Written by Ray Richardson
You know, if you read the newspapers in Maine, or more importantly, the Democratic operatives who pose as columnists, you would think our state was about to come apart at the seams because of the actions of Governor Paul LePage over the last four years. It is amusing to me how the liberals go so crazy over FOX News and its supposed bias, yet they have no issue with Democratic operatives posing as columnists in most of Maine's newspapers and acting like they are bringing a non-partisan perspective to the people who read their work. Many actually work or have worked for Democratic front groups who actively oppose Governor LePage's re-election.
For those of you that know me, I am a big boy. You can see me coming a mile away and like the freight train coming down the tracks, you never, ever have to guess what direction I am headed. I don't hide my bias, I state it right up front so as you read what I have written, or listen to my talk show, you do so with a filter that lets you know you are listening to or reading someone who is clear about his bias right up front.
I have written the above because I think it is important, even if others with a different point-of-view do not, to make sure you know you are reading or listening to someone with an agenda. My agenda is simple. I love Maine. I was not born here, but I have spent my entire adult life here. I am proud that my four children were born and raised here. Being from Maine means something special to me and to them.
I want my four children and YOUR children to live in Maine as adults, if that is their desire. I want them to have the opportunity in our state that children from other states believe exists in their state. In other words, I don't want my children or your children to believe they must leave Maine to prosper.
Put aside all of the rhetoric and non-sense in this campaign and focus on this one, fundamental fact. Peak enrollment in Maine public schools was reached in 1977. Roughly 247,000 students attended our school that year. Since then, we have witnessed two trends and I do not think they are un-related.
Trend one has been the rapid decline of public school enrollment in Maine. We are nearing 170,000 students in our public school system and that number is expected to continue to decline without substantial changes in how we approach our economy.
Trend two is the massive growth of government at all levels in Maine over the last 40 years while serving what has largely been a stagnant population. I am sure some will cherry-pick certain statistics and attempt to disprove the notion, but the long haul, forty years, proves my premise.
Consider this, since Angus King took office 19 years ago as Governor, Maine's general fund has almost doubled, while our population has remained steady. So much of the conversation in Augusta and around the state focuses on social welfare programs instead of what we can do to advance our economy and build a prosperous future for those young people who do not see Maine as a land of opportunity.
Look at the issues facing USM. Over the last five years, they have witnessed an enrollment drop of 30 percent. As the leaders have sought to address the issues with decisions that are never fun to make, the special interests rise up against them. Students(and parents) do not want a tuition hike. Students and professors do not want program cuts. Foolish financial decisions have been made with regard to school administrators. These factors are all a part of what has created the crisis, but the truth is, they are only pieces of a puzzle. We are not growing college students because we are not growing K-12 students.
Our economy has driven the baby maker generation from Maine due to lack of opportunity.
The great Joshua Chamberlain gave a speech in 1867 that talked about the issue of the out-migration of Maine's youth and how we address it. Almost a 150 years later, we are still facing this issue.
If we want to re-patriate Mainers who have left our state for greener pastures, we will not do that by raising the minimum wage and enslaving people to government paid health care that requires you to remain impoverished to remain on the program. We must build an economy that offers economic opportunity, not a lifetime of government dependence. The conversation in Augusta MUST change.
I debated the minimum wage issue with Senate candidate Shenna Bellows in my studio earlier this year. At one point, I said to her, "I am 52 years old. If I have not done anything in my work life to make me more valuable than minimum wage at the age of 52, isn't that on me?"
She, of course, disagreed and said that in many places in Maine, that is the best people could do.
I refuse to accept that premise. I refuse to believe that, in Maine, the best we can do is struggle to get by. Maine is an amazing place and it must be led by people who believe that our future is hopeful, that we can build an economy where people can prosper. We must stop holding onto the dreams of the past, the paper industry, the shoe industry and other lost manufacturing entities. We must embrace a new economy where technology and innovation dominate the landscape.
Artel, Idexx, Jackson Labs and Putney are prime examples of businesses that will not listen to those who say Maine is a place where you just get by. These companies are world leaders and they are in our backyard. These companies represent Maine's future. These companies are the type of places that keep young Maine adults in Maine and bring back young Mainers who saw opportunity somewhere else.
