Boothbay, ME

Paul LePage And Paul Coulombe's Public-Private Relationship With The Boothbay Peninsula

Mackenzie Andersen

Only They can do it!

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Europeana / Unsplash

Governor Paul LePage celebrating Paul Coulombes Boothbay Country Club in the Lincoln County News May 2016 “This is going be to a treasure for years to come, and it’s going to be an attraction for people to come here,” LePage said. “All we have to do now is build a huge hotel so we can get people to come and stay here and play.”

Loose lips reveal truths carefully concealed by the crafts of persuasion.

The Boothbay Region has long been known for its many hotels and accommodations. What was LePage thinking about when he said the country club needed a huge hotel so its clientele could have a place to stay? Was he calling for a hotel on the golf course where wealthy people could meet in seclusion, in a world of their own, separate from everyone else? What better location than a peninsula, or an island? Were LePage and Coulombe planning a re-write of the Peninsula's traditional middle-class culture wherein once a wealthy population that kept a low profile, will dominate?

Lepage promised that he would be among those spending time at the clubhouse on the hill, once he stopped being Governor.

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Lewiston-born natives, Paul LePage and Paul Coulombe have remained friends and supported each other throughout their careers. Today they both have dual residences on the Boothbay Peninsula and in Florida. The pair gives Boothbay its very own public-private relationship, sharing a common cultural perspective that situates wealth as overseeing all else. Paul LePage sponsored the Major Headquarters Business Expansion Act, a global corporate welfare program to which only businesses with national or global locations can apply. Paul Coulombe name-dropped Anne Lepage's name in the write up in the Boston Globe Does Boothbay Have a Vodka Problem? that leads with " Booze king Paul Coulombe wants to upgrade a coastal Maine town into a luxury destination

The rest of Boothbay can only speculate on what goes on in the private conversations when Coulombe and his circle of wealthy friends meet in the house on the hill overlooking the redesigned landscape of the Boothbay Center. Did Paul LePage, bring his knowledge of the workings of the state's distribution of Department of Transportation funds to bear influence on Paul Coulombe to use DOT funding to rearrange the infrastructure at the Boothbay Center, disrupting and redirecting traffic by planting a tree in the middle of the main road so that a roundabout had an excuse to be there, and planting road decor that seamlessly blends the country club, the commons, and the town offices into a single campus, as the placement of the tree creates an entrance fit for royalty to the back entrance to the kingdom of the hill, an entryway which continues to evolve into whatever it is intended to become.

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Design for the future Boothbay Center?Hailey Wagner / Unsplash

In an age where gaslighting and disinformation craftily clouds over the real world, Boothbay leaders and politicians are no strangers to the trade. The roundabout, or more succinctly, the obstruction planted in the middle of the peninsula main way, was sold by creating an elaborate smokescreen about a dangerous four-way stop, off to the side of the main traffic flow, which was made into the centerpiece of the public debate. Today the funding of a proposed fifty million dollar school is played like a card trick in which a mere two and a half million dollars needed for the design phase, is substituted for the real funding goal of fifty million and upwards, about which there is no spoken plan.

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Recently, in a private fundraiser at the club. Mr. Coulombe delivered on the two and a half million dollars goal pledged to pay for developing the otherwise unfunded fifty million dollar school system on the Boothbay Peninsula, a school system which must be considered in the context of Maine’s current centralized public educational system, as a joint arm to the Department of Labor, detailed in the Industrial Partnerships Act passed under Governor Paul LePage, which includes public education starting at the elementary and secondary school level in the roster of other public-privately funded workforce training centers for the exclusive use of state's targeted sector.

The local comments on the announcement commence with a love letter to Paul Coulombe and his circle of well-to-do friends, by one identified only as JTF$1953.

This is incredible! What a tremendous effort on behalf of the Boothbay community. An amazing accomplishment for such a great cause. Thank you to all of the donors for your generosity. Your generosity is inspiring and will have a lasting positive impact on our community.
It's nice to see that philanthropy is alive and well on the Boothbay peninsula. Philanthropy should always be encouraged (never discouraged). Bravo to Paul and Steve for spearheading this fundraising campaign for the benefit of the region. Altruism at its finest!

Hmmmmmm, a script echoing the vein in the article by Joeseph Carpentier, as he reports on Superintendent, Robert Kahler, who was criticized in an earlier Register article for attending the special private fundraiser at clubhouse headquarters, a group referred to, in JTF$1953. words, as “the Boothbay community”. Now Superintendent Kahler talks about how he walked around town and spoke with everyone who is anyone, and found no dissent! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The movers and shakers of the peninsula shake their moneymakers in ecstasy! If you believe the optics, the fifty-million-dollar school has been signed, sealed, and delivered! The public will be allowed to weigh in on a done deal, in eighteen months, because public opinion really matters.

