3 ways Maine leaders are shirking their responsibilities

A couple weeks ago I wrote about how reading the news left me thinking, seriously?!? Today’s recurring theme is, why do we elect leaders who shirk the mantle of leadership?

Shirk #1

Perhaps the most glaring example is the decision to suspend the recording and archiving of legislative committee meetings — thanks to the BDN editorial calling the 127 Legislative Council out on the action! I remember that the issue being discussed but somehow missed that the council voted unanimously to stop this form of public access. One of the reasons legislative leaders offered for the suspension is that people testifying at committee public hearings may not understand that the meetings are being recorded.

Really?  It’s 2016 in the United States of America.  I’m thinking most people would expect something called a “public hearing” in a legislative committee meeting to be recorded.

Another reason offered is the fear that testimony could be used against legislators in campaign ads. So what? Our elected officials serve at the will of the people, not the other way around. The discussion about  recording and archiving meetings should be about citizens’ rights, not politicians’ rights to remain in office regardless of what they say on key issues in committee meetings.

As a blogger I found access to recorded testimony during the Government Oversight Committee investigation into Governor LePage’s role in the firing of Speaker Mark Eves from Good Will Hinckley useful. Because of the access to recorded testimony, I was able to blog about reaching a different conclusion regarding the fairness of the hiring process than the committee reached. Further, I heard from several readers who were grateful to hear this perspective.

Cutting off access to this recorded data makes it sound like committees, such as the Government Oversight Committee, don’t like transparency, which is something of a non sequitur.

Shirk #2

Another glaring example of shirking the mantle of leadership, is the National Park Service and the people in charge of it, namely the president and Congress. The director of the service, Jonathan Jarvis, came to Maine this week to discuss a possible national monument designation in the Millinocket region. From what I read the meetings were a wonderful opportunity for interested parties on both sides of the debate to air their feelings and concerns.

All of which is well and good, except, as a mom of millennials who is hoping for grandchildren, I have a huge bone to pick with Congress when it comes to the park service. Rather than reading about field meetings related to new acquisitions, I would like to read about Jarvis meeting with Congress to design a plan that will make our park service solvent, viable, and sustainable for future generations.

Call it fiscal conservatism or common sense, but that’s the way this mom sees it.

Running the service with an almost $12 billion dollar maintenance backlog while adding new acquisitions is like me running up a ginormous debt right before I die knowing that my children will have to pay it back. I wouldn’t do that to my children, and I find it amoral that Congress keeps doing that to them. My maternal instincts won’t let me align with so many of my fellow citizens who support Congress continuing to saddle future generations that way.

If conservation of our lands is so critical to who we are as a nation, then we need to pay for said conservation as we conserve.  If we don’t want to pay for conservation through the park service, then we need to quit acquiring lands under the park service.  End of story — or it should be if elected leadership took leadership seriously.

Because of the fiscal irresponsibility of previous generations, millennials are already struggling to afford college educations, homes, and vehicles — things previous generations considered default middle class achievements.  Add to those burdens unsustainable bureaucracies, like the park service, and they’ll have ample reasons to dance on our graves.

Shirk #3

The last glaring example of our leadership shirking the responsibilities of elected office is the issue of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. In Maine we will be voting for or against recreational marijuana on the ballot in November.  Or at least we think we are voting for or against.

I would encourage voters to read the fine print of the proposed legislation.  I will be doing at least one post about the details in the near future, but I am troubled by my research so far. Just like most other political issues today in Maine and around the country, big money is involved:  George Soros and the late Peter B. Lewis of Progressive insurance. 

As reports to the Maine Ethics Commission show, the movement behind our referendum question isn’t quite homegrown. Besides reporting significant donations from organizations affiliated with Soros and Lewis, Rob Kampia is listed as an officer of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the political action committee behind the referendum campaign her in Maine.  Kampia is the national director of the Marijuana Policy Project who, among other things, was embroiled in a controversy about threatening the livelihood of a dispensary operator in Arizona last year. 

Kampia is also someone who has gone on the record to explain and justify his questionable treatment of women in his employ at MPP by comparing himself to Bill Clinton.

The proposed Maine legislation is very specific in the way it sets up the parameters for a future legal market for marijuana in Maine. I would prefer such specificity be hashed out and vetted by our citizen legislature rather than the special interests who have moved this referendum question forward. From what I have learned, what we will really be voting on in November is whether we are for or against the recreational use of marijuana sold in a market designed by the special interests who proposed the legislation.

Basically, by avoiding addressing this issue, the Maine legislature has deferred the responsibility for the development of a potentially lucrative market to special interests; the same can be said of Congress’ handling of this matter on the federal level. A report by the Tax Foundation estimates the national marijuana market to be worth $45 billion. Instead of seeing legalization as a boon to our small business economy and a new market in need of lawmaker influence to preserve the  best interests of Maine citizens, legislators have avoided the issue.

To bring the shirking theme around full circle:  Instead of worrying about a record of what they say and do in committee meetings, our politicians should be more concerned about the record of what they are not saying and doing.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.