Being “rich” in Maine

Governor LePage: winner or loser in 2014?

Governor Paul LePage

Last night, during one of the debates, Governor Paul LePage said that people earning $100,000 per year “are not that rich.”

I have to agree with the governor, but I would have disagreed with him if he made that statement in 1998.

In 1998, I accepted a job as a reporter that paid $9 per hour or $18,720 per year before taxes.  A few weeks prior, I had paid $500 for a 1988 Subaru Loyale that featured duct tape and a leaking oil pan. I lived in a third-floor apartment above a Chinese restaurant.

Every piece of clothing I owned reeked of Moo Gai Pan.

I was 34 years old and earning roughly 60 percent less than I was just a few years earlier.

It’s a long story.

But back in 1998, I would have considered anyone earning $100k as wealthy. I wanted to earn $100k, but I thought it was impossible.

So, what happened?

Basically, I worked my ass off. My work became my life. Within a few months, I got a raise. I replaced the Subaru with a 1993 Ford Escort station wagon that desperately needed a new exhaust. I bought an air conditioner.

The future seemed bright.

A few months later, I was promoted and got another raise. I worked nights, weekends and holidays. I pretended that I owned that newspaper.

I got another raise, and then another, and then another.

Before I knew what was happening, I was getting married and buying a house. I bought a Jeep. Things were really looking up. I felt rich, but only for a little while.

I eventually left the newspaper and nearly doubled my salary. Suddenly it was so much easier to pay the bills. I thought I was rich, until it came time to pay my taxes.

At each point along this journey, my definition of “rich” constantly changed.

I won’t say how much I earn today, but I will say that I could not imagine my current salary back in 1998.

Sure, there were times when I struggled with a little bit of envy, but I also noticed that with each rung up the ladder, my definition of “rich” continually changed.

It’s easy to conduct class warfare and talk about the “rich” being out of touch, but considering the cost of living, the median cost of a home in Maine, the rising cost of heating oil and insurance premiums .  . . you get the idea, $100,000 per year isn’t such a big number. Yes, it’s much more than $18, 720/year, but it’s hardly “rich.”

Just for fun

camplogo3With just three weeks to go before the election, I thought it was time to revisit the social media pages of all three gubernatorial candidates to take a quick glance at some of their analytics.

There will be more scientific polls in the coming weeks, and this amateur survey is reserved for political junkies who may be interested in how the campaigns are using their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.

 

ON FACEBOOK

When it comes to Facebook, Republican Governor Paul LePage leads the pack in terms of “LIKES,” experiencing a 21 percent increase since our last survey on May 29, from 20,300 to 24,476.

Though Independent Eliot Cutler is in second place with overall number of Facebook fans( 21,961) , his campaign experienced only a 5 percent increase during the same time period.

Democrat Mike Michaud saw a 15 percent jump on Facebook during the same time period.

This week, Michaud’s best Facebook post occurred on Oct. 10, when his campaign shared a prediction from Scott Lehigh, a Boston Globe writer, stating that Michaud will be Maine’s next governor. That post was shared 376 times and Liked by 458 people

https://www.facebook.com/#!/MikeMichaudForGovernor/photos/a.381734511938358.1073741828.379485622163247/595138440597963/?type=1

By contrast, the best post this week for LePage got 268 shares; and Cutler’s best Facebook post got 203 shares.

ON TWITTER

Democrat Mike Michaud far outpaced his opponents in terms of new Twitter followers since our last tracking survey.

Michaud’s Twitter followers spiked 36 percent since May 29, from 1,755 to 2,380 followers.

Cutler saw the second largest increase (21 percent) but he still has fewer Twitter followers (1698) than Michaud or LePage.

LePage experienced a 16 percent increase during the same time period, from 1,768 to 2,054.

The governor’s best tweet this week (4RTs) was a call to boost employment in Maine

But Michaud beat him soundly (12 RTs)  with a tweet highlighting an endorsement for the Democratic hopeful from a Republican.

Eliot Cutler’s camp got 6 retweets for a tweet that showcases a graph, which demonstrates that Cutler can beat LePage in a head-to-head contest.

 

I doubt this information will have any impact on the Nov. 4 election, but I sincerely hope you have enjoyed this trivial pursuit. More graphics below

10-14-facebook fans10-14-twitter followers

 

 

Shit happens

863511_f520Originally published Sept. 8, 2012

Over the last few days, I have learned some valuable lessons.

