Does Gov. LePage believe Maine can pollute its way to prosperity?

If he succeeds in transforming Maine’s reputation into a haven for polluting industries, then who will want to buy Maine seafood or drink Poland Spring water? Who will want to drive their snowmobiles in a landscape “protected” by developers?

Those that remember the state of the Androscoggin River before the Clean Water Act can appreciate that not all business interests are sacred and not all environmental regulations are an unnecessary burden.

Maurice Dubreuil
Portland

During his campaign, Gov. Le- Page promised to put “people before politics,” but his first set of red tape reforms shows his slogan should have been “profits before people.”

Most distressing is the proposal to eliminate the Informed Growth Act. The act requires business wishing to open a facility of 75,000 square feet to do a community impact study.

That would mean if Walmart wanted to move into your community, you would be informed of what it meant. Removing this act would allow the “big boxes” to build in our communities without the people having a say.

There are many articles about how the development of big boxes guts the downtowns of communities. Often the welfare rolls increase because the big boxes do not pay a living wage, and in the end there is a net job loss in the communities.

The hardware stores, kitchen appliance retailers and others are driven out of business. The only small businesses that survive are the small boutique stores selling items whose markets are too small for the big boxes to give shelf space to.

While these boutique businesses should be encouraged, they often operate on very slim margins, cannot hire a staff like a hardware store does, and are very sensitive to the economy.

The Informed Growth Act protects the business environment for Mainers and allows us to advance the American dream. Gutting the act will make the Maine business environment the plaything of Wall Street, to take the profits out of Maine and leave nothing for Mainers except low-wage jobs.

Gov. LePage seems to think that too-big-to-fail Wall Street should determine what development is to happen in our communities. Keep the Informed Growth Act and make true the slogan: Maine, the way life should be.

Charles Galemmo
North Berwick

 

As your readers are well aware, the governor’s so-called “regulatory reform proposals” comprise 63 separate actions that together would reduce air-quality standards, destroy wildlife habitat, allow more pollution and toxic chemicals and encourage sprawl to an extent never before seen in Maine.

In addition, this package directs Maine to weaken its environmental safeguards to the lowest federally acceptable level. Specifics include mandating that at least 3 million acres of Maine’s North Woods be zoned for development; repealing laws restricting the use of toxic chemicals in consumer products; rolling back a law that reduces sulphur dioxide pollution; eliminating our Kid-Safe Products Act; our ban on the use of toxic bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles, water bottles and sippy cups; and our product stewardship laws; abolishing the Maine Board of Environmental Protection; weakening science-based requirements for permits; and eliminating basic fish passage requirements.

In other words, after years of setting an example on environmental issues, Maine is now committed to adopting the lowest standards permitted under federal law.

Though I did not myself vote for Gov. LePage, I do not have the impression that those who did endorse this wholesale dismantlement of our state’s environmental protections.

John Bernard
South Portland

Be careful what you wish for, Gov. LePage, as you and the attorney general join the lawsuit to have the recent medical care reform bill declared unconstitutional. This warning is based on three observations:

1. Our current medical system consumes 17 percent of our country’s Gross National Product. Most economists agree that will increase by 2 percent to 3 percent annually without reform. Imperfect as it is, the new bill, at least, states a need to address this fact with demonstration models. Without change, our system will face future financial collapse.

2. An important principle of health insurance is that within the insured group there needs to be a proportion of premium-paying healthy people in order to supply a pool of funds large enough to pay for those within the group who need payment for care. Adhering to this principle lowers the premium cost for all.

Currently, the majority of healthy young people elect to not pay for health insurance coverage, thinking that they can get insurance during a time of illness. This behavior results in a disproportionately large health care cost per insured individual and, therefore, unaffordable premium cost.

3. The unintended consequence that would be most upsetting to the governor may be the increased likelihood of the single payer provision discussed and dispensed with early in the health-care debate. Without the “individual mandate” and with a health care system facing collapse, such a solution with its necessary heavy regulation may be the only reasonable and “passable” option left.

Politicians (all of whom have taxpayer-provided health insurance) need to think beyond their noses and their parties, have empathy for the desperation of the uninsured, and understand that our current health care system is at great risk and needs fundamental changes. Change the act to make it better; do not repeal it.

David Scotton, M.D.
Cape Elizabeth

 

I read with incredulity the many letters through which the writers expressed surprise and/or dismay regarding the new governor’s relaxed (if not irresponsible) stance on environmental issues versus big business.

I believe his campaign clearly revealed his priority of business over the environment, and that is why he neither got my vote nor has my support. Talk of creating a more business-friendly environment in Maine surely leaves the state’s inherent natural beauty vulnerable to irreversible destruction.

I can only hope that through democratic civility an entity capable of effective environmental protection will surface. Queried the man on the outside looking in, “Isn’t that the purpose of the already instituted EPA?”

We can only take a wait-and-see approach. And, thusly, I bid a sad farewell to the retiring Brownie Carson.

Kevin Douglas
Fryeburg

I taped a couple of episodes of Inside Maine Healthcare recently (www.insidemainehealthcare.tv if you’re interested) and had an opportunity to interview Attorney General William Schneider regarding the Florida ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

I also discussed the cost pressures resulting in public contract disputes, such as are currently playing out with Anthem and Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire and as played out with Anthem and Maine Coast Memorial a couple years ago, with the president and vice president of provider contracting from Anthem and the chief medical officer from Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems.

First you hear that Anthem is finding cost trumping access as the main concern from employers and policy holders, on whose behalf they are ultimately negotiating. Then you hear from the hospitals that their revenue structure is dependent upon their ability to shift costs to employers to cover losses from treating Medicaid, Medicare and uninsured patients that all represent a cost burden to the hospitals.

I am struck by the fact that whether the health care reform law is ultimately struck down or not, left unsolved is the cost of health care. My hope is that we don’t allow complacency to creep back in. Health reform has at a minimum elevated the recognition that we have a problem that needs solving.

The cost structure of our health care system, how we pay for services and the large percentage of patients accessing care at a loss for providers represent fundamental problems that need to be solved. Until that happens, the door will remain wide open for government to attempt to create solutions.

Put succinctly, if we don’t address our health care challenges locally, someone will ultimately solve it for us, whether we like it or not.

Joel Allumbaugh
Gardiner

We were deeply troubled when we read recently about the memo from Gov. LePage’s spokesman outlining a plan to misuse his authority and misappropriate taxpayer funds to help Republicans get re-elected.

We recently relocated to Maine from Pennsylvania, where we both were employed with state and federal governments, serving state senators and a congressman. In those capacities we would never have taken any steps that violated our delegated authority to serve and resolve problems in the interests of all constituents.

Such seriously vexing violations of ethical norms would have appalled us. Our employers’ duties to the districts represented were sacrosanct.

The intended politicization of the governor’s office by a staffer is more than just troubling. It implicates the highest principles of the moral governance required of any elected official.

Anne Vaughan and Niles Schore
Berwick

Frances Maheux and Mark Ferguson recently wrote letters in support of Gov. LePage for remarks he made about the NAACP and about his linguistic style, but neither person dealt directly with those important blunders, but rather took the road most traveled by: classism (“working guys,” “suits and ties”‘) and a slam at educated people: read “from away.”

If LePage intends to encourage businesses from away to come to Maine to provide jobs, then these attitudes are counterproductive. Who would want to risk money and reputation in a state that resents and ridicules educated people (“with fancy educations”) from outside of Maine?

And LePage’s manner of speech does matter, not to flaunt his education or intelligence, but to let the outside world know that here is a man with important ideas who cares enough to communicate them effectively; there are standards.

Language matters, especially in business activity. The old red herrings of “from away” and “fancy educations” (read: universities with high standards outside of Maine) are not inviting to those who may improve our economy. And there “are more of us than of you” merely exacerbates conflict; more does not mean better, it just means more.

How sad to be reduced to such schoolyard nonsense. Let’s be more civil, and describe the way life should be, not necessarily the way some readers seem to want it.

Mel Howards
Buxton

I read with absolute shock the letter from Nancy Kelleher, AARP Maine, that was recently published. Let me see if I have this right. She is annoyed that Maine is joining 26 other states (please note it’s the majority of states in this one suit, and there was another suit, too, from Virginia) trying to stop Obamacare because she feels that this government boondoggle takeover of one-sixth of our economy is good for us!

