BANGOR, Maine — In the early 1990s, then-Gov. John McKernan created a citizen commission to explore ways to restructure state government. After months of debate, the commission produced a lengthy report, complete with dozens of recommendations, that has been sitting on a shelf ever since.
One of those commission members, Bangor lawyer N. Laurence Willey, recently dusted off the report he helped create and updated it with some new ideas. He was struck by how little has changed in nearly two decades.
Willey, a former Bangor city councilor, is now distributing his report, titled “Restructuring State Government Can No Longer Wait,” to anyone who wants a copy.
“I’m just one citizen; I’m not a candidate for anything,” Willey said Thursday on the steps of City Hall as he handed out copies of his re-purposed report. “But I think there are a lot of good ideas out there, and sometimes people don’t always speak up.”
The state restructuring commission created in the early 1990s was a bipartisan group, and Willey said any changes would need bipartisan support.Those who gathered Thursday to support Willey included current City Councilor David Nealley, former Councilor Frank Farrington and Doug Damon, who ran unsuccessfully for a House seat in 2008.
Many of the ideas outlined in his report can be considered conservative, such as shrinking government, privatizing certain services and employing zero-based budget practices. Willey also said the report recommends combining certain agencies, such as the state Department of Transportation and the Maine Turnpike Authority, and it offers ideas for radical welfare reform.
“It’s been 18 years since the State Restructuring Commission presented detailed recommendations to the governor and legislature to restructure state government,” said Willey. “I hope this updated review will in some small way assist the difficult task facing our present governor and legislature in controlling state spending.”
City Councilor Pat Blanchette attended Willey’s announcement on Thursday but stood off to the side.
“What we have doesn’t work, we can agree on that,” said Blanchette, a Democrat who has filed papers to run for House District 16 seat to represent Bangor, then adding with a smile. “If there are good ideas in here, I’ll take them and claim them for myself.”