Dog Day Afternoon

State Sen. David Dutremble

State Sen. David Dutremble

Like everyone else in Biddeford, State senator David Dutremble is troubled by the allegations of child sexual abuse that has roiled this city for the past several weeks.

On June 23, Dutremble wrote on Facebook: “The more we dig, the sicker I become with my city!!”

https://www.facebook.com/#!/ddutremble/posts/10153347027281590?pnref=story

I called him out on that post because he is indicting the entire city for allegations that primarily focus on two former police officers.

Perhaps Dutremble is upset with the city council that voted 6-2 not to suspend the police chief and deputy police chief.

Perhaps he envies Mayor Alan Casavant’s strong popular support.

Perhaps he is angry with the police chief or the deputy police chief, even though Maine’s Attorney General says they have taken all the right steps during the ongoing investigation.

But one thing is for sure: Dutremble won’t attack the reputation of his employer, the city’s fire department.

His disgust is selective, despite a recent post on the Portland Press Herald’s Facebook page in which a Biddeford man alleged that a “senior fire department official” attempted to molest him when he was a teenager.

Joey GWhere was the outrage? Where was the investigation, the calls for senior members of the fire department to step aside during an investigation? There was none of that. Dutremble was silent.

But he has been very vocal, and has repeatedly expressed his indignation with the Biddeford City Council for doing “nothing” to help the cause of “justice” for the community.

From the council chamber’s podium, Dutremble has expressed outrage and contempt toward the council. And he promised, he would get something done in Augusta.

A career firefighter, Dutremble is by all accounts a good city employee, But a careful look at the legislative session that will soon end calls into serious question his abilities as a legislator.

Who let the dogs out?

Earlier this year, Dutremble introduced a bill (L.D. 107) to name the Labrador retriever as the official state dog. State Rep. William Tuell of East Machias described L.D. 107 as “a waste of time.”

An Arundel dog breeder agreed with Tuell, telling the Portland Press Herald that, “It is stupid. There are so many other issues.”

The Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government quickly killed the bill by a vote of 9-3.

Although Dutremble was not able to pass the dog bill, a new group of his supporters expected him to deliver the goods on a topic about which he has been extremely vocal: the alleged sexual abuse of minors by former members of the Biddeford Police Department.

Now bear in mind, there is no love lost between the city’s police and fire departments.

For the past several months, alleged victim Matt Lauzon has spearheaded the issue of child sexual abuse by two former police officers, and he has been effusive in his praise of Dutremble, at every social media opportunity calling him “courageous” and a “hero.”

It appeared as though Lauzon had found his ideal champion, and that Dutremble had found his ideal cause. Lots of TV cameras, and how can you go wrong trying to help victims of sexual abuse?

The controversy held great promise to cement Dutremble’s reputation as a take-charge legislator who gets things done.

The senator comes out swinging

Dutremble seemed to get off to a very fast start. On May 7, Bangor Daily News reporter Beth Brogan wrote that Dutremble’s legislative staff was “already investigating the existing law and possible changes.”

Lauzon kept the community updated on Dutremble’s progress via Facebook, making it clear that thanks to the senator, Lauzon was meeting in Augusta with the leadership of the Legislature, and that legislative action would be forthcoming very soon.

Each of Lauzon’s admiring Facebook posts about Dutremble seemed to bring an immediate Facebook “Like” from the take-charge and image conscious senator.

There was even a very high profile meeting with Governor LePage on May 12, once again covered by all the TV stations and the state’s biggest newspapers. Pretty heady stuff. Dutremble’s momentum seemed unstoppable.

On May 19, Dutremble confidently strode into a Biddeford City Council meeting, and he was visibly seething. He wasted no time reprimanding the mayor and council for their pitifully poor job performance. It was very theatrical and dramatic. At the same time, he portrayed himself as a bold, decisive leader.

“In regard to state level assistance, I am working, and looking into the best avenue for an independent investigation of the Biddeford Police Department,” he told the council.

While grabbing headlines and severely scolding city officials, Dutremble’s star seemed to be shining very brightly. In fact, one of Lauzon’s staunchest supporters enthusiastically told a city official — in no uncertain terms — that the senator was working hard on a joint resolution from both the Maine Senate and the Maine House of Representatives.

This resolution would enjoy near unanimous support in both chambers of the legislature, the resident bragged. It would call on Attorney General Janet Mills to step away from the investigation of the Biddeford Police Department, and to let the Maine State Police take over the investigation.

With Dutremble having taken charge, the AG’s office would be kicked off the case. Wow, that’s pretty impressive legislative clout.

Bad news for Dutremble

In most cases when nothing happens, that’s not news. But this particular “nothing” will indeed be news in Biddeford.

As of Monday, Dutremble had filed neither a bill nor a resolution. In a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, Dutremble stated that he was not working on a bill, but rather a “letter.”

letter

A letter to whom?

Hard to believe. After going out on a limb just about as far as you can go, the Maine Legislature will soon recess for the summer and Senator David Dutremble will tiptoe back into town completely empty-handed.

When I first heard about the potential joint resolution a few weeks ago, a colleague of mine called a media person who is wise to all that goes on in Augusta. The reporter literally burst out laughing and said, “That’ll never happen.”

The same colleague has access to a direct line into the Governor’s office, and into the leadership of the Maine State Senate. Calls were made to see how much progress the senator’s resolution had made, and the response from this staffer was shocking.

“Yeah, we’ve heard rumblings that Dutremble is interested in this issue, but nobody’s seen anything in writing,” the staffer said. “Nothing exists, not even a bill summary or just a title. One thing’s for sure, nobody’s touching that with a 10-foot pole.”

Nothing in writing? How could that be?

Biddeford’s senator had repeatedly chastised the mayor and city council in public for “doing nothing,” but he never filed a bill? Not even a bill summary or even a simple bill title?

What about the resolution — that was never in writing, either?

Now, it is possible that Dutremble has spent weeks working on a letter, but another electronic records search was completed by the Governor’s office and Senate staff just two days ago, and that yielded no results. There’s no record of anything having to do with a joint resolution and Senator David Dutremble.

To the likes of Lauzon and his supporters, it must be incomprehensible that Dutremble utterly failed to produce. But to those who understand the basic rules of politics, Dutremble’s shockingly elementary mistakes explain everything.

A failure to communicate

David Dutremble is a state senator. You’d think he’d be astute enough to know that his party is in a life and death struggle, if not with the Republicans, then certainly with Republican Governor Paul LePage.

The Attorney General, Janet Mills, is a high profile Democrat. She and LePage have been in an ugly war on any number of issues. Their battles litter the landscape to such an extent that it’s no exaggeration to say Mills and LePage may be the two most bitter political enemies in Maine.

The only politician in Maine seemingly unaware of this conflict is David Dutremble.

Dutremble apparently thought it was okay to approach Democratic legislative leaders to help pass a resolution that would hand the Democrats a huge political defeat, and hand the governor a huge political victory.

Think about it. Dutremble’s resolution would have removed Mills from an important investigation (thereby calling into question her competence in all investigations). The Governor could take the credit for showing leadership by having the meeting with Lauzon, and the resolution — approved by most Democrats — would give the governor valuable ammo in his continuing claim that Mills is unfit to be AG.

There is no way that any resolution or bill was ever going to be passed, or even brought to the floor of either chamber. It was never going to see the light of day.

Senator Dutremble’s unsophisticated legislative idea painfully illustrated his lack of understanding of how things work in Augusta.

Playing checkers, not chess

Matt Lauzon’s meeting with LePage took place well before the “news” surfaced that Dutremble would get near unanimous support for his bipartisan resolution.

It remains unclear what role Dutremble played in arranging Lauzon’s meeting with LePage. Maybe it was a large role, maybe it was miniscule, but one thing about the meeting is crystal clear: The governor barred Dutremble from attending.

At the time, Dutremble’s naïve supporters were jubilant that the meeting with the governor had taken place. They thought they were on their way to “justice.” All they had to do was keep following Senator Dutremble.

Nobody seemed worried that LePage had barred Dutremble from the meeting. None of them, including Dutremble, seemed to understand the significance of what had transpired. None of them seemed to understand that the Governor and the legislative leaders were playing chess, while Dutremble and some of Lauzon’s supporters were playing checkers.

None of them apparently even considered the idea that LePage gladly took full advantage of a political freebie, personally gift-wrapped by Dutremble.

