Of politics, parks and postal policy



A debate is raging about whether and how to preserve land in northern Maine. With national park designation unlikely at the moment, supporters are hoping the president will exercise his authority to create the North Woods National Monument.

This does not rule out the possibility of a national park designation in the future. After all, Acadia National Park started out as a monument. For the time being, the debate amounts to a headache of monumental proportions.

Sen. Angus King gave proponents and opponents the opportunity to make their cases directly to the head of the National Park Service right here in Maine. Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis attended two meetings and got an earful.

Gov. Paul LePage took offense at not being invited to the meeting. According to King’s office, they had communicated with the Maine Forest Service Director and had been notified that the governor’s chief counsel would attend. Not good enough, said the governor. “They seem like they have already made up their minds,” he said of the park service. It is clear that LePage already has made up his. Put him down as a “no.”

No sooner did the King forums conclude than Rep. Bruce Poliquin requested that the House Natural Resources Committee hold a field hearing on the matter. No word on whether the governor has been invited. The congressman has a plan B in the works in the form of a bill to limit a president’s authority on monument designations.

Support for a monument is mixed in the region closest to its proposed location but grows steadily the farther one gets from the northern Maine woods. One way or the other, we’ll know something before the end of this president’s term of office.

Poliquin may have a far bigger battle than the national monument on his hands after reversing course on a provision to prevent workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Initially a supporter of the provision, Poliquin was one of seven Republican members of the House who flipped their votes following corrective action undertaken by Republican leadership.

The House erupted when the measure failed by a single vote, and Poliquin challenger Emily Cain’s campaign was quick to pounce. Poliquin countered with a statement expressing his outrage that anyone could suggest he “cast a vote due to pressure or party politics.”

Just why he reversed himself was not explained.

Maine already has adopted protections for LGBT people. Same sex marriage was passed, then repealed, then passed again by public referendum in 2012. Same-sex partners of state employees receive benefits. Adoption is permitted by LGBT and same-sex couples. Discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit and public accommodations is unlawful. An attempt to overturn some of these protections was defeated by a 55 percent majority in 2005. The congressman’s vote seems contradictory to public opinion in Maine.

If Democrats were primed and ready to engage the enemy in the discrimination battle, they were not quite so ready to manage their own party business at their state convention early in May.

The winning streak that has kept Bernie Sanders in the race even as he lags in the delegate count was perhaps as unexpected as the success of He Who Shall Not Be Named on the Republican side. Sanders remains very much in the fray, and his backers are, to say the least, ardent.

They attempted to shout down convention speaker and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, no slouch at holding his own under fire. Party leaders tried their best to promote peace, love and unity, but to little avail.

Even the iconic Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree, who has a lifelong lock on her seat, was faced with calls to “change your vote,” referring to her support as a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton.

Discussion of the draft party platform, the defining document for Democrats in the coming year, was tabled as the superdelegate debate raged on. Late in the day when the platform was once again on the table, attendance had dwindled to the point where the convention was left without a quorum and unable to pass a platform.

Some eager delegates were disillusioned by what they saw as a poorly managed event that left much of the agenda undone. Party leadership professed to be thrilled by the enthusiasm and idealism on display. But if you can’t manage your own convention efficiently, should you be trusted with the majority in the state legislature?

Speaking of ineptitude, there is the stand-off between the U.S. Postal Service and the town of Frenchboro on Long Island. The USPS has decreed that it is unfit for the U.S. mail to travel in the company of a box of groceries or a toaster, a UPS package or a bottle of prescription medication.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night will stay these couriers, but “extraneous matter” in the postal vehicle? Ixnay! “The issue,” said a postal spokesperson, “is with other things inside the van that interfere with mail somehow.” What? A campfire? An activated sprinkler system? A hungry groundhog? What interferes with mail is the failure to deliver it. This is not service-oriented behavior. Surely the USPS can do better.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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