A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tea Party Pity Party

Here's an entertaining story in today's Portland Press Herald:

PORTLAND - Eric Cianchette plans to sell the Maine Wharf on the city's central waterfront, saying he's tired of trying to come up with a mixed-use development plan that Portland officials will approve.

"I remember my father telling me, 'You can't just go through life saying what you don't want. At some point, you have to tell people what you do want,"' Cianchette said, and city officials "really don't want anything."
Eric is wrong - just like he was wrong about the inflated real-estate value of the wharf when he was suckered into buying it in 2004.

City officials most certainly do know what they want to have on our waterfront. They want successful marine-oriented businesses. They want a prosperous fishery. They want wharf buildings and businesses that take the fullest advantage of Portland's valuable deep-water harbor.

These kinds of businesses aren't easy to grow. They're challenging. They demand smart entrepreneurs who can think creatively.

By his own self-pitying words in this article, I can come to only one conclusion: Eric Cianchette isn't one of those creative businesspeople.

He bought a wharf. He proposed a formulaic, played-out business model instead of doing something challenging and entrepreneurial. And then he got fleeced when the real estate bubble popped. And now - he's blaming City Hall for his problems?


I'm not a hard-assed business guru, but if I were, I'd probably say that this guy needs to stop looking for sympathy, and start looking for success.

There's a lot in common between Eric Cianchette's super sad story and the whole Tea Party zeitgeist of economic frustration. They're all fond of blaming the government. But when I look at those guys, I see a whole lot of failures who are bitterly trying to pin their shortcomings on politicians, instead of owning up to the pathetic reality of their circumstances.

Take, for instance, T.P. Governor LePage's resigning PR flack, Dan Demeritt, a man who made hay by defending businesses against "government regulation," only to succumb to bigger businesses when banks foreclosed on a number of his rental properties earlier this month.

And the Tea Party isn't just failing in business: it's also failing in governance. Just like Eric Cianchette's luxury hotel, the Governor's proposals are going nowhere fast. And true to form, even though he's the Governor now, the government's chief executive, he is STILL blaming the government: "I went on vacation last week because I had nothing to do," the Governor said last week at a Chamber of Commerce speech reported by the Sun-Journal's Steve Mistler. "Because I'm waiting. I'm waiting for legislation. I cannot do anything until the Legislature acts."

These are your tax dollars at work: a vicious cycle of finger-pointing. Who needs leadership when you've got scapegoats?

These guys act as though they hate government. But they need the government more than anyone. If the government weren't there, whom could they blame for their failures? Nobody but themselves.

The bottom line is this: business in Maine - business anywhere - can't thrive until losers like these guys get out of the way. But for the time being, at least Eric Cianchette is getting out of Portland's waterfront.


Scott said...

As if Portland's waterfront really needs another hotel.

Thank goodness City Hall realizes that a real working waterfront is one of the things that makes Portland unique.

Alex said...

Wow how little you get the tea party movement. They are bitching and moaning not because they think government is to blame for their economic woes but because they know the federal government is spending way beyond its means for questionable results. That sounds rather like a hard nosed business concern to me.

Unfortunately, too many people don't seem too worried about the path we are taking ourselves and the rest of the world down. Hopefully, the ones that find the time to mindlessly blast the tea party will ultimately be proven right. Unfortunately, I doubt it.

C Neal said...

^ Funny, Alex. If the Tea Party's chief concern really IS fiscal responsibility, why are they dicking around with pointless political displays, like taking down murals in government office buildings?

Gov. LePage has been in office several months now, and hasn't done ANYTHING, much less anything that would address the federal deficit. This "movement" is constipated.

voiceofreason said...

Um, no. You are failing to recognize that the city of Portland is engaging in ridiculous economic protectionism that benefits established landlords and businessmen at the expense of newcomers and entrepreneurs. While Portland does not need more hotel rooms in a strictly numerical sense, the quality and price of existing hotel rooms are grossly distorted. Portland would greatly benefit from having a high end hotel on the water with updated rooms. This would depress the price of rooms in competing establishments which are wildly outdated.

Additionally, the age of the working waterfront in Portland is over and has been for some time. These business are not coming back, and Portland needs to understand that its primary resource for further economic development is its underutilized waterfront. This means development, but not for more fishing, shipping, and other maritime interests. Instead, it must be developed for contemporary urban uses that the majority of residents might actually gain benefit from.

The problem is that Portland has and continues to be a city run by a small group of people who feel they can push out newcomers and steer the ship on the course they have set for it. Unfortunately, Portland remains an economic laggard, especially for its young people who have had their futures leveraged by older generations that run the city. As Maine is now the greyest state in the nation, the prospects remain grim. I think this is just more of the same we can expect so long as the city government continues to function in the autocratic and ultimately anti-democratic way that it has. I hope the direct election of a mayor will help this, but as it is a largely powerless position, I sincerely doubt it.