The governor was able to embarrass a Democratic senator, take another shot at the AG, express concern about sexual abuse and bask in the resulting media coverage — all in one neat little package.

Oblivious, Dutremble pressed on, “crafting” the near-unanimous resolution that seems not to have been written, the non-resolution he promised a trusting constituent was right around the corner.

Outside, looking in

Thanks to his clumsiness during this legislative session, David Dutremble is now on the outside looking in, and that position is probably permanent.

In Augusta, memories are long.

Dutremble’s repeated calls to get the AG’s office “off the case” in Biddeford was a major political faux pas, and the total cost of that mistake to his full constituency is yet to be calculated.

One certain cost is the people of Biddeford now have less influence because Dutremble now has zero influence. That’s a price we all pay.

But the senator also failed to see that in trying to pass this ill-fated legislation, his reputation is now directly tied to the reputation of the man whose cause he has decided to champion.

Every time Dutremble walks into a room to talk about sexual abuse — whether in Biddeford or in Augusta — he is now equated with Matt Lauzon. They are one and the same.

Unfortunately, while Dutremble was plotting to get unanimous support for his resolution, Lauzon and his supporters were running amok on social media and in public meetings.

Word gets around, even in Augusta

Despite many claims that he’s about to go “professional,” Lauzon keeps acting like a junior high school kid.

At a forum hosted by Dutremble, Lauzon publicly speculated that the Biddeford police chief had had homosexual relations with a current police commissioner, and with a former police officer.

Lauzon also intimated that the chief had participated in group sex. He intimated that a Maine district judge had a homosexual relationship with Biddeford’s mayor. He publicly speculated that Biddeford’s mayor, a former teacher at the city’s high school, had slept with his students.

One of Lauzon’s supporters came to a city council meeting, and in the most foul, graphic and detestable street language, proclaimed from the podium his certainty that Biddeford’s mayor and police chief currently and frequently engage in oral sex.

Similar examples of Lauzon’s “dialogue” are legion, but it sickens the stomach to list each instance. And each instance has been a costly chink in Dutremble’s armor.

No matter how valid the cause, no bill will ever be passed in Augusta with proponents who carry themselves in such a fashion.

Matt Lauzon (far left) taunts and tries to distract Mayor Alan Casavant during a press conference.

Matt Lauzon (far left) taunts and tries to distract Mayor Alan Casavant during a press conference.

After one city council meeting, as the mayor was being interviewed by television reporters, Lauzon ducked and hid behind the cameras, popping out like a jack-in-the-box to make faces at Casavant as he answered questions.

Absolutely no filter or maturity. Absolutely no decorum and common decency, and absolutely no common sense.

Unfortunately, to the detriment of a very serious issue that deserves sober and mature discussion, Lauzon and some of his supporters keep shooting themselves in the foot, over and over again, inflicting more and more damage on Dutremble’s political reputation and, more importantly, the pending investigation by Maine’s attorney general.

Not understanding that word gets around, and that the media and many others are completely appalled by the crass and boorish social media dialogue that Lauzon has been fomenting, the senator finds himself between a rock and a hard place.

He can’t turn back now, and Lauzon’s posse has proven that it cannot change its stripes. They, and their behavior, will determine Dutremble’s political future.

One new law, and it isn’t Dutremble’s

It is clear that on the issue of sexual abuse, Biddeford’s senator accomplished absolutely nothing in this legislative session.

Meanwhile, early in the process, Biddeford’s city council asked Dutremble to file emergency legislation that would ease state restrictions on discussing an ongoing criminal investigation.

He didn’t do it.

The city council also asked him to file emergency legislation that would keep convicted pedophiles from living too close to public parks and playgrounds where young children congregate.

He didn’t do it.

And there’s no record of his introducing a joint resolution that supposedly was going to be almost unanimous.

So, what did he do?

He repeatedly berated Biddeford’s mayor and city council for “doing nothing.” Apparently he didn’t notice that Biddeford passed a new ordinance that bars convicted pedophiles from living within 750 feet of a public park or playground where young children congregate. It’s now the law in Biddeford.

Meanwhile, Dutremble’s wife announced that her husband had allowed her to read all the victim statements he has collected, the same confidential victim statements he has refused to hand over to the Attorney General’s office, thereby raising the legitimate question of whether he is impeding an ongoing criminal investigation.

