Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Acadia at 100

Acadia National Park's centennial summer is almost in the rear view mirror, and the crowd of visitors has been huge as expected, or in some cases, feared! Various indicators suggest that traffic and business in general around Mount Desert Island could be up as much as 40%.

It is ironic that all of this positive economic activity is happening around and because of a beloved national park, while at the same time folks in the economically stressed Katahdin region are arguing over the designation of a new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument with about 88,000 acres of land donated by Roxanne Quimby.!

We at MountDesertIsland.Net have always valued our freedom and independence very highly, and we tend to be sympathetic to those who resist too much government control. However, we also recognize the value of preserving Maine's dramatic, unspoiled coast and her vast northern wilderness in the face of rapidly increasing development pressure. What to do?

In our opinion, government involvement is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it is necessary to protect the public interest, whether that interest be economic, aesthetic, or both. The establishment of the National Park Service 100 years ago and the designation of our many National Parks like Acadia has been described by Ken Burns as America's best idea. While some development interests might be unhappy, we believe most people would agree that National Parks have been a win, win situation for almost everyone. They preserve and protect our most scenic areas ,and draw visitors from all over the world who provide significant economic stimulus to local, often rural, communities.

As some 2.5 million, and perhaps as many as 3.5 million visitors to Mount Desert Island each year can attest, Acadia National Park is a highly regarded and essential part of our island community. Working closely with other non-profit conservation organizations like Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Nature Conservancy, and Friends of Acadia, the Park provides a steady hand guiding our dramatic, unusual and incredibly beautiful landscape safely through the buffeting winds of change!

Congratulations, Thank You, and Happy Birthday Acadia! Here's to the next 100 years!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bits and Pieces

Once again, considerable time has passed since our last MDI Blog post, but is seems that events on our little island continue taking a back seat to much more significant national and international challenges.

That said, we thought it was past time to comment on a few bits and pieces – some of which are local, and some of which threaten to reshape our world!

Budget issues almost always dominate the discussion at Maine town meetings, just as they do in Augusta and in Washington D.C. Recently these budget discussions have very tentatively focused on the possibility of consolidating some MDI town services to both improve efficiency and reduce costs. Perhaps the most ambitious and most successful effort in this direction so far has been the sharing of a Police Chief and consolidation of Police Departments between The Town of Mount Desert and the Town of Bar Harbor. At MDI.Net we have been quite impressed with this project and believe that it will be a model for similar joint programs involving more island towns in the future! We also believe that this project has worked so well due largely to the open-minded and flexible attitude of everyone involved – Chief Willis, Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Police Officers, both Town Managers, members of the Mount Desert Board of Selectmen and the Bar Harbor Town Council, and local citizens. Congratulations to all!

There is a related matter playing out on the national stage and also showing examples here on Mount Desert Island. That would be the problem of income inequality. In our country as a whole, the top one percent of the people control around fifty percent of the wealth and income. These wealthy individuals are seeing their fortunes grow even larger every year while the remaining ninety nine percent struggle to pay their bills as they gradually lose ground to inflation. Local real estate markets reflect this situation as prices for year-round homes remain relatively stagnant while demand is strong for expensive, seasonal, waterfront estates. Teachers, firefighters, shop owners, etc. cannot afford the average $300,000 price for a year-round house while several summer mansions are currently under construction at prices ranging upward of $20-25 million each! When confronted with this issue, some have said “So what? I got mine, let them get theirs!” The trouble is that such an argument ignores one of the basic principles of economics – money makes money, and no money makes no money! The poor, which is rapidly including everyone other than the super rich, are trapped by both lack of opportunity and lack of income! If not redressed, income inequality can destroy our society.

In the run-up to the 2016 election, politics at both the State and National levels has been bizarre to say the least. Few regular citizens would have predicted the vitriolic side show we have seen in Augusta over the past year, and even fewer would have predicted the current crop of candidates for the most powerful and influential office in the world! Extreme polarization, voter apathy and voter ignorance are all in part responsible; but if we don't pull our heads out of the sand soon, we at MDI.Net fear for the future of our country!

And then there are the militant religious extremists around the world whose brutality and shocking terrorist tactics know no bounds. The likelihood of terrorism on our own soil increases by the day, and places like MDI, which have heretofore been thought of as safe havens, could well be at risk of experiencing a terrorist incident. Local law enforcement personnel and all local residents need to be aware of things going on around us at all times, and to avoid falling into the trap of thinking “it can't happen here”. Taking a wider view, we believe that as part of a broad coalition, the U.S. needs to be significantly more aggressive in eliminating ISIS and similar terrorist groups once and for all! We have to do it for our children!