Thursday, April 24, 2014
Dear Governor LePage,
Maine Gov. Paul LePage
Ever hear of Tatiana?
She was the Siberian tiger at the San Francisco Zoo who flipped out a few years back, allegedly after three young men thought it would be fun to stand at the edge of her enclosure and see if they could rile her up a bit.
It worked: Tatiana clawed her way up over the concrete wall and, by the time it was over, one of the guys was dead, the two others were seriously injured and Tatiana was ... well, let's just say that poor San Francisco police officer had no choice but to pull out his service revolver and put a stop to the whole sorry rampage.
All of which brings us to your meeting last week with the three independent members of the Maine House of Representatives -- Ben Chipman of Portland, Joe Brooks of Winterport and Jeff Evangelos of Friendship.
I hear the sit-down was only a minute or two old before you threw your hands up over your head, slammed them down onto the big wooden table, called your guests "idiots" and stalked out of the Cabinet Room, banging the door closed behind you.
I'm also told that you returned a short time later and proceeded to scream and swear at the stunned lawmakers for upward of a half-hour before you all went your separate ways.
First, let's all give thanks no one was hurt, huh Governor?
And second, while many in Augusta and beyond are once again pointing the finger at you, Big Guy, I can only wonder: What in the name of "Animal Planet" were those guys thinking?
Now I have no problem whatsoever with these unenrolled lawmakers -- an almost invisible breed known for their complete lack of political coloration -- wanting to get an up-close look at you. (Back when I was a kid, a caged bear near my grandparents' camp in northern Wisconsin evoked the same kind of curiosity.)
Nor did it surprise me that the Thrill Seekers Three wanted to talk about that budget of yours.
But then I read what these troublemakers said to you, Governor.
How they brazenly suggested that you reconsider some of your more draconian spending cuts and at least consider balancing the budget, in part, with more tax revenue.
That's when I asked myself, "Are these guys out of their freaking minds? Is this kind of wanton cruelty -- uttering the forbidden words 'raise taxes' just so they can watch the Growling Guv go ballistic -- their twisted idea of a joke?"
I've known Joe Brooks for years, Governor -- he's an old newspaper buddy who's always exhibited what I thought was a wonderful sense of humor. But, alas, I now can see his quest for a good chuckle has taken him too far.
I can only imagine your rage when these three hooligans -- your invited guests, no less -- suggested that your $200 million-plus in cuts to municipal revenue sharing might not hold up.
And that all your talk about double-dipping school superintendents is pure hypocrisy since your own finance commissioner, Sawin Millett, collects a state salary and a state pension just like those feather-nesting superintendents.
And that Maine's 7 percent lodging tax -- a full 3 percentage points below the New England average -- can withstand an upward nudge without endangering our annual tourist migration.
I'm closing my eyes and picturing Ben Chipman, edging away from the table as he tossed that last one at your paws, fully aware that in your natural, far-right habitat, the word "taxes" triggers the same predatory reflex as an absent-minded antelope.
Chipman's lucky you didn't go for his throat, right Governor?
And how about the nerve of that Jeff Evangelos, telling you to "get your own house in order" on the double-dipping thing. Reminds me of an article I once read about a zoo in China where visitors rent a pole with a live chicken attached and dangle it over the tiger's den until ... you get the picture.
Now I'm no expert on zoos, Governor, but I think I understand why you reacted the way you did to that trio of ne'er-do-wells.
You are, after all, a beast confined. An exceedingly rare political specimen who thrives atop the democratic (easy there, Big Guy, that's a small "d") food chain, while chafing at the social niceties and sense of decorum we Mainers normally associate with our chief executive.
Who can blame you for getting all primal on us when, confined as you are in that cramped corner of the State House, someone suddenly gets in your face? (And where, by the way, is PETA when we need them?)
Truth be told, Governor, I'm frightened -- not just of you, but for you. My gut tells me that if the independents get your dander up so easily, a wayward pack of Democrats who wander too close to your office will be dead meat before the Legislature even knows it lacks a quorum.
So, in the interest of peaceful coexistence, I doubled back on the San Francisco Zoo to see what they did after their Tatiana tragedy. Turns out they've come up with all kinds of precautions -- the electrified perimeter fence sounds like a particularly good fit -- that just might work in your neck of the jungle.
The zoo also has installed a sign that, if tweaked a little and placed in the Hall of Flags just outside your office, would speak volumes.
"The magnificent animals in the Zoo ... are sensitive and have feelings," it cautions. "PLEASE don't tap on glass, cross barriers, throw anything into exhibits, make excessive noise, tease or call out to them."
(Or, to save money on lettering, you could pare it down to "Welcome to the Maine Maul.")
As for me, Governor, I simply can't stand to see you treated like this anymore. And as luck would have it, I just thought of a way to make your remaining two years in captivity more humane for you and a lot less terrifying for us.
One quick question: How do you like your chicken?
Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at: