Berlin wants jobs. The city is sagging because there are few viable opportunities, and everyone wants to see that change.
The question is, what kind of jobs? Jobs for whom?
If the city puts an emphasis on creating 21st century jobs, then all the residents who got laid off by the mill will be left out. The skills needed for service sector high-tech jobs are different than the skills needed to fell trees or run a boiler. Replacing those jobs with jobs relevant in the post-industrial economy does nothing for the people laid off there. The jobs will go to outsiders and a select few resident, while doing little for the people who need them most.
Think of the federal prison—37 or younger rules out much of Berlin, leaving residents frustrated and angry.
However, if the city concentrates on revitalizing the wood products industry and puts people who were laid off back to work there will be no reason for the youth of Berlin to return. High school students who go away to college don’t want to come back to log the forest; they want to come back to a place with the infrastructure to support their professional aspirations. And new people don’t want to move to the area either, because there aren’t the opportunities they’re looking for.
Right now, Berlin has a great mix of neither: Blue collar workers are out of a job, young people are leaving, and few new people are moving in. The city has to do something; it has to put its energy somewhere.
Can it do both? Maybe. If one or both of the biomass plants are built they will bring back some of those blue collar jobs, and the city could still concentrate on the new economy. That seems like no one’s ideal solution, but for Berlin compromises are more important than reoccurring inaction.
Can candidates for council really afford to be against any part of either version of new jobs for Berlin?
Mr. Grenier looks at the past nostalgically, but he didn’t mention anything about jobs that would bring people in to Berlin. He is looking to help those that are already there.
Mr. Bertrand wants to move the city forward, but at what cost to the people living there (and voting there) now? Is maintaining steadfast opposition to the controversial Laidlaw project really viable, when it could help so many people and there is no foreseeable viable alternative use for the property?
Berlin needs to create a place for people to come, while not abandoning those who are already there. That’s a tough tightrope to balance, which requires a nuanced policy view. Nuance is not the first word that comes to mind when I look at the candidates running in Berlin’s municipal election. Maybe it will become part of the conversation.
Also, I’m glad to see several people who frequent LPJ are running for council. Tim Cayer, Jon Edwards, Ryan Landry and anyone else running for city government, if you would like to write up a short (500 words or less) statement saying why you are running I’d be happy to post it on here. I will be interviewing everyone running in the coming months, but this will provide you with a little more open forum if you would like it. I know Mr. Cayer, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Landry have my contact information, but for anyone else, shoot me an email at erik dot eisele at gmail dot com.
And please, I’ll cut them off at 500 words so don’t go over, and you can only send me one statement. I will not edit them, so check for typos. I look like an idiot when I have them, you don’t want to be mistaken for the press.