One year ago today we made history in the City of Bangor, and oh what a year it’s been! A longtime advocate for gay rights, I wouldn’t have missed that day for anything. I had signed up to volunteer that morning as a notary and I was so excited that, despite the frigid weather, I was the first person standing on the front steps of City Hall waiting for the doors to be opened. Before the morning was over I had the privilege of marrying one couple, and witnessing two other ceremonies!
If you aren’t convinced of how far this city has come, or how awesome it is, you must have missed Emily Burnham’s column, in Culture Shock, on the video made by City Council Chair Ben Sprague and local photographer Steve Gray, illustrating the change in Downtown Bangor in the last 17 years! Check it out, and like the marriage video above, I dare you not to cry. It is that beautiful!
Oh sure, we’ve had a few bumps in the City this year. As with any growing city, we’ve talked about crime, homelessness, panhandling, and mental health services. We’ve argued about allowing smoking in our city parks, and what the noise level should be from Waterfront Concerts. We’ve talked about zoning and long term plans for the downtown region, about issues around parking, and whether or not to move the bus terminal! We’ve had some scary moments, such as the bomb scare in Pickering Square. We’ve also had some wonderful moments were we came together as a community, such as the Odlin Road Bus Route Fundraiser. Sponsored by City Councilor Joe Baldacci, 400 Bangor residents raised money to make sure that those who depend on that route for work and school could keep getting the services they need.
And we’ve had moments when many of us were overcome, just simply overcome by the love and support this community showed for one family and their newborn baby daughter Mabel who needed unexpected medical care.
The Bangor Police Department continues to show its support and commitment to this community by being involved in all that we do! Whether it was Officer Russ Twaddle taking part in a downtown community mural sponsored by local artist Pigeon, or Lt. Paul Edwards singing along with local musician Shannon Denbow at the vigil for the homeless, these officers continue to demonstrate that working in this city is not just a job for them, but a calling!
While on a national level, politicians wasted time and money embroiled in partisan debate and gridlock, the citizens of Bangor elected two new councilors and one incumbent; a Democrat, a Republican and an independent. One is middle-aged, one is older and wiser, and one is fresh out of college! Knowing each of them personally, and knowing their love for this city, I can’t wait to see what great things Gibran Graham, Josh Plourde and Nelson Durgin have planned for the coming year! The rest of the country could learn a lot from Bangor where citizens know, in the words of Paul Wellstone, that “we all do better, when we all do better!”
Whether we’ve come together this year at a Waterfront Concert, at the American Folk Festival, at a local Art Walk, at a local pub to hear our favorite hometown musicians, or at any number of local fundraisers for causes we hold dear, we’ve shown the rest of the State what can truly be accomplished when a community puts their mind to it! If you’ve missed all that, if you haven’t joined us yet in this incredible community, then please join us New Year’s Eve for the Downtown Countdown. If any event symbolizes the growth in this city, it’s this one that started out years ago with a few lawyers, a beach ball and some Christmas lights on the roof of a downtown building and has grown to a celebration that includes thousands of citizens and almost every single downtown business!
Ben Sprague said it best when he said “I travel all around the state and people are saying to me with respect and admiration, ‘What is going on in Bangor? You guys are really on the move.’”
Happy New Year Bangor! Keep up the good work!