Fund Maine Clean Elections
I understand a budget bill that emerged Monday from the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee does not include any money for the Maine Clean Elections Fund. I am distraught. That money is urgently needed to assure full functioning of a law that voters just passed and that I believe is essential for a responsive democracy.
The Appropriations Committee has an incredibly difficult job to do, balancing the many basic and urgent needs of Mainers. From education to services for the elderly and mentally ill to drug addiction treatment and so many others, I wish we could afford to meet all these needs. Many of them have touched me and affected my family.
But I also know that until we address the overwhelming issues of money in politics, we will never have the government we deserve. We will always have one that favors wealthy donors and their lobbyists. That’s why the Maine Clean Elections Fund absolutely must be a priority even when we face so many difficult trade-offs.
I know the Appropriations Committee does an incredibly complex and difficult job, but the lawmakers must believe the Maine Clean Elections Fund is an urgent need and must be fully funded in order for us to attain our shared aspirations.
I urge the Legislature to please find a way to put the Maine Clean Elections Fund money back into the budget.
Memories of Kennedy in 1968
Matthew Gagnon’s March 31 BDN column was a perceptive look at about the fracture of the Democratic Party in 1968 and the centrifugal forces in today’s Republican Party.
I was a young intern in Sen. Robert Kennedy’s office and present in the old Senate Caucus Room when he announced his candidacy for president. I went on to organize the volunteer effort in New York City under the direction of Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Steve Smith.
What a wild and wooly ride. Gagnon captured it well in his column. I can only add to the events of that year that Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in April, student protests were rocking the streets of Paris in May and the Soviets invaded and crushed an uprising in Czechoslovakia in August.
Kennedy was much more of an anti-establishment candidate than sometimes portrayed. He not only championed the Civil Rights Movement but brought attention to the plight of Native Americans and was pals with the National Farm Workers’ Cesar Chavez, who came to New York for a few days to help with the campaign.
The mainstream media viewed Kennedy with a jaundiced eye. As the primaries moved to California, the word ”demagogue” started to pop up in the writings of respected newspaper columnists. Of course, post-assassination, the press developed collective amnesia over that shameful bias.
That episode would be another takeaway from that turbulent year Gagnon evoked so well.
FairPoint lacks accountability
In October 2013, my family was in the process of selling our home. We found a new home and called FairPoint Communications, which was our Internet service provider at the time, to see whether we would be able to obtain Internet at the house we were thinking of purchasing. The person on the phone assured us that we would be able to have Internet services and even pointed out that three neighbors close by had this service. After purchasing the home, it turned out this assurance was incorrect and we have not been able to receive the service we were promised because of availability issues.
This leads me to the real issue where the Federal Communications Commission has decided to give $13.3 million a year for six years from the Connect America F und grant to FairPoint for increasing broadband access in Maine. Sen. Angus King has asked the FCC to provide oversight, accountability and transparency in the use of these taxpayer provided funds.
FairPoint’s Maine President Mike Reed said last November: “Is there a list of where we are going to put every dollar? No. Is it going to be tomorrow? Frankly, no.” It’s easy to take the money, just not that easy to account for its use.
Kyle D. Meehan