On the Base

The closure of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station (BNAS) was a long, drawn-out affair.  Like most impending events that you eventually find out were inevitable, this was another one that elicited hand-wringing, predictions of doom and gloom—not to mention—certain economic devastation. Brunswick was likely to dry up and blow away without Uncle Sam and the Pentagon sending shekels, keeping it afloat—at least that’s the version the media sold us.

The perspective is always different through the lens of hindsight. Looking back also provides perspective on how news stories get spun. I find it especially enlightening when political icons are judged by history. George Mitchell, everyone’s favorite Maine Democrat (if you’re a Maine Democrat) had this to say back in 1993, when he was Senate Majority Leader, in a news brief I located from the Boston Globe. [via ProQuest]

Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell said yesterday that he is optimistic Maine’s Navy bases will be spared when the Defense Department’s list of recommended bases for closure s released. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery and the Brunswick Naval Air Station could potentially be on the list Secretary of Defense Les Aspin will present to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. [The Boston Globe, March 6, 1993]

BNAS was on the list, and it wasn’t spared. So much for the wisdom of ole’ George, Mr. Maine Democrat.  Actually, there’s more political wrangling to this story, as Mitchell ended up leaving the Senate and as a result, Maine lost some clout in Washington. That might actually have had more to do with the closure than Mitchell being a lousy prognosticator.

When BNAS closed in 2011, it affected 2,687 active duty personnel and 583 full-time civilian personnel. That was a significant loss of jobs along with the economic ripple effect that accompanied the closure.

Fast forward four years and the former Naval Air Station is in the process of redevelopment under the care of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (MRRA). Since redevelopment began, there are more than 70 businesses occupying the former base, and according to various news sources, more than 700 new jobs have been created.

Being that the JBE wants to be your go-to source for local news, at least local in terms of drawing a 30-mile ring around the JBE compound, I was able to dig a bit deeper for my readers. According the MRRA’s very own Redevelopment News newsletter that number is actually 730 jobs—which they cite as being “60 percent more than projected four years into this project. The newsletter goes on to report that they “expect to have more than 800 employees here in high-paying, quality positions by the end of the year.”

Plenty of space for development, at Brunswick Landing.

Plenty of space for development, at Brunswick Landing.

Steve Levesque, MRRA’s executive director, was lauded by Senator Susan Collins, for his work in revitalizing the former military installation. Collins led Maine’s congressional delegation back in June, presenting Levesque with the 2015 Community Leadership Award on behalf of the Association of Defense Communities.

This award is part of the Association’s annual awards program, which recognizes communities, military installations, public officials and military leaders demonstrating strong leadership, innovation and excellence. [from Targeted News Service, June 24, 2015]

I guess creating one job for every four lost constitutes success in an empire in decline. Actually, this article, which highlights that all is not peachy-keen in Brunswick, especially with the local town council, puts the number of jobs lost at the base at closer to 5,000 total. Also, there have been issues regarding hazardous materials at the site. The entire base is actually considered a federal Superfund site. According to one local group, Brunswick Area Citizens for a Safe Environment, they have concerns about groundwater and places that were used to dump hazardous materials; this included garbage, waste oil, pesticides, solvents, paint, and aircraft and automobile parts.

Mölnlycke Health Care is one of Brunswick Landings 70+ tenants.

Mölnlycke Health Care is one of Brunswick Landings 70+ tenants.

Here’s some personal backstory on BNAS, or Brunswick Landing, using the current moniker. Back in the 1990s, I worked for Central Maine Power Company. Things aren’t the same there, either, as they are now owned by a Spanish multinational, Iberdrola. Back when I worked for CMP, you could make a living wage reading meters. Now, smart meters have eliminated those kinds of jobs. Technology is a wonderful thing.

During that period (actually, it was 1987 through 1995, but no one’s counting), we were required to go on base and read several electrical meters, for billing purposes. This required crossing the runway. Of course, there were planes taking off, so we had to have a Navy official ride with us, in order to obtain clearance to cross the runway. Simply gaining entry to the 3,200 acres required stopping at a guard station just off the Bath Road and submitting credentials of some kind.

With the closure of BNAS, one of the big changes is that you now have open access to most of the former Navy base. No more guards at the guard station. That’s very weird for me.

I’ve been on campus several times over the last few years. Shortly after the base was closed, someone I used to work with during my workforce days, drove me around and pointed out some of the development that had just begun, after MRRA took over.

On Sunday, Mary and I loaded our bikes on the back of her SUV and made the short drive over to Brunswick. We were going to spend the brisk October Sunday, tooling around greater-Brunswick, including exploring the former military base, on two wheels, rather than four. There’s no better way to see the sites than via bicycle.

There are some nice trails and pathways for bicyclists. A Google search showed me that there is now a bike/pedestrian entrance to Brunswick Landing via Pine Street. The path takes you out around the runway, parallel to busy Bath Road.

Miss Mary, biking by the old BNAS runway.

Miss Mary, biking by the old BNAS runway.

