Friday, June 29, 2012

Governor LePage should be ashamed of himself

I started this as a letter to the editor after reading this morning's Lewiston Sun Journal, but (surprise!) it got way too long (250 word maximum? Really? At 250 words, I was just getting warmed up) so I'm posting it here instead. It won't be read by thousands, but just writing it made me feel a little better.
Governor Paul LePage is an embarrassment to the state of Maine.

Since running for election less than two years ago, he has thumbed his nose at President Obama (saying he’d tell him “to go to hell”), at the NAACP (“tell ‘em to kiss my butt”), at state workers (calling them “about as corrupt as can be”), and, repeatedly, at the people of Maine.

He dismissed concerns over the chemical additive BPA in consumer products, joking that “it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the worst case is some women may have little beards.” 

He opposed the removal of the Great Works Dam on the Penobscot River, saying, “It’s irresponsible to be taking out hydro dams,” and refused to attend the ceremony marking its demolition. This, despite the fact that conservation, recreation, economic, and energy interests all hailed the agreement that brought about the dam’s historic removal while providing for power-generation upgrades to other existing dams. 

He banned the state fire marshal’s office from testifying at the hearing on lifting the ban on the sale and use of fireworks in Maine. Apparently he didn’t feel that the concerns of State Fire Marshal John Dean, who opposed the bill to legalize fireworks on safety grounds, were relevant to the hearing. 

He initiated cuts to child-care subsidies under both TANF and Head Start, as well as cuts to the home-visiting program under the Fund for a Healthy Maine. These programs specifically target low-income parents who are working or attending school in an effort to attain self-sufficiency for their families (i.e., get off of assistance programs), and families at high risk of child abuse, neglect, and substance abuse.

Now, in a blow that undermines the incredibly hard work of Maine people, LePage has frozen funding for the $400,000 matching grant awarded to the town of Norway under the Communities for Maine’s Future program. This funding (approved by Maine voters in 2010 as part of a $25 million bond initiative) was earmarked for the renovation of six storefronts in Norway’s historic Opera House, a $1.1 million project that was slated to go out to bid in the next couple of weeks.

Is Governor LePage aware that a group of committed citizens in the Norway area have been working for five years to bring about this renovation project? 

Is he aware that the purchase and stabilization of the Opera House—an 1894 structure that is part of the Norway Historic District, and was, until recently, in imminent danger of collapsing onto Main Street—was made possible by a $200,000 private donation from residents Bill and Bea Damon? 

Is he aware of the tireless fundraising and countless volunteer hours that have gone into helping to get this project off the ground—and that in service to the endeavor, those volunteers employed such diverse talents as scrubbing, scouring, trash removal, staple-pulling, jewelry design, and musical composition?   

Is he aware that delaying the CMF grant funding—which, under state law, he will eventually have to release—could jeopardize the matching federal and state tax credits, which are essential to the project and are due to expire next year? 

Is he aware that this project is aimed at providing jobs, encouraging new business, and revitalizing a historic downtown area? Exactly what does the governor think it means to be “open for business,” anyway?

Governor LePage’s inappropriate behavior and off-the-cuff remarks may be merely an embarrassment to our state, but his ignorance, obstinacy, and arbitrary heavy-handedness are a danger to our future. As a friend commented, “One could say that he is a joke, but this is much more serious than that.”

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