Brace yourselves. I have an announcement to make.
Although it’s been nearly eight years since I left my Biddeford newspaper gig, there is hardly a week that goes by when someone doesn’t stop me on the street, call me or otherwise seek some inside information or the latest scoop about my hometown’s political structure.
In all fairness, it’s somewhat understandable why so many people, including journalists, local business owners, statewide policy leaders, city staffers, neighbors and even members of the City Council, come to me for the latest scoop or rumor concerning Biddeford’s politics.
For more than 15 years, I have been closely observing and writing about Biddeford’s political antics.
I was the editor of the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier, I also provided consulting services for Friends of the Biddeford Airport. In 2006, I was appointed to Charter Commission by Mayor Wallace Nutting and I was the campaign manager for current Mayor Alan Casavant. Some folks may even remember the political talk show I hosted on Biddeford’s public access channel.
In 2007, my wife, Laura, received more votes than any other candidate on the ballot for her first of two terms on the Biddeford School Committee. Laura received 3,080 votes, nearly twice the amount of votes received by that year’s winning mayoral candidate, Joanne Twomey who garnered 1,742 votes in a three-way race. After stepping down from the school committee, Laura was appointed last year to the city council’s Policy Committee. I make it my business to know when an elected official farts in this city, and what they had for breakfast before the offense.
So now, with that background information out of the way, here is my big, earth-shattering announcement.
Many of the same people who ask me for political advice or the latest City Hall news have encouraged me to run for office in Biddeford. I am always flattered by these suggestions, and I appreciate the confidence and trust of so many people in my hometown.
Thus, taking a page from Eliot Cutler’s brilliant campaign strategy, I am announcing today that I will formally announce sometime after Labor Day that I will not be running for political office. There are three primary factors that have shaped this painful, gut-wrenching decision.
1.) According to members of my imaginary exploratory committee, there is a better than a decent shot of me winning an election in Biddeford. The idea that I would be elected and then expected to serve as an elected official should scare the bejesus out of anyone with an IQ that ranges above room temperature;
2.) I have neither the temperament, the time or the patience to endure the weight of public service;
3.) And finally, perhaps most importantly, my health precludes me from taking on any additional responsibilities. Considering the random and fluctuating significance of my mental health, it is nothing short of a miracle that I am able to string together a sentence, never mind my ability to consistently deliver results for my professional clients, maintain my responsibilities as a husband and father and co-manage a household.
In all seriousness, locally elected officials receive little to nothing in terms of financial compensation, benefits or even a moment of public gratitude. Like you and me, they also have conflicting responsibilities and obligations. It becomes far too easy for the rest of us to sit back and bitch about their performance without ever acknowledging the very real sacrifices they make in order to serve us.
Finally, if you are one of those people who is considering a run for public office this year, ask yourself this one question: Are you running to be someone, or are you running to do something. Take some time with your answer because the rest of us will know it as soon as you announce that you will be making a formal announcement.
Mike Michaud. Eliot Cutler. Larry Gilbert. Joanne Twomey.
Every year it seems as if the NHL playoffs stretch closer to summer, as if football starts sooner — and like everything else, those who love politics and speculating about those playoff games, the political season no longer seems to have a beginning or an end.
We used to be a bit more dignified and wait until after Labor Day to begin political campaigns in earnest, but now it seems that social media fuels an insatiable thirst for political bloodletting.
As evidence, just look at the past two weeks.
While legislative Democrats continue a contentious, budget showdown with Gov. Paul Lepage, we’ve had two major candidates announce they are seeking the Blaine House in 2014, and former mayors from two of Maine’s larger cities announced that they are hoping to regain their respective seats.
Eliot “I’m really not a wealthy, elitist, Democrat from Cape Elizabeth” Cutler announced last week that he will formally announce sometime later that he will announce another run for governor as an Independent candidate. Press packets are likely prepared for each of these crucial announcements.
