On The Bangor Daily News – Nov. 10, 2013: By Ramona du Houx
The brother’s Baldacci, Governor John Baldacci and City Councilman Joe Baldacci, hosted a spaghetti benefit dinner at the Spectacular Event Center in Bangor on October 30th. The line for the fundraiser to save the Community Connector’s Odlin Road bus route went out the front doors of the center far into the parking lot. Over 400 concerned community members turned out to help the cause.
“There are no words to describe this outpouring of support from the community. I could cry. They heard about the event, they want us, and the need us. It’s the greatest thing ever,” said interim bus superintendent, Laurie Linscott.
So far $12,000 has been raised to sustain the route, including $5,000 brought in from the spaghetti dinner. The cost of maintaining the service from September through June of 2014 is $20,000.
“I thought an old-fashioned Momma Baldacci spaghetti dinner could help. The public response has been phenomenal. We have a lot of big-hearted caring people in Maine that want the best for our state and for our neighbors,” said Councilor Joe Baldacci.
The Halloween themed dinner and auction saw the former governor serving up his family’s secret sauce over spaghetti with other local well known people like Renee Ordway, Don Cookson, and Mayor Durgin.
“In Maine, like no other place, people turn out to support efforts even if they are having a hard time. That’s how Maine people are. They turned out in overwhelming numbers to show their support for the people that are on this bus route, to keep the service running so people can get to work or to their medical appointments,” said former Governor John Baldacci. “This huge community response says a lot to the policy makers that are here tonight. Decisions about public transportation accessibility mean a lot to the lives and livelihoods of people and this community understands that reality.”
The dinner had a fun filled atmosphere where everyone was invested in helping their neighbors including the co-owner of the Spectacular Events Center Jane Arey who donated the venue and helped the Baldacci crew cook the dinner.
“I’ve been trying to work with non-profits and people that fund raise for great causes. It’s my way of contributing, of being a part of something that helps,” said Arey. “I’m so pleasantly surprised at the turn out. This community is outstanding.”’
The dinner reflected a diverse community with people of all ages attending.
“It’s nice to donate to help people who need something,” said Sophia Largay, the young lady of around 8 years who won the 50/50, dollar per person, draw which amounted to over $300. Sophia then donated half of her total winnings back to cause everyone had gathered for.
The cause brought politicians of all party affiliations together.
“It’s wonderful to see so many people come out in the community to support vital transportation services,” said Councilor elect Josh Plourde.
The route was established in April of 2012 after a petition drive by businesses located along the route where there is very limited accessibility by foot and where many people work at the hotels and restaurants or need to access essential services in that area.
“Approximately 100 people every week access the Olden bus route service currently to get to jobs or services- that number is only expected to increase if the route can be maintained on a long term basis,” said Councilor Baldacci.
The potential closure of the bus route, which is a lifeline for many residents, had the unions concerned.
“The unions were worried about this issues as well, for the bus drivers,” said Jack Mckay of the Eastern Maine Labor Council and Food and Medicine. “So many lives are affected by this transportation route.”
During spring budget talks, the city faced a significant loss of state funding and increasing state and federal mandates. The Council was forced to tell the city to issue cuts to departments, eliminate jobs, and it still had to increase taxes.
“We had to deal with $1.2 million in the loss of revenue sharing from Augusta, as many municipalities did. Unfortunately that meant across the board cuts which included this bus route. To turn that around we’re trying to raise enough funds to keep the bus service going,” said Councilor Joe Baldacci.
As the shutdown date was announced community members several councilors led by Joe Baldacci began the effort to restore the route. Baldacci kicked off the fundraising by donating his City Council salary of $2,000, which matched a $2,000 donation from Discovery House, an outpatient center for people recovering from addiction that is located along the route. The bus is the only way many Discovery House clients can make it to Odlin Road to receive their daily treatment.
The Bangor City Council will vote November 13th to accept the donations from the fundraising activities. At that time Councilor Baldacci will propose that the Council match the private contributions raised in order to fund the bus route through the end of the fiscal year- June 30 2014.
If the bus route is funded to the end of the 2014 fiscal year the effort still needs a long term solution.
“I’m still encouraging others to give if they can,” said City Councilor Baldacci. “We are working on a longer term goal of creating a public/private partnership to keep the bus route up and running far into the future. This lifeline needs to continue for the well being of our citizens and the growth of Bangor’s economy.”