LEPAGE OWNS ALEXANDER FAILURE

Gov. LePage says he’s “gravely concerned” about apparent plagiarism by high-priced consultant Gary Alexander and promises to get to the bottom of these charges.

But when he gets to the bottom, he shouldn’t be surprised to find himself.

Alexander got the $925,000 contract without having to go through a competitive bidding process after the governor heard him speak. LePage’s handpicked welfare expert has been responsible for shoddy work before and has submitted an earlier report with serious computation errors and politically biased analysis.

But he wasn’t really hired for a “study.” The state was looking for a political bludgeon, not original thought.

The governor is not an innocent bystander here, and shifting the blame shouldn’t work: LePage and Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew are personally responsible for awarding this extravagant no-bid contract, so they have to accept responsibility for this enormous failure of judgment now that it has blown up in their faces.

FERRY ENVY

The new ferry between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, has inspired what sounds like a classic good news/bad news joke.

The good news is that Portland businesses are getting lots of work supplying the ship for its daily voyage.

The bad news, at least in Canada, is that Portland businesses are getting lots of work supplying the ship for its daily voyage.

Considering that it’s the government of Nova Scotia that’s subsidizing the ferry service and not the government of Maine, the distribution of the support work seems somewhat unfair.

But it’s not as unfair as it looks. Portland has the infrastructure and experienced vendors to fuel and provision the ferry during brief stops in its very tight sailing session.

And the real benefits for Yarmouth will arrive in the summer, when American tourists, who boarded in Portland, disembark for their Nova Scotia vacation. 

RIGHT CALL ON ASYLUM

Attorney General Janet Mills gets credit for doing the right thing, even if she didn’t do it for exactly the right reason.

Mills issued a finding that Gov. LePage’s plan to refuse General Assistance to asylum-seeking immigrants violated the state constitution, because it placed an unfunded mandate on cities and towns. Requiring a municipal official to verify an applicant’s immigration status uses resources, she reasoned, and that can’t be done without the state picking up at least 90 percent of the cost.

That’s the right outcome, and it may make sense legally, but it’s too bad the attorney general couldn’t shoot down the rule by saying it’s mean-spirited and counterproductive and has no benefit as a welfare reform plan.

Asylum seekers are people who flee persecution in their home countries and who are applying for refugee status, and have to wait 150 days for their application to be processed.

During that time, they don’t have permission to work and are not eligible for federal government assistance to help pay for food and housing. Denying them General Assistance hurts them needlessly, and just puts pressure on homeless shelters and soup kitchens while people wait for the government to decide their cases.

It’s good that Mills could tell the governor that his proposed rules violate the constitution, but it’s too bad she couldn’t tell him that they violate commons sense and common decency as well.

ENCOURAGING SIGN

Is the Great Recession finally over? Development in downtown Portland suggests it might finally be.

Two new hotels opened their doors this week. The Hyatt Place on Fore Street and the Courtyard Marriott on Commercial Street will add 257 rooms to a quickly expanding lodging scene in Maine’s biggest city.

Other hotel projects are in development, as are high-end condominium and market-rate apartments that will keep this building boom on track.

As it continues, however, the challenge for policymakers is how to keep neighborhoods affordable for the longtime residents and young newcomers who give the city its character and vitality. Ultimately, that’s what’s going to keep all these hotel rooms occupied.