Sunday, November 20, 2011

We are the 100%

What my wealthy father the businessman has in common with my poor grandmother the factory worker now living in a nursing home is this: they both long for their family and mourn missed opportunities for closeness with their children when the holiday season rolls around.

The fad of separating people by their wealth is effective at drawing attention to income disparity, but not helpful to our collective soul. What makes for a good slogan doesn’t tell the full story.

We all yearn for a better world for our children, and because of hard work or worry about the lack of work we miss so much of what they bring to the table -- joy, optimism, imagination and wonder.

Before long they are grown and working. And we miss them more.

America’s fix will involve more than a super committee, super PAC or superman. The greatness of our country is reflected by the values we teach our kids. It’s time to get back to basics while we forge ahead. We’re all alone together.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy the Park!

The opposite of corporate greed is personal generosity. Government policies that enable the former and prevent the latter are both worthy of protest. The people of Maine are being handed a gift of a national park that will create jobs, protect the environment and increase the quality of our lives. It's threatened by anti-government ideology, and it's time for the public to stand up and fight.

Recently Roxanne Quimby, the founder of Burt's Bees and a major Maine philanthropist, was featured in Forbes Magazine. The interview was about the Maine Woods National Park she wants to create by gifting 70,000 acres and $40 million. In the context of how the park would bring jobs, economic diversity and a healthy lifestyle, she was quoted saying:
“We have the most aged population in the country…. I believe we have one of the highest adult obesity rates in New England. We have… oxycontin abuse… [and] Maine’s the largest net receiver of Federal funds, even though we supposedly hate the Feds…it’s a welfare state."

This statement about welfare is now being used against her to detract from the real issue of whether a national park is good for Maine. 

But haven't we heard about Maine's "welfare problem" before? 

Oh, yeah. It was the platform that most of the Tea Party Republicans ran on and won in 2010, including Maine’s current governor.
“Reports” produced by the Maine Heritage Policy Center on this and other subjects found their way in to almost every GOP stump speech.

“Families in your community are trapped in dependence… the skyrocketing level of dependence on Maine’s welfare system is a growing crisis-in almost every city and town in the state!” 
And after chanting "today, one in three Mainers is on some form of welfare" over and over again, one Tea Party whipper-snapper was even hired to write the state’s FY 2011/2012 budget.  

You know the one. It solves our “welfare problem” by cutting benefits to immigrants and gutting pensions of retired teachers, while doling out $400 million in tax cuts that we will pay for later by cutting more programs for people on welfare.

So you have to wonder why certain anti-government elected officials got hysterical when this former hippie-turned-successful businesswoman agrees with their premise.

They are offended not so much that she parrots what their people have been telling people, but rather because the solution she puts on the table is a public park. 

“That is a blatantly false claim that is something that should infuriate all Mainers!”
“She has a great deal of disdain for the people of Maine!”  
How dare she “denigrate the people of the state of Maine!”
She is the “the enemy of the North Woods!” (this, according to the guy who formerly compared promises Quimby made to limit the park’s size to Nazi Germany’s false promises before its annexation of Czechoslovakia and invasion of Poland in 1939.)
“This is not about acres. This is about the federal takeover of the northern woods!”
“I can’t understand why someone who needs the support of the people of Maine would say what she has. To me, it’s like throwing a banana cream pie in your own face!”

Let's pass on the pie. Maine really does have an obesity problem, and this is why we should occupy the park. 
Angry anti-government guys calling the gift of private property for the purpose of creating a public park a “government takeover,” with references to Nazi Germany is the Maine echo of the Glenn Beck ideology and it's not going to solve our welfare problem, or any other problem. 
This same group promised “welfare reform” and jobs in 2010, and have instead rolled back environmental protections and are busy working to gut labor and voting rights. 
This party of “small government” wants a bureaucrat in every woman’s examination room, and a gun in every holster. The hypocrisy is maddening. 

The question isn’t whether Maine is a welfare state.  The question is how can we create jobs in order to lift families out of poverty? 

Quimby also said this in the Forbes article about the proposed Maine Woods National Park:
It would provide enormous economic diversity and opportunity that doesn’t exist now. Prosperity begins with small business, with committed, passionate people and communities and families that care about each other. And that’s still intact up there. It’s pretty amazing…I’ve organized rural America…before, in Guilford, where I started Burt’s Bees, and I had up to about forty-five women and we got the business up to about $3 million in sales. It was like a sheer miracle.

It's a miracle she is working so hard and putting up with so much for the public good. Isn't that supposed to be the job of our government?

It is no surprise that Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, who started her own knitting business on a Maine island by employing local women, supports a national park. 

It's time the rest of our federal delegation hears from the 74% of Maine people who favor the creation and study of a Maine Woods National Park.

Ideology that believes government is bad, and that public institutions and places are not valuable is as destructive as corporate greed. An unfettered unregulated “free market” can't be completely trusted to provide a healthy and bright future for our kids, and neither can the privatization of all places. Erosion of public institutions and parks will be the downfall of the American way of life. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

“Southern” is a State of Mind

“We could tell the pro-park from no-park instantly because the pro-park men wore immaculate hiking boots and the women wore stone faces, graying hair, and no bras.” Mary Adams

The visit by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to Maine last August to Stearns High School in Millinocket, Maine, to discuss the proposed Maine Woods National Park was a brazen violation of states rights, and caused an army of stone-faced, pro-park professional environmentalists from the “south” to invade a small northern town, according to Mary Adams.

Of course “states rights” is the code word for extreme conservatism and has nothing to do with Roxanne Quimby’s proposed gift of 70,000 acres of private property plus $40 million to create and maintain a national park. Adams is a veteran right-winger who is game for any cause that reminds her of redcoats. She is from Garland, Maine (south of Millinocket) and the local face of the angry mob that's crippling America.

The Maine Tea Party and Adams' opposition to a national park serves as a proxy for the anti-government shtick they like to jump up and down and scream about, as our public institutions and infrastructure crumble. They don't care who owns Maine's North Woods, and they don't dislike people from the south, as long as they are big powerful private corporations.

Over the last dozen years without objection by Adams or the Tea Party the great land barons who owned Maine’s North Woods have quietly sold out to real estate investment trusts (REITs), timber investment management organizations (TIMOs) and pension funds from Georgia, Connecticut, North Carolina and abroad. Paper companies now only own about 15% of Maine’s woods, the largest undeveloped forest in the eastern United States.

National Parks create jobs, protect the environment and serve the public good. There is no geographic limit to the need for jobs and corporate accountability. Old weapons such as the mythical north/south chasm, and states rights divide people by shooting the messenger. The message is about government's role of protecting the public interest, not about zip codes and hair color.

Percival Baxter was from Portland, and though many locals in the Katahdin region feel they own Baxter State Park, we all own it. Every Maine tax payer also owns the Dolby Landfill in East Millinocket and will pay over $17 million to clean it up, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to operate it.

The proposed park land is not in Millinocket or Garland or Cape Elizabeth. It sits between Baxter State Park and the Dolby Landfill, and is surrounded by property owned by big corporations from away that are driven by short-term profits only. Everyone has the right to speak up about the Maine Woods National Park, and should.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Road Not Yet Taken in the Maine Woods

Two roads are diverging in the Maine Woods. Let’s take the one that will make all the difference!

