I was out to dinner with some folks from work Friday night in Orono and it came up that I live in Downtown Bangor. This was followed by jokes and laughter about the latest drug problems and questions about my safety. This has happened more than once lately, when I’ve talked with people who live outside of Bangor and I think it’s time we start talking about it more openly.
There are good communities to live in and there are bad communities to live in. Bangor is still a wonderful community to live in. However, with the success and growth of our city in recent years has also come an increase in crime. I don’t need to quote numbers to you. You know it. I know it. I don’t claim I have any answers. Part of finding the answers though is having the courage to ask the questions.
I’m going to be honest. I am not happy about some of the stuff I hear in the news lately about the city I love so much. I am especially not happy about the new “gentlemen’s club” that has opened downtown. I know that may shock some of you, liberal that I have claimed to be. I’m not thrilled with gambling downtown either. I know both provide jobs, but I want better jobs for my fellow Mainers than passing out cards and dancing in cages. I think we need to plan ahead and decide how many more of these businesses we want in our city in the future. I see a problem when we begin to build our city’s economy on people’s bad habits. It’s a slippery slope. There needs to be a balance between building a strong economy and building a safe community that people want to live in and raise their families in.
We need to watch for the signs and carefully plan how we want our city to look in the future. Unlike larger cities, we still know our neighbors here in Bangor. Let’s work together. Let’s look out for each other. Let’s continue to be involved, continue to go to City Council Meetings, continue to ask for things like better lighting downtown and continue to support our small business owners in their efforts to keep our downtown growing and thriving in all the right ways. Do you want to be involved and don’t know how to get started. Linda Stearns and Tom Bartlett of Third Street want you to attend a meeting this week about just that. It will be held on Thursday, March 1 at James F. Doughty School on Fifth Street, at 6 pm.
There are other opportunities to help our City at both Manna and the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter. Get in touch with them, make a meal, pass out groceries, or make a donation. Bring your children. My youngest daughter will tell you that one of the things that made the most difference in her life, when she was growing up on the West Side of the City, and rather out of touch sometimes, was me making her come along to cook a meal at the Shelter. Helping those who are going through rough times helps them, and improves our whole community, us included.
I also suggest that the City stop continuously running the “bath salts” informational video on the local cable access channel. There must be a better way to educate those of us who live here without scaring off a family staying in a local hotel flipping through local channels. If I was a new visitor and saw that, I’d pack the kids up and head to Bar Harbor! It’s not our best public relations campaign folks!
The truth is Bangor is still a safe community. It is still a great place to raise a family. Downtown is still a wonderful place to live or work or visit. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently. There are so many people actively involved. They would be happy to have you join them! What do we want our city to look like twenty years from now? I still want to live downtown, still want to feel safe walking home just like I do now! I still want to say hello to strangers on the streets the way we have always done. We can all do something to make sure that is our future. What are you going to do?
And if you are reading this from any place other than Downtown Bangor, what are you waiting for? Come on down! Really!