Once on the old base, there are a host of places to explore.  We rode towards the easternmost perimeter of the grounds, following some of the outer roadways. There is now a Maine Army National Guard Reserve Center domiciled where the former ordinance grounds were. While the entire 3,200 acres of the Brunswick Landing campus was pretty deserted on a Sunday, this portion of the grounds was eerie, or “creepy,” as Mary described it.

We eventually made our way around the contours of the landing strip, by the golf course (now open to the public), and out the gate located off Route 123 and Middle Bay Road.

Crystal Spring Farm, in Brunswick.

Crystal Spring Farm, in Brunswick.

Then, we headed out to Maquoit Bay, around Woodside Road, down Pleasant Hill Road (past Crystal Spring Farm, where Mary visits the farmers’ market every Saturday), and back to the parking lot off Pleasant Street, near downtown. We rode just under 20 miles and saw Brunswick in a totally different manner than the usual way, behind the wheel of a car.

Once our bikes were loaded on the back of the RAV4, we were set on lobster rolls and seafood chowder at Erica’s Seafood, off Basin Point in Harpswell. A perfect October Sunday adventure, now in the books.

Lobster rolls and seafood, at Erica's Seafood, in Harpswell.

Lobster rolls and seafood, at Erica’s Seafood, in Harpswell.

Finding Balance

Do you remember walking the balance beam in elementary school? While the beam was only inches off the ground, it was daunting for some, more than others. The students who were able to walk the length of the beam were able to focus on the task at hand and concentrate.

Could genetics be in play, here? It’s possible.

A person’s balance is enhanced by three things: the part of the inner ear called the vestibular system; sensory nerves in your muscles, tendons, and joints; and your eyesight. People with better balance are likely able to coordinate these three things. Balance is likely a combination of genetics and also training.

I’ve never been very good on a skateboard. I also wear glasses, so it’s possible my balancing abilities are negatively impacted by my eyesight.

I was never very good on a skateboard.

I was never very good on a skateboard.

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Another Mill Closes

WCSH-6 ran the following graphic, on Maine’s mill workforce between 1960 and the present. I saw it flash across the screen during their 5:00 a.m. newscast this morning before heading out for my morning swim at the Y.

The graphic and story looks like it was produced by the NBC affiliate in Bangor, WLBZ-2. The feature was a telling one and I grabbed the screenshot, representing the shedding of paper mill jobs, from their website, just so I’d have it.

The demise of papermaking in Maine; 1960-2015. (WCSH-6)

The demise of papermaking in Maine; 1960-2015. (WCSH-6)

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Fall is for Fairs

Maine has a rich history of fairs and festivals celebrating agriculture. The state’s fair season kicks off in July, and wraps up in October. The grand finale of yearly agricultural fairs happens to be the Fryeburg Fair—fitting, since it’s the state’s largest, and the one many consider to be the showcase Ag fair—it runs the first full week in October.

I know that for many, their fair experience favors the heat of mid-summer. For me, I’ve always liked the crispness associated with fall’s arrival. As a result, my fair-going is oriented towards the latter end of the fair calendar. On Saturday, Mary and I were off to the fair.

Now in its 39th year, the three-day Common Ground Country Fair in Unity is considered the state’s pre-eminent fair celebrating organic farming, and a self-reliant rural lifestyle. In many ways, the fair, and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)—the fair’s sponsoring organization—were seeded by back-to-landers who descended on the state in the early-1970s.

The Common Ground Fair began with the intent of bringing back the old-time country fair. That means no midway for rides that you’ll find at many other Maine fairs. Also, there’s no horseracing, alcohol sales, and a dearth of booths selling mass-produced trinkets.

Founders began the fair at the Litchfield Fairgrounds with a goal of drawing 10,000 people and finishing with a net of $10,000. They accomplished both goals that first year, back in 1977. Much of that original vision continues, nearly four decades later.

Of course, times change and nothing stays the same. There are those who grouse about the fair having “sold out.” Now, upwards of 60,000 people descend on tiny Unity, Maine over three days. While rural life and local agriculture are still celebrated, the fair is now more of an “event” than ever before. The “hippy,” or counter-cultural flavor, while still present, isn’t as prevalent.

The "official" MOFGA vehicle (note the WERU bumper sticker).

The “official” MOFGA vehicle (note the WERU bumper sticker).

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Papal Edict

I’m going to stay with the topical for this week’s Friday blog selection. Given that the big news this week is centered on the pope’s visit to the U.S., I’m throwing-in with that one for today.

There is the adage that religion and politics are deal-breakers for winning friends and influencing people, or something similar. Yet, both find their way into conversations, and they sure have hijacked our current news cycle. I think there’s a reason behind that, and I’ll spend some space delving into that aspect of “Pope Francis Goes to Washington.”

The president and the pope; on the same ideological page.

The president and the pope; on the same ideological page.

