A little island causes a big stir

A new development project is coming to Sears Island. The little island off Searsport in Waldo County could be home to three hundred acres of industrial development if plans go through, with six hundred under protection. Governors have pushed for Sears Island, the largest undeveloped, uninhabited, causeway accessible island on the east coast, to be the home of many developments. Joseph Brennan and John McKernan advocated Sears Island be used as a general port. Angus King promoted its use as a wood chip port, while Governor Baldacci pushed for an LNG terminal and an intermodal freight transport hub on the island. Continue reading

Battle Lines Drawn on Marriage

(Cross-posted at the Augusta Insider)

As reported a few days ago, Stand for Marriage Maine submitted 100,000 signatures in support of the People’s Veto effort to repeal LD 1020. “It shows above all, that the people of Maine are overwhelmingly opposed to same-sex marriage.” says Mike Hein of the Maine Family Values Policy Council (formerly the Christian Civic League of Maine). The supporters of same-sex marriage disagree with Hein’s characterization of Mainers views on the issue. No on 1/Protect Maine Equality (formerly Maine Freedom to Marry) collected 60,000 pledges from voters that they would be voting no on question one. A press release from No on 1 stated that:

Our NO on 1 volunteers and field staff have gone door-to-door and neighbor-to-neighbor. We’ve attended sports and public events and everywhere we go, Mainers understand what’s at stake this November. That’s why we announced yesterday that we’ve collected more than 60,000 pledges to vote NO on 1.

Support and opposition to same-sex marriage has not followed party lines. Governor Baldacci, who did not support same-sex marriage in the past, reportedly waited until LD 1020 had reached his desk before he decided to sign. Voting in the House and Senate did not go along expected party lines in every case either. Rep. Sheryl Briggs of Mexico and Rep. Mike Willette of Presque Isle were two House Democrats to vote against LD 1020. Rep. Meredith Strang Burgess of Cumberland and Sen. Peter Mills of Cornville were two Republicans who voted in favor of LD 1020. Sen. Mills explained his vote in a comment to the Augusta Insider.

I voted for the gay marriage bill as a matter of personal conscience. I see no harm in allowing the state to license marriage between members of the same sex. If a church takes a different view, then that is for its own members to decide.
On the same basis, I voted consistently to support the anti-discrimination bills that came before the Legislature several times before the law was finally approved at public referendum in November of 2005.
Sen. Mills went on to state that he would have rather the public decide the issue of same-sex marriage.

I have long thought that these issues should be decided by public referendum, but efforts to send them out to referendum were rejected in 2005 and again in 2009. When called upon to vote on the floor of the Senate, I simply voted what I thought was right. Many other Maine residents may disagree with my vote but that is why the issue should be decided in the ballot box.

Sen. Mills has been the only Republican gubernatorial candidate at this point to clearly support LD 1020, though nearly all Democratic candidates have shown support for the bill in one way or another. This could cost Mills the support of socially conservative Republicans, but given the number of moderates in both parties, and the highly riven GOP gubernatorial primary, this is not likely to sink Sen. Mills’ campaign.

Moving past school consolidation UPDATED

(Cross-posted at Augusta Insider)

Gov. Baldacci’s school consolidation plan could possibly go down as one of his most controversial. School consolidation may have been able to be sold easily to the public with a little education and openness from Augusta. Baldacci’s PR fumble stalled chances of an easy passage.

Many were downright offended by what they saw as Big Government trying to tell them how they should run their schools. The bill, bristling with penalties for non-compliance, rather than helpful incentives, helped it grind to a halt in some communities. Rural communities are presumed to be the biggest resistors, but Yarmouth, Falmouth, and Cape Elizabeth are holdouts as well, though some have received exceptions.

Some towns balk the consolidation because of nothing more than petty turf wars. A state representative said recently that parents of Town A didn’t want to consolidated and have their kids go to school with children from Town B. Parents from Town B expressed similar sentiments. You’d think someone suggested the Jets and the Sharks share the same classroom. One can understand the sentiment that citizens felt this consolidation proposal pushed on them. One can understand anger that districts rush through consolidation efforts. It takes time to sort out tax burned issues and what schools to close, etc. What is not understandable is how adults can be so petty and act like their town is the John D. Rockefeller to their neighbor’s Clark W. Griswold. If that is your only hangup, move on.

Finding the right formula to save towns money, the whole purpose of consolidation, is still a valid concern. 72 districts or towns operate at $1 million or more over EPS standards. The reduction of our bloated district system is a noble goal. However, if it isn’t being reduced into something more efficient then what’s the point. Still, every day legislators spend on school consolidation is a day they can’t focus on another aspect of our children’s education.