In the final days of June, two different pieces of legislation came before Maine lawmakers, and they put in stark relief our choices and our priorities. One path takes us in a circle right back to where we are now—without jobs, looking in the rear-view mirror for solutions. The other path leads us forward.

The first road was a legislative resolve that gives Maine Governor Paul LePage authority to accept on behalf of all tax payers a “gift” of the Dolby Landfill in East Millinocket – complete with $17 million of clean-up costs and unknown, unlimited future environmental liability. The billion dollar corporations and foreign investment firms that are gifting us their polluted landfill said if we don’t accept it, they will board up the two paper mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket where the unemployment rate is above 20% and sell off the equipment.

The second road was a resolution opposing the acceptance a different kind of gift. Thousands of acres of pristine wilderness, plus a $40 million endowment to create and maintain a national park in the Maine Woods, just up the street from Millinocket, East Millinocket and the Dolby Landfill. This gift comes complete with economic benefits of jobs, new residents and businesses, in addition to preserving a national treasure.

The two paths – one succumbing to corporate blackmail and clinging to the past, the other charging in to the future with a bold vision that embraces change and aspires to add value – highlight the conflict in America today about the role of government. One view is that government’s function is to serve the interests of corporations. The other view is that government works to protect the public interest and for the public good.

Shall we take the first road because we hope it brings us back to when American paper mills employed thousands of people who lived comfortably within the confines of a union-protected pay check, and when American patron landowners opened the gates to the forest for all to use? With rose-colored glasses shall we deny the realities of the unregulated global economy, and the availability of cheap labor overseas?

Or will we take the second road? The road to a magnificent national park and thriving gateway community. The path to jobs, community vitality and preservation of America's great forest. The road that will make all the difference for Maine people.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Death by a Thousand Tax Cuts

Why has the Governor of Maine ordered $100 million in cuts to state services? So he can finish what he started back in January.

Governor LePage and Grover Norquist don’t believe in government and they want to starve it of revenues by cutting taxes, and then telling everyone we are broke and have to cut spending.

Our Tea Party Governor began starving the beast when he proposed his draconian budget. There was no way to go but left for the Appropriations Committee, who took steps in that direction until Stockholm Syndrome set in.

The hypocrisy of now applauding the state budget that puts Maine in debt, while escalating the rhetoric about our national debt problem is nauseating.

It’s time to stop slapping each other on the back and start looking each other in the eye.

Yes, the budget just signed in to law by Governor LePage lowers income tax rates, lines up state deductions nicely with the feds, gives businesses big tax breaks and incentives, and increases the exemption for big estates by a million dollars.

This sounds really awesome! But there’s just one thing. IT IS NOT PAID FOR.

All these wonderful tax decreases and reforms create a $400 million hole in next year’s budget -- like that fabulous all-inclusive vacation to Cancun for the whole family! Put on a high-interest credit card.

Even the Chamber of Commerce is back-slapping and gushing about how wonderful the session was because businesses are getting tax breaks.

We haven’t got one fatherly lecture yet about living within our means. There’s been no angry rhetoric about personal responsibility. Why? Because the future $400 million hole provides the perfect excuse to further shrink government.

Get ready, though. The Governor’s order to cut $100 million in response to Congress’s “deal” about increasing the debt ceiling will be followed by many rants about the need to pay our bills, and run the state like a household. "Living within our means" when we create a big future deficit means cutting programs.

And how easy it will be to make these cuts with a republican majority in the legislature and a republican governor. There will be no need for a two-thirds vote. A simple majority will wipe out the social programs everyone thought were “saved” in the recent budget.

We will pay the $400 million bill created by tax cuts with all the social programs Governor Lepage set out to eliminate in the first place. School budgets will be cut, and public health programs slashed. “Welfare” will be further restricted to only married heterosexual pro-life women. Roads won’t get fixed. Investments won’t be made in technology, or research and development.

Public institutions will weaken, we will continue to decline as a society, but we will keep hearing how “broke” we are, and how we have to pay our bills.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Roxanne Quimby is offering everyone in the world thousands of acres of pristine wilderness, and offering a hurting community the opportunity to realize the American Dream. Hopefully she will throw in an all-natural potion that can replenish the hair we are pulling out in frustration with government leaders here in Maine.

Unemployment is hovering around 20% in the Millinocket area. The paper mills are closed or about to close, store-fronts are shuttered, schools and roads are deteriorating, and homes are for sale. One sad little place I saw there last week had a hand-scribbled sign taped to the door that said, “home for sale by owner, $25,000 or best offer.”

Quimby wants to give 70,000 acres of wilderness to create a national park adjacent to Baxter State Park. The Millinocket region will be the “gateway community” to the park under her plan. She will also chip in a $40 million endowment for maintenance, and is considering also donating a large parcel for hunters and other sportsmen to use next door. Quimby says she is motivated by her passion for the outdoors, her desire to share her good fortune, and her wish to give kids a place to explore the wilderness.

The national park will attract hundreds of thousands of people to the area, increase real estate values, create jobs, grow income and a declining population, and greatly expand the local tax base. People who lost their job at the mills will have the opportunity to start or work for a business that will support the park. Restaurants, lodging, service stations, and retail stores will be needed. Housing will be built. There will be a demand for professional services.

No wonder the Katahdin Region Chamber of Commerce, Millinocket Downtown Revitalization Committee, Friends of Baxter State Park, Medway School Board, and the Katahdin Area Rotary Club all support a feasibility study that will determine whether such an audacious and bold vision for their community is realistic.

The mountains, rivers, waterfalls and bogs in this so-called East Branch Region were Henry David Thoreau’s stomping ground in the 1850’s and close to where he wrote The Maine Woods. Here is where Maine Governor Percival P. Baxter camped and hung out in the 1920’s before he had his vision for Baxter State Park.

The East Branch Region is now home to rare plants such as blueberry lichen, purple clematis, fragrant ferns and orchids. Trees of every kind imaginable live here. Exotic dragonflies, butterflies, moose, deer and Canada Lynx keep each other company. Trout and salmon swim in the rivers. It’s therefore no surprise that one of Maine’s most recognized and respected sportsman supports studying the feasibility of making this spectacular biodiversity a national park for everyone to enjoy.

No one seriously disputes that Quimby’s park plan could boost the Millinocket area’s economy, while generously bestowing on the people of this country and the world a precious gift. And Roxanne Quimby and her company, Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., bring considerable business acumen to the table.

Anybody who has ever purchased a Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer will yell you this lady knows what she is talking about. Hugely respected Maine visionary Daniel O'Leary has this to say about Quimby:

"She is the first person I have ever known who is fully aware of the deep solidarity among the different facets of life in Maine," he said. "She understands the linkage among the family farms, the importance of preserving wilderness, the value of the arts, the role of the creative economy, and how all of those things working together lead to job creation."

So what’s the problem?

Politics are coming before We the People of Maine.

The Maine Senate President, in the final hot days of the recent legislative session, ramrodded a Joint Resolution opposing not only the park, but studying the feasibility of a national park through the Maine Legislature.

The resolution opposing the park was likely engineered in a back room by an anti-government Tea Partier, or a corporate special interest group.

Part of the resolution reads:

“federal ownership or control of the north woods would create many problems including limitations on timber supply to the forest products industry, reduced recreational access and loss of local and state control of these areas.”