JTF$1953 has not returned to the conversation, which has gotten deeper into the weeds with tomuchbs and me debating Paul Coulombe, who vocalized his worldview, a fifties throwback, far removed from the social context of the year 2021. In Mr. Coulombe’s time machine, rich folks are the sole benefactors where the entire economy is local, and isolated from the larger world.

Strange! Mr.Coulombe must have heard of the internet. He’s posting on it!

Only we can do it!

When tomuchbs brings up the option of charter schools for the peninsula and Mr. Coulombe responds:

I am not against charter schools but I do not think that it would be well received on the peninsula in lieu of public schools.

The identity of Mr. Coulombe’s nebulous “we” is not hard to decipher, it is the circle of friends who meet at his country club, making unconditional gifts to the cause that suits their interests, which are not charter schools. Translation of the above: Charter schools would not be well received by the wealthy people’s caucus and so they will not fund it and how could you possibly fund anything without them?

Further defining the lines of demarcation between the secluded caucus that convenes at the club, and factions of different persuasions, JTFS1953 amplified the above interpretation in a recent discussion about Boothbay Harbor Waterfront Preservation filing a petition in the Lincoln County Court against a wharf permit issued by the Town of Boothbay Harbor:

JTFS1953 2 months ago....how incredulous is the idea that Boothbay Harbor Waterfront Preservation can afford to pay for a lawyer in its Rule 80b petition against Boothbay Harbor,
.... Big loss of hotel rooms for visitors and tax revenues for the town and now the park is suing the town. How can a "non-profit" waterfront park afford to hire an attorney to sue to the Town of Boothbay Harbor? Is the park using the donations they received? The town will now have to incur the costs of defending this frivolous lawsuit at the expense of the town and therefore, at the expense of Boothbay Harbor taxpayers. Taxpayers and donors should be asking questions.

The tactic of threatening the town with an expensive lawsuit worked for the non-profit Botanical Gardens when it was denied permission to build a parking lot in the watershed. The town caved, but that was likely a more expensive lawsuit based on a constitutional argument. The petition brought forth by the Waterfront Preservation group is rumored to be a more common riparian dispute over a water right line that cuts through the pre-existing BHWP floats

The eastern states of the United States (Minnesota to Louisiana and eastward) primarily apply the riparian doctrine to determine who has the legal right to use water. ... A riparian landowner brings a lawsuit against another riparian landowner if the first landowner feels that the second landowner's use of the common waterbody is interfering with the first landowner's use of the water.  The legal action is based on tort law, such as trespass; that is, "your use of the water is interfering with my right to use the water."  ....  Consequently, courts had a considerable role in defining water law as well as imposing individualized solutions in resolving legal disputes. North Dakota State University

The impossibility of anyone outside of the Coulombe-led wealthy people’s caucus funding anything is a constant theme of the Boothbay wealth culture’s brand, in which "might" means "right to do whatever I want". We’ve heard it before as in the impossibility of raising funds to buy the property for the Waterfront Park, after Mr, Coulombe pulled out in frustration over not being able to lead a rewrite of the town ordinances, and generously offering to pay for it out of his own pocket. Isn't the town government for sale!?

At that workshop, Planning Board Chair Tom Churchill spoke up and said it would be “inappropriate for zoning language to be drafted by anyone but the board, especially interested parties.”
….Coulombe said he is “pulling out of Boothbay Harbor. I have become extremely frustrated with the planning board and selectmen of Boothbay Harbor. We wanted to rezone the eastern side of the harbor because all non-working waterfront businesses are non conforming. All the motels, retailers, bed and breakfasts, etc., are in decline and outdated.
Coulombe went on to say he has volunteered town ordinance experts and attorneys to work with town officials, their planners and attorneys, to draft the new zoning. “In that regard we have given the town thousands of dollars, and they would still have complete control of the process and the outcome.” Coulombe stops east side development plans 11/21/2017

Afterwards a non-profit organization formed for the Boothbay Waterfront Park. with a mission statement of “endeavoring to maintain and enhance the traditional character of Boothbay Harbor and in particular, it shall pursue opportunities to protect working waterfront and expand public access to the water for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.”