First and foremost, I was reminded this week that I am extraordinarily blessed to have a diverse cadre of superior friends and family members.

I also learned a valuable lesson about ladders, not to mention a very painful experience that drove home the importance of why access to affordable and quality health care is so important for our national security.

But having so much down time has also allowed me to reflect on at least two other subjects: balance and perception.

During this presidential election season we have all heard a bunch of rhetoric about “self-reliance” and about “being in this together.” But which philosophy is correct?

Just like working with a ladder, the most important lesson is too often forgotten: it’s all about balance.

And we lose our balance when our perceptions become too narrowly defined.

A week ago, I broke my left arm in two different places while helping my sons with their landscaping business. The injuries, although significant, will eventually heal.

These last few days have been tough. It’s amazing how much you take for granted the use of two working arms. For example, try zipping up your pants with one arm. Or opening a bottle of pain meds; typing or driving a vehicle with a standard transmission.

Most people understand those limitations. They instantly empathize, and are quick to offer assistance. After all, my injuries are very obvious. My arm is either in a sling or set into a wrap-around corset to keep it in place. I have visible wounds on my legs and my elbow.

Strangers ask what happened with sympathetic voices, and they often share with me their own similar experiences. My friends laugh with me about how the accident happened. It’s okay and acceptable to make jokes about it.

We are comfortable with physical injuries. They do not frighten us. Shit happens.

Anyone who has ever smashed their elbow into a 3-inch-thick slab of stone knows that it is a painful injury. They know why you need to take it easy and sometimes need the use of medication to cope or just sleep through the night.

I say all this because these experiences provided me with a very stark contrast to my much less obvious injuries; the disease that is invisible to the eye, that is masked by perception.

On balance (no pun intended) my mental illness is far more painful than a broken arm. But you can’t see it, and I am reluctant to show it to you.

Imagine a disease that rarely allows you to sleep through an entire night. A disease that constantly impacts your perception of the world around you; a disease that clouds your judgment, alters your reality and makes it almost impossible to get out of bed.

Imagine an intense level of pain that without medication would have you think every hour of every day about ending your life; a disease that inhibits your ability to maintain relationships and function as a productive member of society.

Imagine having a disease that is commonly ridiculed and often dismissed as nothing more than “feeling sorry for yourself.”

I live with the challenges of that disease every day. I fight it with every fiber of my existence, only to know that it will never go away; that there is no cure or remedy.

I refuse to allow my broken arm to alter my life. This last week has been one of the busiest and most challenging weeks of my professional career, and I have risen to each and every challenge.

Am I bragging? Yes, but only to make a point. This is the way the overwhelming majority of people who suffer from a mental illness operate. They struggle through each day. They go to work. They mask their pain. They pay their bills. They follow the law. They take their meds and follow their doctor’s orders.

They wince when they hear the words “sicko, whack job and nut case,” but they swallow and stay silent for fear of being labeled, judged or excluded.

They are just like you. They are your neighbors, your friends and your co-workers. They did not choose to become sick any more than you would choose to fall off a ladder. They are some of the most self-reliant people you will ever meet. They have abundant courage and determination.

We all have limitations. The trick is learning to balance and to expand your range of perception. With those tools, you can fix just about anything.

Why I’m voting for Eliot Cutler

Eliot-Cutler-630x421I have many friends on both sides of the political aisle, and they undoubtedly will chastise me for supporting a gubernatorial candidate that is trailing in the polls.

But polls are just polls, and a growing number of my friends are growing disillusioned by the two political parties and their candidates.

It’s time for a change.

For more than 30 years, I have been an active voter. In 1982, I supported Republican Sherry Huber. Four years later, I did a bit of volunteer work for Bill Diamond’s campaign to capture the Democratic nomination.

In the years that followed, I never missed an election. But I did miss feeling the passion of voting for a candidate, not against a another candidate. I spent those roughly 30 years feeling rather uninspired, somewhat hollow.

True, I did not vote for Eliot Cutler in 2010. But I cannot, in good conscience, make that mistake again.

I have been on the fence for several weeks. I have met and spoken with all three candidates. They all have strengths and weaknesses, but only Eliot rises above the fray.

While Governor Paul Lepage and Congressman Mike Michaud continue sniping at each other, Cutler has focused on his vision for Maine: a vision that runs right down the middle, on a parallel course with common sense.

But what really sealed the deal for me was something that happened a couple of weeks ago at an energy forum in Portland.