Really? Says who?

Governor LePage, whose legislative agenda has been written by corporate lobbyists, had this to say about Quimby’s proposal for a national park, "our forest needs to be a working forest. I'm all for conservation. I'm against preservation."

Something is wrong with this picture. Why is the Governor of Maine against preserving this privately owned land for public access? This is where Thoreau and Baxter wandered around contemplating the enormous benefits of being in the wilderness, for heaven’s sake.

An equally perplexing question is how Quimby maintains her patience and composure in the face of fear, ignorance and cronyism, but she does. Maybe it’s the Peppermint Foot Lotion.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Irony of Maine's All-Male Media

Sitting in his ivory tower reserved for men only in Portland, Maine, M.D. Harmon lectures readers about the myriad uses of irony while blaming “feminists” for a world where boys are valued much higher than girls. 

And the irony apparently escapes him.
It’s 2011 and there is not a single female political commentator employed by the so-called “liberal media” in Maine. Sure, publications feature national syndicates, but all politics are local.
Here in Maine, as elsewhere, talk radio is dominated by angry obese men who lecture about personal responsibility. Here local television trots out the same two guys, an insurance salesman and an education professional, to serve as our only “senior political analysts.” 
And here the newspapers are saturated with written opinions of male editors, economists, businessmen, and conservative curmudgeons like Harmon, an editorial writer for the Portland Press Herald. 
In Harmon’s recent article, he accuses feminists “in Western cultures” for the aimlessness and violent behavior of men. From the comforts of his echo-chamber, Harmon “discovered” his opinion by reading articles written by other conservative men about a certain provocative book written by a woman. 
Mara Hvistendahl’s wrote Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, which is about the consequences of “sex selection” of babies in certain parts of the world, and the complicity of Western culture’s technology and government policy initiatives. There are a lot more baby boys being born in these places than baby girls, and this fact has causes and effects that are complicated, and include abortion. 
Harmon and the men he parrots convince themselves that this book, about societies that choose boys over girls, is proof that pro-choice women are to blame for the violence men commit and the wars they start. He connects a bunch of dots and worries about all the poor young men who won’t have wives. 
Never does Harmon question why it is in the first place that so many more boys are allowed to live while girls are aborted. 
The fixation of Harmon and his writer-guy pals who dominate the op-ed pages of newspapers is on abortion, of course, and the “immorality” of the women who fight to protect their right to choose, instead of the reasons women might make these difficult decisions.  
In this recent piece, for instance, Harmon goes on and on about irony.
The irony? Abortion, which feminists in Western cultures see as a basic liberty (a woman can't be equal to a man if she is chained to children), has resulted in the deaths of far more girls than boys.” 
Harmon’s indictment of women, however, based on this book as interpreted by a bunch of men, and his “pro-life” blame of women for violence and wars that kill children is the ultimate irony. 
Millions of women and children have been and are being raped and killed because of wars started by men. 
Is it immoral for a child-victim of war rape to have an abortion?
Marcy Darnovsky Ph.D., is the Associate Executive Director at the Center for Genetics and Society, a Berkeley, California. She reviewed Hvistendahl’s book, and said this about it:
“Selecting for sons is growing not just in South and East Asia, but also in the Caucasus and the Balkans, as well as among some Asian communities in the US. Its consequences are anything but abstract in the regions of South and East Asia where the wildly skewed sex ratio among the generation now coming of age is associated with an upsurge in trafficking of women for sex and for marriage–to the extent that some poor villages are empty of young women. And some of the most alarming sex ratios are in affluent areas; economic and technological developments are in fact driving sex selection rather than discouraging it by encouraging smaller families, which leads people who value sons to do whatever is required to ensure one. Widely available and relatively cheap ultrasound tests, followed by abortion if the fetus is female, provide the means. Sex-selective abortion is seen as a “cleaner and less ethically fraught” alternative to the deep-rooted practice of female infanticide.
Are pro-choice Western women to blame for the deep-rooted practice of female infanticide and trafficking of women for sex in South and East Asia, too?
Harmon is a man who plays God by judging women for playing God. 
What would you call this?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Unfair Trade Policy: A Gift That Keeps on Giving

Brookfield Asset Management, the “global asset manager focused on property, renewable power and infrastructure assets with approximately $150 billion of assets under management,” is hoping to sell its Maine Katahdin Paper Mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket for $1 to International Grand Investors Corporation, part of a huge Chinese investment company that has been buying up mills in the United States.

If the sale doesn’t go through, Brookfield says it will sell the Katahdin assets, and eliminate 400 - 600 jobs.

What a bargain! Two major manufacturing plants in Maine sold to China for one dollar. It couldn’t get any better, right?

Wrong. It gets better. On top of the deal between these foreign investment firms, there is a proposed “gift” to the People of Maine -- the Dolby Landfill.

Used to take the waste from the Katahdin Mills owned by Brookfield, this “asset” is one the International Grand Investors don’t want in their portfolio. They may buy the mills, but only if the State of Maine takes over the Dolby Landfill, complete with all costs of clean-up and environmental liability.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection estimates it will cost $254,100 per year to maintain Dolby, and $17,019,420.00 to close the part that “historically had persistent capacity issues causing significant leachate overflows” and to take care of “needed groundwater remediation to address sitewide contamination.”

Who can blame these International Grand Investors for wanting to dump the Dolby Landfill? Their job is to maximize profit and minimize risk. In the global economy there are no rules, and thanks to really bad trade deals, the United States continues to lose jobs to foreign manufacturers who can make things cheaper because of low wages and no enforceable environmental, labor, health or other public interest standards. If Maine can’t offer up the mills free of environmental liability, these grand investor types will go elsewhere.

So what do you get when you mix bad trade policy, unregulated multinational corporations, economic insecurity and a hard-working Maine community desperate for jobs? Powerful investment behemoths making more and more money, while workers, the environment and communities spiral downward, unprotected by local governments held hostage.

Who can blame the Maine legislators who voted for LD 1567, A Resolve to Authorize the State To Aquire a Landfill in the Town of East Millinocket? Every state lawmaker wants to help Maine people get jobs, and Maine's congressional delegation is shoring up as many government benefits possible for communities ravaged by economic depression and the exodus of jobs overseas.

Government manages risks, too. “Without intervention, the private sector might pass on the Katahdin region, taking a traditional industry and hundreds of manufacturing jobs from the Maine economy. This is one of those occasions where the state should step in and do what the free market will not.”

In today’s global economy, the “free market” is like the “free landfill.”

Can Maine workers really compete with China when the People’s Republic directly subsidizes export industries including pulp and paper products, pegs its currency artificially low (an effective subsidy of 40 percent according to the Economic Policy Institute), and denies basic labor rights to its industrial workers?

Are we really “free” to choose between Made in America and Made in China?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Getting Right to Work at Redistributing Wealth in Maine

Maine has two big problems. One is that we don’t have enough good jobs. The other is that we have a governor handing out tax cuts paid for by gutting the public employee pension plan.

The solution to the job problem is attracting new businesses that will hire more people. We need companies to set up shop in new or renovated old buildings, and buy equipment to make things or provide services. It’s pretty simple: we need businesses to invest in Maine.

