“Hey, what’s up?”
“Here’s your first project, a new program called The American Dream Loan. The Board will be announcing it tomorrow and they want you guys to make sure to set it up so that it’s perfectly legal.”
It ended like this, many years later.
“Hey, what’s up?”
“Things haven’t gone so well recently and the Board has decided that we have to make some hard decisions. I’m really sorry, but that means eliminating a lot of key positions.
You’ll get a nice severance package. You’ll be just fine. Trust me. I tried to save your spot. It’s just business. You’ve done a great job for us.
Come on, I’ll walk out with you. Security, you know. We’ll pack up all your stuff and send to around to your house, but leave your key card, your laptop and your cell phone on your desk.
Oh yeah, before we go, pull out all the Dream files, I’ll need them today.”
As it turns out, it all was all perfectly legal because (strictly speaking) that’s about how you do something not why you want to do it.
Making money isn’t a crime.
“Goodbye,” said the Fox. “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; that which is essential is invisible to the eye.”
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
There’s a collegiate song that begins something like this:
“Oh, the freshman down at Yale get no tail …”
And while the lyrics are a bit racy, they seem to fit the current political climate here in Maine.
Recently, after Governor Paul LePage sounded off on a state legislator who had the temerity to confront him because of the state budget the Governor had proposed. The legislature had passed an alternative budget. The Governor then made national headlines with his intemperate remarks and summarily vetoed it.
The stage was now set for a classic confrontation and the legislature voted overwhelmingly to override his veto.
In that process, both seasoned professionals and first-term legislators were called upon to cast their vote and, undoubtedly, each faced enormous pressures. There was pressure from the Governor’s office, pressure from party loyalists and pressure from constituents. Most voted quietly and predictably.
But one new member of the House of Representatives, in particular, is worthy of attention because his vote against the override isn’t easily understood unless you happened to hear what he said in this floor speech.
When comments in opposition to the veto override in the House of Representatives were called for, several staunch Republicans gave impassioned speeches about supporting their Governor.
Then, unexpectedly, Brian Jones, a first-term Democrat from Freedom, ME, rose to the floor of the People’s House and calmly explained that the bipartisan compromise budget which the legislature had sent to the Governor was “dog lunch,” and that the people he represented deserved better.
He was voting, “No.”
Heads spun in disbelief. “Hold on,” someone muttered, “He’s a Dem. Isn’t he supposed to be speaking in favor of the override?”
When the voting was complete, there were plenty of Reps whose votes were seemingly inconsistent with their party affiliation, but to the trained eye, few were as surprising as Representative Jones’.
Jones had steadfastly advocated for the budget his Democratic Party had put forth in response to the Governor’s proposed budget. It had included tying it to a proposal that would have assured the payment of a huge debt owed by the State to Maine hospitals. In order to gain the support for their budget changes, the Democrats agreed to compromise their plan and to sever the hospital repayment plan from the budget. The plan backfired. The Governor vetoed the budget.
Brian Jones surprised everybody that day when (as a Democrat) he rose to announce his position for voting NO amid Republican counterparts urging support for LePage.
Representative Jones’ vote didn’t get much media attention and it won’t be remembered for long; but what he did was a courageous act that distinguishes him among the first-termers in our legislature: he stood up amid the jaded upper-classmen and articulated a principled position that nobody saw coming.
Whether his party thought of it as a stunt or naïve enthusiasm is irrelevant.
Brian Jones passed his finals this year with flying colors.
“For a freshman in Augusta to be sure that he’ll pass mustah,
He must focus on ideals and not his tail.”
Human perception isn’t just seeing or hearing. What we expect to see or hear frequently blinds us to what’s really going on.
In Old Orchard Beach, Maine last week, a nasty event was reported to the police. A man arrived at the police station to complain that he’d been insulted by a woman (a town councilor) casting a racial slur his way and while the police found no basis for a criminal complaint, word spread quickly through the town and local media. The accused councilor has been publicly shamed and denounced as a racist both in the media and in a televised Town Council meeting.
To be fair, the man’s story was corroborated by one woman in town who, it turns out, was responsible for bringing him from Auburn (60 miles away) to circulate petitions for the recall of three of our town councilors. The woman accused of using the slur was one of those three councilors.
The woman who brought the petition circulator to town is also the head of the committee formed to circulate those petitions.
Although the gentleman was not legally authorized to circulate petitions (he is not a registered voter in nor a resident of our town) and notwithstanding that he wore an entirely fabricated photo-ID badge around his neck identifying himself as “State Petitioner Grace D – Authorized State Signature Collector” (our State does not offer or authorize anyone to be a “State Petitioner”) – that was the subject of a earlier piece I wrote and those are side issues here.
Here’s my point for today: A very serious and damaging accusation was made by this man and backed up by the testimony of the woman who was admittedly responsible for his being there. Each insists they heard what they heard. Others sharply dispute it.
Perhaps the allegations are true, but perhaps they not. And if not, those who repeat and embellish the tale are guilty of something even more profoundly offensive. Sometime we see exactly what we’re looking for and miss more important stuff.
Here’s a test. Even if you’ve heard of this test, watch anyway and see how well are your perceptions working:
Early on the morning of April 10, 2013, I had my first experience with a “State Petitioner.” I never knew such an outlaw existed.
As I went to mail a postcard to my daughter, in front of the U.S. Post Office in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, I was confronted by a large affable man carrying a loaded clipboard and a placard around his neck that read “State Petitioner – Grace D.”
I was impressed.
He stepped in front of me and asked whether I’d sign his petition.
“Petition for what?” I inquired sheepishly.
“To recall the three town councilors,” he replied.
“Oh,” I said. “Which three?”
“Dayton, Coleman and Quinn,” he shot back.