Is this the same AARP that insisted on obtaining a waiver so that all of its people could be exempt from Obamacare? Boy, it’s so good they want no part of it. People with clout get excused while we are expected to suffer under this monstrosity.

As a small-business owner here in Maine, I can attest that this 2,700-page intrusion into my life and business is going to cause me harm in multiple ways.

It forces new regulations on businesses that are all but impossible to adhere to, and it imposes costs that we are unable to bear. I guess that’s why the AARP won’t be forced to put up with Obamacare — at their urging.

Coleen Balogh
Poland

As I have read the paper each day, I have frantically searched for the article introducing Maine’s new commissioner of education, only to read that one prospective nominee’s name must still be vetted by the State Board of Education.

Our governor has already made numerous appointments to his Cabinet, but the announcement of a new commissioner of education seems very tardy considering the importance of this critical position to educate Maine’s students and our local budgets.

The tension between Mr. LePage’s campaign promises regarding educational reform and the reality of local educational agencies’ budget woes is leaving educators and parents around the state pondering the future of education in our local educational agencies. What will this collision of philosophies mean for Maine’s children and learning in the 21st century?

Do other applicants fear this job will parallel the governor’s short-sighted decision to shift the deregulation of environmental polices in the interest of jobs? I believe few people want this job because the governor’s educational policies are deeply counter to the needs of Maine students and learning.

I am truly afraid. Many feel the Department of Education was already suspect in serving the needs of Maine students and their local school departments. Has our new governor found someone who is willing to institute some of the radical changes he has proposed for educational reform?

Perhaps the governor needs to visit more schools and school districts to understand the true complexity of our issues and challenges, before making snap judgments about reforming the state of education in Maine.

My hope is that Mainers come out in force to shape and promote educational policy that is realistic and supports the education of children in the state of Maine.

I would be happy to interview for this position, but only if the governor is truly willing to listen to the needs of our students and school communities.

David S. Foster
York

The first act of our newly appointed attorney general was to link Maine in a lawsuit with other Republican-led states in trying to get at least a portion of the national health care bill declared unconstitutional.

In 2008, Maine voters voted for Barack Obama for president. In our latest election, Maine voters split their votes amongst two moderate to liberal candidates for governor, resulting in a minority candidate winning the election.

I don’t know how Maine voters feel about the health care bill, but Maine’s median household income is about $54,000 a year and the cost of health care in Maine for a family of four is approaching $16,000, nearly a third of their income.

My question is how does the state attorney general, who got his post from the Legislature, get the authority to spend funds in a lawsuit that challenges a health care bill without voter approval? Shouldn’t the Legislature itself, our elected representatives, with an opportunity for public input, be making that decision?

This isn’t a dictatorship for our new governor and other state officials. The issue is and remains contentious, but the citizens of Maine also have a lot at stake in this issue as well, especially as we are a poorer state with higher than typical health insurance premiums.

So I guess I’m left to wonder, shouldn’t we do this as a democracy, representatives vote for approval or disapproval, authorize the spending, hear from the people, all that sort of thing?

And if the attorney general is going to have so much power, I’m also hoping he doesn’t decide to, say, secede from America. I kind of like being an American, with our democratic form of government.

John Schwartz
Freeport

In the wake of the tragic display of violence in Tucson, Ariz., President Obama issued a call for a new level of civility in our public discourse.

Most Americans agree that the rhetoric that fills the media too often is filled with vulgarity and a boorish disrespect for the values and voices of others.

The people of Maine, and particularly its elected officials, have long enjoyed a national reputation for integrity, fairness and decency. Recently, I read a profile of Maine’s new governor, Paul LePage.

I was sincerely taken by the story of the hardship he endured as a child and the many obstacles he had to overcome on his way to becoming a success in business and politics.

That a person can start from the most trying of circumstances and become the governor of Maine is testament to the exceptionalism that characterizes our great nation.

I felt a sense of pride in Gov. LePage’s personal realization of the American dream. Regrettably, that pride diminished when I read the manner in which he contemptuously dismissed the NAACP as just another “special interest” unworthy of his time or attention.