And why shouldn’t they? We have a very high quality of life, a beautiful environment, low crime and low taxes on business investment. In fact, according to a recent study Maine imposes the smallest burden on new investment compared to all other states. This is due to factors such as a favorable corporate income apportionment formula that compensates for a relatively high tax rate, a property tax exemption for new equipment and low state and local sales tax rates.

Is Maine’s “business-friendly” governor and his henchmen shouting this good news from the roof tops? No. Has there been a press release or email blast by the Maine Heritage Policy Center ? No. Is there at least a new sign on the Interstate with this information?

No, instead we continue to be told by Governor LePage that Maine is drowning in a sea of regulations, and going broke thanks to bloated public employee pensions. With the infamous Forbes Magazine still clenched in his fist, he shouts the tired old GOP cheer. “What do we need? Tax cuts! When do we need them? Now!”

The Governor’s budget drastically reforms the Maine Public Employees Retirement System in order to give out $203 million in tax cuts. The message to the 26,000 retired public employees, whose average pension is $19,000 per year, and who do not receive social security, is “the state made a promise to you, but thankfully the 2008 market downturn, coupled with my administration’s drum-beat of doom gives me the political cover to break the promise.”

It’s no coincidence that the union-busting ‘right-to-work’ bill suddenly came back to life as budget negotiations and the renegotiation of the state employee union contract are straining under the weight of the governor’s bad ideas. Its drama, and another aggressive move to keep people confused and unsteady.

The 45,000 active and 26,000 retired public employees have invested their lives and their money in our public pension system. It is a system that is solvent, fiscally sound and responsibly managed. It should not be gutted to give tax cuts that are not needed, won’t attract investment to Maine, or create jobs.

Monday, March 28, 2011

We Can Get There From Here

From around 1991 until 2003 we lived in South Portland. Our first house was on Marriner Street, and then we moved to Bowers Street. Our two children went to Small School. We bought and remodeled a small office building in Knightville that housed my law practice. We are members of the First Congregational Church on Meetinghouse Hill where our kids were baptized and I taught Sunday School for years. I currently teach in South Portland at SMCC, and am a regular at Hannafords and Nonesuch Books.

In October, 2003 we moved to Cape Elizabeth, and it was the 2004 presidential election that propelled me from frustrated bystander of American democracy to candidate.  When I announced my intent to run for office, some people said, "you will never get elected here because you are from South Portland."

I proudly served as a member of the Cape Elizabeth Town Council and have been elected three times as the State Representative for District 121.

Now I am running for the Maine Senate in District 7 which encompasses Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and a small part of Scarborough. Some people are saying, "you will never get elected because you are from Cape Elizabeth."

The people of Maine want substance and leadership in Augusta, and the four miles that separate my old South Portland address from our home in Cape Elizabeth is not a canyon that divides, but rather a community with shared history, values and aspirations. Until 1895 South Portland was a part of Cape Elizabeth, and the desire of people here is that government works for them, provides an equal opportunity to succeed, invests in a shared and propsperous future, and provide a critical check on capitalism.

My hope for the future did not change because we crossed a town boundary line, nor has my desire to serve. I continue to want and fight for good schools and opportunity for my children, a clean environment, and government that is accountable, responsible and effective at solving our collective problems.

I have faith the citizens of Senate District 7 will not use zip codes as a litmus test in the voting booth. There's too much at stake.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Feeling Closer to Japan

Parts of Japan are thirteen feet closer to the United States as a result of the earthquake, but it feels even closer. The multi-media images put you there. You can hear the crying, smell the fetid air, feel the damp and heavy sorrow and yet you remain paralyzed and useless in front of a screen. It’s the cruel irony of the modern world. Constant contact begets human detachment.

The more Friends and Followers you have in the cyber world the lonelier you get. Real friends and family get snubbed for an artificial universe of people you hardly know.

And yet technology has the power to bring immediately to the fore front what’s important. The bizarre, scurrilous and petty world of politics is momentarily muted in the face of a natural disaster that has broken families and washed away communities. Parents have lost children. Children have lost their past and much of their future. Heartbroken people are virtually naked, cold and alone.

At least not yet the earthquake and horrific human and natural disaster hasn’t been analyzed through the simplistic prism of left versus right. Like so many things, the rescue and aid to the people of Japan is not a Democratic or Republican issue.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ready to Recall Me?

Pretend for a moment that I am legislator. Now imagine me readings bills that would deny legal immigrants welfare benefits, require citizens of foreign descent to carry their papers or be arrested, require photo identification and proof of citizenship in order to vote, require candidates to prove citizenship, allow concealed weapons in the state house and in state parks, reverse constitutional protections for women, and make whoopie pies the state dessert.
Now picture me reading the GOP platform advocating for the protection of our borders, recognition of Jihad, the arrest and immediate deportation of all illegal immigrants (even if they were born here, are educated, working and paying taxes), a return to principles of Austrian Economics, and protection against One World Order.

In a moment of weakness, hypothetically, I blurt out “the GOP has been hijacked by radical, racist, Islamaphobic Tea Party people! They are not just Islamaphobic, they are really xenophobic! I mean basically they believe in sort of white, gun-toting, middle-America. I mean it’s scary!"

You could criticize my grammar. You might disagree with me. But since I'm an elected state official and not an employee of National Public Radio, you could not fire me.
Or, let’s say I was a constitutional officer and my job was to manage the state’s accounts, buy bonds and pay the interest, but instead I kept traveling to the state house to stand on a soap box and tell you falsely that Maine’s fiscal house is on the brink of insolvency.
Or picture for a moment that you are one of 62% of Maine people who did not vote for me as Chief Executive, you're unhappy with my performance, and all I have to say is, “kiss my butt!”

Even Donald Trump could not fire me because Maine, unlike 18 other states, does not allow a citizen recall of state officials.

Maybe it’s time we did.

Recall is a political procedure that allows citizens to remove and replace a public official before the end of a term of office by collecting a certain number of signatures and then having a special election. There are pros and cons, of course. Should citizens have recourse over elected officials who are not representing their best interests or incompetent? On the other hand, would too much 'democracy' lead to gridlock and give more influence to special interests?

You might be thinking, “yeah, okay, but I thought everything was supposed to be about the economy and jobs?”

An amendment to the Maine Constitution to allow a citizen recall of state officials might not only increase democracy and campaign spending, it could create jobs and bring desperately needed cash in to the state.

In Wisconsin, for instance, recall efforts are gaining steam with the help of groups from outside the state. Eight Republican and six Democratic senators have been targeted for recall. Nationwide liberal groups Progressive Change Campaign Committee, based in Washington, and Democracy for America, based in Vermont, have raised more than $500,000 online in the past week.

It really is about jobs, right?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Union Yin Yang

My Italian grandmother worked at Full Flex Rubber Corporation for over 40 years on the 3rd shift. A highlight of her life was meeting Ted Kennedy and Cesar Chavez as a member of the executive board for the United Rubber Workers Union. She took one three-week trip to Italy, and owned a tiny two-bedroom home with a garden and access to the Highlands Beach in Bristol, Rhode Island. The kitchen floor under the counter where I played was cool, clean and safe. Always sauce was cooking, and meatballs and pasta needed testing. Everywhere were bowls of nuts, tangerines and candy. A replica of da Vinci’s Last Supper was on the wall. The union enabled her modest success, and some of my fondest childhood memories.

When my grandmother sold her house, her lungs were choked with talc from the factory, and she moved in to the same brick building that had been Full Flex Rubber Corporation, now an elder-care facility.

Everything has shades of light and dark. When a group of unsavory thugs from a different union showed up at my family’s business in New York and pressured long-time loyal employees to organize, it was both frightening and heroic that my father caught the ringleader stealing gas from the company and fired him. Two of the former union presidents were rumored to have been murdered, and one found in a cement truck in the Hudson River. The union lost the vote 99 to 6. The business gave me my first job, put me through college and law school, and helped me buy my first house.

When Wall Street crashed the economy to the ground, government rushed in with tourniquets and bandages. Corporate America was rescued, but the bail-out had conditions attached. Stricter regulations and regulatory reform, while not perfect, were negotiated to protect the public interest.

Now unions and public pensions are being blamed for budget shortfalls in many states including Maine, and government should again throw a life line with conditions attached that will better American society, because big business and organized labor are polar forces that exist in relation to each other. The middle class of the United States is dependent on the balance of power between corporations and unions, and the government must protect the public interest by not favoring one over the other.

Wealth created by business helped pay for an education that led to a life fighting for the civil rights of employees -- many of them union members. Unions allowed a woman with meager means in the 1950’s and 60’s to enjoy the bounty of a middle-class life. The corporation she worked for polluted her body and reneged on its pension promises.

There is high and low in unions. Their contributions to society made the American middle class. Wages and working conditions were improved. Women were invited to the marketplace and empowered to fight for voting and civil rights laws. Children are protected from exploitation.

And there is hot and cold in business. Business supports jobs, families, and communities. The never ending hunt for market share, unchecked, however can lead to exploitation. Powerful interests influence government and get advantages. Greed motivates relentless quests for tax breaks, loop holes and preferential treatment. Hunger for profit blinds executives to the trials and tribulations of employees. Faces become numbers.

The role of government in tending to the balance between business and labor is the question. Unions are not perfect, but they are a necessary ingredient in the American Dream. The pension shortfall was created in large part by corporate malfeasance and dereliction of duty by previous lawmakers. The government can help craft a solution that includes concessions such as longer school years, charter schools, and healthcare reform that will protect union members and push the United States forward.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Taking Liberties to the Extreme Right at Work in Maine

When asked whether protests like the ones taking place in Wisconsin by state employees might come to Maine, Governor LePage said this to a Politico reporter:

“I believe that the Declaration of Independence says life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Whenever someone forces me to do something against my will, they're infringing upon my freedoms and my liberties. And that's what I think we're doing in Maine when we have fair share, which means that you are required to belong to a union, you're required to pay dues but you don't want to participate. I find that to be against everything the United States of America stands for…it's all about freedom and liberty.”

Of course it’s about freedom and liberty. Everything is now.

Governor LePage took the liberty, for instance, to completely and freely misstate the facts and the law. In Maine it’s against state law to require state employees to belong to a union or pay dues. Workers have the right to join a union and pay dues if they want, and a right to not join a union or to pay dues. If a public employee chooses to work at a union shop and wishes to not join the union, the employee can be charged his or her fair share of the costs of union representation.

Choosing to work where there is a union and getting the related benefits of higher wages and collective bargaining, but not paying a fair share of the costs of representation would be freeloading, right?

“Freeloading is against everything the United States of America stands for,” is pretty much what I said to Eric Bolling, the host of the Fox News show Follow the Money on March 2, 2011 when I was interviewed. “In Maine nobody is required to belong to a union or pay dues. Governor LePage misstated what the law is.”

I added a quip heard earlier from a friend. “It’s ironic that the party of personal responsibility is promoting freeloading.”

After confirming we actually have a Channel 179 at home, I tuned in at 9 PM and watched the show. My picture was on the screen as the live telephone interview played. I stuttered a bit, and was not brilliant, but I made the point. Governor LePage’s statements about Maine law were completely inaccurate.

Eric Bolling, the Fox News host who interviewed me, said he is a believer in the “free market.”

Of course he is. And he is free to put the link of the interview with me up on the FOX web site in contrast with all the others that support his world view, or not.

Bolling took the liberty of posting instead a panel of angry bozos screaming at each other about the evils of big bad unions and corrupt state workers.

Is that what the United States of America stands for?

Monday, February 28, 2011

And the Oscar For Best Ideologue Goes to the Angry Fat Guy

Convinced that all government is in a state of complete and utter crisis? Is the heavy weight of debt crushing the life out of our future prosperity?
Maybe the real load doomed to sink us is related to the girth of some of the guys running things around here. Over seventy-two percent of American men are overweight or obese, and they hold the reigns of power in the United States.
Women, weighing in significantly less, make up only 17% of the Congress, less than 24% of state legislatures, and less than 22% of state executive positions.
The rallying cry today is about personal responsibility and cutting spending. We talk about women and their good looks, but don’t talk about men and their big guts. We should. Obesity costs the American economy $270 billion per year in medical costs, loss of productivity and higher rates of death.
Almost every article covering the $315 million Huffington Post/AOL deal mentioned Arianna Huffington’s beauty, glamour and elegance, with not a word about the dashing (or not so much) looks of the men party to the transaction. Was the sensation of hair going up on my neck caused by sexist comments of the media, or just the wind ruffling my little Maine beard?
Every woman in power presents an optical illusion subject to public debate. Is she a hag, or is she a beautiful young woman? These conversations are apparently very important to our collective psyche.
Conversations about personal responsibility are important, too, in governing and in politics. It’s time to talk openly about many of the men in charge today in the media, in politics and in office who want to drastically cut the size of government. They are under a different type of illusion. They say they want smaller government but they are fat, and getting fatter by the minute.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Whining and Dining With Special Interests

Thank God the Maine Heritage Policy Center, that bastion of constitutional law and government transparency, is now running things in Augusta. The Maine Legislature might finally get the respect it deserves. This week, for instance, lawmakers are cordially invited to attend a “a private Legislative Briefing and Dinner” at the Senator Hotel and Spa to hear DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. This will be the first time she addresses policy makers as a group about welfare reform, a huge and controversial issue, so its fitting that We the People and the press won’t be pestering legislators while they scarf down prime rib and garlic mashed potatoes.
It appears Commissioner Mayhew, on the job now for about two weeks, is a heck of a lot smarter than some thought. She cracked the welfare system puzzle, and will rescue the thousands of poor Mainers trapped in poverty. And a big shout out to the MHPC! In a stunning coincidence, Mayhew has apparently concluded what these “free market conservatives” have been telling people for years: 
Maine's welfare system undermines hard work and traps parents and children in poverty and we must fix the system to free families from dependency through accountability and hard work!
One in seven Maine children are living in poverty because they don’t work hard enough. Simple.
Former Governor Baldacci and the Democrats treated legislators like the proletariat when they were in charge. Attending a briefing by a Commissioner meant cramming in to the stuffy Appropriations Committee room with members of the public (!) and the press, or worse, suffering through an American Chop Suey dinner on paper plates at the Armory. The cost of this slop was actually deducted from their per diem. How humiliating.
Its mourning in Augusta, friends. Don’t you feel prouder, stronger and better?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kiss My Beard, Governor

Recent comments by Maine’s governor have been distorted by the media, and the reporting has largely ignored his most important remarks. Yes, Governor LePage said, “so the worst case is some women may have little beards,” in response to a question about the dangers of BPA, the additive to plastics believed by most scientists to interfere with human hormones and cause numerous health problems.