“But I like them,” I said, somewhat defensively.
“That’s OK,” he parried. “You can sign this … it’s only to get the question on the ballot.”
So I backed down.
“I’ll have to think about it,” I whimpered and turned around to beat a hasty retreat.
Nobody else was around, thankfully, to witness my cowardice. Two or three other citizens of OOB had already succumbed to his advances and signed his petitions but (fortunately) nobody else had been present to observe this shameful lack of political conviction on my part.
Several days later I learned that “Grace D” was a hired gun. An out of town political sharp-shooter who had been drawn into this fight because he was a professional – not a believer in a cause, but a battle hardened petition-slinger who was there to do a dirty job: get signatures.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have no quarrel with citizens advocating for a political cause. I do it all the time. But here’s the rub:
I later discovered that “Grace D” was actually Dennis Graise – a resident of Auburn, ME (some 50 miles away) who was neither a resident of my town, nor enrolled as a voter in OOB (both of which qualifications are required to circulate petitions for local recall initiatives) and that he has had a history of controversial engagements in the Maine political process in the recent past.
Today I called the Maine Secretary of State’s office and discovered that there is no such thing as a “State Petitioner.” Our state neither requires nor authorizes anyone to have credentials to collect petition signatures.
This man was, simply put, a fraud. And that’s wrong. His credentials were bogus, he didn’t have the qualifications to collect signatures in our town and he even misrepresented his name.
Where are the Earp brother’s when you need them?
Old Orchard Beach is a small costal town in Southern Maine and it’s being battered this winter by a political storm.
At the heart of it is a central question: How is “truth” determined, by fiat or by rational participatory inquiry?
We have a Town Manager form of government, which means that a qualified individual is hired and charged with operating the business of our Town. We also have an elected Town Council whose job it is to take care of the legislative and financial part of municipal government. These separate functions are supposed to remove the management function from the legislative function and assure smooth sailing.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
Last fall, we had an election in which our Town Council was expanded from five members to seven. Four former members were re-elected and three new members joined the Council. Following the election, a single councilor from the old board and the three new members instantly closed ranks in opposition to the Town Manager.
The so-called “Gang of Four” lost no time in confronting the Town Manager with an ultimatum: Resign or be fired.
Many of us thought it odd that such a decree could be issued without even a meeting of the Council to discuss the reasons behind it and said so at a public meeting at the Town Hall in December of last year. Some wondered how the Council Chair could make such a demand, under the color of governmental authority, without there ever having been such a meeting. Isn’t that a violation of the Federal Civil Rights Act? The questions feel upon deaf ears.
Since then, despite the Town Manager exercising his right to demand a public hearing on any allegations about his job performance; despite cries of “foul” from the public; and despite the repeated efforts of the three remaining Council members to air any complaints in public, the Gang of Four stone-walled every attempt to inform the citizens of our Town of the reasons they want the Town Manager out of their way.
What’s remarkable about this situation is that there have now been recall petitions circulated to remove the Gang of Four and (in quick response) a group called “Taxpayers for Truth” was formed to call for the recall of the three other Council members who, together with the Town Manager and his counsel, John Richardson (a distinguished lawyer and former Speaker of the Mine House of Representatives) were demanding a public forum to air any complaints citing the Manager’s right to address charges under both our Town Charter and Maine law.
Last month, rather than acknowledging the publics right to know, the Town Manager’s rights to due process and their own obligation to comply with Federal, State and local law, the Gang of Four voted in-block to terminate the Town Manager “for no cause.”
Politics is a dirty business. It always has been and it always will be.
Truth is an admirable goal, but it will never be found in naked accusations.
The foundation of justice is the right to be heard; the right to confront accusers and the availability of a forum in which competing sides can have their versions of the truth weighed impartially.
When elected officials conspire to remove the rationale of their actions from public view, democracy (be it on a national, state or municipal level) is in serious trouble.
So, my Town has sent yet another Town Manager packing. Honestly, I don’t know whether he was doing his job properly or not.
And that’s exactly the problem.
It’s 1:00 PM Eastern Time in Old Orchard Beach, Maine and I’ve been at our local polling place (OOB HS) since 6:00 AM. It’s a crispy bright autumn day and the turnout has been wonderful.
I’m grateful that so many have taken the time to engage in the single most important facet of American citizenry – exercising their right to vote.
This year, national, state and local elections are hotly contested. Rhetoric is explosive and, unfortunately, sometimes contemptible. Yet tomorrow will be another day. The sun will rise regardless of the results of today’s voting and folks will go on with their lives.
And on that new day, Americans of all political persuasions need to remember a quote from one of our Founding Fathers which has somehow been lost in the battle of words:
Remember that tomorrow and every day thereafter.
Whatever your political convictions are, casting your votes for a particular party is, at best, a convenience and, at worst, a grave mistake.
Here in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, three candidates are running for our seat in the Maine House of Representatives. One has the Republican Party line, one has the Democratic line … and then there’s me. It’s the first time in our district’s history that there’s be a a candidate certified by the Maine Secretary of State to run as a Write-In candidate – without a political party endorsement.
Last week, our town held a Candidates’ Forum where each of us appeared on our local community television station to answer questions submitted from our neighbors. You can click here to see the unedited video from that night.
I’ve received a lot of comments from folks on the street this week. Many were surprised at what they saw. Some disappointed that there wasn’t more time for question. Everyone was pleased that they had to opportunity to see each of us delivering unrehearsed answers to unexpected questions.
It isn’t so much about winning and losing, the point is that the best voter is an informed voter, and reading campaign literature predigested by a political party is a poor way to decide who will represent you.
This weekend, most newspapers will be carrying profiles of the candidates running in your area. Read them before you vote.
It’s not about Parties … its about People.