Nomination Failure

Posted Aug. 26, 2008, at 6:24 p.m.

Lawmakers shortchanged the public last week by quickly dismissing two qualified candidates for state boards based on narrow views of what nominees are supposed to look like. Rather than face a bruising fight in the Senate, the governor withdrew the nominations.

Members of the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry balked at the governor’s nomination of Deborah Aldridge of Jonesboro to serve on the Board of Pesticides Control. Committee members said her views that pesticide use should be restricted, especially her support for a 500-foot buffer for aerial spraying, disqualified her, although none of the state’s agriculture groups testified against her nomination.

This thinking perverts the role of the pesticides board. The board is responsible for pesticide regulation, not promotion, and its membership is meant to be a mix of people.

By statute the members must include three persons knowledgeable about pesticides in agriculture, forestry or commercial applications. One person must have a medical background and another must hold a faculty position in either agronomy or entomology at the University of Maine. The remaining two members are selected to represent expertise in environmental issues.

Ms. Aldridge fell into the last category and her experience as a blueberry grower who switched from conventional to organic methods would have brought a valuable perspective to the board. She was nominated to replace another organic blueberry grower.

By voting against her nomination, seven members of the committee appear to be trying to rewrite state statute by increasing the representation of pesticide users on the board.

The governor had nominated Kimm Collins of Falmouth to serve on the new Board of Corrections, which is mean to coordinate the state’s prison system and county jails to reduce duplication and save money. She is a former police officer and social worker. Her nomination was rejected by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee because they said she didn’t know enough about finances.

Again, this board is meant to include members with a variety of perspectives and back-grounds and requiring each nominee to understand finances is an unnecessarily high hurdle. Ms. Collins’ understanding of how law enforcement officials, inmates and victims interact with the corrections system would have been a good addition to the board.

Lawmakers on both committees approved the nine male nominees to the two boards, prompting some to wonder if sexism was the real issue. We certainly hope that was not the case.

If this is the treatment potential board members, who are not paid for their service, can expect, it will be much harder to get qualified people to take these important positions. That doesn’t serve the state well.

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