Do you have the same urge to cringe every time the phone rings these days? Between the artificially cheery college students trying to make a connection with a codgerly alum from 40 years ago and get said alum to pony up an additional donation to the college they can barely remember, and the drone-voiced person who insists the survey they want you to complete over the phone has nothing to do with politics, it’s almost worth disconnecting the blasted thing.
Last I heard, this off-year election was costing better than three billion. That’s sixty million per state. What if we took that money and did something useful with it. At $30,000 per inpatient stay, we could treat 500 addicts and alcoholics per year (15 million) and probably keep a third of them out of the criminal justice system for a fair amount of time, netting some sort of return. If we invested the remainder in two and four year college scholarships and required the recipients to stay in-state for a corresponding number of years after graduation, we might actually create some of that work force everyone agrees we don’t have and desperately need. (at an average cost of 15,000 per year, we could fund 3000 years of scholarships with the remaining 45 million).
Instead we’re getting our airwaves filled with nastiness and our mailboxes with political filth. If you look dispassionately at the people running for the top offices, they’re not very sexy in terms of fresh and innovative ideas IMHO. While it’s late in the game, I can’t resist putting my alternative candidacy out there for those hungry for a real choice.
Let’s start with disclosures. These days you can’t burp in a cave without someone noticing, so it’s best to come clean right from the git-go. I used to be the person everyone’s mother warned them about. I lied, stole, terrorized and was scary as hell when I got behind the wheel. My language was terrible and when I was a kid, I hated to brush my teeth (dentists have been thanking me ever since) I drank too much, used more drugs than ten medicare recipients combined and sold my conscience in Uncle Henrys for $25.00. I’m sober, drive carefully and am boringly honest these days, although my teeth will never grace a TV ad. If you can wrap your head around that, then vote for me. If you can’t, no hard feelings, but at least I’ve saved the muckrakers a lot of wasted time digging into my past.
Now for the planks in my platform.
#1-Legalize marijuana. Moral issues never work well when government is involved. Heck, half of Somerset County grows it already, so why not give them more incentive to earn a decent living. It beats the heck out of getting 34 hours at minimum wage in a big box store every week with no benefits. We’ll tax the heck out of it and use every cent to fund substance abuse treatment. The minute ANY legislator tries to shift a dime, we flog them on live TV, no exceptions.
#2-Are you as tired of bond issues as I am? It seems that every other year, we’re promised that going into hock for another twenty million is going to create gazillions of jobs. Has it ever happened? How many of the jobs promised ten years ago are still there? Thought so. This may seem like a completely unrelated question, but have you tried to get a plumber or an electrician on short notice recently? How about a furnace repairman? Every one I’ve talked to in the last few years had had the same lament. Kids aren’t going into the trades any more, and if they do, they go to work for big companies of leave the state. How about we take a lesson from the middle ages and try a modified guild approach? There are kids in almost every town who are naturally adept at things like plumbing, auto repair and electrical wiring. Many don’t think about going on to school or just plain can’t afford it. Why not pass a bond issue that will pay for them to apprentice with local, close to retirement people in these trades. When the mentor is satisfied the young person knows their stuff, money from the bond goes into a no-interest loan so the younger person can buy out the retiring skilled person and their shop so they can go right to work. In return, they sign an agreement to remain in the area for a ten year period, and the loan is held in abeyance until the ten years is up. If they fulfill the commitment, the loan is wiped out.
#3-If you’ve followed what the UMO research folks can do when they’re turned loose, you know how awesome the Bridge in a Backpack is and that they’re getting some pretty interesting results with their wood composite research. Let’s give them enough money so they can do some ‘star wars’ kinds of product research. Think how cool it would be if they were able to take the ‘you can’t kill me’ gene from poplars and get it to work in pine, spruce and hemlock. Instead of a giant stump left behind to rot, three or four new evergreens pop up the year after the original tree was cut. Next, we get them to grow a successful hybrid using blueberries and Macintosh apples. We know how popular blueberries have become, thanks to their antioxidant properties. Suppose you could harvest ones that were three inches in diameter.
#4-Look around most towns and cities in Maine. There are still plenty of buildings and factories that are unused and will eventually fall down. If you’ve seen what has been done with some of them in terms of retrofitting them (like the Cotton Mill Apartments in Hallowell), many can be turned into pretty decent housing. We have an underutilized resource in our older citizens, many of whom have raised children quite successfully. Plenty of them are having trouble making ends meet. We also have a terrible problem with twenty-somethings who couldn’t parent properly if you put a gun to their head, but we’re bound and determined that we must preserve dysfunctional families. Folks, it doesn’t work. I propose that we offer those wise elders free rent in retrofitted housing in return for their foster grandparent skills. We reduce anxiety in senior citizens and provide loving and stable living arrangements for kids who desperately need them. A potential bonus is those who bond will be more willing to help care for the elderly when they need someone.