You’ve probably read about what happened at the E2Tech forum in the newspaper, but as one of roughly 300 paying audience members it was one of the most awkward experiences I can recall.

LePage refused to sit at the same table with the other candidates. LePage, in fact, left the event and sulked in the parking lot.

Grown men acting like children and refusing to sit at a table together. That’s not leadership.

That’s boorish.

Michaud ran through a set of talking points; answered a few questions and then was off to do important things (the event was not designed nor intended to be a debate). Michaud supporters say he arrived at 8:30 because that’s when he was scheduled to speak. So the audience waited 30 minutes in silence, staring at an empty stage because LePage forfeited his 8 a.m. speaking time.

With somber dignity and clarity, Cutler began his remarks by apologizing to the audience. He later drew a round of laughter from the crowd when he said it’s simply not good enough to say that you are better than the other guy.

When asked a question about natural gas expansion by an environmental advocate, Eliot gave an answer that she did not like. In essence, he said that there are no perfect solutions; that Maine cannot afford simplistic thinking on energy issues or any other issue; that reality must drive how we lead.

I was impressed by his honesty, integrity and wisdom. He wasn’t willing to tell her what she wanted to hear (which would have been the popular path). Instead, he laid out a vision and a plan that acknowledges the very real challenges that so many Maine families are facing when it comes to heating their homes.

Eliot Cutler is a different kind of candidate. He has unmatched and proven experience in job creation, and he is the only candidate who continues to put forth detailed policies and plans to invest in infrastructure and education and to use tax dollars more efficiently.

He is the only candidate not beholden to political parties or special interests. He has not and will not accept money from PACs or special interests. Translation: you won’t see as many television commercials.

I believe Eliot is the right candidate to bring people together in search of common solutions.

For too long, political divisiveness in Augusta has overshadowed the real needs of real Maine families.

It’s time to end the boogeyman scare tactics of voting for so and so means so and so will win.

It’s time for vision. It’s time for integrity. It’s time for common sense.

It’s time for Eliot Cutler.

Learn More

 

Radio Free Europe

Governor LePage: winner or loser in 2014?

Governor LePage: winner or loser in 2014?

There’s one aspect of this year’s Maine gubernatorial race that has received little attention: where will dispassionate Republicans land on Election Day?

Four years ago, in what was largely a three-way race, Republican Paul LePage became Maine’s governor by securing approximately 38 percent of the vote.

Since then, much has been said about plurality, the merits of run-off elections and the so-called Cutler effect.

But little has changed in how Maine will choose its next governor, and today LePage is again on the ballot with two opponents.

More importantly, we don’t have Independent Shawn Moody (9 percent) to kick around this time.

Moody was always a long-shot, a late entrant, dark-horse candidate with broad appeal. At least a third of his support likely came from Republicans who were less than impressed with LePage’s style and tone.

From my perch, it’s hard to see how LePage has done anything to build his base, to draw in moderates; and I wonder where will those folks go. Will they hold their noses and vote for LePage? Will they hold their noses and vote for Cutler? Will they clamp down on their noses and vote for Democrat Mike Michaud; or will they leave their noses alone and just stay home on Election Day?

Many Democrats blame Cutler for LePage’s election in 2010. They say he split their party’s voting block and could do it again this time.

So far, Cutler is only a shadow of the threat he was in 2010; but even then his support came late in the game. Say what you will, but Cutler’s numbers will likely rise over the next few weeks as LePage and Michaud busy themselves with tearing each other down.

Recent polls have shown LePage and Michaud in a very tight race. So, I want to know where the Moody voters from 2010 will go; all nine percent of them.

Nine percent may not seem like a big number, but LePage simply cannot rest on his base of 35 percent. This time, the Democrats are working harder and smarter than they did in 2010. They are more unified and reaching for the middle.

LePage has an opportunity to draw in some of those moderate voters in the middle, but so far there’s been no evidence that he’s willing to court their vote.

So far, Eliot Cutler is the only candidate working really hard for the middle, the place where a growing number of voters call home. I doubt it will be enough for him to win, but I am positive that it would be enough for LePage to lose.

 

Lido Shuffle

The experiment is over, and it was a bittersweet experience letting it go.

As it is with so many things in life, it occurs to me that my endeavor to create a diverse group to debate differing political ideas with civility was both a phenomenal success and an utter failure. We called this group “Thinking Politics” and its membership quickly swelled beyond my expectations.

