Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A decade gone by: Where Portland has come since 1999, and why we can't really even imagine what's coming in 2019

Published in the Portland Phoenix

This week, we at the Portland Phoenix celebrate 10 years of serving Portland and Maine as your news, arts, and entertainment authority. And we celebrate a decade of you, our readers, giving us your attention in an increasingly jam-packed media world.

Portland is a small place that has a lot packed into it. (We actually kinda like that description of ourselves as well.) And we have managed to cram a lot into this issue — it's our annual Fall Preview issue as well as a celebratory anniversary edition — and we hope you'll check everything out.

But before you get there, let's start with the predictions then-staff writer Alex Irvine made five years ago, in our fifth-anniversary issue. He listed five themes that had been covered throughout the Phoenix's first five years that would still be current in five years' time (that is, now). And he went four-for-five.

GAMBLING Yep. Another proposal is in development now.

WATERFRONT The Maine State Pier mess is no more solved now than then, and statewide, working waterfront is still under serious land-use pressure.

DIRIGO HEALTH Whether as an example of how to reform healthcare, how not to, or something in between, he was right on.

MERCURY The environmental toxin is still an issue, but not much under discussion these days. We'll call Alex wrong on this one.

GAY CIVIL RIGHTS Oh yes, for sure. If you don't know that, plug into a Webtube.

In this issue, we look back at the past 10 years. Shay Stewart-Bouley mulls over how diversity has changed in Maine since 1999, and cartoonist David Kish offers us some ideas for new niche products we at the Portland Phoenix might create.

Then there's Deirdre Fulton's review of selected of stories we've been telling you about for a while, updating them with where they are today.

If you're wondering what life is like if you work at the newspaper, the only person who worked full-time at the Portland Phoenix from 1999 all the way through 2009, Marc Shepard, has graced us with funny tales he claims to remember from our history.

And our arts writers have reviewed what has happened in Portland since the turn of the millennium. Sam Pfeifle tells us about the 10 most influential bands of the past 10 years; Megan Grumbling recounts the losses and the incredible gains Portland's theater community has seen; Ken Greenleaf looks at the state's artistic scene and notes a few changes; Lindsay Sterling explains how Portland became such a foodie center.

And while Al Diamon gives us a peek at what Maine might be like in 2019, we'll take a slightly less dystopic view. Here are five key issues that will occupy us for some significant period of the next 10 years, and our predictions for what might have happened by 2019.

UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE Maybe we'll have solved it by then.

GAY CIVIL RIGHTS Full legal equality will have been in place for some time, nobody will be worse off, and many people will be better off.

GLOBAL WARMING This will be the crisis of the age, requiring political, economic, and social will like no worldwide challenge before. Its effects will reach into every aspect of our lives — transportation, communication, even food — and will require a concerted international effort to address.

GAMBLING Pro-gambling efforts will continue to propose increasingly better deals for Maine, in hopes of getting their mitts on at least some of our cash. Perhaps by 2019 they'll have offered to just give us our money back at the door.

STATE BUDGET CUTS If Maine's budget forecasters don't improve their skills, there might be precious little left to cut from services to the needy, and politicians will have to consider cutting tax breaks for the wealthy.

We recognize that looking forward is largely for entertainment value, but our looks back showed us exactly how much really does change over time. It doesn't always seem like it, we agree, but Portland is a very different city — very much for the better — today than it was in 1999. We'd like to think we've had some small part in that improvement, and we're definitely proud of how we've helped explore and explain it to you.

Thanks to our readers, writers, staff, advertisers, and friends. Thanks for sticking with us for 10 years, Portland. And thanks, in advance, for the next 10, and beyond.