The governor’s characterization of the NAACP reflects a surprising lack of understanding of the role the organization continues to play in securing the inalienable rights promised to all Americans, regardless of their race, religion or economic circumstances.

In asking that a measure of respect be paid to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who gave his life promoting the very rights and opportunities that allowed Gov. LePage to rise to his current position, the NAACP was not seeking to tap into the state’s treasury, just the governor’s humanity.

Bill Wilkinson
Cape Elizabeth

Gov. LePage has spent months listening to special interest groups and now proposes a broad rollback of environmental laws?

If he gets his way, our water and air will become far less clean and healthy, affecting our health and increasing health care spending (yes, maybe he’ll actually create more health care jobs).

But as a retiree who recently moved to Maine, I came here for the natural beauty and the shared respect for natural resources. I’d have moved to Texas or China if I wanted to see the effects of lax environmental standards.

As a retiree, I think I have helped to create jobs in Maine and have been happy to put money into the local economy. I bought a car from a dealer in Portland, we have hired plumbers and carpenters and electricians to upgrade an older cottage. We’ve purchased furniture in some of Portland’s great shops and we spend too much to count in restaurants, grocery stores, fish markets, vegetable stands and the like.

When friends and relatives come to visit, it’s our trips to Freeport and Kittery that pour more money into this state.

We don’t have to live here, we chose to live here. If we become the state where the agenda and laws are determined by special business interests, and not by the public good, we may leave Maine — and many others will not come.

Paul Hogan
Kennebunkport

If you were the CEO of Marden’s and needed a strong business development professional with a proven track record of success (to ensure the company’s viability in the years ahead), would you hire a candidate with zero experience in business development?

Of course not. That is why Philip Congdon’s nomination to become commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development should be of deep concern to all Mainers.

By his own admission, Congdon has zero experience in economic development, but he did acknowledge that he has known Gov. LePage for about six months after they met at a conservative political event.

The people of Maine, particularly the younger generation struggling to get by in Maine’s anemic economy, deserve a more rigorous approach to identifying and hiring the most capable, experienced candidates for critical statewide positions. Our future depends on what we do today.

Phil Coupe
Cape Elizabeth

Don’t even get me started on what an embarrassment Gov. LePage is. I am exhausted on the topic. I have Facebooked my opinion to death. I am tapped out.

And as I lay awake at 3 a.m. recently, listening to the plow in my driveway, I thought, “You know who I am really kind of angry with? Eliot Cutler and Libby Mitchell.”

I voted for one of them. Which one, it doesn’t matter. (OK, it was Cutler.) At some point it was obvious that LePage had a large enough percentage of the votes, that all opposing votes would be split and weakened.

Clearly the majority of the voters did not want LePage, but those voters were divided primarily between two people. So why didn’t Cutler and Mitchell have some secret meeting and agree to have one of them bow out?

Why did they have to keep going to the bitter end? And here we are at a very, very bitter end. I think it is the responsibility of the people running for office to have everyone’s best interests in mind.

And I am disappointed that the race to win seems to have overshadowed what was at stake: having someone like LePage actually be able to win.

I sort of admire LePage for running. And I think his lack of education and humble beginnings could have been as asset had they been paired with a sense of community, compassion, and an eagerness and openness to learn about things he was not familiar or comfortable with.

If he calls the NAACP a special interest group, he doesn’t get it. If he thinks his recent language is acceptable, he doesn’t get it. It doesn’t take an Ivy League diploma to demonstrate class and dignity. But it obviously does take something he simply doesn’t have. It’s going to be a long four years.

Kate Halpert Lowry
Falmouth

I would like to thank your paper for your fair and insightful posture regarding Gov. LePage. I moved to Maine for a variety of reasons, which included experiencing a life-altering medical problem.

Because of Maine’s generosity, I was able to obtain much-needed surgery that has greatly improved my life. I am still actively seeking employment to hopefully one day become financially self-sufficient. I am very grateful to the state of Maine for keeping me warm and comfortable.

Another reason for my admiration for Maine was its clear understanding of just how dangerous global warming could be. This has been reinforced by Maine’s measures to rein in the reckless disregard for our environment by regulating business growth. Again, kudos to your great publication!

Joycelyn Johnson
Portland