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The Coastal Packet

The longtime national journal, Progressive Review, has moved its headquarters from Washington DC to Freeport, Maine, where its editor, Sam Smith, has long ties. This is a local edition dealing with Maine news and progressive politics.

1/30/10

THE FIRST DECADE OF SOMALIS IN LEWISTON

Maine Public Broadcasting - Eight years ago, it was the former Lewiston mayor's open letter to the Somali community that made national headlines. In it he expressed concern about the effects of the in-migration on city and school services. "We have been overwhelmed and have responded valiantly," Mayor Laurier Raymond wrote. "Now we need breathing room. Our city is maxed out financially, physically and emotionally.". . .

At the time, there were several hundred Somalis living in Lewiston. Now there are about 5,000, and new mayor Larry Gilbert says the city is a different place. "I look at the apartment buildings that they're living in and I say, 'What if they weren't here? Those buildings would be empty and what would our tax revenue be?' So I really think they're adding to the economy. And I think that that's something that that's people just don't realize. They think that the system is being drained, when in fact, they're contributing to it."

Gilbert says welfare assistance for Somali immigrants makes up only about ten percent of the city's entire welfare budget. And when you look at Lisbon Street, the primary artery running through the downtown, about two blocks are now made up of Somali-owned businesses.


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