This week, we have compiled the most important stories from the decade pertaining to issues in Brunswick and Maine. We have pulled a selection of actual headlines from past issues, and condensed and synthesized stories relevant to each headline in order to showcase some of the most significant moments and enduring issues covered by the Orient. While our compilation is comprehensive, it is by no means complete. We encourage readers to pursue these headlines and others in our online archives, and to look back at past installments of this series.
Topics to come: College finances, and a look ahead.
Amtrak edges toward Brunswick, September 28, 2001
While the most recently anticipated rail developments have revolved around the arrival of Amtrak service to Brunswick's Maine Street, the start of the decade brought the equally long-awaited arrival of rail service from Boston's North Station to Portland, Maine.
Operation of the Amtrak Downeaster passenger rail began in December 2001, the culmination of "the longest-delayed passenger rail service project in Amtrak history," according to a September 28, 2001 Orient article. The 114-mile route from Boston to Portland, which was originally proposed in 1993, had experienced a "series of delays" over the years, according to former Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) Executive Director Michael Murray. Its long-awaited maiden journey filled cars to standing-room-only capacity, with 4,300 passengers riding the train in its first five days of operation, according to a February 8, 2002 Orient article.
In January 2010, U.S. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced that a $35 million allocation from the Federal Railroad Administration to the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) would fund upgrades to 30 miles of rail lines. With improvements to the rails scheduled to begin "right away," Pingree said that Amtrak Downeaster service is expected to arrive by 2012, extending its current line that currently runs from Boston to Portland through Freeport and into Brunswick. The proposed schedule would see at least two round trips from Brunswick to Boston each day, with one additional round trip from Brunswick to Portland.
Additionally, Pingree said that initial rail improvement work would create over 200 jobs, an announcement that coincided with the official closing of the Brunswick naval air base's runways.
"This is a very exciting day for us in Maine. It's an economic boost," Pingree said. "These days there's nothing more important than creating and preserving jobs."
Finally certain that the Maine Street Station project would not be left without train service indefinitely, town and College officials expressed their enthusiasm following the announcement.
"It's great news, it's the best news Brunswick has had in a long time," said Senior Vice President for Planning & Development and Secretary of the College Bill Torrey, adding that the announcement helped "validate all the money that's been spent" on developing the station complex. U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins praised the extension for the benefits it will bring to the state, including "reducing road congestion, cleaner air, commuting options and easier access to the state for tourists and economic development opportunities," according to a January 29, 2010 Orient article.
President Barry Mills and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Scott Meiklejohn also cited increased accessibility as a benefit of the extended route.
"It makes us a whole lot more accessible in people's minds, and that will attract students who might think that we are at a place that's just harder to get to," said Mills.
Brunswick improves downtown environs, October 19, 2001
Following the town of Brunswick's approval of a Downtown Master Development Plan in 1998, improvements to bring about a "more pedestrian-friendly downtown" began in May 2001. Areas selected for renovation included the stretch of Maine St. running from the Pleasant St. intersection to the north entrance of the College, as well as the stretch of road running from the Route 1 overpass to Fort Andross. Sections of Pleasant St. and Park Row were also chosen for improvement. Initial improvements to the areas included the addition of brick sidewalks and granite curbing, as well as new lampposts, greenery, park benches and municipal signs. New traffic signals—the final stage of improvements—were scheduled for completion in the spring of 2002.
Noting that downtown improvements are of special interest to the College, Torrey said that Bowdoin donated $75,000 to the $1.2 million project over a five-year period. The Brunswick Intown group, a coalition of local merchants and nonprofit groups, also pledged to raise 20 percent of the $1.2 million. Ultimately, the group gave $200,000 to the project, raised by contributions from 35 local businesses and institutions.
Subsequent improvements to Brunswick roads also revolved around pedestrian use. An October 2007 Orient article reported that the College had added a lighted crosswalk to Bath Road, the fourth of its kind installed to town roads near the College. The crosswalks, which are activated by pedestrians pushing a button before crossing, warn drivers of pedestrians by flashing orange lights on either side of the crosswalk.
