The Maine Northwood’s, Plum Puzzling Part III

Posted: 26/01/2008 in Uncategorized
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Some people wonder why I am using the puzzle analogy in this discussion concerning Maine’s future and the Moosehead region. Why am I against an opportunity for development? Why do I wish to prevent these people that live in the area from having a chance to obtain employment? The answer is pretty simple. I’m not against development. I’m all for it. But I think it’s time for Maine to grow up and start taking control of our own destiny.

This puzzle of Maine has lots of little pieces to it, and right now, they’re scattered all over the table. We need to sort them out, and take a look at the picture on the box to see where these pieces go. I mentioned in the last couple of posts a few of the pieces involved, and took a look at how they should fit together. A couple of the pieces seem out of place for what the picture should look like, and that bothers me.

Analysts predicted a coming recession quite some time ago, and events are taking place that indicate that it is right on schedule. There are a couple of reasons behind some of what I have read that support those predictions, and why a development of the sort Plum Creek is proposing would not be to Maine’s benefit at this time.

The biggest reason has to do with the changing economy. Why is there going to be a recession, or are we in a recession today? In the first place, I think the definition of a recession is a dangerous one, at best. For us to have two consecutive quarters of negative GDP and declining personal income and expenditure means we have to wait until after the fact before action is taken to remedy the problems that are already out of control.

The current issue involving the subprime mortgage market is sending the credit industry into a tailspin. People simply cannot pay off their bills because the payments have become too onerous. There just isn’t enough real money around to enable them to do so. Wages or income simply is not keeping pace with the credit market. Put it this way; if you receive a 3% raise at your place of employment, how much more money will be put in your pocket? Let’s say you make $10.00 per hour. A 3% raise puts another.30¢ in your pocket. That’s $12.00 a week, gross. What is it after your taxes?

If you have purchased a lot of items on credit, or even just a house, how much do your payments amount to? How much have they gone up since last year? Do they exceed your raise? You can see where I’m going with this. The cost of living keeps increasing, but Maine’s income doesn’t keep pace. Some individuals may be able to, but as a state, we fall short of what we need to keep up.

This reflects in the state income plans vs. their expenditure ratio formulas. You all know what kind of trouble the Maine budget is in. Granted, it’s the administration’s own fault for not paying attention to reality, but none the less, Maine is in a financial bind. The planned developments Plum Creek wants to create in the Moosehead region are not going to provide the expected returns. There is no way that can happen in light of the trend the national economy is taking.

The job opportunities that will result from this development proposal will culminate in a collection of service level positions, and little else. At first, there may be some higher paying construction work for a few individuals, and maybe some small contractors may get lucky. But in the long haul, there just won’t be any meaningful employment opportunities. I’m talking about ones where skilled labor is needed with full time hours and decent, livable wages. Jobs where a man can expect his children to work into when they get old enough to work. Jobs which will give people a sense of accomplishment and stability. Jobs where people won’t be constantly talking about pulling up stakes and moving away.

In the thousands of pages of material I’ve read through over the last three months, I see not one long term benefit for allowing this project to go forward for the state of Maine. It will provide high priced second and third tier housing that very few people in Maine can afford. And those that can, already live here. The properties will have to be marketed out of state to a new breed of newcomers. It will provide high priced resort areas for people from away to vacation at. A seasonal market at best, and one that depends on a strong economy for it to work.

Instead of benefits, I see increased taxes to support the types of infrastructure development and maintenance that these new constructions will require. Nothing in the proposal provides reimbursement to the state for reconstruction of parts, or all of route 6/15 to accommodate the increased traffic loads. There is nothing to pay for the repairs and installation of new traffic control in Greenville to accommodate the increased population. Not one word about sewer and water supply issues in any of the communities affected.

And what about the construction of new retail centers. Do we really think these people are going to do all of their shopping at the locally owned markets? How about all the zoning issues surrounding the development that will accompany the Plum Creek developments? Will the local airport be able to handle greater air traffic without improvements being made? And so on through an endless box of puzzle pieces. If the plan is approved, it will be like buying a 1000 piece puzzle without a picture on the box. What’s it going to look like when we are done?

Like I’ve said before, we need a plan for the Northwood’s and the Moosehead region, but it needs to be a plan that addresses Maine’s needs. Not a plan that takes care of the income or interests of special groups, whether it be a corporation, or a nonprofit group such as The Nature Conservancy. We need to step back before making a decision and look at all of the pieces, and figure out if we’re going to like the picture thirty years from now. Habitat and land are two separate environments. Land is something that man is used to. It’s bounded by lines and measurements on a plot map. It belongs to a man and can be given to another man.

Habitat is where we live. It doesn’t end at a granite post at the edge of fire road number sixty three and extend to the steel post over at the corner of another woodlot. What are we going to do when our habitat is changed to the point where we no longer find it comfortable to be in it? Are we going to migrate away like the Caribou did? Or the wolves when their food source left?

The puzzle of Maine is complex. We have the privilege of possessing the largest remaining tract of true wilderness east of the Mississippi River. Even the National Wilderness park in New York State doesn’t have what we have. We have an opportunity to do the right thing here. Let’s try not to blow it for the sake of picking up some chump change.

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