December 14, 2012

Lewiston mayor blames school crowding on welfare families

Mayor Robert MacDonald says there ought to be laws putting limits on how long families can collect welfare benefits.

The Associated Press

LEWISTON — The mayor of Lewiston is under fire again, this time for suggesting the city's schools are overcrowded because families from Massachusetts and New York move to Maine to take advantage of the state's generous welfare system.

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In October, Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald drew criticism for remarks he made in a radio interview about Somali refugees in his city. He told the British Broadcasting Corp. that immigrants are costing the city a lot of money and that they should "accept our culture and leave your culture at the door."

AP

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Mayor Robert MacDonald said Wednesday at a meeting with parents and school officials to discuss redistricting that there ought to be laws putting limits on how long families can collect welfare benefits.

He says there are 1,000 children of welfare seekers in city schools "who could care less about going to school" because "they don't feel like they're going to work anyway."

The Sun Journal reports that School Committee member Sonia Taylor called the mayor's comments "offensive."

In September, MacDonald told a British Broadcasting Corp. reporter that immigrants are costing the city a lot of money and that they should "accept our culture and leave your culture at the door." The BBC's segment focused on the resettlement of nearly 6,000 Somalis to Lewiston over the past decade.

With critics calling for his resignation, MacDonald tried to clarify comments that some felt disparaged immigrants, but he stopped short of apologizing, and blamed the media and his opponents for stoking the controversy.

"I can't control what people say I said," he said, adding later that he wouldn't talk to the media anymore about the issue.

"I'm not going to apologize for 'leave your culture behind,'" he said.

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