Unless you have been in a coma for the last four years, this was not news. Cutler has been running an intensive campaign since the day he lost his last campaign, and about as subtle as an aircraft carrier steaming across Moosehead Lake with his One Maine campaign and any other opportunity to remain politically relevant – barring any trips to places like Rumford, Sanford, Lincoln, Lewiston or Biddeford.
And then U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud today “announced” that he’s thinking about running and has authorized an exploratory committee that is charged with developing some Google maps of interesting places to explore in southern Maine.
On the more local scene, former Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert announced yesterday that he will once again seek his city’s top political post. That announcement came only days after former Biddeford Mayor Joanne Twomey announced that she will also run again for the mayor’s seat.
Gilbert actually invited the media to his announcement and had a small gathering of supporters standing by his side.
But Twomey’s announcement seemed more like Khan going after Captain Kirk; swearing revenge on Mayor Alan Casavant, who ousted her from office in 2011 with 62 percent of the vote.
Twomey is some pissed off that Casavant agreed to co-sponsor a bill in the Legislature that could potentially open the door for a racino in southern Maine. You see, only Joanne Twomey is allowed to change her mind about the merits of a racino.
Twomey is adept at changing her mind. She’s flip-flopped on everything from casinos to her own party affiliation. Casavant already stole her thunder in closing MERC, and now he has the temerity to consider upstaging her once again??
So, what will the next political “announcement” look like. Frankly, I have no idea, but I do have some advice for Mike Michaud:
Spend a lot of time this summer in southern Maine and pray that Joanne Twomey endorses Eliot Cutler…. ( just think of the announcement potential!)
While many of us were obsessing this week about whether Big Brother is monitoring that silly cat video we posted on Facebook or whether the IRS will now audit Tim Tebow, Maine’s newest senator quietly announced that he was consolidating two of his southern Maine field offices.
Although the news of Senator Angus King closing his Biddeford and Portland offices didn’t exactly set the world on fire, it does bear mentioning and warrants a positive shout-out for at least two reasons.
1.) Consolidating the Biddeford and Portland office at a centralized Scarborough field office is aimed at efficiency and will save taxpayer money.
2.) More importantly, this symbolic gesture recognizes the most important part of what constituent service should entail: the constituent.
Allow me to explain the more important, latter point. King wants his staff in the field; mobile, flexible and ready to meet with constituents on their terms.
Instead of being pinned down at a desk, King wants Bonnie Pothier (King’s York County rep.) and Travis Kennedy (King’s Cumberland County rep.) to spend more time moving around their respective fields, more involved in the entire area than just one particular office location.
So, while the office closing represent a slight loss for the cities of Biddeford and Portland, the bigger gains will be for people who were already somewhat geographically removed from those locations; i.e. residents or business owners who live or work in places like Standish, Kittery, Sanford and Brunswick.
Sure, this is mostly a symbolic gesture, but it is consistent with what King promised us during last year’s campaign: to find ways to better connect Maine people with Washington D.C., such as his weekly Capitol Coffee sessions, held each Wednesday morning in his D.C. Senate office. If you happen to be in DC, you can swing by and have a blueberry muffin with your senator.
Symbolic, Folksy, Quirky? Check to all three, but it does again reinforce the idea that your senator is available and wants to hear from you.
And today, King begins his Your Government, Your Neighborhood roadshow, in which his staff will fan out across the state to hold listening tours with any interested constituents. Although this method of constituent outreach is almost as old as the US Senate; King is leveraging his social media assets to amp up constituent participation.
And finally, King, the governor who launched Maine’s seventh-grade laptop program, is using technology to hopefully connect with every classroom in Maine by using Skype, as detailed in this story from the Bangor Daily News.
As Americans continue expressing a lack of confidence in the federal government, it’s real easy for most of us to remain stuck in a cynical posture about those loathsome folks bickering in Washington. But at least King is pushing for a greater connection with his constituents, and saving us a few bucks in the process.
