Brunswick council forms task force, resolves to oppose bias

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council on Monday night established a task force and adopted a resolution to deal with harassment and discrimination in town.

Chairwoman Sarah Brayman said the proposed motion, which originally included just forming a task force, was the result of three meetings between councilors and community leaders.

The meetings, held in August, October, and December, were all convened based on reported incidents of bias in Brunswick, mainly involving Bowdoin College students.

In a September letter, college President Clayton Rose wrote that “over the last few months several members of our community – students, student guests, staff and faculty – all persons of color – have been subjected to racial invectives of the worst kind.”

“These incidents have generally involved the N-word being hurled by people in cars passing near campus and in town,” he added.

Also, in November, a Bowdoin student reported being raped in her college-owned Belmont Street apartment by an unidentified intruder. In the following weeks, two more women reported being grabbed by unidentified men while walking in the neighborhood around the Bowdoin campus.

Brayman said that a council task force could explore whether recent bias events are isolated, or “may be an indication of a larger pattern.”

The group could play a “facilitating role” with community organizations, she said, and report its findings back to the council by the end of June.

Other action could include organizing a Town Hall-style meeting to discuss issues such as race, class and gender in Brunswick.

“(These) incidents are so rare it’s memorable,” said Councilor John Richardson. But he said he supported Brayman’s proposal, because “just one is too many.”

Before the council could fully discuss the task force, though, the process was complicated when Councilor Dan Harris asked councilors to agree to sign a draft resolution he had written.

“Let it be known that (harassment) will not be tolerated here in town,” he said. “I feel strongly the impetus should begin with the council.”

The document, if adopted, would resolve that “it is the policy of the Town of Brunswick, that harassment, abuse, derogatory comments, and discrimination … directed towards individuals and groups of individuals based on race, gender, sexual preference, religion, or national origin … are incompatible with the welcoming and inclusive character of (Brunswick).”

Councilors then embarked on an hour-long conversation clarifying the motion to include both the creation of the task force and the adoption of the resolution.

At various points, councilors elicited skepticism about “legislating against ignorance.” Some councilors were wary about signing a document they had first seen that night, and was not included in the agenda.

Town Attorney Stephen Langsdorf was asked for his legal opinion several times during the proceedings. He clarified that a resolution is an “expression of sentiment” by a body, and recommended that a paragraph Harris included about specific council action be struck.

He also recommended the categories Harris had identified as targets of bias be broadened to include all classes protected under the Maine Human Rights Act in both the resolution and creation of the task force.

But even after the motion was clarified to include Harris’ new proposal, along with Brayman’s original task force, not all councilors were sold on the idea.

“I don’t know how much control any (legislative body) has over bonehead-ism,” Councilor Suzan Wilson said.

Councilor Jane Millet, who had originally supported the task force, said she found the direction the motion had taken “bizarre.”

“It’s not fair,” she said, “to vote on something I saw for the first time at 5 o’clock tonight.”

But other councilors supported authorizing both items.

Councilor Kathy Wilson spoke of her experience growing up gay in Maine during the 1970s. “People would ask … why the hell do you have to be like that?” she said.

But Wilson said she had personally seen open conversations with people around her change individuals’ actions.

“We all have prejudices,” she said. “We have to change (our) actions.”

“It’s tough to fix stupid with groups like this (task force),” Councilor Steve Walker said. “But the task force is … an opportunity to learn what tools are out there.”

The council ultimately voted to create the task force and approve Harris’ document by a vote of 6-3, with Councilors Millet, Suzan Wilson, and David Watson opposed.

Brayman appointed Millet, Kathy Wilson and herself to serve on the task force.

“While this is not what we started with, and while I prefer material to be provided to council and public with enough advance to consider what’s before us, I am happy with what came out of the meeting and believe we have a firm foundation for moving forward,” Brayman said after the meeting.

The task force will report back to the council in June 2016.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.
  • poppypapa

    The real question is just what the task force will conclude must be done. It won’t be acceptable to do nothing; that would just rubber stamp the oppression now rampant in our town.

    If nothing else, I suppose ‘slur free zones’ will have to be created, and signs put up to show where they are. We have drug free zones, so why not?

    I predict this will be a perfect example of how campus ‘movements’ of the current era will infuse and infect local governance.

    And I propose signs when you enter town that say “Welcome to Brunswick, a Political Correctness Leadership Community.”


    • EABeem

      Students are verbally harassed and sexually assaulted and no young woman is safe walking the street of Brunswick after dark, but Poppycock thinks it’s all just political correctness. What a sad commentary on knee jerk conservatism.

      • poppypapa

        Knee jerk? You define the move.