We should honor the great history of Maine's paper mills and realize they still have a place in our future, but Maine's future is no longer found walking the floors of the paper mill. Maine's future is found in a lab, in software design, using our natural resources to develop products we have not yet even thought of. That Maine is a Maine whose economy is vibrant and its citizens prosper.
I refuse to believe that over one quarter of the people who live in this great state are doomed to a future where getting by is the best they can do. On Nov. 4, join me in voting for a Governor who believes Maine's best days are still ahead of her, a Governor who refuses to accept that getting by is the best so many Mainers can hope for. Join me and cast your ballot for Governor Paul LePage.
(Ray Richardson is the host of the Ray Richardson show, heard weekday mornings from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on the flagship station 1310AM News/Talk WLOB in greater Portland and the LOB Statewide Lobster Radio Network. He can also be found at wlobradio.com and rayrichardson.net.)
Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 02:30
Written by Chris Shorr
After attending the impromptu press conference called by Eliot Cutler on Wednesday morning I planned on that being the topic of this week's column, but as much as I hate to admit it, I don't think I could do a better job than Bill Nemitz did in his column for the Portland Press Herald laying out the whacky, up and down, even historic events that left their mark on the day, and on the final few acts of this year's election season circus.
So kudos to you, Mr. Nemitz, you nailed it.
With that said, and with the fact that this will be my last column for this newspaper prior to Election Day, I'd like to highlight a few state and local races and give my endorsement to the candidates that I support in said races. I'd also like to discuss the bear baiting referendum question, and a particular bond question that hits especially close to home for me.
Before I begin, I'd like to encourage anyone reading this to question my endorsements, and to research the candidates and the issues on your own. My two cents might not even be worth that much to some people, but as someone who ran an (unsuccessful) underdog campaign for city council last year, I know how important this sort of thing is for local campaigns, and even though sometimes I still wonder how I even wound up in the position to be able to express myself on this sort of platform, I'm honored to be able to offer up my support for some candidates that I'm really excited about, and some issues that I'm really passionate about.
First on the list is the race for U.S. Senate between newcomer Shenna Bellows (D) and longtime incumbent Susan Collins (R). My endorsement goes to Bellows, I love her background as former director of the Maine ACLU, and I love her common sense, progressive ideas. Unfortunately, her chances of winning are slim, so it looks like the savvy Collins will be returning to Washington for at least one more term. The good thing is, Collins has clout in Washington, and she seems to truly care about Mainers. So it could be worse, plus I expect we'll be hearing from Bellows again in the near future.
Next up is the race for State Senate in District 27 between incumbent Justin Alfond (D), Peter Doyle (R) and Asher Platts (G). It's important to note that in the last race for this seat the Republican candidate finished with about 50 votes, so this is more of a race between Alfond and Platts. Except that Platts, chairman of the Maine Green Independent Party, doesn't really have much of a chance at winning either, but that's no knock on him. Alfond has the name recognition, the pedigree, the financial support and the resume to all but guarantee himself another term. He is one of the leading progressive voices in the state, and I am happy to have him in Augusta fighting for us. Still, Platts gets my endorsement based on his tireless activism and advocacy work on things like raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana and equal rights for all. As I said to Platts and Alfond at a recent forum, "I wish you both could win." Unfortunately for Platts it doesn't look like his time has come yet, but it will someday, and when it does he'll deliver.
For those that aren't aware, like Platts I, too, am a member of the Maine Green Independent Party, so I want to explain this next endorsement to show that I'm doing my best not to be biased based on my party affiliation. With that said, my endorsement in the race for State House District 39 goes to Democrat incumbent Diane Russell over Green Party challenger Lauren Besanko.
If a poll were to be conducted in this race, I have no idea what the results would look like, but I'd feel safe betting that Russell has a firm grip on the lead, and even though I love Besanko's stance on environmental issues and her passion and support for vulnerable and marginalized people, I'm thrilled with the work that Russell has done during her time in office. Although I do wish that she would give more credit to the Green Party for their behind the scenes work on issues that she has piggybacked on such as marijuana legalization and ranked choice voting, I'm still excited to see what else she can do to shake up the stagnancy in Augusta.
The last State House race that I'll touch on is the race in District 40 between incumbent Ben Chipman (I), former legislator Herb Adams (D), and Mark Lockman (R).
Much like the District 27 race, the Republican candidate in this one stands no chance. So let's focus on Chipman and Adams. Adams is one of my favorite all-time Portlanders. A teacher, historian and activist, Adams speaks with a combination of oratory finesse and rhetorical prowess that causes one to instinctively feel like applauding even his most passive conversational exchanges. The man is supremely intelligent, and the same can be said for his diligence. He held this seat until relinquishing it due to term limits, and that's when Chipman stepped in.
Now that Adams is eligible to run again, it puts voters in a difficult position because he did such a great job on things like the Opportunity Maine tuition/tax credit during his last tenure in Augusta. But Chipman, seeking his third term, has done a remarkable job during his first two terms working towards a better future for Maine. He wants another term to accomplish things like continuing his efforts to expand healthcare, raise the minimum wage, and reform corporate welfare. So in a race between Chipman and Adams, Maine wins no matter the outcome, because each of these candidates is a magnificent politician who fights the good fight fearlessly. But due to the fact that Chipman has so much current momentum and unfinished business, my endorsement goes to him. Plus, that way Adams will be free to run in next year's mayoral race, which is where I'd really like to see him (even though he blushes at the notion and dismisses it with a chuckle).
The final race that I'll be commenting on is for the at-large seat on the Portland School Board. This is an interesting one, because it pits a candidate who fits the exterior mold of the typical school board member yet lacks substance or vision for actually improving the school system in Gene Landry versus a candidate by the familiar name of John Eder who not only misfits the mold, he shatters it. Eder, a former state legislator who at one point was the highest elected third-party official in the entire country, has remained relevant in recent years running for mayor, opposing the sale of Congress Square Park, and helping to legalize marijuana.
Landry's campaign has gone with the slogan, "A parent, not a politician," in reference to the fact that Eder doesn't have any kids, and I understand the argument. But to suggest that the education of our children, which is one of the most important investments any society can make in its future, should only be guided by people who have them is nonsensical. It's like saying that only people who own dogs should have a say on leash and cleanup laws, even though everyone would be at risk of being bitten or stepping in a fresh pile if we just let them all roam free and wild around town.
So for me, it comes down to vision and understanding of the issues. Over the course of the campaign, Landry has shown himself to be a go-along-to-get-along type of candidate who thinks that the school board is doing just fine as is. Eder, on the other hand, has shown the same type of ingenuity that he showed when he was serving in Augusta. He has exciting ideas for working with the diverse population that makes up the student bodies of Portland public schools, he wants to improve retention in high schools by implementing ideas like creating mentorships between local college students and high school kids, but above all he wants to re-establish the school board's diminished role in city policy making in an effort to regain lost credibility and influence in City Hall. My endorsement goes to Eder.
Now I'd like to touch on what has come to be known as "the bear baiting question." For me, the results of this question will have almost zero impact. I've never hunted, I'm a city boy, and I usually don't have time to explore (truly) rural Maine more than once or twice a year. So take this with a grain of salt, but I'm endorsing a "yes" vote to "ban the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety, or for research."
Now before anyone goes and gets all worked up about this one, here's my reasoning. For one thing, the campaign to oppose this question has really tried to exploit fears, and I disagree strongly with that tactic, plus I don't think that shooting an animal who's stuck in a trap or has its head in a barrel of doughnuts should be considered "hunting," but that's not how I came to my decision. My biggest reason for endorsing a "yes" on the bear baiting question is because this type of referendum question is extremely difficult to get on the ballot, but it's also a decision that would be relatively easy to reverse if it turns out that all that fear mongering from the "no" side proves to be factual, or even just partially true. So in other words, we might as well give it a shot (no pun intended).
