Men of Vision

Posted April 22, 2010, at 8:06 p.m.

Maine’s bicentennial is a decade hence, but two gubernatorial candidates have made the anniversary of Maine’s statehood a centerpiece of their campaigns. Both Democrat Pat McGowan and Republican Steve Abbott have unveiled their visions for Maine 2020. Not surprising, Maine would be more a economically prosperous and happy place in the candidates’ future.

As important as a vision for the future is a plan for getting there. This is where the vision is blurry.

“On March 15, 2020, Maine will be two hundred years old. We need to make sure that when we celebrate that bicentennial, we are well on the way to ensuring that our state’s best days are always ahead of us, not behind us,” Steve Abbott said in January when he launched his campaign.

“To discuss, shape, and direct new ideas, I am launching an initiative focused on our 2020 Bicentennial. I am calling that effort Maine Vision 2020,” he added. Peter Vigue, the chairman of Cianbro, is chairing Maine Vision 2020.

A search of Mr. Abbott’s website turned up no further information on how that vision is coming into focus, although he has talked a lot about a top-to-bottom review of state government and spending.

“I have a long-term plan — a ‘2020 Vision’ — for Maine’s economy. I call it my 2020 Vision because in 2020 we will celebrate Maine’s 200th anniversary of statehood,” Democrat Pat McGowan wrote in this weekend’s Bangor Daily News. “My vision will put us where we need to be and where we should be economically in 2020.”

His vision focuses on education and small business.

These visions are so broad — and long-term (if either of these men is elected this fall and served two consecutive terms, he would no longer be in the Blaine House in 2020) — to be meaningless. Perhaps that’s why they’re so popular.

Earlier this month, former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who is seeking that office again, announced his Iowa Vision 2020 policy conference. “We’re going to focus on the economic growth, reforming government, education and the family,” the Republican said in a statement that could have been read in any state in the union.

Last year, the Missouri Senate created three committees to prepare that state for 2020. They will focus on job creation, health coverage and education.

Former Gov. Angus King was a keynote speaker at Vision 2020, a 2008 higher education summit hosted by the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.

2020 vision isn’t limited to America. Nigeria and India are planning for that date as well.

The concept of 2020 vision is catchy, especially when tied to Maine’s bicentennial. But, as a campaign platform, it is pretty shaky.

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