On Tuesday, Nov. 2, all voters who didn’t do absentee ballots will be asked to weigh in on three ballot measures. Many of the business leaders I speak with have been stretched thin, and don’t even know what all three questions on the ballot will be. Our Executive Team has created a position stance on the much-debated Question 1, but before we dive into that, I feel I have a responsibility to inform you on what I know about Question 2 and Question 3.

To be clear, the Executive Team of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber has only taken a stance on Question 1, but I personally feel an obligation to share what I know of Question 2 and Question 3. So here is a brief synopsis of those questions, from my personal perspective, for whatever that may be worth, followed by our chamber’s Question 1 stance.

Question 2 reads as: “Do you favor a $100,000,000 bond issue to build or improve roads, bridges, railroads, airports, transit facilities and ports and make other transportation investments, to be used to leverage an estimated $253,000,000 in federal and other funds?” In short, Mainers pass bond issues rather reflexively, with 80 of 83 (96.4%) having passed since 1995.

By approving this we’re authorizing the state to borrow $100M to be repaid over the next 10 years with interest, which is large commitment. Where this leverages $253 million in additional federal funds, and with the statewide need for transportation infrastructure upgrades, I expect this will pass, but the size of the investment is substantial, albeit much needed.

Question 3 reads as: “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being?” According to Ballotpedia (a shockingly great source for ballot measures) this question is opposed by Animal Rights Maine, Maine Municipal Association, Maine Farm Bureau and the Maine Veterinarian Medical Association, among other similar groups.

That opposition was surprising to me initially, but once I read their dissenting statements it made sense why they were. Essentially, a constitutional right trumps all, including potentially zoning, and there’s legitimate concern on whether this proposed right would allow chicken coops in apartment buildings, or cows in the courtyard. If it’s an “unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their choosing” that presumably includes everything from a garden, up to an animal processing facility in residences. Therefore, if you’re voting yes on Question 3 you’re allowing for every interpretation of this broadly written proposed amendment and a no vote does not put that right into the Maine Constitution.

Finally, our stance on Question 1, as adopted by the Executive Team of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber. Our full stance is now living on our website at www.midcoastmaine.com and will be e-mailed to our membership on Wednesday morning. The full stance is far too many words to fit into this column, and that’s because our team addresses many of the issues that have been brought forth by the two sides in this question.

I’ve selected some excerpts of our stance below including:

“Before we dive into our stance, it needs to be mentioned that this citizen’s initiative has been one of the most expensive, polarizing and frankly misleading campaigns in Maine’s history. The inciteful rhetoric used, and the intentional insinuations of untoward antics that some political action committees on each side have used to try and deceive voters to manipulate their votes, is disgusting. What have we come to when political action committees think so little of our intellect that they choose to reduce major policy issues into a battle of which side can outrage their supporters more with inflammatory accusations? This very complex issue deserved better, in our eyes, than to be reduced to lowest common denominator mudslinging. We hope future referendums don’t devolve into similar rock fights and that we can go back to discussing the merits of these major issues without these unnecessary histrionics.”

“After weighing each side of this issue, our SMMC Executive Committee believes that although both sides have considerable merit, that the benefits of the project outweigh the costs of the project and recommend, like the Governor’s office, and the editorial boards of the Portland Press Herald, Bangor Daily News, and Sun Journal, to support a position of No on 1.”

“The bottom line for us is this:

Any major clean energy project will require new infrastructure and will have some impact on the existing environment. It’s hard to imagine any future proposal being less intrusive than this project which has 2/3s of it being built on their own land beside existing power lines, and the remaining 1/3 running through commercial logging lands. This new section of the line, being no wider than the length of a baseline on a little league field, runs through the unorganized territories. Meaning, we’re not rehoming people, running it through parks, through school yards or anywhere that many people live, while also permanently conserving 40,000 acres of Maine forest to offset the impact of the 964 acres of new land being used- a 40:1 ratio.

Additionally, Maine gets $258M in incentives including $140M in discounted rate relief alone, while also each municipality along the project route getting the increased tax revenues of CMP building new poles and wires on their existing land. Add to that the jobs the construction has created for Mainers, the secondary economic impacts of those working on the project grabbing lunches and hotel rooms to be near the project site, and the greenhouse gas reduction equivalent to taking 700,000 vehicles off the road, and our team can conclude that in our estimation the benefits outweigh the costs for this project.

For those reasons, our SMMC Executive Team is recommending a stance of No On 1 this November 2.”

Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber. 

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: