July 11, 2013

Alan Caron: Summer in Maine is the time for appetizer-sized ideas

Let's save the great and pressing issues for later and ponder some small insights and questions.

As any Maine native knows, summer is about doing nothing, as quickly as possible, before time runs out. It's a time for tiny projects -- seldom done -- and limited ambitions. July and August seem to exist primarily for the purpose of helping us forget the miserable cold of winter.

While people in Mexico may enjoy siestas in the afternoons, we accumulate ours, throughout the year, to concentrate them all into the summer.

With that in mind, I'm determined to avoid the great and pressing issues of our times, in this column, until Labor Day. That includes not only our bandaged and limping economy, but also that guy in the governor's office.

Instead, I'm going to share with you small insights and questions that seem to arrive like hummingbirds whenever I'm gently swinging in the hammock or weeding the garden. I'll try to serve them all in bite-size pieces and single-scoop cones.

MAINERS ARE GOOD AT CHANGE

Conventional wisdom tells us that Mainers hate change, which is bad news for our economy if it's accurate. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Maine is the Kaleidoscope State, where everything is constantly changing.

While most places have four seasons, we have about 16. We have early, early middle, middle, late middle and late winter. Those are followed by a string of three-week speed dates called spring, summer and fall, during which things like fiddleheads, crabapple blossoms, tulips, lilacs, snap peas, pumpkins and falling leaves whiz by. Like the credits after a movie, if you blink you miss everything.

If Mainers hated change so much, we'd live in Hawaii, where the weather varies no more than 3 degrees year-round. We might not like change, but we're good at it.

WHY ARE THERE STILL PARTY PRIMARIES?

My wife just about never gets mad. It's not that she's holding things back as much as that she's burdened with an overabundance of understanding, which I've found often afflicts really lovable people.

So you'll imagine my surprise, a few weeks back, when she burst into fireworks over the Democratic Party's nonprimary for governor.

It's not that she has anything against Mike Michaud. Like most people in southern Maine, she doesn't know much about him, and she's looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

What offended her was that the Democratic Party apparatus celebrated Michaud as the nominee without even asking Democrats like her what they thought. "A party shouldn't do that," she said, sternly and more than once. And she's right.

Which raises these questions:

Why do taxpayers pay out a zillion dollars every two years so that private organizations like the Democratic and Republican parties can have primary elections to select their official candidates, when the party has already anointed them?

Why is it that we pay for those primaries with public money, collected from everyone, but then immediately disenfranchise the 40 percent of voters who choose not to register with a party?

Why don't we just have one big primary for everyone who wants to run and let the top two vote-getters square off in the fall, which would save us all from fringe candidates like LePage and guarantee a governor with broad support?

SOME SAD LOSSES FOR MAINE

If ever there was a devoted follower of the notion that you're only as old as you think you are, I'm it.

But no matter how young we believe we are, events have a way of regularly dragging us back to something closer to reality. Like injuries from things you always did without injury. And obituaries. When you're 30, you don't even notice obits, but they creep up on you as you get older.

We lost some wonderful people in Maine recently, two of them well-known, while the third was simply known well, to his friends. They were all energetic, talented and caring people who made a difference in Maine, in their own way.

Nan Sawyer was a force of nature in the Portland area and in so many organizations that helped make this a better place.

Jim Dowe, who headed the Bangor Savings Bank and later Maine Public Broadcasting, contributed in countless ways to the state.

Phil Murphy was a longtime member of my golf league in Freeport. He was a guy who always had a smile on his face, no matter how bad his swing was that day, with a big heart for everyone, and especially for his wife, Lucy.

I'm going to miss them all.

Alan Caron is president of Envision Maine, a nonprofit organization that promotes Maine's next economy, and a partner in the Caron & Egan Consulting Group. He can be contacted at:

alancaroninmaine@gmail.com

 

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