PRO: Choosing the path that will define our future

The movement to join our Twin Cities is about making government work better for all of us — particularly maximizing the value of every tax dollar we pay. It is also about making LA a better place for our children and grandchildren. On Nov. 7 we have the power to make it happen.

PRO: Choosing the path that will define our future

The movement to join our Twin Cities is about making government work better for all of us — particularly maximizing the value of every tax dollar we pay. It is also about making LA a better place for our children and grandchildren. This is our mission and responsibility, and on Nov. 7 we have the power to make it happen.

Let’s look ahead a few years at what can be. With cross river bickering ended, we are all pulling in one direction. Our schools are preparing our young for the jobs of the future. A vibrant culture and secure quality of life draw our children home and attract new families who want to raise their children here, not the Portland suburbs. That growing talent pool is the big draw for the businesses, which add to our tax base and attract even more skilled workers. Fueled by a can-do optimism, the economic spiral is turning upward.

That’s then, but right now we’re at the crossroads — decision time. There is one path can take us there. Our choice will define our LA future for a generation, maybe forever.

We cannot avoid the severe challenges on the journey ahead. We are growing old, and too many of our young — our replacements — are leaving for schools or jobs to never come back. A population and workforce in decline leads directly to the same for our economy and tax base. A new doughnut shop or Dollar Store masks the reality that our economy is not growing, even as poverty on both sides of the river is.

University of Southern Maine economist Charles Colgan said a few years ago, “When you look at the next 20 to 30 years in Maine, no society has ever gone through what we’re going to go through.” We cannot accept that future, but it will take all of us and our combined resources to deal with it. As Ned Stark in “Game of Thrones” put it, “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”

One car is cheaper than two. One house is cheaper than two. Certainly, one city government is cheaper than two. This is just common sense. We have had experts — the people who do the work — go through city spending department by department to detail how. We can have smaller, more efficient government, while putting more police on the streets and having an even better fire service. We can free resources for better schools with a focus on more individualized instruction. Taxpayer dollars will go further. In our study we laid out how it can be done here.

Other communities have already done it. Ignore the deliberate misinformation. A merged Princeton, New Jersey, has both improved services and made government run more efficiently. Friends who live there have enthusiastically told me just that. From 2010 through 2017 Princeton taxes rose a total of 3.5 percent. Compare that to Auburn’s taxes rising 9.7 percent over just the last two years, even as it has made painful cuts to the arts and economic development.

Let’s consider the alternative. If we do not merge city governments, it is a certainty that it will cost an additional $2.5 to $4-plus million each year to run the two cities. Since the state is not coming to our rescue and our property base is not growing, there’s no doubt what the future holds for taxes and city services.

When the facts are against you, the best tools you have are fear, doubt, and confusion. The sky-will-fall crowd invokes every possible worry, even though the merging of two city governments will barely cause a ripple for most people. The mail will still get delivered. Edward Little and Lewiston High School will continue as rivals. And we’ll only re-sign police cars as they are replaced. For facts that trump these fears, go to newlacharter.com.

The Coalition Opposed to Lewiston-Auburn Consolidation (COLAC) tosses out scary numbers undoubtedly plucked from thin air. Transition costs of $5 million and increased annual operating costs of $2.7 million have zero credibility. Where is their proof? For those wanting to dig into the detail, we have posted a revealing side-by-side comparison at newlacharter.ning.com/reference/follow-the-money.

Regarding moving us forward, our opponents point to the occasional joint project undertaken years ago as the formula for future success. Today, we are not even able to work together on business attraction. As the saying goes, if we keep on doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we always got.

When the governor was here recently, he enthused that if LA merges we will see our population grow, our clout in the state will increase, and we will become the economic powerhouse of Maine. He sees an efficient government, a unified school system, and an entire community working together toward shared goals as the catalyst to ignite a lasting prosperity. His vision is compelling and achievable.

There is no denying our world is changing and changing fast. Survival requires new strategies and adaptation. Staying on the same time-worn path will lead to a future of ebbing optimism and strength — and the continued exodus of our children.

The other path is to take charge of our destiny by building on a heritage of integrity, industriousness, and ingenuity. Such a bold move will trigger the energy jolt that pushes us through challenges and fuels our rising like the summer balloons that inspire us. Our dare-to-be-different community will be a magnet for like-minded people and businesses. That’s the route to the new LA — proudly Maine’s best place to live, work, and play.

Uniting LA is the “game changer” we need. Please join me in voting “Yes” to approve the charter and consolidation agreement on Nov. 7.

Gene Geiger is chairman of the Lewiston Auburn Joint Charter Commission.

via Sun Journal’s Columns & Analysis | Sunday, October 22, 2017