It was once acceptable for government to operate in a top-down fashion in which it decided how much information you should have, and when, but in today’s world, increasingly, the consumer, meaning the voter in the world of politics, is in charge.
This is as it should be, and when I am governor of Maine (should you decide to elect me), this is a sampling of the transparent, empowering and participatory events that you can expect:
Budgets presented to the public in a fuller and also easier to understand format. Have you ever looked at the Maine budget? It’s a monster of complexity. This hinders debate on its contents and intentionally so. I’ll be presenting Maine’s budget in its entirety online, so nothing is left out, but also broken down into easier to understand sections and elements that detail in everyday language what is contained.
It’s your money, and it’s your budget.
There will be tools that allow individuals to easily drill down into the numbers and see how the budget changes when adjustments are made (Maine.gov does have one such tool already). I’d even like a series of blogs, forums and wikis in which Mainers can provide feedback. It doesn’t mean that we’ll govern by online voting but it does mean that it will be evident and clear how Mainers of varying perspectives detail their budget wants and views.
And I’ll be bringing residents into the budget process, by including interactive informational budget sessions; having resident representatives involved in executive budget discussion; broadcasting at least some executive budget discussions and working more closely with the Legislature in their budget process.
Of course we’ll work also to ensure that all constitutional boundaries are maintained.
Some may argue that it is not always best to see how the sausage is being made, and we will employ common sense in this regard, of course, but it is your government, and you deserve to know what is going on.
As your governor I work for you, so I work with you. I’ll have regular broadcast town halls throughout the state so we’ll all be communicating and learning together what the needs are in each section of the state and overall.
Shouldn’t you be able to ask your governor the questions of your choosing in person? Sure you should. I’ll be holding regular office hours as well, open to anyone. And once or twice a month I’ll be devoting time (perhaps a half-day or full day) to trading places with other Mainers so I can see firsthand what you go through as well (and you can be “governor” for a few hours but no signing of bills).
I’ll be doing interviews beyond just the small circle of the largest media interests as well. And in my regular radio broadcasts I’ll be using frank explanations to detail where we are as a state, warts and all. I’ll also be using the radio programs to interview my commissioners and other Maine leaders so you’ll hear directly from them what they are doing, what their vision is, and there will be a forum for them to answer your questions as well.
Along these lines, it probably goes without saying that performance and qualifications will be the determining factors for both hiring and retention.
Mainers have shown by term limits, referendums and the like that they are not afraid to step in at any point when they feel that their government is starting to go awry. I don’t believe that Maine residents like to micromanage, as they want their elected officials to handle the responsibilities with which they have been entrusted, but I do think also that they wish to be better informed.
A government in which its residents feel disenfranchised is a weak one and one that is potentially open to corruptive influences.
Maine is a great state, fundamentally, first of all, because its people are great.
Together we will make it even greater.
Alex Hammer of Bangor is an independent candidate for governor.