What are some of the topics the legislature could not discuss:

  • Establishing statewide curriculum standards
  • Moving toward 21st century standards
  • Exploring graduation requirements
  • Improving college attendance rates
  • Charter school implementation
  • Integrating schools with the university and community college systems

Mainers have been dealing with consolidation for close to 15 years, 50 years if you count the Sinclair Act. School district consolidation can be worked to save communities money on overhead in the long run, and put that money back into the classroom. We could all argue till the Sun burns out how to best do that. What we adults are forgetting here is the whole point of education; the kids. While we are bickering back and forth they are the ones who are losing out. No matter the outcome of the November’s referendum on school consolidation it is time to move on.

(Cross-posted at the Augusta Insider)

UPDATE(9/30/09):  I wrote this piece quite a few months ago.  A lot has changed since then.  There was one looming issue I had yet to consider; what will happen if consolidation is repealed?  I’d like to think we could just move on no matter what happens November 3rd.  After reading a recent article in Matthew Stone’s The Report Card it looks it will not be that easy.

Maine can’t afford to roll back the law, the Web site says. “School district consolidation can save taxpayers $36 million every year and hundreds of millions of dollars in the future. Repealing the measure will wipe out those savings and will make local property taxes will (sic) go up much, much faster.”

It’ll be tough to convince voters in towns like Monmouth and Pownal that repealing consolidation will have an adverse effect on their property tax bills. Those two towns experienced significant property tax swings while budgeting for this school year, the first one they were members of consolidated school districts. Voters in both towns have said they want out of their consolidated districts. Problem is, there’s no provision in the consolidation law that would allow them to withdraw.

The budget for education is so tight cutting learning days for students has been placed on the table.  Taxes are such an important issue in Maine there are two ballot questions relating to them.  If you cast a yes on question 3 you will possibly ad $36 million to an already overloaded education budget.  Also, no one has explained what will happen if school consolidation is repealed.  What will districts that have consolidated do?  Many have cut jobs and positions and generally reworked operations already.  Wont be easy, if not impossible, to back to the way things were.  If you cast a no on question 3 you will possibly ad to already tough property taxes in some towns.  Pownal saw a 35% increase in education costs when it joined RSU 5.  Towns like Pownal are seeing a shift in costs, from state to localCatch 22. Damned if you do damned if you don’t.  Between a rock and a hard place.  Pick your adage.  That makes it all the more important you take the time to think on your choice.  Either way it wont be as easy to just move on as I once thought.

Odd Maine gubernatorial statistic

I got to thinking today how many incumbents or incumbent parties have won the Blaine House. I started with the election of Democrat Joseph Brennan in 1978. There is a strange pattern. Every governor stays in office for their two term limit. Brennan, McKernan, King, and Baldacci all fit this pattern. At the end of the incumbent parties lost the Blaine House. Democrat to Republican to Independent to Democrat.

If the current model holds then the Democrats may be in hot water this election season. Still, like the it’s weather, Maine’s politics is bound to surprise.

A Maine Elephant Forgets

Times are tough for Republicans all over the nation. Election losses, scandals, and infighting have rocked the GOP. The GOP’s rusty battleship has been hit by torpedoes. All most can do is argue if the gaping holes in the hull are actually there or not, while there is a shiny new fleet waiting for them.

Maine republicans don’t have much to cheer about either. Despite Sen. Susan Collin’s reelection and Gov. John Baldachi’s continuing low approval rating, Maine Democrats control 64% (96 seats) of the house and 57% of the senate (20 seats). Maine Dems have also seized upon one of the Republican’s best vote grabbers, fiscal conservatism, in their new tax reforms. (Update: Now that tax reform is getting hit from the Greens and GOP, plus facing People’s Veto, that move could backfire on Dems) What’s a Maine Republican to do? According to DeAnne Rogan the answer is to get more conservative.

from Bangor Daily News:

As an active member of the Maine Republican Party I can no longer keep silent. Over the past years, I have watched the party spiral downward at an alarming rate. While some may say we are becoming more “inclusive” I see it as a tragic departure from our core values which will cost us greatly.

When we focus on financial issues and getting Republicans elected no matter what they believe we are doing a disservice to our party platform and the thousands of Maine conservative voters. Moral issues such as abortion and homosexual marriage have been brought into government by those of a more liberal agenda and we cannot shrink from taking a stand for righteousness.

Ms. Rogan illustrates how short the memory of the voter is. Tragically short. The shrinking tent of the GOP is what cost the White House and many senate and house seats. There will always be those with extreme views in each party, but neither Democrats nor Republicans can hope to maintain relevance if they ignore the tide of popular support. The Democrats are working hard to increase the size of their tent and younger voters with a different set of values are rising to voting age. Republicans cannot afford to appear like a crotchety old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn.

These “core values” that Ms. Rogan speaks of are not as old as she make think. In a Faustian deal with the religious right, Republicans traded their core values for wedge issues. When the Repubs. sought to pad the ballot box with votes from the religious right they were forced to put many good tenants second. Conservative big wigs like Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley, or even Ronald Reagan would have a hard time living up to some GOP standards.

