Jim Fossel: A vote on power project may revive Greens

The proposed transmission corridor through Maine could allow the environmentalist party to take the lead on a major new referendum.

There was a time when the Maine Green Independent Party was a major force in this state.

Though they never managed to win a major elective office like governor or member of Congress, their candidates regularly had a significant impact on those races. Jonathan Carter, who later ran for governor twice and secured official party status for the Greens, may have significantly altered the political history of Maine – and the nation – by running for Congress in 1992. Although he came nowhere near winning, he did secure nearly 9 percent of the vote, which may have tilted the scale in favor of the Republican incumbent, Olympia Snowe, over repeat challenger Pat McGowan.

If McGowan had won, the 1994 open-seat Senate race when incumbent George Mitchell retired might have been much more competitive.

The Maine Greens have also had an outsized impact on the national Green Party movement in the United States – which should be no surprise, as they were the first state Green Party in the nation. Though Maine Greens have never fielded a presidential candidate, Pat LaMarche was the party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2004, even if the ticket was outshone by Green-turned-independent Ralph Nader.

Unfortunately for the Greens, LaMarche’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign was the last time the party managed to get a candidate on the ballot for a major race. Since then, they’ve mostly made headlines as the largest opposition party in Portland, with a few state legislators here and there over the years.

Much of that early energy in the Maine Greens came from their willingness to use referendums to take on the state’s biggest industries. The state’s bottle law was first enacted as a citizen initiative, and we have Bigelow Mountain Preserve instead of a ski area thanks to a referendum. In other campaigns, environmental activists were less successful: They weren’t able to shut down Maine Yankee (at least, not directly); they could only delay the widening of the Maine Turnpike; and Carter’s efforts to enact a ban on clearcutting forests failed.


Regardless of whether they won or lost, they were able to get a whole host of proposals on the ballot that legislators in Augusta – from both parties – would have preferred to ignore completely. Most ballot measures haven’t been focused on environmental policy recently – instead, taxing and spending, civil rights and cultural issues have taken center stage.

The supporters of those referendums, though, owe much of their success to Maine Greens, who led the way in bringing issues to the ballot in earlier decades.

Another major environmental issue may be coming to the forefront of Maine politics soon, though: the battle over Central Maine Power’s proposed transmission corridor.

CMP’s project – which would involve construction of new transmission lines through Maine to help send hydroelectric power from Quebec to Massachusetts – is still in the planning stages, so don’t look for a vote on it this November. Nevertheless, it’s already become the focus of organized political campaigns from both sides – you’ve probably seen the signs popping up around the state.

It’s easy to imagine the issue appearing on the ballot at some point, however. No matter which way regulators end up deciding, opponents or proponents could decide to short-circuit that process by taking the issue directly to the people, as others have in the past. That explains why both sides are already spending money politicking, hoping to shape public opinion long before the proposal is up for a vote.

If it does end up in voters’ hands, there would be both peril and opportunity for Greens. In years past, fighting a major project from CMP might have seemed quixotic: The company not only wielded enormous influence in Augusta but also was popular with the public.

Lately, though, their star has begun to dim: Recent controversies, from storm response to billing errors, have hurt their image.

CMP has been emphasizing that the project will transport clean energy, so they may be trying to appeal to environmental activists.

Much of the opposition to the plan seems to be funded by power generators, but environmental advocacy groups and environmentally oriented companies – like, respectively, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Patagonia – have joined with them.

This issue doesn’t have a clear-cut delineation between environmental groups and corporate interests, so it may be more challenging for Maine Greens ideologically. Still, it does offer them a chance to lead on an issue that will probably be debated for years to come, so it will be interesting to see how they get involved.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins.



Musicians get second chance to perform after racial incident in Carlisle

Young musicians will get a second chance to perform in downtown Carlisle Thursday night after their appearance at First Friday became the focus of a racially charged post on Facebook. . .

“As a foundation that is dedicated to advocating for and assisting the community of writers, artists and musicians, it seemed like our job to rehire these musicians and invite the community to show support,” said Pat LaMarche of the Charles Bruce Foundation, a Carlisle foundation that supports the arts. . .

Chuck Adler, who is part of Da Merge, said police came to Create-a-palooza and talked to its owners after a neighbor called in to complain about the music. The police talked to the store owners and to the neighbor who complained, but no other action was taken.

The neighbor, identified on Facebook as Patti McCann, then wrote a Facebook post in which she used abbreviations for racial epithets to again complain about the music, and coarse language to describe the performers.

“When these racist comments were made public, I think it shocked just about everyone that someone could be so hurtful,” LaMarche said. . .


