Fight partisanship with open primaries
I strongly support Lance Dutson’s column in the Bangor Daily titled, “ Stop feeding the partisan beast.” Dutson points out the need to protect our democracy against the dangers of extreme party loyalty. He suggests that party loyalty could cause the “collapse of the American democratic system.” Party loyalty and extreme partisan politics have led to gridlock and dysfunction in Augusta. Opening up primaries to unenrolled voters is one way to cure these ills.
Under our current system, only voters who are registered with a political party are allowed to vote in a primary election. These closed party primaries, funded by taxpayer dollars, are undemocratic. Elections that are funded by taxpayers should include all voters, not just those who are enrolled in a party — this is the basic fairness of democracy.
Open primaries will also increase voter participation. There is no greater power than that of the people. The more people who vote, the more representative our legislators will be. These open primaries could result in more moderate candidates who are willing to compromise to get legislation passed.
Maine is one of only 11 states that still have closed primary elections. It’s time to stop feeding the partisan beast and move to open primaires. Contact your representatives in Augusta and ask them to support LD 211, An Act To Open Maine’s Primaries.
Mainers for Open Elections
Change needed to Protect Maine children
Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew has told legislators that she is opposed to a bill, LD 1554, that would enable lawmakers to submit legislation that would reform Child Protective Services. She said that it would “slow down rather than accelerate needed improvements.”
I find her argument to be specious and self-serving. There is no reason why her department cannot work with a legislative commission toward a common goal of improving the child protective system. Lambrew has been asked for months to come up with some structural changes and a plan to implement them. To date, I have not seen anything concrete presented.
Relying solely on DHHS to reform Child Protective Services is clearly not working. They need some help. Many studies have been done by both the department and outside entities over the years, and any resulting changes have been incremental at best. Tweaking the number of caseworkers and ombudsmen, and updating the computer and phone systems is just not going to cut it. Waiting for years to see how these minor changes work out is not enough to prevent at least 20 children from dying in the past few years.
Change is needed from the ground up, it is needed now, and lawmakers should be part of this. As Child Welfare Ombudsman Christine Alberi put it, “the focus should be on whether or not children are safe.” Period. I urge the members of the Maine Judiciary Committee to pass this much needed bill for a vote in the full Legislature.
NECEC environmental dangers
As former deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation, I disagree with Lloyd Irland, Richard Anderson and Richard Barringer regarding their support for Central Maine Power’s New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC).
Serious environmental damage would result from NECEC on wildlife, native brook trout, wetlands, streams, valuable vernal pools and endangered wildlife, as documented in reports from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Maine Natural Areas Program, testimony from consulting ecologist Janet S. McMahon and a recent letter from the Boston Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Massachusetts attorney general has filed concerns to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, arguing that hydro purchases from Quebec could result in the replacement of hydro power beyond New England with fossil fuel sources.
Irland, Anderson and Barringer’s claim that Hydro-Quebec’s water spillage over its dams would increase hydro power generation was called into question months ago.
Instead of attacking the grass-roots opposition, they should examine the alternative routes and design (underground) for NECEC that would avoid environmental impacts.