This column is about the statements recently made by Augusta Councilor Pat Paradis about the Greater Augusta Utility District, statements that I believe comprise a provocative, dangerously provincial attack against the district.
Since I am both a columnist and utility district trustee, I will confine this commentary to the public record. Here are my written remarks submitted at the April 28 meeting of the Greater Augusta Utility District:
“The intemperate and unwarranted actions of Augusta city Councilor Pat Paradis have unfortunately impugned the integrity of the manager of the Greater Augusta Utility District and caused the resignation of at least one of our invaluable trustees (engineer Steve Roberge).
“At last Thursday night’s (April 24) City Council meeting, Councilor Paradis may have destroyed years of hard work, cooperation and respect between the Greater Augusta Utilities District and the council.
“Paradis leveled a totally false claim that âthere have been no meetings with GAUD for three years.’ In the several years that I have served as a GAUD trustee, there have, of course, been numerous regular meetings between GAUD and the city administration and council , most of them on TV.
“Paradis said, in reference to the condition of Mount Vernon Avenue, âThey (GAUD) live in a world that has no connection to us and don’t care about the people who live there. Thank you, [general manager] Brian Tarbuck and GAUD.’ In a further personal attack, he said, âWe’ve had problems with him (Tarbuck) before.”
“Councilor Paradis is undoubtedly feeling intense pressure from his constituents on the condition of Mount Vernon Avenue. He has served on the council for seven years while watching that roadway severely deteriorate. That is no excuse for his attempt to release himself from any responsibility by now blaming GAUD and our manager for conditions there.
“Mount Vernon Avenue is a state-owned and controlled gateway into and out of our city.
“GAUD has cooperated fully with utility needs, and exerted leadership in working with the city and the Maine Department of Transportation, who is responsible for rehabilitation and repaving of that road. We are all united in that goal.
“To accuse GAUD of responsibility for conditions or delay in remedial actions seems an act of political desperation. Councilor Paradis, up until now, has been nothing but complimentary to GAUD. He has previously thanked the district for work on Mill Park, and many other activities associated with the north end.
Our manager has said to me, “councilor Paradis and I have always gotten along. He is very nice to my face. I don’t understand why he has chosen to attack me.”
Well, I do. Councilor Paradis is feeling political heat from his constituents and has, in his frustration, found a scapegoat in the Greater Augusta Utility District.
Councilor Paradis owes manager Tarbuck, Chairman [Ken] Knight and the trustees of the Greater Augusta Utility District a public apology.”(end of written statement).
Augusta Mayor William Stokes has since attended a utility district trustees meeting to reiterate his and the council’s confidence in the district. Knight has delivered his personal letter of protest to the mayor and council regarding this matter. And, now, you know about Paradis’ statements in the Mount Vernon Avenue blame game.
(Maine’s Department of Transportation will implement a plan for road reconstruction there).
Response to letter: A recent letter from Lori Albert of Palermo inaccurately quoted from my April 27 column, “The political race card.”
She quotes me as saying, “Democrats are preying on the ignorance of people for political gain.” Nowhere in that column, however, will you find any such statement.
Albert apparently is referring to these sentences from the column: “Racism is an ugly part of American history, and is rejected by all reasonable thinking Americans. It must not be allowed any longer to be a part of any political contest. Those who now attempt to prey on ignorance for political gain must be expelled from the political arena.”
Albert, who was once a neighbor, also writes, “the letter appears riddled with racist innuendo.” I remind everyone that it was not a letter. It was a political opinion column, which I write regularly, and I am grateful that people read.
In her letter, however, Albert makes the point of my column: The charge of racism is leveled against anybody who dares criticize President Barack Obama.
Don Roberts is a former city councilor and vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta. He is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District, and a representative to the Legislative Policy Committee of Maine Municipal Association.