John Rensenbrink: How liberals and progressives in all parties can save our state

A repeat political disaster awaits our state on Nov. 6.

Once again we face the consequences of a flawed voting system. The race for governor will again be dogged by the spoiler card. With four people running, this means that liberal and progressive voters in all parties will split their votes among Democratic candidate Janet Mills, and two independents, Alan Caron and Terry Hayes, both of whom are progressives. This gives clear sailing to Shawn Moody, a Republican who touts the dead-end politics of Gov. Paul LePage. This also means that with four people running, the winner in all probability will not be able to govern with a majority of the people behind him or her.

So we liberals, progressives and non-LePage conservatives lose again even though we are in the majority. How long are we going to put up with this? Or do we just sigh, call it fate, and endure the ever-worsening status quo?

But there is a way forward. I especially urge the many liberal, progressive, and non-LePage conservative candidates for the state House and Senate to give dedicated priority in their campaigns to Ranked Choice Voting. Make it a major issue.

First, I urge them to declare their own strong support for RCV.

Second, I urge them to promise, when elected, to fight for the constitutional amendment to have the elections for Governor and State Legislature be governed by the provisions of RCV — just as the races for federal offices (U.S. Senate and House) are already so governed, starting this year.

Third, I urge them to assure their constituents that they hear and heed the establishment of RCV by a solid majority of the people of Maine in two referenda: the general election in November, 2016 and the primary election this past June.

True enough, these actions do not yet correct this year’s races for governor and state Legislature on Nov. 6. But they are a strong start for getting our legislature to pass a constitutional amendment for RCV next year to cover the races for governor and state legislature from now on.

There is also this: I know it’s asking a lot, but it would be widely and deeply appreciated if Alan Caron and Terry Hayes were to step aside and encourage voters to vote for Janet Mills, thus enabling her to win. Alan Caron has already hinted that he may do so if the polls reveal a very close race between Mills and Moody. If they do, they would and should be honored as saviors of the public good. We live in unprecedented times. We can, and must, pull together.

We in the Maine Green Independent Party are not running a candidate for governor this year, freeing us to vote for a candidate to our liking. The MGIP has not as yet taken an official position on the gubernatorial race, and I am speaking only for myself at this point. We are deeply concerned to bring to an end the very harmful policies of the present governor and Shawn Moody’s commitment to continue them.

John Rensenbrink is a Maine Green Independent Party and U.S. Green Party co-founder and adviser. He lives in Topsham.



Candidates share viewpoints on array of issues

YORK COUNTY — Incumbent Republican Heidi Sampson of Alfred is challenged by small business owner, Democrat Kelcy McNamara of Alfred, and Green Independent Justin Reinhardt of Limerick to represent District 21, which includes the towns Alfred and Newfield and parts of Limerick, Parsonsfield and Shapleigh. . .Reinhardt currently serves on the Limerick budget committee. . .

Candidates were asked if they believe that access to guns is a key component in school gun violence incidents and mass shootings and if so, what should be done about it in Maine . . .

Reinhardt would like to take steps to amend gun violence while not infringing on the second amendment.

“I think that aside from stronger background checks and closing loop holes for gun shows for access, we should take simple measures to try to minimize the amount of lives a person can take in a short span of time. Limiting magazine sizes, are one of the simpler things we could do without infringing on the second amendment rights of gun ownership,” said Reinhardt.

Candidates were asked how they propose Maine address rising health care costs. . .

Reinhardt believes in a single-payer health care system.

“Maine should be leading the way for a single-payer health care system with or without the assistance of the federal government. MaineCare-for-all, to include mental, health, vision and dental,” said Reinhardt.

We asked candidates their plan to lure high paying jobs to Maine and retain younger workers. . .

Reinhardt believes in infrastructure and industrial hemp.

“Rebuilding our infrastructure, and putting forth the first statewide, publicly-owned broadband services would be a great start to getting younger people more interested in coming to Maine for economic opportunities. As it stands no one is coming to Maine to work for wages that are unsustainable to the cost of living here. We could also start pushing for industrial hemp now that the Denate has passed legislation for it, and get all those mills that were so prevalent in Maine working again,” said Reinhardt.

We asked the candidates what makes them the right choice for voters in this election. . .

Reinhardt believes his Green Party status makes him the perfect choice for voters.

“I represent people, not corporate interests. If you want money out of politics then don’t give it a chance to participate. The Green Party is the only party that does not take corporate funding. In the Green Party we believe in putting people over profit, and making sure that we are environmentally conscious. I believe that we can do better than corporate handouts to war manufacturing, and I believe we are better than robbing those with the least among us to pay for those breaks to corporatism,” said Reinhardt.