Did you know that Francis is only the fourth pope ever to visit our country? In fact, we were 189-years-old as a nation before Pope Paul VI dropped by in 1965. Since then, it was John Paul II in 1979, Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, and now, Francis. Actually, Pope John Paul II was a regular visitor, coming back for visits in 1984, 1987, 1993, 1995, and 1999. He always scheduled an audience with the sitting president  when he came calling, too. The presidents visited were Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan (twice), and Bill Clinton (three times). Francis is the only pope to ever address the U.S. Congress, however. Continue reading

In Tom We Trust

All anyone needs to know about today’s blog post can be summed up by the following statement and quote: “I love Tommy and you’re right, he’s a WINNER!” That’s from my sister, aka Aunt Tomato, from an email exchange we had about our weekends, when I mentioned the New England Patriots and Tom Brady’s Sunday performance.

I had mentioned to her that I spent Sunday afternoon painting some trim work around the windows of our house. Since it is now football season and I seem to be morphing into a football fan, I decided to tune in the Patriots Radio Network on my portable radio.

Actually, there are only a few reasons why I’ve chosen to follow football again this fall. The Patriots, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady. The latter one is probably the biggest one.

Throw, Tommy, throw! Brady completing pass vs. Buffalo Bills. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

Throw, Tommy, throw! Brady completing pass vs. Buffalo Bills. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

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The Way We Talk

Communication fascinates me. Speaking well delivers advantages to the speaker. Good to great speakers are often in demand.

We are living during a time when the speed of communication has accelerated exponentially. We’re awash in information. Most people are struggling to render heads or tails from the onslaught. Speaking (and writing) clearly about your subject can help diminish confusion.

For the past decade, I’ve been actively engaged in helping to create messaging about a diverse array of topics, from workforce and economic development, to aging in place, and of course, my own publishing ventures. I’ve learned to be intentional about the information I’ve been tasked to develop and disseminate. My experience regularly reminds me about the power of words, and how they’re arranged in order to make points.

Interestingly, just this week, I stumbled across an older article that I remember reading when it initially ran in The New Yorker, back in 2001, 14 years ago. It was about PowerPoint, as a communications tool.

PowerPoint corrupts, and absolute PowerPoint corrupts, absolutely.

PowerPoint corrupts, and absolute PowerPoint corrupts, absolutely.

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Bernie and the Bible

Say what you want about Bernie Sanders, he’s determined to get his message out to a wide swath of Americans, even evangelical Xians. What, you mean that Hillary Clinton isn’t courting the vote of Bible-believing types? The answer would be a resounding, “no!” But I don’t want to talk about Hillary today (or any other day, really).

Bernie, the Bible expositor.

Bernie, the Bible expositor.

On Monday, the socialist Sanders was on the campus founded by Moral Majority leader, Jerry Falwell. Falwell’s the guy that said this about terrorists and also, Larry Flynt had this to say about Falwell and his mother. I’m not sure how either is related, exactly. I do know that any progressive Democrat campaigning for president must assume that they’re not going to carry the evangelical voting bloc, so most don’t bother to address it, period. So kudos to the socialist, running as a Democrat! Continue reading

Making a Clean Shift

Six weeks ago, I decided to make a change in how I was eating. When you live with another person, it’s helpful when they also validate your choice, and go along with it. Mary and I are both more than six weeks into what we’re calling “clean eating.” Others knowledgeable in our new lifestyle choice might refer to it as paleo.

It really doesn’t matter what you call it. Both of us feel better, have lost weight, and more important—we’ve eliminated so much junk and crap from our diets that it’s hard to believe we didn’t both adopt this earlier.

We’re both active people. Swimming, biking, running all require a good energy source and fuel for our bodies. Add to that the demands of work and the 21st century lifestyle—one that seems intent on killing us all—and changing things up becomes all the more apparent, at least in hindsight. We’re both amazed that it took us so long to get here.

Actually, I’m not unaware of the paleo lifestyle. Both Mary and I know enough people that are living it. Several friends and family members that are into CrossFit have been adherents of paleo. Our sports medicine doctor has hinted to both Mary and I that making dietary changes, especially given some of the inflammation and sports-related issues Mary and I have both been battling, might be a wise choice.

Paleo made a flash on America’s constantly-changing radar of new fads and dietary choices a few years back. Like most everything else, it was gone, and Americans were off searching for their next flavor-of-the-month. Continue reading

Making Time to Slow Down

My mother, Saint Helen of Immaculata, had a saying that I heard ad infinitum growing up—that saying was, “haste makes waste.” I’m not sure where she picked that one up and I’m guessing it wasn’t one I imagined I’d come back to—but I did, especially after acquiring some life experience.

Quality takes time. There are other idioms like, “anything worth doing is worth doing well.” I remember that one being part of St. Helen’s repertoire, also.

I’m finding that the things that have acquired staying power in my own life are things that haven’t happened overnight. Writing, health awareness, cultivating skills that never go out of season, these things take time.

I’ve written about Malcolm Gladwell and his 10,000 hour rule. It’s about putting the time in and recognizing there’s a commitment to the long haul.

Unfortunately, much of our culture runs contrary to that. We want fast. We demand convenience. We’re impatient when we don’t win $1,000,000.00 in the lottery.

Success sometimes runs contrary to convenience.

Success sometimes runs contrary to convenience.

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