Ms. Rogan goes on to quote the traveling chronicler of the then new American Republic Alex DeTocueville.

from Bangor Daily News:

In 1830, Alexis DeTocqueville said, “I sought the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors, in her fertile fields, in her boundless forests, in her vast world commerce, in her public systems of education and higher learning. I sought for it in her democratic congress and her matchless Constitution.

“But it was not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness that I understood the secret of her genius and of her power. America is great because America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, then she will also cease to be great.”

Ms. Rogan is misinterpreting DeTocqueville’s quote. Ms. Rogan is judging the movement that DeTocqueville witnessed, the Second Great Awakening, by modern standards. First, churches during that time period were gathering places. In fact in most communities they were the only places for neighbors from miles around to meet. Naturally, having no other outlet, churches often became centers for news and political discussion.

The religious movement of the Second Great Awakening was vastly different from the majority of it’s modern day equivalents. While much of the current evangelical movement is conservative in nature, the evangelicals of the Second Great Awakening were progressive in nature. They believed it was God’s plan that they reform the world they lived in. Many religious charities aiding the poor, widowed, and orphaned began in this period. Progressive civil rights reforms were also started during the Second Great Awakening. Political movements for prison reform, women’s rights, and abolition were thrust onto the national scene by religious groups of the time.

Ms. Rogan is right to quote DeTocqueville as being a lover of America and American Democracy. DeTocqueville saw an America continuing to evolve. The Second Great Awakening was the religious catalyst for that evolution. Where Ms. Rogan is mistaken is the nature of that religious movement. It was not conservative, as she may believe, nor was it exclusive. The movement was decidedly inclusive and progressive.

I’ll end with two quotes, one from the great conservative thinker Edmund Burke and another from the philosopher George Santayana.

“I take toleration to be a part of religion. I do not know which I would sacrifice; I would keep them both: it is not necessary that I should sacrifice either.” Burke

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Santayana

Update: Here are some interesting comments from the Bangor Daily News on Ms. Rogan’s letter. This is just a small sampling of what the Maine Republican’s are going through. I think it is indicative of the state of the party on the national level as well. I welcome all and any opinions here as well.

from Bangor Daily News:

EJ Parsons – DeAnne Rogan – Your letter filled me with a renewed confidence that there are still some real conservative Republicans in Maine. Don’t let the opposition bully you into backing down. The party needs people like you to replace the RINOs that plague the party.

chersully2000 – I agree. Ms Rogan may not be impressed with “inclusivity” as she states, but her words sound very out of touch with some realities. In order to be more viable in the future, it is just undeniable that the Republican Party has to attract a lot more young people, Hispanics, among other segments of the population. I am a Democrat, but grew up in a Republican household. It is just not that difficult to see certain things, not just what one wants to see. To a certain extent, you have to work with some of the realities at hand (i.e. trends in population growth among certain groups,etc.) No one is saying that they have to change their core principles or philosophy,etc.

Ms Rogan. You can live with your head in the sand but, if so, you may very well continue to be disappointed with the outcome.

forHIMtoday – Seacoast, democrats have their gods, namely themselves. I as a conservative Christian republican would rather stand or fall on the principles of my God, than bow down and sell my soul for no other reason than to “fill my tent”.

Matt 4:8 -10Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;

and he said to Him, All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'”

What this country needs are men and women with some backbone, willing to do whats right in Gods eyes. Let the cards fall where they may.

markrc – DeAnne Rogan: So just what were the great social issues of DeTocqueville’s time? What % of the U.S. population was Hispanic? Was the U.S. actively marching around the world and spreading democracy as a red herring while REALLY looking for more oil? What about pro-life or pro-choice issues . . .under “Dubbya’s” administration, he would speak passionately about pro-life and yet DID NOTHING to stop the genocide in Darfur . . .now there is a REAL disconnect for ya!

The GOP has NO credibility any longer as there only political position seems to be to just oppose ANYTHING that comes from the Obama administration. The GOP has no voice, no spokesperson that can effectively communicate with our HIspanic population. The GOP has no credible person, or policy to address the nations gay and lesbian community. Many of the GOP’s potential frontrunners for the GOP presidential candidates for 2012 cannot keep their pants on or zippers closed and are running around on their wives and or banging staff members or delegates from other countries! But the GOP does have Sarah Palin! OMG, please spare us from that intellectual light-weight!

The GOP is still seen as exclusionary and not inclusive . . .still seen as the party of rich white guys . . .still seen as the party that says that poor people are that way because they chose to be poor!

If you and the GOP can fix / repair just some of the above issues, the GOP might once again be taken seriously. Until then, be prepared for SEVERAL decades of getting your butt kicked in elections at all levels!

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