Apparently, Dutremble believes that Attorney General Mills is either incompetent or not trustworthy.

Senator Dutremble doesn’t get to introduce new bills Augusta until next January, and his joint resolution will again have no chance.

One thing’s for sure, with the Legislature almost recessed and his opportunity to make a difference having completely evaporated, it’ll be interesting to see if he goes to the next city council meeting to condemn and berate the mayor and council for not doing enough in their positions as servants to the citizens of Biddeford.

And remember Dutremble’s own words: he is “sick” with his city, which begs the question why would he want to represent us in Augusta?

Considering the situation, Dutremble should be applauded for his desire to get something done. He wanted to do a good deed, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But criticizing the council for “doing nothing” and coming home from Augusta with nothing makes him a hypocrite.

Even more disturbing is the idea that Dutremble’s fumble likely impeded the process of justice now being reviewed by the attorney general’s office. It is a lose-lose situation.

David Dutremble is an exemplary city employee but, regrettably, he is proving to be a legislator who can’t get anything done.

As citizens who have been paying close attention to this explosive issue, and considering Dutremble’s lofty proclamations, an explanation from the senator is the very least we deserve.

 

A hidden message

Maine_Capitol_Building_ba9aaba7950196e822e4_1My friend Alan Caron has some sage advice that each and every newly elected member of the Maine Legislature should read.

Alan’s column regulary appears in the Portland Press Herald, and an excerpt of his latest piece  ( Last election had a hidden message for Maine’s leaders) can be found here:

“Given the many challenges Maine faces today, nothing is more critical to our future than a nonpartisan, commonsense economic plan.

We’re a small state with limited dollars that’s in bad need of new economic energy. We spend more on government, as a percentage of our incomes, than just about any other rural state in America.”

If you want to read the full piece, you can find it here.

Just another new kid in town

Nate Wadsworth

Nate Wadsworth

Last week, I introduced two new legislators who are both Democrats from Biddeford.This week, we take a trip to the other side of the political aisle and the town of Cornish to meet Nathan Wadsworth, a young man who has been an acquaintance of mine for almost a decade. Nathan’s father, Jack, owns and operates Wasdsworth Woodlands, a family owned and operated company. I first met Nate and his dad while working various stints in the Natural Resources Building at the Fryeburg Fair year.

Now, the younger Wadsworth will be spending much of his time in Augusta as yet another rookie legislator.

He was gracious enough to answer my short survey about his hopes and goals for the next legislative session.

What are your top three priorities as a freshman legislator?

1) Vote for our economy first, especially any legislation affecting jobs, growth and taxes

2) be visible with my new constituents by attending functions in my five towns.

3) figure out how I can help best.

What is the most serious issue facing the state of Maine?

Currently, our economy is the biggest issue facing [the state]. The governor has brought us back from the abyss but there is still a lot more work to do.

What, if anything, can the Legislature do about it?

The legislature can do a lot about this issue with bills focused around tax relief, energy policy and job growth.

Do you support limiting the number of bills that a legislator can submit during a session?
I’m new to the process here so I’m not sure if the number of bills need to be limited. I do know if someone has 30 bills they internalize those costs by trying to promote all of them and it would be a difficult job. If were still in session in July then I will probably say there should be a limit.

How important will bipartanship be during the upcoming session?

Cooperation is going to be everything with a very evenly divided legislature. I have libertarian leanings so I should be able to find common ground with the other side of the aisle.

 

We were only freshmen

Democrats in Maine and across the country took a drubbing during last week’s elections, but there were a few bright spots, including the city of Biddeford, where State Senator David Dutremble easily fended off a challenge by Republican James Booth; and where two political newcomers held their party’s seats in the Maine Legislature.

In fairness, it’s not especially hard for Democrats to win elections in Biddeford.

In the western part of the city, voters overwhelming chose Ryan Fecteau over Republican Debbie Davis to represent them in the House of Representatives, holding the seat that is currently occupied by Democrat Paulette Beaudoin, who was barred from running again by term limits.

And Democrat Martin Grohman easily won a three-way race in the central part of the city to hold onto the seat that is now held by Megan Rochelo.

