Three years ago, Maine voters made a little-known mayor from a small central Maine city the 74th governor of the state.
And nothing’s been the same since.
Paul LePage came into office insulting the president of the United States and hasn’t slowed down to this day.
The Waterville mayor and Marden’s general manager walked onto the political stage as a long shot in the 2010 Republican primary. But he emerged ahead of better-known names such as Les Otten and Peter Mills with his brand of fist-pounding promises to straighten out the state’s books, be “business-friendly,” cut taxes and reduce welfare.
In the 657 days he has been in office, LePage has been on page one nearly as often as the weather forecast. Usually, he’s out there with blunt – some say crude – remarks, threats and demands.
But there’s a lot more to the LePage story than his self-described “big mouth.” There’s also his record on substantive issues, from the pension debt to the income tax, from business regulation to the environment, domestic violence to education.
The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting presents an in-depth study of the governor: “The Book on Paul LePage: The ‘biggest, baddest person around’ crashes Augusta’s ‘nicey-nice’ club.”
Continue Reading →
German philosopher Max Weber said, “Politics is the art of compromise.”
And, Weber might have added: Elections are the art of exaggeration. We at the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting spent much of the spring and summer checking out the claims of the three major candidates for U. S. senate, focusing mostly on what they said they had done to fix the economy and promote jobs. What we found, with some modest exceptions, had more spin on it than a Sandy Koufax (you call look him up) curveball. But there’s more to be learned from politicians “practiced in the art of deception,” to quote the Rolling Stones, which I like to do whenever the opportunity presents itself. Now that the votes have been (mostly) counted, the TV ads silenced and the pundits (there are so many) either crowing or eating crow, we thought we’d try to find some broader meaning from our months of reporting. Continue Reading →
Republican Charlie Summers has pinned his campaign for the U. S. Senate on a vow to improve the economy and create jobs on a national level the way he says he has on the state level. Charlie Summers, photo Linda Coan O’Kresik, BDN
As Maine’s secretary of state, Summers added a $50,000 “Small Business Advocate” in his office that he says on his campaign website shows how “investing in small businesses will create jobs and strengthen our economy.”
If elected, Summers states he will “introduce legislation that will create a national small business advocate, just like the one I successfully lobbied for in Maine who has already saved Maine businesses from undue state regulators.”
But a Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting examination of the business advocate’s own records tells a much more mixed story of the effectiveness of the new position that was filled last October by Jay Martin of Old Town. While Summers boasts the program is a job creator, in the 10 months the advocate has been on the job, records show few, if any, new jobs can be directly attributed to the work of the business advocate. For seven weeks this spring and summer, from June 1 to July 27, the advocate did not have a single open case, according to weekly activity reports. The records also reveal that the advocate claims credit for solving problems that others solved, suffers from legal restrictions that handicap his effectiveness and did not meet two of the six minimum requirements for the job. Continue Reading →
The Sun Journal published an editorial based on our stories about the Maine Green Energy Alliance:
Energy group wasted money, got little done
Let’s imagine you are starting a business, ABC Consulting. You need 13 employees, including a manager. So you advertise, compare resumes, interview and check references before hiring. Then, on the first day of work you are having lunch with your new employees when one mentions he used to be a Democratic House member from Bangor. Another employee says, “Hey, that’s interesting, because I’m a Democrat running for the House.”
Then, strangely, another pipes up and says she is also a candidate for the House. Continue Reading →
Sometimes it takes a death. Sometimes it takes four deaths: a mother, her two children and the man who killed them and then killed himself. The deaths of Amy, Monica and Coty Lake at the hands of their husband and father, Steven Lake, may be the tragedy that brings major reform to how the criminal justice system handles dangerous domestic violence cases. The June 13 triple murder-suicide is becoming a rallying point
for changes in the system from an unofficial coalition of domestic violence groups, leading Republicans and Democrats and the state’s top judge and top cop. “Change will occur,” said Brian Gagan. Continue Reading →
“These four people died needlessly …”
-- From a psychological autopsy of the triple murder and suicide in Dexter, June 13, 2011
The study rests on a shelf deep in the documents room at the state library. It has been sitting there since September 2006, most of its recommendations going the way of the hundreds of government blue ribbon studies that fill the other shelves – waiting for action. Among the report’s findings: a strong critique of Maine‘s archaic bail system, a system that entrusts to minimally trained bail commissioners the decision of whether potentially dangerous men and women can be free on bail. The people who asked for the study – with the bland title, “Pretrial Case Processing in Maine” – are the same people who could implement the recommendations: the state legislators. If they had taken the findings to heart, turned them into legislation and funded them, they might have saved lives. Continue Reading →
A distinguished editor and a former public broadcasting executive have joined the board of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting (MCPIR) as the Hallowell-based organization nears its second anniversary. Matthew V. Storin, the former editor of the Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Daily News and Maine Times, recently retired to Camden. He said, “I’m excited about supporting a much-needed, high-quality investigative journalism venture in Maine. When one considers the state of journalism nationally today, there is much to be pessimistic about. Fortunately, MCPIR is a bold strike in the opposite direction.”
Gordon Lutz of Holden retired in 2008 as Director of Corporate Support at Maine Public Broadcasting, where he worked for eight years. Continue Reading →
Around 3:50 on the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct 12, a state-owned silver GMC Sierra pickup pulled into the parking lot at the Colby College rugby field. A man in a blue windbreaker got out of the truck, took a cardboard box of equipment from the cab and headed down to the field, where members of the college’s men’s and women’s teams
had gathered for their regular late afternoon practice. The man was their coach. But he is also the state dam inspector who has fallen years behind the legal schedule for safety inspections of the nearly 100 dams across the state categorized as potentially dangerous. His name is Tony Fletcher, and he has held the paid rugby coach job at the private Waterville college since 2001, except for one semester, according to the college. Continue Reading →
Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series examining promises made by Paul LePage when he campaigned for governor in 2010. When he was running for governor, Paul LePage recognized the crisis that could be caused by the $4.3 billion the state owed for the pensions for teachers and state employees. But he didn’t say precisely what he would do about it. He did say what he would not do -- cut state government “in half” to find the money. Candidate LePage publicly addressed the pension debt directly, once in a newspaper interview and, later in the campaign in another news interview, but this time through a policy advisor. Continue Reading →
Editor's note: This is part 6 of an occasional series on the effects of the state’s pension costs. The series began last July.
The year is 2020, just nine years from now, and the state is facing one of its worst budget crisis in years. A new governor and legislature are grappling with the inescapable fact that before they can spend a penny on schools, roads or welfare, they have to pay a $760 million bill -- almost all of it debt from the past. The bill has come from the Maine pension system. Continue Reading →