The lighted crosswalk project was a collaboration between Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols and other College and town officials, the Orient reported. Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Katy Longley secured funding for the project, which totaled $19,657.
Over the years, both administrators and students have identified the need for increased driver and pedestrian safety. An editorial in February 2001 argued the need for changes to Maine St., citing the 150 accidents on Maine St. alone in the previous 14 months. Advocating for changes to promote slower and safer driving on Maine St., the editorial suggests additional synchronized stoplights, placing crossing signals at more intersections, and redesigning the diagonal parking in order to increase visibility. In two op-eds, Nichols especially emphasized pedestrian safety, reminding students of the death of a Bowdoin senior in 1995, who was struck and killed by a truck when crossing Maine Street in front of Helmreich House. In addition to advising students to cross streets at lighted crosswalks, Nichols encouraged students to use Bowdoin's reflective snap bands to improve their visibility when walking.
Students discuss Maine's gamble with casinos, October 31, 2003
A referendum of a 2003 Maine ballot proposed the creation of a resort casino in Sanford, Maine, aiming to allow the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes to conduct gaming through slot machines, card games and lotteries, the Orient reported. The referendum was defeated by Maine voters in November.
Prior to the 2003 election, citizen reactions to the referendum varied, with supporters claiming that the state would receive over $100 million per year through the casino, and the economy would be supplied with thousands of new jobs. Opponents voiced concerns that a casino might bring crime to the state or hurt the character of Maine, and also cited the bill's provisions that included an option to keep records confidential from the public, an exemption from corporate income taxes, and a restriction that prevents the state from changing any part of the law without permission of the tribes, the Orient reported. While some Mainers said they believed a casino would be beneficial to the state, they claimed that the proposed bill would create a casino monopoly, and instead advocated that the state "create a bidding process for the gambling license," the Orient reported.
The potential for a casino in Maine surfaced again in 2008, with Question 2 on the November ballot proposing to allow the Olympia Group, a Las Vegas-based company, to build a casino in Oxford County, located along the northern border between Maine and New Hampshire. Like the 2003 casino referendum, the 2008 proposal for a casino was voted down.
Despite fears, students vote with ease, November 5, 2004
During the decade, the eligibility of students to vote in Brunswick elections was first questioned at the polls in November 2000, and subsequently with legislation proposed in April of 2001. In response, town and College officials, in addition to student groups, attempted to educate voters and ease the process of student voting during the 2004 presidential election.
At least ten Bowdoin students were initially denied the right to vote at Brunswick polls in the 2000 Presidential election, based on ambiguity regarding their residency. According to a town official, the questions that students asked regarding residency implied that they "were not interested in becoming residents of Maine," but rather only wanted to use their Maine residency to vote in the election. The students were allowed to vote after Congressman Tom Allen '67 sent an attorney to Brunswick to assist the students, in addition to negotiation by then-Professor of Government Marc Hetherington, who clarified that the students were residents of Maine for eight months out of the year, which granted them the right to vote in the election.
The following spring, a Brunswick town representative proposed legislation that would overturn the existing law allowing college students to vote in local elections, and instead would deny out-of-state students from establishing residency and obtaining voting rights in Brunswick. The bill, titled "An Act to Improve Elections," proposed that "a student does not gain residency in the municipality in which that student's school is located, unless that student resided there prior to attending that school," the Orient reported.
A group of students alarmed by the bill organized a letter-writing campaign, stating their concerns about the threat of disenfranchisement. Though students bristled at the implications about their citizenship in Brunswick, they had little reason to worry about losing voting rights, as the bill was unanimously defeated during a Public Works session. According to a report from the Legal and Veterans' Affairs Committee, the bill was overturned due to the fact that would "place a different standard on students regarding establishing residency in order to vote than it does on every other member of the population otherwise entitled to vote," the Orient reported.
Before the 2004 Presidential election, efforts were made by both the town and College to ensure smooth and fair student voting. Then-interim Director of Residential Life Kim Pacelli '98 said that students and town officials had worked together to provide a "free flow of information" about registration and polling places, in addition to organizing voter education programs. Town Clerk Fran Smith urged students to remember photo identification, but said that poll workers could consult the College student directory to confirm residency, eliminating the need for an additional document to prove residency.