But that’s not the end of the story. Governor Lepage went on to say, “and we don’t want to do that.”

What does the governor have against a little female facial hair? Doesn’t he know there are hundreds of thousands of American women born and raised in the U.S. (with the papers to prove it) who proudly, albeit inadvertently, sport mini-beards already?

Maine’s governor appears to have many symptoms of the right-wing flu spreading throughout the United States. Women are particularly vulnerable to this highly infectious strain of the disease. We are being denied healthcare, representation, family planning, welfare benefits, constitutional protections, and educational opportunities for ourselves and our children. In return we are offered BPA-laden sippy cups, low wages, discrimination and war.

But even this epidemic of testosterone-induced legislation is not enough yet to bring women together and rise up, form a political party, and fix what’s so obviously broken with politics in the United States. It’s going to take something more – some unconscionable and enormous assault on our dignity. Something like facial hair.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Hospital and a Teacher Walk in to a Bar

"We need to be honest with the Maine people. This isn't about slamming anybody here; this is about paying your bills," said Paul LePage, speaking about the hospital debt that had been kicking around for over a decade. The Baldacci administration had of course paid down $3.7 billion on this decades-old “bill,” but the campaign rhetoric about the state “paying what it owes” resonated. Hopefully it still does.

The political theatre starring Maine’s unpaid hospital bills was choreographed by Communications Director, Dan Demeritt, who said, "and I’ll even make sure our members know the exact day the exact amount of State funding (is) their local hospitals so our members can show up with a big symbolic check to make it a press event. I like the visual of Garret Mason standing outside Central Maine Medical Center with a plywood-sized check in his hand signed by Paul LePage for $40 Million Dollars..."

Grab any teacher, firefighter or nurse, and ask them how they like the “visual” of a plywood-sized bill for $4.3 billion. That’s the amount these state workers will be taxed in order to pick up the state’s tab on its retirement plan, according to the Governor’s proposed biennium budget. Because in addition to the hospital “bill” that went unpaid over the past several decades, there are other bills as well, including a pesky debt called the Unfunded Actuarial Liability, or “UAL.” This debt reflects past normal costs of the state retirement plan that were not paid by the State of Maine.

UAL costs are past unpaid debts that are required to be paid by 2028 pursuant to an amendment passed in 1995 to the Maine Constitution. In 2007 we were 74% on our way to paying it off, but then the market crashed and billions of dollars in the plan were lost.

The LePage budget for the next biennium proposes a 2% payroll tax on state employees to pay this bill, plus an increase in the retirement age, and a freeze on any cost of living adjustments, while businesses and private sector employees will get a tax cut.

What’s ironic is all the GOP rhetoric about Social Security and how its bad and how it should be privatized and how its expensive and how employees should pay more and how businesses should pay less and how private companies have defined contribution plans and only bloated state governments have defined benefit plans.

It’s all a bunch of garbage that distorts the facts, but the anti-government mantra has convinced lots of people that it wasn’t the fat cats on Wall Street who screwed us, or rampant corporate greed and malfeasance, it was those lazy state workers!

The real facts are that state workers provide a valuable service, work for the public good, pay their fair share of a retirement plan that costs less than Social Security, and would be self-sufficient but for the state not properly funding its share between the 1940s and the 1990s.

Maine is one of 14 states that does not participate in Social Security. Instead, state employees are members of the Maine Public Employee Retirement System (MainePERS).

In the private sector, employees contribute 6.2% of their pay check, and employers pay 6.2% in to Social Security, a federal program under which the federal government bears 100% of the risk and pays a retirement benefit. Many private employers also offer, in addition to Social Security, a defined contribution plan such as a 401K, to supplement Social Security.

Currently under MainePERS, state employees contribute 7.65% of their paycheck, and the State of Maine contributes 5.5% in to the plan. This amount FULLY COVERS the cost of the current plan. (In other words, if the UAL didn’t exist, MainePERS would be fully funded for current state workers in the plan.) State employees who retire at the age of 60 or 62 get a defined benefit from MainePERS only. They do not get Social Security benefits.

The UAL is like the hospital debt, an unpaid bill that the state owes, except only state workers are being asked to pick up the tab.

And this isn’t about slamming anybody?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Maine's Weapon of Mass Destruction

Maine has the lowest violent crime rate in the country, is blessed with a landscape and culture that are exquisite, and is ranked as the 17th best run state in the country. Jobless claims are the lowest since 2008, and the stock market is predicted to rise 11% next year. Spring is around the corner. So why is our Governor trying to scare the bejeezus out of us?

Because fear makes people think, act and vote irrationally. The massive U.S.A. Patriot Act was passed by Congress six weeks after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, just hours after it was printed and before it was read by lawmakers because the country and the country’s leaders were afraid. Blatant violations of constitutional rights and civil liberties were offered up in the name of security.

Governor LePage gave his budget address on Thursday, and his message to the people of Maine is that we should be afraid. He said Maine’s economic security is very fragile, our debt is crushing, and that past management of the state’s finances has led us to the brink of disaster.

If it were true, a near-bankrupt state would be a very scary proposition. But it's not.

The Governor gets his facts about Maine’s fiscal health from the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative ideological think tank that regularly sounds the alarm to drum up contributions. Every conclusion of every report is the same: government is failing and we are in crisis. And please send a check.

Recently for instance the MHPC read a report prepared by the State’s watchdog organization (OPEGA), put its ideological spin on the facts, and proclaimed to have “discovered” that salaries paid at the Turnpike Authority are excessive. This MHPC “report” (a power point presentation with misleading graphs) was described as a “distorted view” that “confuses and clouds the issue” by policy expert Sam Pizigatti from the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.

Those familiar with the MHPC clarion call are conditioned to take every so-called “report” with a grain of salt. Theirs is but one perspective that reflects the extreme right-wing philosophy now called the Tea Party. What’s new and troubling is that the Maine Heritage Policy Center serves as the chief advisor to Governor LePage, and obviously wrote his speech about the budget.

“If we were a private sector company, we would be in bankruptcy,” the Governor said, adding ”we owe twice as much in debt as we expect to collect in General Fund Revenues over the next two years and our debt as a percentage of state GDP is twice the national average.”

This is but another distorted view that confuses and clouds the issue so people will become afraid.

Maine simply does not have inordinate or excessive debt. If it did, we wouldn’t have bond ratings of AA2, AA+, and AA2 from the three leading bond-rating agencies Moody’s, Fitch and Standard and Poor.

Maine’s debt is low, and by all accounts our fiscal house is in order. CNN ranks Maine low among states in its debt ranking, and Maine is graded as the 17th best-managed state in a recent study. The pension “crisis” that the MHPC wants to use to scare people in to rolling back sound regulatory polices is a problem that was created decades ago and was on the path to being resolved until the market crashed. Now that the market is predicted to rise 11% over the next year, we can exhale and continue to march forward towards the new economy employing responsible fiscal policies that will invest in our future and create quality jobs.

