Every year it happens. Someone isn’t happy with the way state lawmakers handle a complex issue and it’s off to the ballot box (usually accompanied by signature gatherers who’ll say anything to get you to sign a petition). What we get are ballot questions that reduce the most complex issues to a yes or no vote based on campaign rhetoric instead of careful bipartisan consideration. It’s a prescription for bad things to happen, and a sure way to confirm that every complicated question has a simple answer that’s wrong.
Which brings us to the November 8th ballot here in Maine. Let’s take a quick walk through the six ballot questions and see what’s in store for us all.
At the end of June, we saw two notable transitions in our community: Neal Allen stepped down as the Director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, and Jennifer Hutchins left Creative Portland to take up the Executive Director’s position at the Maine Association of Non-Profits. There are always comings and goings in our community, but these two changes represent important transitions for our entire region.
Last week United Way of Greater Portland unveiled ten-year goals for Cumberland County, headlined Thrive 2027. I was lucky to have been a part of the Steering Committee that helped shape the goals, but the real input came from community conversations with over 2,000 area residents from every walk of life, every age and every part of the County. Aided by experts on education, financial stability and health our group was able to set out three ambitious goals:
New federal overtime rules will redistribute available labor payroll – with unintended consequences
Last week as I listened to the discussion unfold around the new federal overtime rules I was struck by the widespread misunderstanding of just how increasing labor costs impact the workplace. But before we get to that, a couple of quick notes.
I was reading the paper recently and saw this: Munjoy Hill group sues to stop affordable housing project. I wondered what was going on. You can read for yourself, but it seems some of the neighbors don’t like the Portland Planning Board’s conclusions, or process, regarding this project. As often happens in our region, when someone doesn’t get their way on a land use issue, they go to court and sue.
These days you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting two new national lists ranking Portland in the top 10 for something cool. And who’s complaining? It’s true that beer, dining and get away vacations are national news – and so are schools, startups and coolness itself. Here’s just a partial list of the lists that Portland Maine is showing up on: A list of lists praising Portland.
So no troubles, right? Well… kinda. Here’s something that worries me, and ought to worry all of us:
It’s a curious thing that no one is making a detailed, specific case for growth in the Portland region.
Sure there are a lot of general statements supporting the creation and maintenance of good jobs. Folks easily acknowledge the need for more housing in the region. Many people see the need for a more robust regional transit system. And the drumbeat is constant around our workforce shortage.
In additional to any bonds that the legislature passes it looks like we’ll have four opportunities to legislate at the polls this November. That’s right – if you vote, you get to be a Maine lawmaker. So you need to know what’s what, and a great place to start studying up is a visit to the Secretary of State’s webpage detailing all four citizen initiated bills. But for those of you who want the quick download, here we go:
Here’s how a breakdown in the legislative process comes home to roost.
It’s been hard watching the partisan antics at the state house; sometimes it’s even been painful to watch as our state legislature sinks into dysfunction. The lack of compromise in Augusta has become the norm. National trends have crept into Maine, making politics into a gladiator sport instead of a way to work out differing views. And increasingly the inability of legislators and the Governor to find common ground on hard issues has left us with municipalities trying to deal with statewide issues, and frustrated voters turning to ballot questions for answers that the legislative process no longer provides.
On March 3rd the Portland Community Chamber of Commerce hosts Janine Cary, CEO of the Maine International Trade Center, at Eggs & Issues. Her topic is “Maine Goes Global.”
It’s such an inviting phrase … so many aspects to the thought. I like it because it encompasses many of the opportunities we have as a community to become more than what we are, without losing what we love.
In addition to Janine’s talk, here are several ways I’d like to see Maine going global over the next few years: