CONTRIBUTORS

East-west highway concerns are larger than eminent domain

Posted Aug. 26, 2012, at 3:52 p.m.

I have been surprised recently to see that Maine Rep. Herb Clark has completely reversed his position and now opposes an east-west highway before the “feasibility study” has even been completed. Amazingly, he says he didn’t read the bill and blames Maine Sen. Doug Thomas for his own failure to understand what the word “study” means.

At one east-west highway forum, he even went so far as to complain that he was in the bathroom when the committee held its work session. The committee spent hours considering the bill over the course of two work sessions on Jan. 10 and 16, 2012.

Let me be clear, Sen. Thomas had to turn away potential “study” sponsors, Democrats and Republicans, because there was a limit to how many co-sponsors can sign on to a bill. He intentionally and specifically invited Rep. Clark to join him so the Millinocket part of his district would be represented in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Clark knowingly accepted this invitation, and co-sponsored the east-west highway study bill (LD 1671) along with 11 other co-sponsors. He also voted for the east-west feasibility study in the Maine House of Representatives (it passed 110-28, RC#263). After the bill was enacted, he stood before the cameras in April with Gov. LePage to celebrate its passage publicly.

Sen. Thomas has long been an outspoken proponent of an east-west highway study. The key word is study. My senate district also potentially is affected so I want to see a thoughtful, serious inquiry as to whether or not an east-west highway will create jobs and economic prosperity without damaging the environment. I have not decided if I would support such a highway, but I do need good information that a study of this kind will provide before making that decision.

Over the course of the spring and summer, it became apparent that there were too many unanswered questions regarding the proposed route, size of the right-of-way, other corridor uses and use of eminent domain. In a display of true leadership, Sen. Thomas called upon Gov. LePage to temporarily suspend the east-west highway study in order to have the concerns of his constituents fully addressed before proceeding. The governor agreed.

I have had the pleasure of serving with Sen. Thomas in the senate. His colleagues and the people of his district know where he stands. He is outspoken and opinionated in his quest for jobs, and he never wavers in his search for ideas that will improve the Maine economy.

To demonstrate the difference in leadership styles between Rep. Clark and Sen. Thomas, I urge readers to ask themselves a question. If (like Rep. Clark) you sign your name to something, vote for it, then show up at a public signing ceremony in front of cameras with the governor to publicly celebrate its passage, and then abandon the idea, what does that say?

Contrast that with the actions of Sen. Thomas. When confronted with strong opinions and a need for a more informed discussion, Sen. Thomas acted on behalf of all of his constituents by requesting a suspension of the study until more answers are forthcoming. He also pre-filed LR 95, a bill to prevent the taking of private property for private uses to ensure that individual property rights are protected. He and I are working together on another bill that would make sure there is ample time for public comment and participation. That is what a leader and good legislator does, try to act in the best interest of all his constituents even when he has his own strong opinions.

Because of Sen. Doug Thomas, we will have a stronger outcome. Maine will be a better place for having a genuine, informed discussion. I do agree with Rep. Clark on one thing, “when faced with a complex problem, it makes good sense to study it thoroughly.” That is what this bill with its proposed amendments will do.

Sen. Tom Saviello represents Maine Senate District 18 in Franklin County.

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