In addition to falsely misleading Maine people to believe we are steps away from the brink, the Maine Heritage Policy Center has convinced Governor LePage that borrowing to invest in infrastructure is akin to running up credit card debt. This simplistic analysis is an easy sell to vulnerable people facing their own mounting debt, but it isn’t good policy and it won’t help us. Spending on infrastructure, R. & D., and education has the potential to create more value than it costs and while it’s hard to make a case for investing more when everyone believes we should be spending less, there’s never been a better time. Interest rates are historically low, and borrowing is cheap. Corporations have already realized this and have borrowed half a trillion dollars last year, according to James Surowiecki of The New Yorker.

In other words, if we were a private-sector company, we would be investing in the future.

Ten years after the U.S. Patriot Act was passed we are still paying the price for succumbing to fear-mongering by Dick Cheney and George Bush. Our neighbors are being stopped, searched and held without warrants, and we all face the humiliation of the TSA at airports. Today’s weapon of mass destruction in Maine is fear of financial collapse. We the Real People of Maine must not be tricked in to believing the sky is falling. We must not let ideological think tanks sell our state to outside corporate interests, or pander to an extreme right-wing social agenda. We must not be afraid to move forward.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

We Are All Arianna in LePage Land

Why do brash liberal pansies blog for nothing? Of course there is sheer delight in having a personal voice and medium in the world of corporate mass media. But what started as festering liberal rage toward the Bush administration in need of a steam valve has evolved over time. Now bewilderment has pivoted to right-wing sirens Palin and Bachman, and talk-show blowhards Beck and Limbaugh. In fact the blogging topics are endless thanks to the Tea Party and DC spectacle. With a little bit of Yankee ingenuity a new American business is born.

Arianna Huffington is being paid $315 million for her business, and is now the boss at the company that wrote the check. Not bad for a Republican-turned-Democrat. Her blog, the Huffington Post, enlists 9000 people to write content for free, and boasts over 30 million hits per month.

Behind this brilliant, powerful woman with her “A-list” Rolodex was Kenneth Lerer, a guy with “sophisticated technology and careful brand management.” These two people came together and grew an idea in to an industry that has ordinary people dreaming about the American Dream.

W is back in Texas, but we have our own unique opportunities for expression right here in the Whoopie Pie State. While looking for Mr. Lerer here in LePage Land, let’s dust off that Rolodex and get started.

Friday, February 4, 2011

LePage and Company Can’t Afford to Govern in Maine

Maine, Inc. under the new LePage administration is hiring, but the pool of “qualified” candidates (i.e. men who think like Paul LePage) can’t afford the meager government pay of $103,000 plus benefits. “Why would you want to take that pay cut?” asks Joe Bruno, the former Republican Leader, who thinks the Governor and his cabinet deserve a raise. After all, it’s going to be hard work cutting all those welfare benefits, rolling back environmental laws, and gutting education programs.

There’s no shortage of people willing to cry wolf at the Maine Heritage Policy Center, however, because there doom and gloom grease the cogs of one big lucrative machine. Red tape is not a problem for the business that fear-mongers for dollars.

Broken-record Tarren Bragdon, CEO of MHPC and a co-chairman on LePage's transition team told us again yesterday, "Maine's unfunded government employee pension system is bankrupting our future!”

No kidding. Really? Isn’t that the same problem we’ve been talking about since 1913?

Bragdon won’t be working for the State of Maine either because telling people the sky is falling is easier and more profitable than actually having to solve the problems that arise from a limited budget and competing needs.

Instead, “Business Bragdon” will stay put in his svelte office collecting tax-deductible contributions from well-heeled special interests in order to keep pumping out white papers that tell us what we’ve known for decades. In fact he’s ecstatic to be out from under the dome. People actually work there! Yuck.

“It's great to be back to work at The Maine Heritage Policy Center. I am honored to have been a part of Governor Paul LePage's Transition Team, but my place is right here, working with policymakers, supporters and staff of MHPC to accomplish great things on behalf of Maine people,” he told us, presumably from his luxury, non-profit corner office where the riff-raff can’t bother him with petty concerns of poverty, illiteracy and the administration of justice.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

I was looking for that perfect little something to keep the fire burning in our 22-year marriage, and I found it online. Instead of the Kama Sutra for the Kindle, I went with a beautifully wrapped EZ Pass for the Maine Turnpike. This small, discreet and high-tech gadget was clearly a winning Christmas gift for the man who claims to need nothing, and who knew it would also make supporting the Chamber of Commerce and the Maine Irish Heritage Center EZ at the same time?

If you are lucky enough to have one of these little babies, every time you drive through a toll booth in Maine you make a contribution to these special interest groups, among others, and chip in to pay for turkeys, gift certificates, in-room movies and booze, according to the new report released by OPEGA, the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability.

Concerned that special interests are buying our government? You can relax knowing this quasi-government is apparently sending our money to special interests.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Constituent Services Under the LePage Administration

TO: RepCynthia.Dill
Sent: Fri, Jan 21, 2011 3:41 pm
Subject: Gov. Lapage-Whistle blower

Rep. Dill,

I am writing to you today because I have been made aware of some very disturbing things happening with the new Administration. I am acting as a whistle blower. I am sorry that his has to be anonymous but I hope you will protect my identity. I am sick of what is happening in this Administration and you two seem to be the only ones with the guts to take them on. I think the press needs to see this, and I hope you can get it out to the people of Maine before it is too late. I don't pay taxes so 11,000 bureaucrats can work to re-elect Republicans....

Again, please respect my anonymitty and let me know if I can provide any other information. I was forwarded this email third hand from a friend who would kill me if they knew what I was doing. A lot of people are upset about this but are to scared to act.

Please do what you can to make the people of Maine aware of what the Governor is trying to do.

Please see email below

From: "Dan Demeritt"
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 2010 11:13:26 -0500
Subject: incumbent protection

We need a business plan for incumbent protection and we should all contribute.
I know you guys are already thinking about it, but I wanted to make sure you know the Governor’s office is committed to making it a priority. That is why Paul has asked me to direct both Communications and Legislative Affairs – we are going to spend a great deal of time making Heather Sirocki and Garret Mason look very effective.
I am open to ideas, suggestions and changes. These are my initial thoughts on the planning process:

• Identify in numerical order (maybe groups of 10) our most vulnerable members and get to work on raising their profiles. Taking into consideration the demographics of their districts, their own abilities, and the strength of potential opponents we can prioritize so our resources are put to the best use.
o New House members
o New Senate members
o House members getting ready to make the leap to the Senate

• Identify Target Districts for pick-ups.
o Develop a list of districts where we have opportunities.
o Find ways to get real time information into those districts to soften the ground
o Find ways to get potential candidates engaged – Tony Couture of Jay lost a close house race and was at our Red Tape forum in Farmington. He is running again. Let’s start now.