        Funny how this suddenly is happening ‘all over,’ especially at elite NorthEast institutions of Higher Learning. Almost like a movement has been spreading via social (or should I say anti-social) media.

        And thanks for your warning to every young woman in Brunswick. Perhaps you should volunteer as an escort. You could also record license plates on vehicles ‘in and near downtown,’ whatever that means. Since the slurs have reportedly occurred in drive-by situations.

        Once again, thanks for the analytical insights you always bring to such discussions.

        But hey; look on the bright side. When you go outside for your smoke breaks, you can stroll McKeen and environs in the dark…’re just steps away from the problem areas reported.

        Officer Eddy….one more feather in your cap.

        • EABeem

          Go sell Trump somewhere else.

          • poppypapa

            You’re a real hot skitch, Eddie. You started with sideways name calling and political assault; apparently you aren’t very good at responding to points. Now you’ve gone full frontal.

            I’m so impressed. It reflects highly on your discussion skills.

            And now that we’re done, go sell Marx and Lenin somewhere else. We’re all stocked up here.

            Make sure, as well, that you have spare batteries when you go on your night patrols.

            Keep it up, and I may have to seek a 10-86 order.

          • EABeem

            What points? You have no points. You never do. In this case, you immediately whipped out the Donald Trump “political correctness” card to dismiss legitimate public safety concerns. Your Bowdoin animus is showing, Pembie.
            p.s. You do understand, right, that while Melvin Udall, your fictional hero, shares your view of the world, Jack Nicholson, a real human being, shares mine?

          • Aliyah33

            “With my sunglasses on, I’m Jack Nicholson. Without them, I’m fat and 60.” 😉

          • poppypapa

            Thanks for reminding me that Political Correctness just came into public discourse in the last several months.

            I was terribly mis-informed.

            Go wash your hands now, Eddie. It’s been an hour or so since you last did so, and you’ve got to wash the nicotine and smoke off your fingers.

            Then you can go sell some more crazy. You wear it so well; no wonder you get so many to buy it.

          • All Libruls are Fascists


          • poppypapa

            You know Eddy, it occurs to me that you may well be the most bitter and humorless writer appearing in the local print media and its comment streams. Perhaps it’s a consequence of your belief system, and the mental contortions is takes to defend it.

            Smoke ’em if you got ’em, pilgrim.

          • EABeem

            Not sure where you got the idea that I smoke, but, as usual, you’re wrong. As to “humorless,” you try to make a joke of racial and sexual harassment and I’m the one whose bitter. Think again.

          • poppypapa

            Yeah….and you don’t respond to me, either.

          • EABeem

            Again, your point? Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth. Good will to all.

          • poppypapa

            I guess I must be mis-remembering that article a while back where you went on one of your touchy-feely excursions on the self-awareness j-axis, bemoaning the vice you had not been able to give up.

            Just like I must be mis-remembering the assertion you would never again take up with me in comment strings.

            Looks like you have a real self-control problem, in addition to all the other ones. Including poor judgment on where to live. You left wonderland for crime land.

            Well, as they say, Peace on Earth, and Good Will to those you agree with, and not to others.

            Right, Eddie?

          • EABeem

            If you can be sincere long enough to pay attention, I will explain. I have, in fact, said that there are certain people — and you are one– who it really makes no sense for me to engage as our basic assumptions about what is important are so different. I also find your constant sarcasm makes it pointless to try to have a discussion with you. That said, on occasion, I obviously have been provoked to respond, as in this case, in which you defaulted immediately to the Donald Trump “I don’t have time for political correctness” response which is used by louts everywhere to excuse profane, sexist, racist and just plain bad behavior — behavior of the sort that appeals so much to the churlish followers of Trump and our oafish governor. Anything that smacks of compassion, cooperation, sensitivity, inclusiveness, good will or the common good is immediately pissed on by folks like Trump and LePage as “political correctness.” I despise both men. I am not bitter, but I am angry that my country has fallen so far that dickweeds like Trump and LePage appeal to so many ignorant and prejudiced people. So I made the simple point that you’re being unhelpful and unkind while young women in Brunswick are being verbally and sexually harassed. You may recall that tried to invite you for a drink when I moved to town and that the Forecaster invited you to have a point-counterpoint with me on local issues and that, both times, you declined. So I have made a good faith effort while you prefer to hide out on the other side of town and throw barbs. So I reserve the right to call you out when I think you’re being part of the problem, which you surely are by belittling the public safety issues at Bowdoin.

          • poppypapa

            Well, Eddie, now that I’ve been ‘inside your head’ for the umpteenth time, and for several days running, I can confirm to readers that it’s as full of pompost as I had thought,
            albeit with some sprigs of winter greenery tossed on the heap.