Though Smith said that the town had tried to make student voting "as easy as possible," town officials expressed concern that students might be confused by the campus's division into four separate polling districts. To help direct and transport students to the correct locations, both the Bowdoin College Democrats and Republicans staffed vans to the polls.
A subsequent Orient article in November 2004 reported that there had been no known problems with students changing their voter residency from other states to Maine, and student voting had gone smoothly overall. In addition to the education efforts by campus groups, a voice mail message to students from Mills stated that Bowdoin students are considered Maine residents, and that Maine has same-day registration for voters. Both Democratic and Republican political organizations had lawyers in Brunswick and on retainer to assist students should any problems arise, the Orient reported.
Despite fears about voting hitches, however, students turned out at polling places in droves. According to then-College Democrat President Alex Cornell du Houx, student voter participation had soared, with at least 81.5 percent of Bowdoin students voting on Election Day.
Air station marked for closure, September 9, 2005
In response to the unnecessarily large size of the military following the Cold War, Congress passed the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act in 1990 to "provide a fair process that [would] result in the timely closure and realignment of military installations inside the United States," according to an Orient story from May 2005. The Brunswick Naval Air Station (NASB) avoided closure in BRAC rounds in 1993 and 1995, but was voted for closure by a 7-2 vote by the federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission on August 24, 2005. The base officially closed its runways on January 29, 2010.
According to a September 2005 Orient article, closure of NASB would be gradual, with completion set for 2011. With the closure, Brunswick was projected to lose approximately 2,700 military personnel and 600 civilian positions, bringing about a significant economic effect on the Midcoast region. Though at the time, Mills said that the College did not have plans to acquire portions of the base, he did not rule it out for the future.
"Clearly, it could be advantageous for us to be able to acquire, for a variety of uses, land that might be available at some point in the future," he said.
The College announced that it would seek to acquire a 450-acre parcel of land from NASB in September of 2006, in anticipation of the base's 2011 closure. In the announcement, Mills indicated that the College would consider the land for "recreational, administrative, and academic purposes," the Orient reported.
According to Longley, the College sought NASB land to ensure that future administrations "have the capacity to expand the College if they decide it is necessary," the Orient reported.
By September 2007, the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority (BLRA) and the State and Local Screening Committee had endorsed the College's move to acquire 182 acres of land, and recommended that Bowdoin be given the parcel at no cost as a "public benefit conveyance." The recommendation awaited pending approval from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the U.S. Navy. Despite the possibility of the land being acquired for free, the College predicted that it would end up investing over $100 million in the development of the base land. If the public conveyance request were denied, Mills added that the College was "ready, willing, and able" to purchase the property, the Orient reported.
An April 2008 Orient article reported that the U.S DOE had approved Bowdoin's application to acquire 175 developable acres of land at no cost from NASB, though final approval from the U.S. Navy could take three or four years.
With redevelopment plans extending into the current decade, the College remains uncertain about the exact placement of its parcel of land, and awaits an environmental impact statement from the U.S. Navy, slated for release this summer. While Bowdoin is set to receive 175 acres on the west side of the base, and has discussed using the space for biology and environmental labs, athletic fields, administrative buildings, or dorms, Longley said that "it's still two or three years off."
The College will also take ownership of Building 644 for use as an information technology data center to supplement the current data center in the basement of Hubbard Hall.
Voters turn down Question 1, November 11, 2005
A 2005 referendum on gay rights prompted both students and College administrators to work against the proposal, which threatened to repeal the legislation making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and education," according to an October 28, 2005 Orient article. Prior to the election, Mills announced his plan to vote in opposition of Question 1 in a letter to the Orient, stating that he believed efforts to repeal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation were "wrong and inconsistent with the fundamental principle of equality in America." Mills added that the referendum was also contrary to Bowdoin's "longstanding position against discrimination," and if it were to pass, he would not support any changes in Bowdoin's current policies.