The other question that I'd like to give an endorsement on is Question 7: "Should the state borrow $7 million (matched by $7 million) to use towards capital improvements that will support the growth of marine businesses and commercial enterprises?" My typical habit is to support most bond questions, but with so many Mainers looking for work, and with interest rates so low, this is as good a time as any to invest in our future anyways. With roughly 26,000 Mainers working in the marine industry, the environmental and developmental threats to our coasts and waters needs to be addressed. Question 7 will benefit maritime workers from top to bottom, I enthusiastically encourage you to support this important measure.
Governor — Mike Michaud (D)
US House District 1 — Chellie Pingree (D)
US House District 2 — Emily Cain (D)
State Senate District 28 — Owen Hill (G)
State House Disctrict 36 — Sam Chandler (G)
State House District 38 — Matt Moonen (D)
State House District 41 — Erik Jorgensen (D)
State House District 42 — Peter Stuckey (D)
State House District 43 — Mark Dion (D)
Portland City Council District 4 — Rosemary Mahoney
Portland School Board District 4 — Rebecca Wartell
Note: Candidates running unopposed were not considered for endorsement.
Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 02:31
Written by Telly Halkias
In the ongoing debate on the global Ebola crisis, a piece in last week's Bangor Daily News struck me as odd.
In the column, "I'm not planning to kiss her, but I want to shake Kaci Hickox's hand," Erica Quin-Easter (of Caribou), addresses the issue of Ms. Hickox's (of Fort Kent) temporary quarantine in New Jersey following the latter's return from Africa while working as a nurse on Ebola patients.
Ms. Quin-Easter does so with predictable and tired demagoguery, first ranting against N.J. Gov. Chris Christie recent impositions of tight controls on suspected Ebola exposures.
Then, in a stunningly elitist tone, she claimed herself "ashamed" to live in Maine, calling its people "provincial" for some of the more extreme reactions to the crisis to date — as if everyone in the Pine Tree State subscribed to such nonsense.
Memo to Ms. Quin-Easter: we don't.
But she then she hurled yet another insult our way by saying we "lack the compassion of those who care," (ostensibly, like Ms. Hickox). In pursuing her ad hominem attacks on the rest of us, Ms. Quin-Easter bypassed the big picture: All of this has to do with executive leadership.
There should be no issue with reasonable quarantines like home confinement, as mandated by N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo for people who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus, and more recently, similar measures in Illinois.
Also, favoring close and immediate medical monitoring and assessment upon re-entry into the country — such as in Virginia and Maryland — is a no-brainer. Indeed, for health professionals like Ms. Hickox doing this good work for weeks on end, there should be a higher standard of precaution upon reentry.
I don't know what that standard is, nor will I proclaim myself an expert on the matter as Ms. Quin-Easter seems to have done — while regurgitating an Ebola symptoms laundry list which can be found on WebMD.
But if you accept the premise that the first responsibility of government is to ensure public safety (and therefore health), then some reasonable but conclusive measures should be in place at the federal level first (emphasis).
Yet again the monolith of our government in Washington is showing its ineptitude to react quickly and develop reasonable policies and guidelines, so that the Gov. Cuomos and Gov. Christies of the world don't have to dive into the dark without precedent to help guide them.
Still, governors are executives and bear the same responsibility for the people in their states as the president does for the nation. We might disagree with specific elements of the actions of these two governors, but can't fault N.Y. or N.J for doing something decisive. They are, after all, the two largest ports of entry into this country from Africa, and that has to count in any decision-making.
It's easy sitting up here in quiet, bucolic northern New England and pointing fingers. Or in Colorado. Or in Utah. You get the idea: those on the sidelines often have much to say, but no clue about the game between the white lines.
Just like the inertia shown during the growth of ISIS, this administration is now scrambling to get something coherent on the street, and into play.
But public scares are best dealt with by acting conclusively and with authority, not playing catch-up. We already learned that with Hurricane Katrina during the Nagin/Blanco/Bush years, a failure at all levels — municipal, state and national — by both parties.
Given that, Messrs. Cuomo and Christie — one from each party — reached the same conclusion — as are other governors — and took action, though admittedly using different means to achieve their goals. This has nothing to do with politics, though pundits and commentaries such as Ms. Easter's are trying to make it that way.
