15 Ideas for a Greater Greater Portland

photo illustration/The Fuge

Most events considered traditions take place annually, but in Portland we’ve got several biennial traditions. For example, every other year the Portland Museum of Art presents a prestigious juried exhibit of contemporary work by Maine artists, and everyone publicly says it’s wonderful while secretly thinking it sucks. A relatively new tradition at City Hall is the biennial selection of a new police chief. And here at The Bollard, we present our Ideas for a Greater Greater Portland.

This tradition began in 2006 with 10 ideas, grew to 20 ideas in 2008, and in March of 2010, to commemorate our 25th issue, we published 25. Frankly, that level of idea-making was unsustainable and fiscally irresponsible. Many of those ideas were not working hard enough to become reality. So, inspired by our governor and state lawmakers of both parties, we’ve cut 10 ideas from the dole and given the richest ones a big tax break.

I know that doesn’t make sense, but neither does the state budget.

Anyway, here’s this biennium’s list.

— Chris Busby


1. We always knew Shipyard made watery beer, and now we know why: they were getting the main ingredient free of charge! Some people think Shipyard should reimburse the city for the estimated $1.5 million in sewer fees the brewery didn’t pay over the course of 15 years, apparently due to a billing error on the part of the Portland Water District. Others say let it go — it is, after all, literally water under the bridge. We think a fair compromise would be to require Shipyard to give every sewer customer a coupon for a free 12 pack. (Provided it’s not limited to their new Applehead Ale, which is undrinkable.) Free beer makes everyone feel better.

photo/The Fuge

2. The Portland City Council recently amended the litter law to clarify that tossing a cigarette butt on the ground is, technically, littering and, accordingly, subject to a $100 fine. That’s all well and good, but the far grosser scourge of our downtown sidewalks isn’t cigarette butts. It’s spit. And there’s no local law on the books prohibiting public expectoration. Butts can be blown or swept away, but to get a gooey loogie off the bricks, nothing short of a bucket of hot water will do the trick. How about a $100 fine for gobbing in public? Unlike the butt law, this one would be easy to enforce: DNA evidence can be collected at the scene and matched with the perp’s. Case closed, your honor!

3. Speaking of city ordinances, how about one prohibiting people from painting their houses a garish color? Like that house on Pine Street in Portland’s West End. The side facing the street is an obnoxious yellow, which is bad enough, but then the owner has neglected to paint the other sides of the house a matching hue, exacerbating the assault on our eyes. City Councilor Dave Marshall is the obvious choice to introduce this ordinance. He represents that neighborhood. He’s an artist, so his aesthetic sense is highly developed. And … wait, nevermind. That is Marshall’s house.

4. Let’s get ahead of the politically correct curve before somebody gets sued and stop referring to the statue on Route 1 in Freeport as the Big Fucking Indian, or B.F.I. Henceforth, it shall be known as the Big Fucking Native American, or B.F.N.A.

5. The Republican Party in Maine obviously needs a better way to choose its presidential nominee. This weeklong series of square dances is way too confusing. Luckily, voters in Portland already have a fun new system that’s slightly less confusing. It’s called ranked-choice voting. Applied to this year’s GOP contenders, it’d be more accurate to call it rank-choice voting, but otherwise it works the same way. Here’s a sample ballot based on the one Portland officials created for last year’s mayoral race …

Newt Gingrich _

Ron Paul _

Mitt Romney _

Rick Santorum _

Anyone But Ethan _

6. The fight last year between Portland musician and Clash of the Titans organizer Spencer Albee and Port City Music Hall owner Rob Evon got us thinking about new ways to liven up the Clash cover song battles, which have been getting a bit stale over the years. This season, what if the leader of the victorious cover band then had to fight the club owner to get paid for that night’s work? The winner keeps the money. The loser goes on Facebook to bitch about it (which, of course, is the very definition of “loser”).

7. Speaking of losers using social media, last month celebrity chef Mario Batali sent out a tweet accusing Otto Pizza’s owners of stealing the name and logo of one of his pizzerias. (Although the names and logos are similar, the resemblance is incidental, our Otto’s proprietors said.) “[T]hese folks are d bags and thieves,” Batali tweeted. (“D bags”? Really? Only a douche bag would say something like that.) Anyway, there’s an easy way to settle this. Invite Batali to Portland for an Iron Chef-style pizza cooking contest against Otto, and when he gets off the plane, kidnap him, bring him to an undisclosed location, and work him over with a pizza wheel until he tweets a formal apology. No contest necessary: our Otto rules!

8. The FBI freaked everyone out when it reported that Maine has upwards of 4,000 criminal gang members. It was subsequently determined that the actual number is closer to 40, and most of them are skinny white hip hop kids, but that doesn’t mean the threat isn’t real. In fact, there is an organization in Maine numbering about 4,000 that we should be concerned about. They all wear the same colors: white and powder blue. They creep through our neighborhoods and leave messages in the mailbox demanding money, and this harassment continues until you pay up. They’re called the United States Postal Service. Thankfully, Congress is aggressively addressing this scourge by putting the postal service out of business.