Fecteau and Grohman will both be sworn into office in December, joining several other freshman legislators from both sides of the political aisle.

We asked Fecteau and Grohman to tell us about their priorities. The following are their un-edited e-mail responses.

Ryan Fecteau

Ryan Fecteau

Ryan Fecteau

What are your top three priorities heading into your freshman year?

1. Focusing on ways to encourage and support the return of young people to Maine and also retain those that are still living here/going to school here.
2. Pulling Maine out of nearly dead last (currently 49th) as it concerns homes heated by natural gas (only 4 percent of Maine households) – careful attention to seniors who are especially vulnerable of fluctuating energy costs.
3. Pushing to fund education at 55 percent as mandated by voters. Currently, the failure to meet this mandate pushes the burden to the hyper-local level: property tax payers.
What do you think is the most serious issue facing the state of Maine?
Losing young people and families to neighboring states. Thus losing a skilled work force (in turn deterring businesses from locating here), future entrepreneurs, innovators, and a means to expanding the tax base.
What can the Legislature do, if anything, about that issue? 
We must set ourselves from neighboring states by providing incentive to move to Maine. Whether it be a program to assist in paying off student loan debt or creating /funding incubators for the creation of start-ups, the programs must be aggressively advertised across the country. Young people are burdened by student loan debt, they are mobile, and they are looking for opportunities!
Would you favorably consider a bill that would limit the number of bills a legislator could introduce?
I am not sure. Have not experienced or heard of any troubles with the number of bills introduced. The length of the legislative session is obviously a tight window for presenting and passing legislation; it would seem understandable for there to be a density of legislation despite the number of legislators. More focused on legislation that will positively impact people.
How important is bipartisan cooperation going to be during the next session?
It will be critical. Folks did not cast votes on Tuesday for gridlock; they voted their frustrations. They want results. A do-nothing legislature, gridlocked by partisanship, will not deliver the results that people are looking for. We need legislative leadership from both parties who are willing to work together for the best interests of Mainers.

Martin Grohman

Marin Grohman

Marin Grohman

What are your top three priorities heading into your freshman year?

Probably just to do the best job I can to represent Biddeford well.  Residents are interested in property tax relief, road and bridge infrastructure, and education.  And of course I’m a business guy – I want to see businesses grow, careers grow.

What do you think is the most serious issue facing the state of Maine?
I’m really interested in expanding access to health care.  Let’s think about a hypothetical parent, a single parent, mother of four, let’s call her Linda Smith.  Now if we cut her off of health care, you might think we’ve saved the State money.  But if she shows up at the ER, one of her kids shows up at the ER, we’re all going to pay for that one way or the other.  And in a world of epidemics and communicable viruses like Ebola, I don’t think having sick people without access to health care is going to work.  Plus, denying access to health care for ideological reasons just doesn’t make business sense to me – as I said, I’m a business guy.  Anyone in the health care business will tell you getting ahead of the problem saves money.
What can the Legislature do, if anything, about that issue? 
Man, I have no idea!
Would you favorably consider a bill that would limit the number of bills a legislator could introduce?
Probably not – I’d have to study it.  I think coming up with rules and regulations in reaction to a single case or a moment in time tends to cause problems.  But I’m willing to listen.
How important is bipartisan cooperation going to be during the next session?
Look, I’m new.  I’m a rookie.  I’ve served on a lot of boards, done some fairly high level stuff, national, international.  But I’ll have to learn the ropes.  That said, I kind of doubt I’ll just cast every vote along party lines, and hopefully my colleagues will value my viewpoint as I value theirs.

Your Prediction?

Ryan Fecteau

Ryan Fecteau

Which candidate do you think will win the Democratic Party’s nomination for Biddeford’s Dist. 11 Maine House seat?

David Flood

David Flood

Two for the show

Ryan Fecteau

Ryan Fecteau

Of the 151 seats in the Maine House of Representatives, only 19 of them will offer a primary option for voters on June 10.

One of those 19 Primary Election challenges is taking place right here in Biddeford, and I know both of the Democrats who are battling for their party’s favor.

Of course, since this is Biddeford, a city that consistently sends a Democrat to Augusta, at least in this central district, whichever candidate wins on June 10 will most likely be able to coast comfortably onward to Freshman Orientation Day at the Statehouse.