This new turn of events greatly despaired the economic development experts of Boothbay’s wealthy people's caucus. Kenneth Rayle had this to say about the tragic turn of events in which a waterfront park took over when Mr. Coulombe pulled the plug on expanding his wealthy people's empire.

Ken Rayle3 years ago
The purchase of Capt Fish's by the non profit and the subsequent demolition will reduce the real estate tax revenue to the town. ... That is only a fraction of the loss the our community will deal with. A conservative estimate of revenue for the property as a hotel is approx 800,000. Sales tax at 9% would be $72,000 not collected by the State.....the people who stay at Capt Fish's eat and purchase items ...., including tickets for tours, kayaking, CMBG, etc. Restaurants would see revenue of at least $800,000 disappear. The tour operators, shops, gas stations, and other organizations would see revenue losses of at least $ 700,000.
We are not just losing Real Estate tax of $200,000, or whatever the number is. The economic impact of lost revenue is over $ 2 million dollars. Many jobs and businesses rely on these revenues. Preservation should result in an improved asset, it should not mean demolishing jobs, tax revenue, gross revenue which is the life blood of the community. Replacing a hotel with another updated hotel, that sounds like preservation. Replacing a hotel with open space is not preservation, it is an entirely different decision.

In Mr. Rayle's strange worldview it is supposed that all because of a public waterside park in Boothbay Harbor, visitors to the region will stop kayaking, going on boat rides, eating in restaurants, and even driving in automobiles, causing the entire region to fall into a severe economic downturn. His view of the economic forces that interplay within any system is unrealistically static, not accounting for newly emerging opportunities that come with any kind of change.

What does Mr. Rayle really mean? Who goes on boat rides and tours? Usually, it's the middle class. Cap N Fish's was one of the few remaining accommodations affordable to people of ordinary means. Coulombe does not invest in the middle sector of the market but consistent with Mr. Rayle's logic, it is the middle sector that is holding up the economy of this peninsula so what is wrong with Mr, Coulombe? Doesn't he see that? Coulombe's intentions are to turn the peninsula into a destination for the wealthy, and that is how the development would have gone had Coulombe pursued his agenda. The people who stayed at Cap N Fish's would not have stayed in one of Coulombe's expensively priced accommodations, so, following Mr.Rayle's logic the economy would have gone to pot. Kayak rental places, boat rides, gas stations- all would have closed down, but then corona happened, That explains why Boothbay did not go into a severe depression when the Waterfront Park was funded and developed. Now outdoor spaces and activities are at a premium.

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Fly D / Unsplash

In Mr. Rayle's view, it is only the property tax income that matters to a town. The cultural environment is of no import, but to others, Mr. Rayles' perspective is too mechanistic to be really real. The universe is not mechanistic. It only appears that way to surface observation. People do not choose where to vacation based on monetary considerations alone. A vacation is an adventure. Vacationers want to have an out-of-the-ordinary experience. While the realtors and developers envision a town rearranged as a rigid upstairs-downstairs social structure, the park erases those boundaries. Anyone can enjoy it. It is not exclusive to people of ordinary means, or of exceptional means, it is an equalizer in its attributes, that brings people together, You never know what will happen when the boundaries are erased. The Waterfront Park creates a space where the unexpected can slip through the cracks of ubiquitous urbanization. Look There's a cloud! Really? Is that a real cloud?!?

In 2021 Mr, Rayle sits on the board of the Boothbay Harbor Selectmen, and speculatively he has a seat in the Country Club clubhouse, the new and unofficial office of peninsula development, consuming all town offices, pursuant to the loyalty that Mr.Rayle has expressed toward the club's political agenda.

Mt Rayle touched all the points when he campaigned, unopposed for office:

One critical issue for Boothbay Harbor is housing or more accurately a shortage of affordable housing for working families who, if they could get a good job here, would traditionally live here. ..... Currently, many seek housing “value” off the peninsula. ...so we must ...take those steps which may involve zoning changes, incentives, or other practical ideas. ... housing is critical to our town’s future. Doing nothing is an option, but an option that is, in my opinion, not in the best interests of the town Kenneth Rayle, running unopposed for three-year selectman’s term

"There is no affordable housing for working families who would live here if they could get a good job here" So is Mr. Rayle talking about jobs or housing or increasing the population density on the peninsula for the sake of increasing the population density on the peninsula? It seems to be the latter...but why? Why is an increased population density a necessary good? Whom does it benefit? Why is economic development designed for people who do not live in a community, while ignoring the people who currently live in the community, who all agree that we want more young people but not necessarily on expanding population density for the sake of it?

