Kevin White's First Letter

The Conoco-Phillips Offer:

Gentlepersons of Harpswell: While mulling over your decision which way to vote this issue on December 16th, I wanted to offer the following food for thought…

Your decision is all about Harpswell’s future direction; the questions are simple. What is it that you envision for Harpswell? Do you love its rural nature? Or do you picture something more along the lines of a busy industrial landscape? Do you want to raise your children in a small town, or an overpopulated, industrialized town, atmosphere? If the lease is granted, will you be happy with a commensurate increase in people, traffic and commerce? Caution is warranted: This decision will resonate through Harpswell’s legacy for ages to come.

For this is just the beginning… Once that line is crossed; once you've invited this type of industry into your town, you have opened a door. Industry spreads like wildfire…and it will spread everywhere in the town…no section is safe. This complex will beget others large and small…as hard as it is to imagine…business and industry will make inroads from ground zero. The town’s character will begin its conversion from the insertion point. For this won’t change the town in only that spot. The effects will ripple through the whole area like a stone dropped in a pool of still water. It is the first instance of future blight.

Your decision is about inviting the town bully to your nice party (also read as: the citizens’ influence in town affairs…free from outside control). Large corporations make for tough bedmates; very sweet during courting, hell to live with for the rest of your life. They have no care but money. No moral integrity is required for there is no higher authority they answer to. They are legal corporal entities with no corporal considerations. They don't live anywhere and deal with the consequences. They are beholden only to their shareholders…who, frankly, vote solely based on the interests of their share stake. They don't “care” about Harpswell, and they never will. They have no feelings save greed.

If corporations have enough money to buy their way into the town, they will have enough to push it around too....the town’s destiny will no longer be entirely of its own choosing. If it comes down to an issue between the town’s benefit and what the company wants; who has all the money to hire attorneys and railroad their opinion? Think twice and hard about getting into bed with partners like these. For fear of stretching the relationship analogies to the breaking point: You don’t have to marry the first suitor who calls.

Paradoxically, what this vote is NOT about is: the financial welfare of Harpswell. This is ironic because this is what the dealmakers are trying to sell the denizens of Harpswell. Jobs, low taxes, streets paved with gold…all laid out for you. You have nothing to do but agree to the lease and the money will start to flow. Does it sound too good to be true? What do you instinctively know about such situations? Of course this is their tack. Why would the town allow such a devastating thing to occur if there wasn’t a huge financial offset? It is all the dealmakers have to sell. The other stuff is pretty bleak.

The reality is: It’s not a boon. It’s a boondoggle. If you are thinking of voting for the project because you want lower taxes or think it will help the town financially, erase those thoughts. TAXES WILL NOT GO DOWN AND THE TOWN’S FINANCIAL WELL BEING WILL NOT BE SIGNIFICANTLY IMPROVED! It’s true. This isn’t the first time these false promises have been dangled in front of a citizenry. History shows precedent in countless other places.

For instance, I reside in Connecticut; a state where the public was heavily lobbied by casino proponents (we got the phone calls too) with their promises of jobs and lower taxes from the windfall that would occur if gaming was allowed. It is the same song that is playing currently in Harpswell. So the casinos were built and taxes became a thing of the past; Right? NOPE. It didn't happen. Hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars PER YEAR later (not just a mere eight), and taxes have only gone up. Meanwhile, the local formerly-full time State Motor Vehicle department fired most of its workers and is now a limited service location only open two days a week.

“Not us!” you say? “We’ll make sure it isn’t squandered.” Uh huh… That is what the good citizens of Connecticut said too. There is plenty of industry in Portland (where, by the way, I think this project is more “setting” appropriate). Ask them about their taxes. Such is the essence and ways of politics and politicians. Don’t be fooled otherwise.

Incidentally, the state legislator that cast the deciding vote (it passed by his one vote margin) in favor of allowing the casinos is now a friendly acquaintance of mine. Curiously, his rationale then was that he wanted to improve the financial well being of that section of the state. His comment now is, “If I had only known then what I know now…I would NEVER have done it.” He adamantly opposes them, and deeply regrets his decision, but the casinos are a permanent fixture in Connecticut. You can’t go back.

PLEASE DO NOT vote for this proposal because you think it will be financially beneficial for the town. That would be a vote cast because of a well orchestrated sales job. It’s an illusion. It isn’t about financials; it is all about town character and quality of life. It’s about the long view of things versus shortsightedness. It’s about irreversible decisions. The propaganda has been manufactured only to divert you from thinking otherwise.

IT HAS BEEN SAID that those who ignore the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat its mistakes. This has been an offering from someone “from away” that has heard the same siren’s song before, and can alert folks as to what really happens afterward. I wanted to share my experience. I hope it helps.

Kevin White
Basin Pt. Rd
Beautiful Harpswell ME