I have never been an Angus King cheerleader, and I think it’s far too early in his senate career to determine whether he can actually pull off some of the lofty ideas he talked about during the campaign, but so far…. I like what I see….
The idea of free coffee on Wednesday mornings? Well, let me know when we can start sampling Maine micro-brews in the Dirksen Senate building on Thursday nights, and I’ll be the first in line every week.
Like many of us, Governor Paul LePage is frustrated by welfare abuse, but one of his most recent proposals to reform an undeniably flawed system is misguided and completely misses the mark of an otherwise noble goal.
Among his many other initiatives to rein in government spending and reform Maine’s welfare system, LePage sponsored LD 1411, a bill that would prevent people who qualify for the federal food stamp program from buying soda and so-called “snack foods.”
Sounds good, right? Not exactly.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as SNAP, is a federal program, administered by the US Department of Agriculture.
LD 1411 has garnered bipartisan support. One of the bill’s co-sponsors in State Sen. David Dutremble, a Biddeford Democrat. Others on the left share the governor’s concerns about nutrition and abuse of taxpayer funds.
The bill also seems to have overwhelming public support. A recent online poll in the Portland Press Herald showed that more than 80 percent of participants support the governor’s bill.
But despite the bill’s bi-partisan origins and its broad public support, we all ought to take a closer look at the proposal because it will actually do far more harm than good.
1.) The bill will not save a dime of taxpayer money. Instead, it will likely increase bureaucratic costs. Remember, the bill would not reduce benefits, it simply would exert more government control of an individual’s choice of foods.
2.) Because SNAP is a federal program, the state of Maine will need to get a waiver from the federal government. Considering the fed’s reactions to other waiver requests that were proposed by the LePage Administration, this hurdle seems unrealistic. Given the number of bills that the Legislature has undertaken, we should not be wasting time or state resources on a proposal that has zero chance of becoming reality.
3.) It’s not business friendly. In the unlikely event that LD 1411 finds its way into state law, it would add another layer of government regulations and complexity for merchants, including small and mid-sized grocers who accept federal food stamps.
4.) The bill is targeted as a punitive swipe at those who use food stamps. Yes, many people abuse the food stamp program, but many more truly need and deserve the benefit in order to avoid hunger. We ought to be more focused on investigating and prosecuting welfare abuse than penalizing everyone who is in an unfortunate circumstance.
5.) LD 1411 misdirects our outrage. As we debate LD 1411, we should also remember that food stamps cannot be used to buy alcohol, lottery tickets or tobacco products. Some Maine families receive a monthly cash benefit known as TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families). Unfortunately, that program has too many loopholes and is more commonly abused than food stamps.
6.) Nutrition? While some Democrats and Republicans like the idea of encouraging better nutrition, this bill will do little to reinforce healthy choices. It would not address many other products, such as sugar, corn syrup, powdered drink mix, cookie dough and ice cream. Our emphasis ought to focus on nutritional education.
7.) LD 1411 would prohibit the purchase of some healthy choices, including: bottled juice products and bottled water.
I applaud Governor LePage for his desire to control government spending. He is a fair-minded individual who two years ago set his critics aback, when he denounced a so-called video sting operation of two DHHS offices by right-wing activists. The media didn’t give him much credit, but it shows that LePage is far more human and fair-minded than the gross caricature his opponents have painted.
LePage knows a thing or two about being poor in Maine. He is a self-made man who grew up in an abusive home and found himself alone on the city streets of Lewiston when he was just 11 years old. His story and ultimate success is inspirational.
Our governor is the proverbial poster child for the “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” crowd, and he wants to see other people succeed the same way he did. Hard work, determination and dedication to improving one’s odds for success.
Considering his background and his staunch fiscally conservative beliefs, LePage understands better than most folks that every dollar of welfare funds wasted represents one less dollar for programs, which are absolutely necessary and vital for Maine’s most vulnerable citizens.