And to be clear: such measures are not a denigration, implicitly or otherwise, of the noble and dangerous work these health care workers are undertaking in Africa.
This is about leadership, plain and simple.
As an independent I have no issues praising or criticizing someone from either party when it's earned. And while I'm not a basher of Mr. Obama, this whole Ebola fiasco puts an exclamation point on what has been, unfortunately, a lackluster 2014 inside the Beltway, from both the Republican House and the Democratic Senate.
As a matter of accountability, this is strictly an executive issue, and to date, nothing definitive, coherent or unified on Ebola has come from the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the Surgeon General.
The rest of us, Ms. Quin-Easter, still have plenty of compassion and admiration for the likes of Ms. Hickox, so please don't pretend to speak for us. And on the policy matter at hand, kindly get the facts of government accountability straight.
Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 02:30
Written by Natalie Ladd
My 24-year-old niece is a very fortunate young lady. Smart, drop dead gorgeous, gainfully employed, and a boyfriend with a six pack of muscles for a stomach. She also graduated from college without a single dollar of debt.
Working hard all their lives, her "other" grandparents amassed more than enough to set her up with a trust fund specifically intended for college related expenses. Included were hefty sorority dues, a new car and some pockets change that lasted throughout her four years at an expensive private university in Florida. Knowing how uncommon her silver-spooned situation is, we talked when she came up to visit over Columbus Day weekend. Marvelling at the colorful display Maine's crisp fall leaves were offering, the two of us walked the boulevard, and then neighborhood side streets for hours.
"Oh, Aunt Nat," she said quietly when asked about the state of student loans from her freshly graduated perspective. "So many of my college friends are in trouble. The lowest payment I know of is something like $450 a month and that guy still can't find a job, He's applying for some new continued deferment program, but he's a mess."
"One of my sorority sisters went back and got a degree to teach secondary school so she could get into a loan forgiveness or repayment program or something like that," my niece continued. "But she also had to agree to teach in some scary, God awful place and was told learning a second language would be helpful. She's a very giving person but her dream was to open up a Montessori school in her hometown where her fiance lives. I just don't see that happening now."
Expressing something akin to survivor's guilt, my niece said most of her college friends are broker than they were when they were in school. "We can never get together and do anything because money is such a hot potato issue," she said. "One of my roommates was telling me she wished she went to her local community college for the first two years to get her core credits. But then, you miss the whole college experience of freshman rush week and everyone coming in right out of high school. By the time you hit your junior year, you have your besties."
Echoing my newest, biggest fears of unmanageable student loans being dumped in my own daughters' laps, my niece's stories went on. She told me of one berated friend who is being called "a loser without a job" by a stepparent who cosigned a student loan during freshman year. The stepparent is now receiving collection phone calls and menacing letters while my niece's friend sends out resumes by the dozens to all and any jobs that offer enough of a salary to cover past-due loan payments.
"Grandma always used to say not to buy something I couldn't afford and I know I'm lucky there was money for me to go to school," my niece said when we sat to people watch on Monument Square. Referring to my mother "The Betty" (not the super rich trust fund grandmother), the words were a familiar mantra.
Generationally, a college education is something my mother believes none of her grandchildren should be deprived of. She sees it as a cultural, non-negotiable necessity, and a stepping stone to a bigger, better job. The Betty is appalled beyond words at the stories my niece told me, even though she has heard them over and over from her bridge cronies.
"Next to healthcare (as a senior citizen living in God's Waiting Room, health care is naturally her biggest day-to-day concern), the mess we've made of our education system is the biggest problem facing this country today," my mom said. "A college education is becoming an expensive proposition with no real value, unless it's a technical program, I guess."
Disagreeing with The Betty is a battle to be chosen carefully, but I still believe college is a great place to go and hopefully learn how (not so much what) to think. It's a bridge between home sweet home and the world beyond. Sadly, crossing that bridge has become the costliest toll ever.