            Furthermore, I’ve researched the categorization scheme for the general class of journalists/opinion writers/free lancers. It turns out (no surprise) that you are an exemplar of the species boobus sanctimonious. Your words epitomize
            the holier than thou, moral superiority glance in the head shot they use with your column.

            As for sarcasm, I prefer it over vitriol, hatred, and calling people dickweeds. Along with other names you’ve used in the past. How grown up. Take this passage: “by
            louts everywhere to excuse profane, sexist, racist and just plain bad behavior — behavior of the sort that appeals so much to the churlish followers of Trump and our oafish governor.”

            So now it’s clear you consider me a lout who is profane, sexist, racist, just plain bad behaving, oafish, and wont to chasing churlish readers.

            I suppose it never occurs to you that the LePages and the Trumps of the world have gained public support because ‘common people’ have had it up to their ears with the ruling
            elite and their corruption and selling out of the country to stay in power. That includes ruling class members of both parties.

            The so-called ‘cesspool’ that many promise to drain if elected suddenly becomes a commodious hot-tub once they get to the seat of government. Many of us have had it with the government centric view of our lives, where we exist only to fulfill the wishes of our ‘leaders.’

            You can have your Harry Reids, your Nancy Pelosis, your Sanders, your Clintons, and all the rest. I’ll leave it to you to list the members of the other party.

            Do I want to have a drink with you? As I recall, the offer was for coffee, but thank you, no. I don’t care to be a notch on your belt of those who love you even though you disagree.

            You seem driven by self-validation and the need for
            validation from others. I’m sure others everywhere ‘fill up your
            senses’ and that your ‘cup runneth over’ in that regard.

            As to the Forecaster’s offer, you are correct; I made it quite clear that I had no interest in such an opportunity, for any number of reasons. If you’d like to know more, assuming they didn’t forward my words to you, I can publish them here.

            And you can rest assured my response was civil, and contained none of the emotional tirades and animus
            reflected in your words I cited above.

            By the way, I don’t “hide” behind anything. Readers of my blog know exactly who I am (Pem Schaeffer), and your childish little taunts about identity are just that. I’m
            not looking to have fans come up to me ‘wherever I go’ to tell me how much they appreciate what I write.

            I’m simply expressing my point of view on things that go on in the local area, and providing ‘news’ that the old line media simply has no interest in. As to ‘throwing barbs?’ I suggest the comment to which I respond here goes WELL beyond that. But then, boobus sanctimonious is known for its double standards.

            Your style is to take a penny and turn it into a dollar of false currency on the journalistic j-axis. A careful review of my prior comments will show that they were directed to the corner our town council is painting themselves into,
            with help from a quasi-national movement of campus demands for all sorts of concessions, resignations, safe spaces, etc.

            While you have decided that no young lady is safe in Brunswick as a result, I did not directly address that issue. I believe that is the job of Bowdoin Security and the
            Brunswick PD.

            At this moment, I am not aware that any reports of
            ‘slurs’ of one sort or another, in one location or another, have been determined to be credible.

            I did not ‘belittle the public safety issues at Bowdoin’ in any way; I spoke to where those reports will lead.

            If you disagree with those views, so be it. But stop trying to turn the situation into a cudgel for your own personal use in beating this conservative into a pulp. I must say, however, that being in your top three most despicable “pisser-on’ers”
            makes me smile.

            Perhaps if you were to reread your comment to which I am here replying, if you can be sincere long enough to absorb it, you should be able to recognize how you lose
            it….statement by statement.

            And if you can’t see that, you’re even more of a lost cause than many of us thought.

            So pilgrim, yes you can reserve the right to call me out however you wish. And I reserve the right to assert that when you do, you more often than not reveal the dark side
            of the white knight you envision yourself to be.

          • EABeem

            All wrong, as usual. But keep those cards and letters coming.

          • poppypapa

            I almost typed “unbelievable,” Eddie, but actually you’re following your usual pattern.

            As the old saying goes, total self-denial is the strongest form of confirmation.

            “All wrong.” Which includes those things you said in this very thread. And my statements as well.

            I began to wonder how people can live with you, but then I realized the more relevant question is how you can live with yourself.

            The answer is obvious: self-delusion. Which fits nicely with your conviction that “there is no such thing as objective truth,” including the existence of words said in print.

            And you wonder why I have no interest in a ‘point-counterpoint’ exchange in print.

            I hope for you that your groupies come to your rescue so you can keep your self-esteem fully tuned up.