• Coordination
o House and Senate Leadership
o Senator Snowe is aggressively gearing up. Let’s get her and her state offices involved in increasing the profile of our people.
*Constitutional Officers
o The LePage Administration – every department, every agency and the Governor himself.
§ Schedule Coordination
§ Sharing the spotlight on announcements & successes
§ Engaging members in the process

Example: We are probably going to pay the hospital debt through 2009 as part of the supplemental budget – about $259 million. We need to take several bites of the apple along the way – when we introduce the supplemental, when we pass it, when the Governor signs it. And I’ll even make sure our members know the exact day the exact amount of State funding transferred (and the amount) to their local hospitals so our members can show up with a big symbolic check to make it a press event. I like the visual of Garret Mason standing outside Central Maine Medical Center with a plywood-sized check in his hand signed by Paul LePage for $40 Million Dollars (or whatever the actual amount is).
• Training
o Train staff on identifying good opportunities
§ Introduced bill
§ Solved a problem
§ Cub scouts came to Augusta
o Train staff on coordination
o Train staff to use their time wisely. Termed members have to take a back seat to freshmen.
o Train staff to create low risk, high profile opportunities (i.e. hospital rallies / red tape audits – fish in a barrel stuff)
o Training Reps and Senators to be on the lookout themselves.

• Information I / we need on each member
o Committee Assignments
o Priorities
o Local hot button issues / large employers (i.e. businesses, hospitals, colleges)
o District media outlets – radio, weeklies, tv coverage, new media
o Local Contacts we can use to push information into communities through email / face book / word of mouth

A well-run effort makes it easier to pass our change agenda and puts our members in a position to stick around long enough to see the process through to the end.

I’d like to connect the week before Christmas with you and key staff. If you are not in town, we can hopefully get some of your staffs putting together some of the resources / information we are going to need to get rolling. Once we take office, Paul will put 11,000 bureaucrats to work getting Republicans re-elected. (emphasis added)


Dan Demeritt, M.B.A.
Communications Director
Gov.-Elect Paul LePage
(207) 877-7616 Office
(207) 215-4544 Cell

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Winds of Opportunity Sow The Seeds of Success

To Bill Nemitz , Maine Democrats may very well be a bunch of pansies, but keep in mind these colorful flowers are hardy and can survive freezing temperatures while in bloom.

November’s election suffered a bad case of stem-rot, that common pansy sickness caused from fungus in unsterilized animal manure and campaign b.s. Symptoms include sudden collapse without warning. The GOP takeover of the Maine House of Representatives is but one example.

Luckily this disease can be easily treated with alcohol and a cold shower, two things Democrats tolerate extremely well.

We didn’t make a big stink about the inexperienced friends and family of the Governor (also a fun-gi) being appointed to his cabinet. We are letting sleeping dogs lie while we brew up an ancient elixir sure to bring down the House. Bill Shakespeare wrote about this potent pansy potion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

"The juice of it, on sleeping eyelids laid, will make a man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees."

After a long, cold winter Maine people will wake up and come out of their cave. They will be hungry for real food, and will delight in seeing colorful harbingers of spring. Blue skies and pansies everywhere.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Beware of Corporate Carpetbaggers

“Go back to Rhode Island and stay there,” Gerald Griffin from Falmouth told me in a recent letter. He’s sick and tired of “carpetbaggers” vacationing in Maine and “then gotten the idea that they want to live here and push their views on us.”

Griffin wants “carpenters, plumbers, electricians, fisherman, lumberjacks and housewives” to make the laws in Augusta instead of “strangers” like me.

Gerald, baby, wake up! Housewives? Really? Who can afford to do that?

The carpetbaggers you need to worry about are not middle-aged mothers raising their kids, working three jobs, and paying taxes. Write your nasty letters to the out of state corporations who pumped $1.8 million dollars in to the campaign of Governor Lepage and are now driving his agenda to roll back regulatory protections and shrink government so small it will only fit in our bedroom. Send a snarky letter to the Republican State Leadership Committee in Arlington, Virginia, who spent $400,000 on nasty Maine state senate races.

Sure, I’ve only lived in Maine for twenty-two years, but I’ll bet my views are more in line with yours than the pharmaceutical industry or a private prison company.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Fudge Factory

Through the picture window sits the big mixing bowl swirling the day's batch, and on the shelves and in the cases varieties of all kinds sit in fat bricks waiting to be gobbled up by people longing for an authentic and “refreshing” Maine experience.

Here’s just a sampling.

A very popular flavor is Dirty Deeds. “I never had it on. Never had it on. Ever,” he said. “That house was bought for my wife. That house in Florida my mother-in-law bought, we helped her.”

Another favorite is DEP Over The Top. "And the state of Maine made me do a three-month buffalo study," he says. "Did you hear what I said? Buffalo study. The next spring, they decided that they still didn't want this project to be built so they had us go out and count black flies. Two months counting black flies. That tells me that the attitude of the regulatory agency was very adversarial to that project."

If you like real BS, try Maine Government Is Out Of Control. “The State of Maine is the only state in the United States of America that charges sales tax on bull semen. You hear that? Bull semen. The only place in the United States of America - this state.”

MLK Holiday Special (now on sale). “I would be more than happy to go, but I would meet all prisoners — and that wasn’t acceptable to them, so tough luck.”

Finally, our newest flavor, "this is nothing but a political race card and tell 'em to get over themselves, I'll send my son, who happens to be a black kid, to talk to 'em."

We are having a contest to name this latest fudge confection. What do you think we should call it?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Memo to The Governor of Maine: Civil Rights Are Not The Enemy of Business

In a world that isn’t lily-white like Maine, the message “we are xenophobes” is not good for business. American prosperity is the result of an open-door policy to people of all races, colors and creeds.

Your first executive order asked state officials to question the immigration status of people here, and now you have made it clear that groups advocating for minorities and civil rights are not on your team. You describe the NAACP as a “special interest group” that can “kiss your butt” while you attend numerous Chamber of Commerce meetings, and the message isn’t lost on us, or the global economy. These words now define us, unfairly and inaccurately.

What makes American business exceptional are civil rights laws that prevent profiting from human suffering. The notion that constitutional protections of equality and due process are the enemy of business misses the point the founders of this great Democracy were making when they ensured not only a market place of ideas with a free press and free speech. America is a place where everyone has the equal opportunity to succeed.

Government is not a business. It was created to protect the public good, and to uphold and defend the constitution. The constitution specifically establishes three branches of government to balance power. In your recent memo to your Commissioners, you wrote, “communications with members of the Legislature must be coordinated with the appropriate members of my senior staff.”

Imagine if President Obama sent a memo to the Secretary of Homeland Security and ordered his federal employees to get prior approval from the President’s staff before they spoke with Senators Collins or Snowe, or any members of the U.S. House? Speaker Boehner would laugh until he cried. The legislature doesn’t work for you, Governor, and you don’t work for the Chamber of Commerce. You work for us. All of us.

Your stump speech about business acumen is getting old. You are not yet the champion of economic prosperity. You have not lowered taxes or reduced state spending. You have not created jobs or reduced red tape. You haven’t balanced the budget, fixed the roads, improved the education system or solved the public pension problem that’s been brewing since the McKernan administration.

Instead, you have depicted a colorful and creative swath of Maine’s community as “the problem,” ignoring the true cause of our current economic hardship -- unregulated corporate malfeasance on Wall Street and the growing income disparity in the United States.

Please step out of your comfort zone, Governor. Meet people who are living and contributing to this great state but don’t show up at Chamber meetings. Work with the legislature to make good, sound policy that will attract entrepreneurs and investment from a diverse global population. Be bold but not brash. We want you to succeed, and we embrace success for all of Maine’s people and businesses.