WP_20140906_18_48_58_ProLast night, I had the pleasure of participating in the phenomenal success part; but it was the utter failure part that led me to let go of the reins, end the “experiment” and let the group go wherever it wants; allow the other members of this “secret” social media group to experience true self-determination.

I started the group, and until last night served as its primary moderator. Admittedly, I tried to control the group: to maintain a balance between liberal and conservative thought.

My bigger mistake, however, was trying to appease all members of the group, and that caused a lot of anger and dissension.

A few months ago there was a schism of sorts. Roughly 20 percent of the members left the group after I announced that we would leave religion out of our political conversations.

I was angry that these departing members hijacked my group’s name and started a similar group entitled Thinking Politics/Free Speech, as if free speech has no limits.

But the bulk of the original group’s members remained, yet still the dynamic I envisioned never really materialized in a substantive way.

I wanted to see if there would be more intellectual curiosity; if members would be willing to re-examine and challenge their own political pre-conceptions and beliefs.

One of the problems is that the group quickly became dominated by one side of the political aisle. Those in the minority felt frustrated and stopped participating.

In a recent Facebook post, Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under President Clinton, spoke of the value of having his ideas challenged by a good friend during a monthly lunch meeting.

Perhaps that is why last night was such a stunning success.

About 30 members of Thinking Politics convened for an impromptu dinner in Portland. All members, regardless of political affiliation, were invited. It was an awesome experience, full of laughter, shared experiences, good food and plenty of libation.

That experience reminded me of the Political Beer Summits I once organized with friends who often disagreed about political issues. Those summits inspired the creation of Thinking Politics.

When you’re sitting at a table, directly across from your adversary, it becomes instantly clear that you have much more in common than not. We all have funny stories, fond memories, shared experiences, including loss, fear, hope and dreams.

It’s almost impossible to establish that kind of intimacy on the internet. When you are separated by a keyboard and a monitor, it’s much easier to belittle your opponent, to say things you would never say if you were sharing a meal with them.

So, part of me thinks I failed; but as I looked around at the group last night, I also felt a certain sense of pride. The conversations were real, the friendships were plainly evident.

It was a good time for me to say goodbye, to let go of my moderator status and turn over the keys to six others.

Where Thinking Politics goes from here is unknown. What is known, however, is that I will no longer be at the helm of that ship.

My experiment is over, and I regret nothing.

A good friend from Rhode Island accompanied us to the dinner. Her observation meant a lot to me. “Look at all these people, they came from Texas, Illinois and all over, and they really want to be here and meet the other members in person. You started that, Randy, and that’s impressive.”

So, in the end, maybe my time at the helm of Thinking Politics was a stunning success; and thus, it was the perfect time to walk away and let others steer that ship.

 

Does anyone really care

 

For those of you who are excited that the Lincoln Mill Clock Tower has been “saved,” it’s a bit early to put on your party hats and break out the champagne.

Sure, the clock tower was moved from the ground where it sat rotting for seven years, but it’s hardly saved.

It will likely take hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the dilapidated structure, replace the missing bell and weathervane.

But now, I fear, the clock tower has been moved out of sight — out of mind.

It has been moved to another place behind the building so that its rotting carcass will no longer be a public nuisance, an eyesore.

The story of how the clock tower landed on the ground is a complicated one, and detailed here.

Along with a few dozen other curious spectators, I was there on Thursday night, watching the giant crane hoist what remains of the clock tower onto a flat-bed truck.

I spoke briefly with the building’s new owners and asked if the tower would ever be placed back on its perch.

The response? “No way.”

And who could blame them? They inherited a mess created by the building’s previous owners.

Everyone in Biddeford, it seems, has an opinion about the clock tower, ranging from “it should be scrapped” to “it should go back on top of the building.”

But only a handful of people have stepped up to help save this iconic symbol of the city’s storied past.

My hat goes off to a group of passionate Biddeford High School students who last year tried to raise interest in saving the structure and organized yet another fundraising drive.

Like the fundraising drive that I helped coordinate in 1999, neither effort met its goals. Though the students have not stopped yet.

Will the residents of Biddeford step up to truly “save” the clock tower?

From my perspective, it’s a long shot but one worth taking.

As I said before, we save what we care about. Now I wonder, does anyone really care?

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PREVIOUSLY:

A new fundraising effort

A look at the clock works from the late 1990s