Kiss democracy goodbye
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on McCutcheon vs. the Federal Election Commission, a campaign-finance case that argues caps on money in elections violate First Amendment rights to free speech and association. The First Amendment and the Bill of Rights are intended as a protection for the people from the government’s potential abuse of its power.
Representation in Congress is already skewed towards representation of moneyed interests; the current contribution limit is $123,000. The Supreme Court has before it a case that would lift the spending limits on an individual to a federal candidate, and if those limits are lifted, a single wealthy donor could contribute more than $3.5 million to one party’s candidates and committees in a single year.
The Supreme Court has already rejected an interpretation of speech without limits, and using the First Amendment in this way would conflict with other social and governmental interests. The amount of money needed to win — especially a congressional district or a Senate seat — is steadily climbing each passing November. When elected officials raise money from individuals, the current system at least attempts to ensure that smaller donors are able to play a role in the process.
This is an opportunity for the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the First Amendment, as it relates to a protection of the rights of the most citizens. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of eliminating spending caps on elections, we can kiss democracy goodbye.
The National Grid has signed a proposal to purchase electricity from First Wind, from the Bowers Mountain project that not only doesn’t exist — it has been rejected by the former Land Use Regulation Commission and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. First Wind, of course, hopes that this bit of information fed to the media will somehow influence Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection, which is reviewing yet another attempt by First Wind to bypass the DEP and the will of the public.
The proposal clearly illustrates the reality of wind power in Maine: We don’t need it. Our mountains and landscapes are being ruined to generate power sold outside of Maine.
A more important point is this: Maine’s wind law states that wind power projects must not cause “unreasonable scenic impact.” The Bowers Mountain project has been repeatedly rejected because it would destroy the landscape and sense of wilderness around the Downeast Lakes watershed. Case closed.
National Grid’s proposal is irrelevant. It should have absolutely no bearing on a desperate, last-gasp appeal by First Wind.
One man — and, for close to 100 years, one woman — one vote. This is the basic tenet of our democratic system. An equal voice for every person. Yet if money is an expression of free speech, it seems that some people speak louder than others.
With the financial crisis highlighting the news, it may be hard to notice that the influence of big moneyed interests are at the forefront of a challenge to that principle. The Supreme Court has heard a case, the first on the docket this session, seeking to raise the aggregate or total amount an individual may contribute to candidates in any one election cycle. That is to say, those of us who do not have thousands — make that hundreds of thousands of dollars — to influence the voting process have less of a voice in who is elected.
We cannot expect Congress to fairly pass a law limiting the amount anyone can contribute, since they are the ones who profit from such largesse. Legislators clearly have a conflict of interest here, so we must depend on the court to find justice.
The justices in their wisdom will not hear my voice — nor, probably yours. So we can only hope that in the secret chambers of their deliberations, they will remember that the foundation of our country depends on one man or woman, one vote — not one dollar, one vote. That is, unless they, too, are under the thumb of big money.
How much money has Acadia National Park lost because of the shutdown? The park has lost its gate receipts at the peak of the fall season.
Unlike service agencies whose closing will save payroll money, the parks fund their payrolls through gate receipts. Instead of saving money by closing, they have had to use additional rangers to police the closing and have gotten no gate receipts to pay for them.
John Ashby Morton
Little Deer Isle
Orono green spaces shrinking
Are we losing green space in Orono? The 70-year-old cottonwood tree on Main Street was recently removed to make room for a new bank and parking lot. The plantings, flower pots and green island spaces in downtown have been replaced with concrete. The 2009 Orono municipal ordinances changes allow industrial mining in the newly created residential district, and now a quarry proposal sits before the planning board in hopes to begin blasting and rock crushing uphill and 250 meters from the Caribou Bog lands that encompass the Orono Bog Boardwalk.
Just what kind of community are we creating, and are we headed in the right direction? The Oct. 10 BDN article reported the potential for open pit-mining waterway pollution from sulfuric acid and arsenic runoff at Bald Mountain in Aroostook County. As a current and glaring example of failed environmental protection, can we learn from the mistakes of other communities?
Maybe it’s time to rethink our priorities, remember what makes our town unique, and take action to protect our environment, families and quality of life. Green spaces give us a sense of community, a connection with nature, and a place to gather during the workday and leisure time. Orono needs a moratorium on mining permits and a municipal vote for ordinance change to eliminate mineral extraction and open pit-mining as a scheduled use within the Orono residential districts.