The Queer and Allies (Q&A) organization, with the help of Q&A leader and Director of the Counseling Services, worked in tandem with Mills, and collected signatures from faculty, staff and students who opposed a "yes" vote on Question 1. The names of those who signed were later published in a paid ad in the Orient, for the purpose of creating "a more unified voice against Proposition 1 from within the community," according to one Q&A member.
Groups both opposing and supporting the referendum were active on campus in the days before the election. One student Q&A member said she was thrilled with the "overwhelming support" against Proposition 1, but she worried about how communities in western and northern Maine would vote. A member of the College Republicans countered this optimism, claiming that the proposition's opponents had devoted too much energy into "fighting whether or not this will lead to gay marriage," instead of focusing on the discrimination issue.
Hundreds of students visited the polls to vote on Question 1, according to a November 11, 2005 Orient article. With the majority voting "no," the referendum failed, upholding the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in Maine.
A separate referendum in 2009 also dealt with gay rights, though supporters of equal rights among sexualities did not encounter the success they had in 2005. According to an October 2009 Orient article, heated debate surrounded Question 1, which proposed a veto of the State legislature's decision to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine.
Though the "No on 1" movement was widespread across campus and 67 percent of Brunswick voters voted against approving the veto, 52.8 percent of Mainers overall voted "yes," vetoing the previous legislation that had legalized same-sex marriage. Though many students expressed outrage and disappointment at the results, others said they were not surprised.
"If I think about this from the Maine perspective, I am less surprised about the election results," said one student, a Maine resident. "On the Bowdoin campus we were in kind of a bubble, being slammed with the No on 1 campaign, so I think people expected it to pass easily."
TABOR would affect taxes, town services, November 3, 2006
The Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR), a referendum issue on the November 2006 Maine ballot, aimed to set strict limits on tax and spending increases at the municipal level. The referendum was rejected by voters, but not before sparking debate on campus and across the state.
Stipulating that these limits could only be waived with a two-thirds city or town council majority, and then by a simple majority of the public, TABOR's proponents favored the referendum for its potential to "curb rampant taxation in a state where tax burden as a percentage on income was the highest of any state in 2005, according to the Taxpayers Network," "the Orient reported. Opponents of the bill expressed fears that it would "cripple the state's higher education system," in addition to reducing other government services, as had the passing of a similar bill in Colorado.
Led by the Bowdoin College Democrats, a number of liberal student groups on campus formed the Anti-Tabor Coalition to help prevent the bill's passage. Though Director of Student Aid Steve Joyce said that TABOR's impact on Bowdoin would be indirect and student aid sources would be unaffected, coalition members were concerned that approving the bill would set a precedent for other states considering similar legislation, and would negatively impact education nationwide.
The Maine Tax Relief Initiative, a referendum on the 2009 Maine ballot, earned the name TABOR 2 and sought to bring changes to the existing tax code. Similarly to the earlier TABOR referendum, College Democrats opposed the bill due to its potential threat to funding for education and public services, while College Republicans expressed support for the bill's intended purpose of creating greater economic efficiency to the struggling Maine economy. At the polls, TABOR 2 was rejected by 67 percent of Brunswick voters and 60.7 percent of Maine residents.
Breach may threaten student savings, March 28, 2008
Hannaford Supermarkets announced in March of 2008 that a data breach had exposed 4.2 million credit cards and debit cards to potential fraud, the Orient reported. The information was illegally accessed from Hannaford's computer system during credit and debit card transactions, in the weeks between December 7, 2007 and March 10, 2008. The breach affected all of Hannaford's 165 stores in New England and New York, and by the end of March, 1,800 reports of credit card fraud had been filed with the company.
In an e-mail sent during Spring Break, Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster advised students to watch for unauthorized charges on credit and debit card statements, and encouraged students to cancel any compromised cards.
Longley said that while 26 corporate credit cards used by the College had been compromised by the breach, the cards had been cancelled and no fraudulent charges had been made.
According to Hannaford officials, the company had "absolutely discovered and contained the intrusion," and was working with authorities from the Secret Service to ensure that future prevention and protective measures were "advanced and state of the art," the Orient reported.