..... Quality and health of the schools is another critical issue for the future of our town and region. There are two boards specifically tasked to manage our schools under the Consolidated School District, the School Committee and the Board of Trustees. I encourage all interested residents to be more involved with the meetings and initiatives of the Committee and the Trustees. Kenneth Rayle, running unopposed for three-year selectman’s term

Decoded, Mr. Rayle supports the fifty-million-dollar school. As a combined industrial job training center, it will be an incentive creating factory. Did Mr. LePage whisper in Mr. Coulombe's ear "Don't worry about the costs" If you can fund the first stage, incentives will pay for the rest!". It will be a cakewalk! Maybe.

At the end of the article, Mr. Rayle promotes a revisionist history about the "stagnant eighties through the 2000s " years when Mr. Rayle was not a resident of the region. He follows this portrait of the stagnant eighties, nineties, and 2000s with claims there was an uptick in the last ten years, which saw the arrival of Mr. Coulombe and his wealthy people's caucus.

Although I was not living in the region in the eighties, moving back to my hometown in the nineties, I beg to differ with the fantastical history presented by Mr. Rayle, perhaps because he is biased by his background in wealth management, and believes that anything short of extreme wealth constitutes living in poverty, as is becoming more and more the case. Mr. Rayle should know that most people do not live in extreme wealth and that returning to a more equitable distribution of wealth is one of the big issues of the current youth generations.

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Andersen Design developed classic and popular lines of ceramic functional forms and wildlife sculpturephoto by Mackenzie Andersen

In contrast to Mr. Rayls's background, my family's business Andersen Design was started on the Boothbay Peninsula in 1952 with a mission to create a handmade product affordable to the middle classes, a working-class background of loving the work process, evoking values quite contrary to those of Mr. Rayle.

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Images of America featuring The Boothbay Region by Jim Harnedy. Once we moved the old barn built with wooden pegs was bulldozed over.Andersen family personal photos

In the 1980's I lived in New York City and was present when Andersen Design did business with the wholesale market at the New York Gift show. Andersen Design was doing very well in the 1980s. I never heard grumblings about how downturned the economy was in Boothbay that would support Mr. Rayle's history of our peninsula before the wealthy people's caucus showed up to save us. In the 1990s business was very brisque during the summer season even though our gallery was destination shopping and not centrally located. Does Mr.Rayle make such statements because he believes that there is no one left in town who was here in the 1980s-2000s? Such a revised history is an example of gaslighting. Are we supposed to question our own lived experiences? Where is Mr. Rayle picking up his version of a history he did not live?

The downturn began in the year 2002, which is the first year that Amazon made a profit, but that is outside the scope of this story. Word on the main street was that it was a universal downturn from which there has never been a recovery. However, the empty storefront that Mr. Rayle took over was empty only for a very brief time. It was never sitting empty for a season, at most a few weeks.

I know Mr. Rayle's depiction of the stagnant local economy during the 1980s is pure fiction. I have noted that the wealthy person's caucus uses the technique of reporting what they hope to become true as an already existing reality. In example, the Boothbay Region Housing Trusts claimed that there are 4000 cars commuting into the peninsula every day, despite that on page 59 of the Camoin Report combined commuting- going both directions is reported as under 3000 cars. Mr, Coulombe talks about having "well-heeled families" moving into the region despite data reports that say the region's high school population was previously at 190 and current data puts enrollment at 183. Maybe the middle classes are leaving the region at an even faster rate than the "well-heeled families" targeted by Mr. Coulombe, are moving in, which would mean the entire peninsula is becoming ever more culturally and economically isolated, which is another reason why a fifty million dollar school system on the peninsula is a very bad idea. Even if the school is an incentives factory, it will probably still drive up taxes so that only the "well-heeled families" targeted by the wealthy people's caucus can afford it. The result is an economically isolated privileged environment in which the students are trained to be the next ruling class. It sounds like entitlement, but not really. A society with a middle class is infinitely better, more diverse, more dynamic, more sophisticated, more enlightened, and freer. I was entitled to be raised in the days when it was the golden age of the American middle class in a business in a home wherein the work process was engaging and meaningful.

So on that Note, Time for the news.

The Poor and Working People's Caucus of the Maine Green Party has been officially formed!

but not yet officially announced. That will happen on Labor Day. Join us! Write with us! we need your voice! Let your voice count!

Sign up HERE!

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Independent researcher of contemporary issues placed in a historical context, giving voice to alternate perspectives and conceptualizing where it all leads in the future . . . . .

Boothbay, ME
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