May graduation is around the corner for Number One. With two-plus years left, my youngest has never been happier than she is at her out-of-state school on the South Shore of Boston. Both have mentioned graduate school as a probable path to achieve career interests.
Fueling my anxiety about the ball and chain I see in their financial futures (and my own guilt at not being able to provide them with well orchestrated college savings), I stumbled upon a website called campus.io. A free online management tool, campus.io helps students organize their loans and visually see every payment option with the pros and cons of each. Friends and family can buy "gift cards" toward loan payments and there is no pressure to do anything but see where you'll stand months and years down the road. Best of all, with permission, they dig and pull all the information together. The user friendliness is empowering and they promise not to sell your information..
My sweet niece won't need campus.io. but almost every other college grad I know probably will.
And as usual, The Betty is right. College is cost prohibitive and many are questioning its validity in today's economy.
But don't get me started on health care.
Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 02:31
Written by Curtis Robinson
There's an odd and obscure symmetry with President Obama including Maine in his Last-Ditch Relevancy Tour just a week before sculptor Robert Indiana's "7" sculpture is unveiled at the Portland Museum of Art.
Those with strong political memories might recall that Indiana provided a powerful and iconic visual for then-candidate Obama in 2008. Working off what is likely his most famous work, the "LOVE" sculpture with the tilted "O," he produced "HOPE" that premiered outside the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver.
Positioned on a high-traffic area just outside the convention, it was a welcoming vision to thousands.
Granted, a hard-fought campaign, great positions on key issues and an inspiring candidate helped create the Obama Administration, but the HOPE image was certainly part of the zeal. Along with that Obama art-deco poster and a few other images, it became part of the visual campaign.
How odd that a scant half-decade-ish later, the rock-star candidate-now-president would have his lowest approval rating and Mr. Indiana would be rocking the Portland Art Walk with the debut of his "7," part of a numeral series. The idea is that it will be Nov. 7, and it will be premiered at the Portland Museum of Art — which planned ahead by being located at 7 Congress Square.
Talk about your symmetry...
But there was a dark side to that happy HOPE sculpture in Denver.
For me, it was the "Original Disappointment."
A point I've made at least since a 2009 column is that political disappointment has more to do with expectations than performance. So "Candidate Wannabe Obama" could not really disappoint — in primaries, you have so little power over anything.
Expectations only come with winning. With becoming The Candidate.
Change was in the Rocky Mountain air that summer. This was a different politician, maybe even a different kind of politics. Comedy Central was covering the convention, for crying out loud.
It was certainly a time of hope, but not for a few young dancers.
The debut of HOPE was supposed to include a modern dance (my term, I have no idea what the actual performance would be called, but I'll bet that's close) creation. But the dance bloggers were abuzz that, on the eve of the convention, the dancers heard from "somebody with the campaign" that the dance "was something FOX could use against us." They said it was too overtly "racial." So the performance was canceled.
Credentials were pulled. Flights cancelled.
My memory was that only one very beautiful woman who was said to have created the dance attended, wearing an odd shirt with an "O" — it would have helped spell out H-O-P-E when joined by three other dancers. As far as i could tell, most folks just thought it was a homemade "O-bama" T-shirt."
I tried to get the Denver press interested in the story, perhaps a counter to the all-in tone of the media in those days. A friend of mine worked for the Rocky Mountain News, and was a great investigative reporter, but they had him on Twitter patrol for celebrities over at the Rage Against the Machine show.
That off-convention event included a parade of speakers warning that it was not enough to defeat the opposition, but also to hold the new government accountable. It was a wild concert, followed by thousands marching over to the convention through the Denver streets.
I remember my friend wondering aloud if anyone thought the government would dare to monitor all the cell phone and Internet traffic from the rowdy crowd. Just recently he quipped that "well, nobody would wonder about that now."
So those of you who joined me in plotting how to work around the President Obama traffic might consider visiting Mr. Indiana's premier during next Friday's Art Walk. Maybe even pause to consider his HOPE work and the promise it implied.
At least when it comes to Indiana's work, we are spared the impurity of politics; it has yet to disappoint.
(Curtis Robinson is the founding editor of The Portland Sun.)
Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 02:31