Maine Street station breaks ground, October 17, 2008
Though the Maine Street Station complex has already become a familiar sight for many Brunswick residents, plans for the formerly vacant lot were still in progress only several years ago. An April 2005 Orient article reported that the site, "once the site of a passenger train station," had remained vacant for decades after a failed attempt to develop it. With both College and town officials as participants, a Maine Street Station Steering Committee was formed, and the group hoped to submit a development plan to the Brunswick town council by September 2005, the Orient reported. Though officials did not anticipate that renovations to the train track or train service would be feasible for several years, the steering committee opted to proceed with planning.
In January 2007, the town of Brunswick announced that it had signed an agreement with JHR Development, with principal developer J. Hilary Rockett '86 at the helm. Following the agreement with JHR, the town council recommended that the town proceed with the then-$35 million Maine Street Station development project.
Even after the town had granted approval for the project, lingering concerns over the environmental state of the site persisted. According to an April 2005 article, the site's designation as a "brownfield" site, usually a term reserved for abandoned and environmentally contaminated plots of land, was on account of the coal ash left over from the site's previous use as a railroad station. Town officials said that they hoped to bring in a company to conduct remediation work on the site during the summer of 2007, allowing construction to begin in the fall. A subsequent article reported that the town received a $1 million Environmental Protection Agency grant to achieve coal ash remediation, though the town also was forced to allot funds to the clean-up effort.
A March 2008 Orient article reported that despite the national economic slowdown, town officials said that construction on the $24 million, 170,000 sq. ft. project would begin in 2008. They were proved right: Maine Governor Baldacci joined community members for the site's official groundbreaking ceremony in October 2008, with construction of the development scheduled to begin that month, despite the dire state of the economy. Plans for the development, scheduled to open in July 2009, included spaces for an inn, offices, condominiums, and a train station, the Orient reported.
Torrey said that Bowdoin had agreed to lease space in the complex, and that the College had considered creating additional dance studios, IT offices, and a Bowdoin bookstore. Though the College had previously delayed their decision about whether to lease space in the building, Torrey said that the long-term success of the project had been important to Bowdoin from the beginning.
"The College has a vested interest in seeing that parcel develop," he said.
In January 2009, the Maine Street Station Oversight Committee disclosed that the project's funding was short approximately $1,275,000, and that few tenants had signed on to lease space in the complex. Most severe of all, however, was uncertainly about the future for construction on the rails; without a train, officials expressed concern that the station would be a moot point.
"There are great opportunities for this town with the rail coming back," said Project Manager Michael Lyne, of JHR Development. "We just need to hear that it is coming back."
Though it took exactly one year for the good news to arrive, in January 2010, a $35 million allocation from the Federal Railroad Administration made available the funds for track upgrades, to the delight of those involved with the Maine Street Station project.
"Everybody's happy, and they should be," said Torrey, following the announcement.
Currently, the College occupies space on the first and second floors of the Maine Street Station complex, using the space for a dance studio, offices, and the newly-opened College Store, which most recently has incorporated a Best Buy annex, according to an April 2010 Orient article.
Brunswick bus service to commence by fall of 2010, October 30, 2009
After delays in securing funding, the Wheels transportation program said it will bring three hybrid buses to Brunswick by the fall of 2010, providing service to stops throughout the community. Although a September 2007 Orient article reported that the hybrid buses would begin their circuits by 2008, an article in September 2009 reported that the program had been put on hold "when promised donations failed to materialize and state and federal grants proved more difficult to attain than was previously expected."
The program is supported by a variety of organizations, according to a September 2009 Orient article, which stated that, "Of the estimated $625,000 that the State estimates will have to be spent to purchase the three buses desired for Wheels, the Federal Transportation Department provided 80 percent of the funding from the Rural Transit Service Fund, the State provided 15 percent, and the Brunswick community raised five percent." Additionally, the College contributed $10,000 toward the capital costs of the buses, and has pledged to help pay a portion of the program's operating costs in future years.
With all the necessary funds obtained by September of 2009, service is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2010.