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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Poll Dancing

It was an ugly day today as Tuesday's election started to come to light, as this young woman appears to have realized.

Photo courtesy of

Rockland voters nixed a pay-per bag garbage disposal program that would have both lowered property taxes and reduced the volume of trash processed at the facility.

Call it a victory for the stupid and the lazy.

Photo courtesy of Driveway Dumpsters /

As the Courier-Gazette reported:

The rejection will mean the city council will have some significant budget decisions to make. The proposed 2006-2007 budget that gained preliminary approval last week included about $500,000 in projected pay per bag fees.
Budget decisions … True – the City predicted an ability to permit a 2.3% increase in town spending while cutting taxes 1.64 %. Now, those numbers may be inverted … at best.

But that's just the tax issue – the tip of the problem nobody appears willing to face.

Photo courtesy of Maine State Planning Office /

The landfill – a former quarry, now more than ¾ refilled after years of dumping – is the subject of at least one other controversy in town. But Rockland's
chief problem is not the smell created by residual waste by FMC's seaweed processing operations. And it's not the mind-boggling degree of the landfill's history of hazardous waste dumping.

This is all repugnant … or at least, pungent … but it's not the worst of it. The worst is that ANYONE can get through the gate and toss whatever they wish into either the landfill or the hopper, from which trash is transported to the regional incinerator. Dump employees refuse to stop out-of-towners from dumping in Rockland's dump, and Town Officials refuse to take meaningful steps to do anything about it. The failed "Pay Per Bag" ordinance would have been a step in the right direction, but apparently, the City Council failed to convey that message to the city's likely voters.

Photo courtesy of Maine State Planning Office /

The Rockland landfill is where citizens who cannot dispose of hazardous household wastes and are forced to pay-per-bag for household waste in their own towns come to dump. Rockland is one of the only towns in the Knox-Lincoln County region that maintains a landfill, into which folks routinely (and legally) toss used drywall, insulation, and any other type of building waste. There appear to be
rules but enforcement is another story. And while many Rocklanders are religious about recycling, far more appear to take advantage afforded by unlimited dumping privileges and throw whatever they can get away-with into the the hopper.

It isn't the cityfolk, but those from neighboring towns who somehow finagled a dump permit sticker by being friends with a Rockland resident, or being somehow affiliated with a Rockland business. The story goes: Guy who lives in South Thomaston owns a construction company that lists Rockland as its hometown. The business may dispose of its waste in Rockland, but there is no stopping the South Thomaston business owner, or his Appleton and Union employees, from using the company truck (with the Rockland dump sticker) to get rid of their unseparated household trash.

Apparently, Rockland is
notorious, as the regional incineration company has threatened in the past to stop receiving our household trash loads due to the high volume of "unacceptable waste" tossed in with the garbage.

The City's
solid waste ordinance, Sec. 14-114, appears to authorize:

• a $10 fine per bag for "non-separation of recyclable from non-recyclable goods."
• Fines up to $1,000) per violation for any other violation of the dumping rules.
• Loss of dumping privileges for a specified period of time

Fines up to $1,000 and loss of dumping privileges? The cash penalty is nice, but I haven't seen any fines levied. And tell me, how big of a deal is it to threaten a St. George resident with "loss of dumping privileges" after he throws 5 paint cans into the hopper … when he never had dumping privileges to begin with?!?

And it says nothing of the biggest problem: Failure of Enforcement.

Photo courtesy of Maine State Planning Office /

Dump employees are rarely to be seen. When they appear, they do not enforce the rules, leaving to faith that dumpers recycle and limit their dumped trash to what's on the list.
As the Village Soup reported last week:

Some opponents said PAYT is unnecessary, when greater enforcement of recycling laws hopper-side at the dump could have the same effect. Others said the task is impossible.
"We need more than [recycling] enforcement," said Francis Mazzeo. Finding someone to sit and monitor trash is difficult, he added. "Nobody wants to do it."

Photo courtesy of Maine State Planning Office /

What completely confounds me is the City Council's inability to sell this one to the people. After all, Rockland is one of those towns where the skyrocketing property taxes are the biggest story of all. All it would have taken was a coordinated campaign to educate the voters and get them to the polls.
That's what the opposition did. Yet, I find it hard to believe that these same same folks who voted to repeal the ordinance won't be front and center, bitching about their still-growing property taxes six months from now, if it takes that long.

Enough of this garbage, already …

Meanwhile, in Deepest Darkest Lincoln County …

Photo Courtesy of Louisiana Tech's International Students Assn. /

Southward, two
towns in Lincoln County voted down measures that would have blocked Wal-Mart from sprawling into their midst. In Wiscasset, voters said no to a six-month moratorium on any new retail buildings larger than 40,000 square feet by a small margin of 426-498. Waldoboro voters were less split on the question, dumping a plan to permanently bar retail development with a footprint of larger than 45,000 square feet by a 1094-770 margin. Lincoln County News reporter Mike Colbert noted:

The 45,000 square foot cap was thought to be generous enough to accommodate most retailers, including large supermarkets, while preventing the sprawl associated with big box development, which can spread out as much as five football fields.
Well, apparently not …

That should make Route One right chock-full of Low, Low Prices in the not-so-distant future, with only
Damariscotta, Newcastle, and Nobleboro providing a respite from the big boxes.

