a position where they can challenge the Katahdin Chamber of Commerce.
I too have had my reservations concerning the Chamber. Anyone who has picked up the recent edition of the Chamber's visitors guide will see that it is nothing more than relatively free advertisingf for Polstein's New England Outdoor Center (NEOC), and that it does not adequately represent other member businesses.
My perception of a successful Chamber is one that advocates for and promotes all businesses within the region that it serves on an equal basis, and which shows a more accurate overall picture of what our region has to offer visitors. I believe that, to be successful, the Chamber needs to reorganize and restructure itself; and it could begin by limiting the sizable influence of Wendy Polstein.
Neither East Millinocket at $2,000, nor Medway at $1,500. have agreed to support the Chamber to the degree that Millinocket has with at least $14,000. And why shoud the other towns support the Chamber? How many of their businesses are highlighted?
Now let's take a look at MBA's ideas. First is the suggestion to bus tourists to the downtown area. Wonderful! But where would these tourists come from? And once we have them in the downtown area, what does Millinocket have to offer other than embarrassment and a lack of retail businesses. Maybe the ultimate plan and design is to drive them to Polstein's resort - if and when he ever gets it up and running.
Then there is the idea to organize downtown beautification. Excuse me, but I do believe that Millinocket has already established a Beautification Committee, and allocated $3,000 of taxpayer money for just that purpose. Take a look at the plant pots that line Penobscot Avenue. This is just one of the many projects that dedicated members of that committee have achieved. Could it be that MBA would like to get their greedy hands on some of that money, as in MAGIC all over again?
And of course, they suggest that we must create town festivals such as the "Trail's End" celebration. This was an idea originally started by Hidden Springs Campgrounds. They tried to attract hikers and such, but failed to sustain viable participation. So, good luck on this venture.
Now lets's look at some of the pros.
The people of Millinocket and the Katahdin Region have finally begun to wake up.
If not for the efforts of Kitty St. John, we would have lost our local golf course. The vultures were circling it. Instead, and largely to her efforts, it is still in the hands of Millinocket and one of the few businesses still current on their loan from our revolving fund. Thank you, Kitty!
Control of our airport has reverted back to the town. This, thanks to our councilors, our town manager, Jeff Campbell, and let's not forget to thank Tony Cesare for the outrageous FBO salary demand that prompted a closer look, especially after the town assisted him when he was having some financial difficulties.
With the help of all of the citizens who woke up and signed petitions, then voted at the polls, MAGIC's funding from Millinocket was discontinued and has saved the taxpayers many previously wasted dollars. Our sister towns have since followed suit. With that impediment to progress out of the way, or at least off the tax rolls, maybe now our town manager and the council can enthusiastically pursue business opportunities that could supply the jobs necessary for our town's survival.
Again, the residents of Millinocket banded together and defeated an attempt by one of MAGIC's stakeholders to build condos adjacent to Forest Avenue. This is not to say that condos are necessarily a bad idea, or that they will not eventually be built in Millinocket. However, Mr. Benjamin wanted to put them in an area designed for residential one-family homes. Without the support of the people, the climate and flavor of this area would have been destroyed.
With but a few exceptions, once the people were denied their request for accountability from the proposed Katahdin Cultural Center, they withdrew their support, and the "scam" was defeated. Hopefully now, through some hard work by Millinocket people working together for a good purpose, we will have our very own historical society and museum, to be shared and operated by Millinocket people rather than those who were interested only in using our history to line their own pockets.
I have attempted to point out some of the pros and cons that have taken place in recent years. But the underlying lesson to be learned is that when Millinocket people become aware of the true nature of the things that are going on, they join together for the good of Millinocket, and good things do indeed happen.
However, the fight is not over.
Many years ago Abraham Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Millinocket cannot stand if its people do not band together for the common good. The future of Millinocket is at stake and it lies in the hands of its people. If you want to preserve our unique lifestyle, then it is up to each and every one of us to fight for it before it is taken away.