It is time to get serious about your election choices. The ballot will have many entries, including the gubernatorial race, three of Maine’s four congressional seats, state bond proposals, your local state Senate and House races, county questions and local ballot initiatives.
There is an abundance of information out there about all of these contests. Debates, interviews and websites provide you with plenty of food for thought, and all the facts and figures you need to consider the candidates and the issues.
The sources you should ignore? Mailers and TV ads. Those are the ones most likely to be distorted attacks on the candidates, paid for by out-of-state money or funds from the state party offices. Why should we let them shape our opinions?
The source to which you should pay attention? That would be any local and informed source. Here is an example. An Op Ed recently appeared, authored by Senator Brian Langley (Ellsworth) and Representative Brian Hubbell (Bar Harbor), supporting bond questions #4 and #5.
Both these local legislators are quite familiar with the Jackson Laboratory (JAX) and the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL), and together they laid out a clear rationale for supporting the bonds. State investment in these two high-tech facilities is one way forward for the Maine economy.
JAX and MDIBL bring large amounts of money into the state through federal research funds and through the provision of research tools and services to facilities around the world. Most of that money is spent in Maine, particularly on payroll ($93 million at JAX alone). The workforces of the two labs live largely in Hancock County, pay income and property tax, and patronize local businesses.
At Jackson, three large infrastructure projects are underway, with another pending the result of the bond vote. The planned “biometrics analysis” facility would give JAX the unique capacity to provide data analysis services in their area of expertise: genetics related to cancer and other diseases. Space to provide those services would be made possible with $10 million in bond funds and $11 million in other funds.
The explosion of genetic data worldwide has created demand for analysis tools that far exceed any that have existed to date. That demand means expanded biometric analysis capacity is inevitable, and when it is available, it will be utilized by researchers around the world. That analysis center could be in Bar Harbor, but if we are slow to seize this opportunity, it will surely be built in another state – or another country. Question #4 would bring that opportunity to Maine.
Likewise, MDIBL has developed competitive expertise in regenerative medicine and has focused on educational efforts to bolster U.S. capacity in scientific research. Founded as a summer program in 1898, MDIBL has entered its second century of research excellence. In recent years, MDIBL has transitioned to a year-round program with a growing faculty. Question #5 would help this growth phase continue.
That such an op-ed would be authored by a Republican (Senator Langley) and a Democrat (Rep. Hubbell) is a welcome sign, especially during election season, that our elected officials really can work together. Of course, their respective parties were quick to celebrate that fact. Well, no. Not true.
Despite the endless lip service given to how very, very bipartisan they are on most issues, a distant grumbling could be heard from party leaders when the Brian’s appeared together in print. The parties don’t want their candidates to do anything that might reflect well on the enemy. But the Brian’s don’t think of each other as enemies. They are colleagues, but they risked their respective parties’ wrath by speaking in unison.
You would think the parties would see that we like our legislators to get along. We like it when they work together. We like it when they are civil, even friendly. It is to their credit that these two legislators put the important work of their districts ahead of the dirty work of an election.
The rest of the Hancock County delegation appears to have the support of their voters as well. From Rep. Walter Kumiega (Little Deer Isle), now House Chair of the Marine Resources Committee, to Rep. Richard Malaby (Hancock), who has dogged complicated health and human services issues, to Rep. Louie Luchini (Ellsworth), House Chair of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, and Rep. Ralph Chapman (Blue Hill) who serves on the Marine Resources Committee, none have come up as targets for either party.
Democrat Ralph Chapman is another Hancock County legislator who partnered with Langley, this time to cosponsor the “Bridge Year” legislation that allows high school students to begin college coursework before graduating from high school. Bridge Year students can earn an associate degree in one year or a college degree in three. The courses they take while still in high school are at a much-reduced tuition rate.
These collaborative efforts among Hancock County legislators are a sign that in some places state government is working the way it should be. The drama is confined to Augusta. Back in the districts, most legislators are just trying to get the job done.