An old acquaintance, Seth Greene, was calling. The retired owner-manager of what used to be Augusta Supply on Western Avenue had been thinking. “Augusta needs something new — excitement, entertainment, an economic catalyst,” he said. “How about a minor league sports franchise?”

“Remember the days of Ted Lepcio, Haywood Sullivan, Harry “The Golden Greek” Agganis (hero of Chris Karagiannis of Christie’s restaurant) and the Augusta Millionaires* baseball team. Minor league baseball is hot all over the country. Why couldn’t we have a team again? Augusta-Waterville and central Maine would support it, and I would be willing to invest in it with others.”

Greene is right, we need to create destination attractions benefiting our economy.

Mayor Dave Rollins has been Maine American Legion baseball commissioner, and Sen. Roger Katz has owned a piece of a minor league team in Florida, so we have some built-in experience for this endeavor. It’s time for the “boys of summer” to return. Let the talks begin.

While we’re at it, how about use of the under-utilized Augusta Civic Center for minor league basketball?

Minor league sports franchises are just one idea to provide excitement and to act as magnet attractions to the city and its economy. New interest in boxing and wrestling also offers opportunities.

Another idea whose time has come surfaced recently in the form of a question offered by Board of Education member Nikki Desjardins. With the city facing a huge budget gap, she asked, “Isn’t it time to look for ways to create new revenues to help offset what the state is doing to us in the loss of revenue sharing?”

The answer to her question should be a resounding yes — let’s look for new revenues. Other service center cities similar to Augusta and Waterville are already in the hunt.

One source of revenues to be explored is an idea used in many places around the country. High schools sit on a cornucopia of potential advertising dollars by offering site location advertising. Cities in Maine (Portland, Bangor, Lewiston) have begun to collect thousands of dollars in “naming rights” for civic centers, arenas and auditoriums. Bangor-based Cross Insurance saw so much value in “naming rights” in Portland and Bangor that it paid big bucks to sponsor both the Cumberland County Civic Center and the new Bangor Auditorium.

If we accept advertising in our programs, yearbooks, etc., in our schools, then why not tap the real mother lode at our athletic and entertainment facilities. Meanwhile, city owned-operated facilities are ripe for advertising/marketing opportunities.

Let’s start thinking outside the box in Augusta and central Maine. There are many other opportunities for new revenues and economic development. Greene and Desjardins are right — we need new ideas and new revenues.

Unfortunately, the Augusta City Council instead wastes its time on the release of an ultra-liberal goals document for 2015. The council would manage the payrolls of businesses in Augusta, mandating a new minimum wage, almost a third higher than the federal minimum.This would put Augusta businesses at a competitive disadvantage with all other cities in Maine.

In the same breath, however, councilors call for more business investment, an oxymoron that proves they don’t understand business. Why would a payroll mandate on private business by a city government induce more business development in that city? The state Legislature is where this debate belongs.

A study of the unanimously endorsed Augusta City Council document underscores what I have been worrying about. The moderate-conservative council voices — Katz, William Stokes, Mark O’Brien, Mike Byron — are gone. This council gives us a political body that thinks in a partisan, singular politically philosophical way. That’s not healthy.

Augusta will hold a June special election and a general election in November. Who will run? Does anyone care?

In related city political news, the three-decade-old business oriented, traditional Good Government Committee has completed its journey. Another small group, disgruntled with the loss by their choice for mayor and upset that their council candidate’s apparent anti-business bias was revealed during the campaign, is hoping to form a new club. The goal is to mute the tenor of future political campaigns. They don’t like criticism and full disclosure. They are good with the “progressive-liberal” composition of our City Council.

Beware the Ides of March. Augusta voters deserve and should have spirited, competitive campaigns with unrestrained debate, candidate comparisons and full disclosure of important information. Let’s make sure they get it.

Don Roberts, a former city councilor and former vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta, is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District.

* (Editor’s note: The Augusta Millionaires was a semi-pro baseball team that began playing in Augusta in the early 1920s. In 1996, The Associated Press reported that the Augusta City Council was considering a proposal to bring back the Millionaires after a 40-year absence. The team folded in 1953.)


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