This evening (May 22) Ryan Fecteau and David Flood will participate in a televised debate that will be held in the Little Theater at Biddeford High School.

I will be live Tweeting from the event, but I encourage my fellow voters in Biddeford to attend and learn more about the candidates.

Expect Fecteau to lean toward progressive themes and talk about youth and new energy. Expect Flood to talk about his succesful business experience and moderate views.

Fecteau has been running a visible and strong ground game. It’s not yet clear where Flood’s campaign has been over the past few weeks.

David Flood

David Flood

Added Bonus: Former Mayor Joanne Twomey will be in attendance, rooting for Fecteau. Now, there’s a reason to vote for Flood!

 

Smoke on the water

Pot%20leaf_40Attitudes regarding marijuana have dramatically changed during the past two decades.

Those in favor of legalizing the drug are finding increasing support from an expanding constituency, including millenials who can now vote and health care providers who say the drug can benefit their patients.

Even retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens — not a likely Cheech & Chong fan — says it is time for marijuana to be legalized.

In an interview with Scott Simon on National Public Radio, the former justice said: “I really think that that’s another instance of public opinion [that’s] changed. And recognize that the distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction.”

Talk about a dramatic shift. In 1987,  after admitting that he once used marijuana, Supreme Court nominee Douglas Ginsburg was forced to back away from the nomination process.

And last year, voters in both Colorado and Washington defied federal law and legalized the use of marijuana as a controlled substance.

But the quest to legalize marijuana in all 50 states face an uphill battle, best evidenced by what has happened in the Maine Legislature.

In November The Legislative Council, a 10-member group of legislative leaders,  split on a proposal that would have sent a statewide referendum question to voters. Because the vote was tied, it failed and cannot be considered again until the next Legislature convenes in 2015.

It was the third time the Legislature has rejected proposals by State Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) to legalize marijuana. Russell could not be reached for comment.

But State Rep. Alan Casavant (D-Biddeford) said he is glad the proposal failed.

“I voted against it every time,” Casavant said.

Casavant, who spent more than 35 years teaching high school, said he experienced first hand the impact of marijuana on his students.

“Legalizing it would be nothing more than a continued erosion of our culture,” he said. “I have heard all the arguments for and against, and I can’t support it.”

Casavant also said the issue should not be debated on a state-by state basis. “For it to happen, we really need some guidance from the federal government. It’s a very complicated issue. Where do you draw the line on intoxication, for example?”

Casavant says he is sympathetic to those who need marijuana for medicinal reasons, but says the risks still outweigh the benefits, even when considering that marijuana could provide a bumper crop of new tax revenue.

“As the mayor of a city, as a legislator, I am very aware of how we need new sources of revenue that will not impact people who are already struggling to keep up, but despite those realities, I can’t support this. Not now.”

State Rep. Justin Chenette (D-Saco) said he is “evolving on the issue.” Chenette said he had initial apprehension about the issue when first approached for his support by Russell.

“Being a college student so recently, I have witnessed the rampant use of marijuana on campus,” Chenette said. “I am concerned about how young people will use it, but I also see the other side. I would be in favor of sending the question to referendum, but I have yet to formulate a strong opinion one way or the other. It’s something that warrants more study.”

Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford is hoping to be a member of the next legislature.

Fecteau, 21, says he generally supports the legalization of marijuana but does not want to see it included in the Maine Democratic Party’s platform because it could be wedge issue in a year when Maine Democrats need to be focused on bigger fish, including capturing the Blaine House.

“I think it should be treated the same as alcohol,” Fecteau said, adding that additional revenue from the state sale of marijuana could provide much-needed tax relief for seniors and revenue that could help fund critical programs.

With a little help from my friends

A few days ago, I posted a simple question on my Facebook page about the legalization of marijuana.

That informal survey drew more than 100 responses in 24 hours.

I was surprised by some of the responses. I was also fascinated to see that an almost even split of Republicans and Democrats were on each side of the issue.

Moreover, both men and women overwhelmingly support legalization (male approval led female approval by only a slight margin).

Women with children were equally split. Among male opponents, more than 75 percent are politically conservative, yet nearly 40 percent of male supporters are conservatives.

Here are a few charts to break it down for you:

weed2

 

women

 

men