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Gov. Janet Mills is under tremendous scrutiny these days, and rightfully so, as the decisions being made deserve the highest levels of review. As demonstrated by the recent protests in Augusta, many Mainers are upset with the governor’s approach to the shutdown that is keeping businesses closed, people out of work and our state’s economy heading for deep trouble. Simply put, Mainers are worried.
But I want to surprise you a little bit and personally ask you to refocus your energy; don’t put all your fire and blame on the governor. At least she’s showing up to work every day, doing the job that she was elected to do, even if it isn’t to your liking. She hasn’t run to hide at home while the state falls to pieces. She’s trying her best to lead.
Now again, I’m not defending all of the governor’s positions as we have disagreed, but she has remained on the job, doing what she thinks is best and at least is willing to try and work with us.
So, where is the Maine Legislature? Where are the people’s representatives? The Legislature is a co-equal branch of government, and it’s also legislators’ job to show up for their constituents who elected them. But they are at home, just when their constituents need them the most, wringing their hands and letting one branch do the job of two.
I want to commend the legislators, like some here in Washington County, who are clamoring to get back to work. And Senate President Troy Jackson at least has talked recently about needing more input from others, including the Legislature. I hope his rural Aroostook County roots eventually serve him well to see that happen. Some legislators feel so left out of the process that they have taken to rallying in front of the Capitol Building simply because they aren’t being let inside it to debate the best way forward.
Our state faces record unemployment, and the Maine Department of Labor is so overwhelmed that many Mainers have been left to the wind. That’s why it’s especially disappointing to see that all that the speaker of the House, Sara Gideon, has to offer is criticism and campaign promises. Gideon has shown her true colors during this crisis. While Mainers struggle to deal with the health and economic fallout of this pandemic, Gideon has spent her energy campaigning against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and ignoring the job she was elected to do in Augusta.
Meanwhile, Collins hasn’t stopped working on behalf of all Mainers, and her efforts continue to bring billions of dollars in federal aid to our state to support Maine workers and business owners. She has worked to get assistance for everyone from fishermen and farmers, to firemen, to doctors and nurses and to thousands of small businesses.She is in frequent contact with Mills to try and meet the needs of Maine in a bipartisan fashion. I’m sure Collins may not agree with all of the governor’s decisions, but she knows she needs to be engaged to actually help and make a difference, and quite simply, do her job.
Enough is enough. The Legislature should be called back into session so that the governor doesn’t have to make all of the tough decisions on her own and take all of the heat that comes with it, just because it’s an election year.
If legislators don’t feel they have a responsibility to get to work now, then they shouldn’t have run for office in the first place. Waiting for the “all clear” to go in and try to put the pieces back together and second guess the governor and our federal delegation after the fact is not leadership, it’s laziness. And if those who can call the Legislature back don’t engage now, they are part of the problem.
Christopher M. Gardner is the chairman of the Washington County Commissioners.