            You can keep calling the rest of us dickweeds (alt: dickwad), which reinforces the elegance and dignity of your rhetorical abilities. Interested students can look up the definition of that journalistic term.

          • EABeem

            You demeaned and belittled people who have been the victims of sexual and racial harassment, calling it political correctness, the default for conservatives everywhere. It’s the Trump offensive. Not only can you not understand what I write. You don’t even seem to understand what you write. I’m done. As I have said before, it is always a mistake to engage with you.

          • poppypapa

            Why is it so difficult for you to understand the difference between addressing the political pressure that has been applied, and the actual victims of such harassment?

            I’ll tell you why; because it would rob you of the opportunity to call people not on your wavelength dickweeds and Trumps. And you simply get too much pleasure out of that.

            But you could show us the passages where I demeaned and belittled the victims if it will make you feel better

          • Chew H Bird

            You guys need to get a room… J/K. I’ll buy you both breakfast at a local greasy spoon just so I can listen…

          • poppypapa

            You can buy me breakfast anytime. Special conditions apply.

          • poppypapa

            OK; the timer was started at about 10am, today, Tuesday.

            We’ll see how long Eddie can resist the little dickweed inside his head, scraping it down with a wire brush. If only for the ‘common good,’ our noted opinion writer will have to purge the little rascal, and do it with a blast of free-lance vermit.

          • All Libruls are Fascists

            Nobody respects a whiner and crybaby.

          • All Libruls are Fascists

            Christopher White says: TRUMP 2016

      • Chew H Bird

        I have lived in Brunswick since the early 1980s. Once in a while there are very real problems that need to be addressed and the current situation of young ladies being assaulted and harassed is a very real problem that needs to be efficiently and quickly dealt with for the sake of everyone.

        No matter the good intentions, I suspect a special task force comprised of Town Council members will not accomplish anything since the reality is that our police department and Bowdoin security are the appropriate organizations to deal with actual issues of violence in our community.

        As I am not qualified to do so, I will not comment on the effectiveness of law enforcement in Brunswick except to wish them the very best as situations like this can be difficult to resolve.

        As for the slurs, I am guessing a television show such as “All in the Family” might not pass today’s political correctness meter as “family television” despite South Park continually pushing the bar in terms of groin level comedy.

      • Aliyah33

        Fact is, the Brunswick Police Department has historically and completely ignored the laws (State and Federal) prohibiting hate crimes and discrimination occurring to its own residents, citizens. And very unfortunately, too, sexual assaults remain an issue. Therefore, why does this town council task force wait until now to address these problems? No one should be subjected to such assaults and criminal actions. It’s no wonder we’re seeing these problems spilling over to include some of the Bowdoin students, because the law enforcement in the Town – who have the power to address them – instead ignored these serious issues in the past.

        • Chew H Bird

          The other ointment fly is Bowdoin strong arming the church to terminate the relationship with a support group whose sole purpose is to reduce the problems we are experiencing. The “move this group to an area less able to protect itself” attitude contributes to the problem like “out of sight out of mind” instead of working with town resources to actually improve Brunswick.

          • Aliyah33

            Exactly. Excellent point.

      • All Libruls are Fascists

        You sound like an hysterical old women according to Christopher White. He may vote for Donal Trump.

  • Chew H Bird

    Hopefully Brunswick residents are included as a protected group from being bullied into tax increased by the Town Counsil…

  • Queenie42

    ROFLMAO. After years of bullying and name calling by this same town council towards the taxpaying folks in the Brunswick West neighborhood they have the unmitigated gall to tell others to play nice? The lack of compassion and the outright hostility by certain members border on abuse.
    Yes, this is a serious issue, but don’t we have a police department? Seems they would be the most able to tackle it. This taskforce will be toothless. No one is going to stop the yahoos, drunks and headbangers from their nightly thrill of yelling obscenities to anyone they see as a target. It’s been going on for years in Brunswick. This drive-by harassment has become worse and more dangerous because even idiots can see there is no penalty for their actions.
    Because Bowdoin is an open campus with no gate and porter to see to the comings and goings of the students, there should be some sort of curfew and much more paid private security. And the students need to be told that it could be dangerous to wander the streets at night and not just in Brunswick, Maine.

  • James Fisk

    “‘(These) incidents are so rare it’s memorable,’ said Councilor John Richardson.”

    Right, it’s no big deal. Something along the lines of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, for instance.

    • EABeem

      I do worry that some in town are not taking this matter seriously enough. I have found that unless there is a young woman in a household, people seem to think it’s no big deal.

    • poppypapa

      Note the difference in the treatment of my comments by Eddie, and his reaction to Johnny Richardson’s public meeting statement that you cite.