Other Elections …

Photo courtesy of Jon Laitin /

The primary contest between two Democrats for the privilege, or as
NPR's Ken Rudin deems it, "the dubious honor of taking on Sen. Olympia Snowe in November" appears to be too tight to call more than a day after polls closed. As of 4 pm on Wednesday, with 99% of precincts reporting, Dixmont organic farmer Jean Hay Bright had 22,287 votes (50.68%) to Orono attorney Eric Mehnert's 21,698 (49.32%). Locally in Knox County, Hay Bright took 56% of the votes, emerging with a 852-669 edge.

No concessions from Mehnert and no victory pronouncements from Hay Bright either. Maine Things Considered reported this afternoon that Mehnert's camp has not revealed any plan to call for a recount, but that State Officials were preparing for such a contingency in the event the request is made.

Word out of
Sen. Snowe's camp was, well, unconcerned. After all, she's been deemed "The Provider," and one of "America's 10 Best Senators" by Time Magazine, which says:

Because of her centrist views and eagerness to get beyond partisan point scoring, Maine Republican Olympia Snowe is in the center of every policy debate in Washington ... Snowe's formula of being clued into the center and into home have made her very popular in Maine. In a March poll by Survey USA, 71% of Snowe's constituents approved of her performance, a rating only a handful of Senators ever score.

Dubious honor is right …

The Knox County numbers didn't hold up Statewide in the
Republican contest to face Gov. John Baldacci in his reelection bid this fall. St. George/Rockland native and former Congressman Dave Emery took third statewide in the primary election, despite tallying 56.32% in the Knox County polls (1,883 votes). Statewide, State Sen. Chandler Woodcock, of Farmington edged out State Sen. Peter Mills, of Cornville, 26,813-24,488 (38.59% to 35.25%)

Photo courtesy of the Lewiston Sun Journal /

The Bangor Daily News characterized the contest between the two top voter getters as such

With his "down-home" style, pro-life and anti-gay rights attitudes, Woodcock, 57, appealed to conservatives and was actually banking on a turnout of 25 percent or less. Political scientists have long held that in primaries with lower turnouts, the "wingers" in the party - those with the most strictly defined and less flexible policy positions - tend to participate at the polls in larger numbers than those with more moderate views.

Sometimes referred to as a "liberal" by Woodcock and Emery supporters for his pro-gay rights, pro-choice stands and his opposition to the proposed Taxpayer Bill of Rights tax cap, Mills also claimed to be a Republican in the mold of Collins and Snowe. While many of the party's hard-liners wanted a candidate like Woodcock who would provide a sharp contrast to Democratic Gov. John E. Baldacci, Mills argued he was the party's best hope for winning back the Blaine House because of his presumed ability to attract independent and alienated Democratic voters.
The general election campaign is likely to be colorful, as
at least two independent candidates hope to draw significant votes away from the big two parties, while former Green Party candidate for Vice President Pat LaMarche is expected to specifically cut into the Governor's vote total, running as a Maine Green Independent.


Blogger weasel said...

Concerning the Rockland dump and the Wal Mart thing: my completely untested (and alas untestable) theory is that both the payt and the moritoriums were done in by being on the same ballot as Republican primaries- sheriff and gov in Rock-around-the-clock-land and gov in Lincoln County. Too bad the Courier Gazette and the Soup are apparently too stingy to stump for polling.

Looking at Rockland's turn-out, it was healthy but not wonderful (not when you consider there are about 4400 registered voters in 04841) and its always easier to motivate proponents rather than opponents of an initiative. The "no taxes' primativist wing of the GOP would have been out in force due to the Davey/Ockenfels sheriff race and the presence of local boy Dave Emery on the gubernatorial slate.

Off year elections stink: there is always something embarassing that comes out of them.

5:16 PM

Blogger Rikki said...

I buy that! I had an interesting, brief chat with a woman while standing in line to receive our ballots. For some reason, the lines were moving terribly slow despite no shortage of pollworkers. The woman said, "I can't believe this ... I was just up in Camden, and the polls were running smoothly. There's no excuse for this (slowness)..." I replied, "Yeah, I think I heard something about this happening in Ohio a couple of years back ..." At first she looked at me with confusion until she got the "joke". There was certainly some genius to the timing ... or rather, absence of it on the part of the Council for enacting a controversial ordinance in advance of a mid-term Primary election. Not that this is any surprise ...

9:04 PM


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