I am a little bit like Governor LePage. I am a Republican who grew up in a mill town. But I also received food stamps at one very low point in my life. I doubt that I could have survived what the governor survived as a child, but I do know that a little bit of help and support from Maine’s taxpayers turned out to be a wise investment.
There is nothing I can do to stop it.
I am completely powerless. No matter how hard I work, how much money I earn or how hard I pray . . . I cannot stop it or even slow it down.
But I do a damn good job of ignoring it; of keeping myself distracted.
Over the past few weeks, I have been working extra long hours. I have four important projects consuming my career pipeline. Fortunately, the extra work provides me with an abundance of opportunities to remain distracted. There is always something to do; always another call that needs to be made or another e-mail patiently begging a reply.
Although I find a lot of satisfaction in my work, the recent uptick in demand has its consequences. I become too easily irritated and resent any of my other responsibilities.
Thus, even though I intellectually know that an invisible disease is slowly eating away at my wife’s brain, I expect her to be normal again; to have enough energy to get through the day without being tired.
Laura has one of the toughest jobs on the planet. Every day she works with families in complete disarray. She is charged with protecting innocent children from predatory monsters and is required to develop plans to help these families become whole again. She sees things that most people cannot imagine.
She could tell you stories that would curl your toes. She gets up every morning and faces each day, knowing that she is going to cross paths with the devil, who can take the form of a stepfather that gets his rocks off by molesting a three-year-old.
When she gets home, she thinks about dinner for her own family. She helps the boys with their homework; and she patiently listens to me complain about public policy issues that are as dry and uninteresting as a bowl of sand.
Before the disease took hold, Laura had boundless energy. Her laugh is still infectious. She would take the boys for long walks through the woods in search of spring toads. She is intimidated by nothing and was always ready for the next great adventure.
She can tile a floor, fix a taillight or set up a campsite and still have time left over to make a banana cream pie.
Laura has her own system of denial. She is not as good as me, but she does a pretty good job of keeping the disease hidden from public view.
You almost can’t tell… unless you watch a climb a set of stairs.
According to the National MS Society, more than 2.1 million people have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
We are luckier than most of these people. We have good health insurance, and Laura still has most of her mobility. She is not in a wheelchair.
And that’s the part that gets me: knowing that it’s just going to get worse; knowing that every day I lose just a little bit more of the person I love most in the world.
We generally don’t talk about MS or the way it impacts our boys, our marriage . . . our lives.
But each year — even it’s for just one day — we tackle this disease head on by participating in the annual MS walk, an event that raises funding for continued research and the ongoing search for improved treatments or maybe a cure for MS.
Laura was diagnosed with MS a little more than four years ago, and each year we have been blessed by watching Team Seaver grow in number and spirit. The annual event is held simultaneously at locations all over the country. Here in York County, the walk is held in Kennebunkport. It is encouraging to see other families living with MS; to witness their courage and determination.
But it is also haunting to see so many other people dealing with MS in their own families, especially when their loved one’s illness has progressed so much more. It’s sort of like seeing your own life 10, 20 or 30 years into the future.
This year, or team is hoping to raise $1,500. And here’s where it gets fun.
If you would like to join us in our ongoing fight against an almost invisible enemy, please visit the Team Seaver page.
Our team’s largest donor will receive a gift certificate for a full day (eight hours) of services by Seaver & Sons; whether it’s cleaning up your yard or using our truck and trailer to clean out your basement or attic.
Despite the snow on the ground, it is spring and think how nice it would be to have your windows cleaned or your deck stained once the warmer weather arrives.
The top-three donors to Team Seaver will all be invited to one of our famous back yard barbecues that includes lobster, steak and my own special blend of frozen cocktails.
Please help spread the word. Share the Team Seaver page with your friends and family, and please consider joining us on Saturday, April 27.