9. Some people thought it was hypocritical for members of Occupy Maine to hang out at Starbucks, but now that their camp in Lincoln Park has been dismantled, there’s no better place for the protesters and their homeless allies to continue their anti-corporate activism. They can force at least one Wall Street company out of town by doing pretty much what they were doing before — just hangin’ out, only this time indoors.

Call it Occupy Starbucks. Show up when the shop opens and have everyone buy the smallest and cheapest cup of coffee available, then occupy as many tables and chairs as possible for as long as possible, until other occupiers show up to take your place. Also, stop showering. If you must wash up, use liberal quantities of the paper towels, soap and hot water in Starbucks’ bathrooms. Eventually the chain’s usual clientele, yuppies with no taste buds, will stop coming in. With revenues shrinking and expenses rising, the corporate overlords will close the shop, creating a bunch of angry, unemployed baristas eager to join the Occupy movement!

10. So we’ve got a $3.2 million fire boat that’s been banged up twice in the past three years. It ran aground in a channel in 2009 and, last summer, hit an unidentified “underwater object” (possibly Cassie, the sea monster of Casco Bay) during what appeared to be a pleasure cruise for a couple firemen and a dozen friends and family. In the wake of that incident, Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne — who, perhaps not coincidentally, is leaving next month after 27 years with the department —  banned civilians from the boat except during emergencies.

The next chief should reverse that policy. The city’s had to shell out big bucks to fix the vessel, but we can recoup that expense by making the fire boat a fire party barge. To state the obvious, the bay doesn’t catch fire very often. When the boat’s not in service, let’s hire a reggae band and rent it out for private parties. Civilians can get drunk and spray the big hose at passing sailboats. It’ll be a blast!

11. Donald Sussman has been on one heck of a shopping spree these past few years. The Other Donald owns half of a small neighborhood in Portland’s East End and a whole bunch of other properties around town, the soul of Maine’s biggest newspaper, and, according to Republicans, a Congresswoman. His philanthropy and political contributions support colleges, museums, a food co-op, a think tank, gay rights and Carnegie Hall, among other stuff. He sits on more boards than the lazy lumber guy at Home Depot.

The question Mayor Mike Brennan should be asking is: What else can we sell him? Our cash-strapped city could use a boost. Maybe he’d buy Lincoln Park. He could turn the dirt “jail trail” across the arterial, between the courthouse and Pine Tree Legal, into a brick walking path connecting the park to his new Arts District. We could try to sell him Eastern Cemetery (the current tenants won’t notice) or East Bayside, for that matter. How about an almost new, only slightly damaged fire boat? Let’s make him an offer!

12. This just in: the FBI has issued another gang alert. Be on the lookout for men in reflective yellow vests leaving notes on vehicles demanding money. Some have been known to immobilize vehicles with a metal device, effectively holding cars hostage until the payoff is made. This gang is ruthless. Arm yourself with pocket change at all times.

13. If you look at the Portland Public Schools’ academic calendar, it’s obvious why so many students are failing to meet state standards: they’re hardly ever in the classroom. With all the holidays, vacation weeks and early release days, there are only five weeks between the beginning of September and mid-June when students attend a full (six-hour) day of classes five days in a row. Is it any wonder so many graduates have the work ethic of Jabba the Hut?

No one’s suggesting the school board try to get the teachers’ union to agree to more instructional time — we’re not that crazy. No, it’d be much easier if we required every business, non-profit and government agency in the state to adopt a similar calendar. That way nobody feels lazy or stupid. Let’s all take most of the end of November off, plus the last week of December (and a couple weekdays before and after that week), then a week off in February and another in April. Knock off shortly after lunch every Wednesday and don’t punch in at all if it’s too snowy or summery out. And, naturally, we’ll never work a weekend again. Amen.

14. Attention bar and restaurant owners, supermarket managers, and others who maintain public restrooms: While we appreciate your concern that we not waste five extra seconds of our one-shot, precious lives drying our hands in your facilities, please remove all XLERATOR hand dryers from the premises. The efficiency and environmental benefits of this device do not outweigh the fact that using one of these machines is like drying your hands in the exhaust of a roaring jet engine. If you’re really concerned about conserving cheap paper, tell the guy who drops off the Portland Phoenix every week to take a hike.

15. Aren’t you getting tired of despising Paul LePage? Since the governor took office last year, it’s been one outrage after another. He’s still got nearly three years left in this term, and if, as expected, Eliot Cutler runs again in 2014, we’ll be stuck with LePage for another four on top of that. It’s exhausting. Time to bury the hatchet. Portland’s liberal populace should reach out to the governor in a spirit of reconciliation. Let’s organize a big banquet in the governor’s honor at the Civic Center. Then, when he gets out of his limo, kidnap him, bring him to an undisclosed location, and work him over with a pizza wheel until he promises to stop being such a d bag.