#5-I worked for the State of Maine for over 30 years and know from personal experience that many state employees get burned out and become cynical when they’re stuck in the same job too long. I propose that state employees have a ‘sabbatical’ every five years and swap jobs with someone in a completely different field. Imagine battle fatigued caseworkers from human services getting a chance to work as a park ranger for a year. It might backfire big time, but it’s worth a try.
#6-We have a shortage of devils advocacy in state government. If elected, I will veto ANY bill that does not clearly indicate where funding to keep it working will come from ten years down the road. I’ve seen too much stuff mandated on schools and town government by both the federal and state governments without either or both ponying up the coins to cover costs in subsequent years. Who gets blamed when the taxpayers are upset at having to pay for them once the outside money dries up? Generally it’s the poor souls on the local school board, that’s who.
#7-I’ve had a chance to work with plenty of good Maine people who have lost jobs because plants closed or downsized and sent jobs overseas. Many of these folks worked hard for many years. All of a sudden they’re dropped into a world where everyone expects them to be computer literate and understand how to fill out a job application online. Heck, many of these people never touched a computer until they got laid off. Their anxiety and stress levels are through the roof already without the added expectation that they must fill out a form that, to them, makes as much sense as ancient Greek. I have a huge beef with many online applications. Human resource higher-ups think it’s cool as hell to have them on the web, but very few of them ever take time to road test them before letting them become the only way to apply. I’ve sat with perfectly intelligent job seekers who have ended up in tears because the blasted form timed out, wouldn’t work with any browser except internet explorer (which I hate with a passion), failed to save data, or refused to allow the person trying to fill it an opportunity to edit what they’d already entered. I’m proposing that there be a single job application form on the Maine State website with easy to understand instructions and has been tested so it’s bulletproof. All jobs offered within the stare must be linked to this database. That doesn’t mean they can’t be advertised in the classified section of Maine newspapers, but if we have one portal for employers and job seekers, we’re going to have fewer frustrated people and jobs could be filled faster.
#8-Paul LePage has things completely backward in terms of immigrants. Let’s face it, Maine is rapidly getting older, whiter and wrinkled as all get out. Unless we get really creative, we’re all going to have to ‘depend’ on each other and the results will NOT be anything we want. I’m proposing we welcome as many immigrants as want to come to Maine. Here in Hartland, we currently have some 45 abandoned of for sale properties. Why not fill them with eager, intelligent and grateful people who can, and probably would, fix them up and create that workforce we’re going to need if we expect the state to have a snowball’s chance in hell of remaining viable. There will be one caveat. Every one signs a good behavior pledge and if they screw up often enough or bad enough, they waive due process and are shipped down to the coast where they become lobster bait.
#9-Ever hang around the state house when the legislature is in session? Talk about pompous windbags, they go on forever. It’s ten times worse in Washington, but we can’t do much about that. If elected, I’m issuing the following edict: All legislative hearings and debates will be conducted in the nude with public TV having full access to stream live broadcasts. In addition to speeding things up, it should encourage more legislators to take physical fitness seriously.
#10-If you spend much time in rural areas away from the coast, you probably know that dental hygiene isn’t a priority. Sadly, teeth are seen as a disposable commodity in many parts of the state. If elected, I’m pushing to find a way to provide free dental care for everyone until age 21, with low-cost dental insurance after that point. Sure it will be expensive, but are you going to hire a twenty-two year old with half his/her teeth rotting? It’s also something that affects good dietary habits and does a big number on self-esteem. My hope is that in a generation or two, we can change the prevailing mindset.
#11-Last, but not least, it’s time we made guys more accountable for their part in unplanned pregnancies. Sure, anyone can make one mistake, but when I see or hear about someone in their late twenties who has four kids by three different women and is still blowing most of whatever money they has on four-wheelers and Twisted Tea, that dude needs a dope slap. If I’m elected, you’re gonna wear a male chastity belt after the second kid and it doesn’t come off until you sign up for a vasectomy and go through with it. I hear those stainless steel models are a bear when you hit a bump when 4-wheeling.
Well, there you have it. I hope I’m offering voters a clear and refreshing choice this time around. As Boss Tweed so aptly put it many years ago…Vote early and vote often on election day.