Since when did picking a fight before there is a conflict make any sense, whether in life, business, or politics? Yet that’s exactly what Gov. Paul LePage pledged in a recent interview.
The governor says he wants to bring the war in Wisconsin to Maine – attempting to dismember public employee unions, instead of finding ways to work together to actually tackle our budget and economic problems. As a business owner, I understand the bottom line as well as anyone, but I also understand negotiation is a two-way street.
We all know that times are tough everywhere and state budgets are shrinking. We all know that state employee benefits, like every other area of spending, need to be looked at closely. If we are to be successful in navigating the troubled waters, everyone will have to make some sacrifice and we all need to participate in a solution.
Our public employees understand that. But when we see knee-jerk reactions from our leaders that are meant to start an argument rather than forge a solution, we are heading in the wrong direction and risking calamity with long ranging implications.
Bullying isn’t leading. Instead of recklessly creating conflict, we need a governor who builds consensus around the challenges Maine faces. We can only solve these hard problems if we have mutual trust and are willing to find common ground. We need to work together, not raise our fists before we even have a reasonable, direct dialogue.
It may seem counterintuitive in today’s environment, but the cutting we need to do could be a great opportunity to work together and find ways to invest in our future and reposition government to work for all of us. We need to listen to all sides of the debate, be open to the hard choices, and move forward.
If we evaluate every penny we spend maybe we could invest in the programs that will be best for our state and will help us to grow. We won’t get out of these budget problems simply by trying to cut our way there.
What if we cut based on evaluation rather than mindless political stunts? The return on investment in education, for example, isn’t going to be felt tomorrow but it will be felt in the not too distant future in the growth of our economy. It just makes sense.
Invest now or we will lose our fight to stay competitive as a state and as a nation. If a company wants to grow and stay competitive, it needs to cut in some places so it can invest in others that will grow. Ultimately, the growth will benefit all involved, company and employees alike.
Likewise, if we want a healthy state, we need everyone to have an opportunity to grow, but we need each to understand our integral part of the whole. We’re all in this together.
A good leader can communicate these ideas, and more importantly, should get all sides together to realize their common interest and work together for a solution.
I’ve actually seen examples of Gov. LePage’s antics, and they invariably do not work. As the mother of three young children, I’ve witnessed countless name-calling incidents that end up in fights or tears, but never accomplish anything.
As a concerned Mainer, as a businesswoman, but as a mother, I have this piece of advice for our new governor: Stop the name calling, take a time out, and grow up. The future of all our children hangs in the balance.
Rosa Scarcelli is CEO of Stanford Management, an affordable housing provider in Maine and three other states, and a former Democratic candidate for governor. To see more, go to www.rosaformaine.com.