By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
To the chagrin of a small number of progressives—I’m back.
I want to thank everyone for your overwhelming support. I have no intention of resigning. As a result of this dust-up, I will definitely be seeking a second term.
While the press from across the state and country searched for me in an attempt to get a “gotcha” statement and while some angry residents decided to take time from work to picket City Hall, various staff members and myself were in Augusta engaged in productive meetings.
We met with the commissioner of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, the commissioner of the Dept. of Economic and Community Development and a committee set up to strengthen the state’s welfare laws, which has been assigned the task of cutting $500,000 from the DHHS budget. I am happy to report things appear to be going in a positive direction.
On the home front, many of you have expressed offense and anger over Lewiston City Councilor Craig Saddlemire’s letter and public statement encouraging me to apologize. Please, folks, chill out. If Councilor Saddlemire had not taken this action, then I would have been disappointed in him.
Councilor Saddlemire did what he was elected to do: speak for his constituents. I applaud his actions. Now it’s time to move on.
This week’s column will be part one of possibly three parts. I have a lot to say, but will try to limit myself to 600 or 700 words per column.
Lewiston has little to no representation currently in Augusta. Actually, this condition has existed for years. While legislators from southern and northern Maine have attracted property-tax-paying businesses, we have attracted an excessive amount of social service and advocacy groups funded by grants, private donations and, yes, our own tax dollars.
While southern and northern Maine have alternative high-speed highways to avoid the Maine Turnpike tolls, what does Lewiston-Auburn have? Two barriers that seem to keep people out, while keeping the local population in.
Our legislators are touted and celebrated locally for their ability to bring home the bacon. This would be a great accomplishment if it benefited the property taxpayers, but most of it benefits advocacy groups. During election time, many of the letters praising their actions are from people associated with these non-profit advocacy groups. They have a financial stake in each race.
When I became mayor, I was never contacted by our local delegation—with the exception of Representative Michel Lajoie. During the first six months as mayor, none of our local legislators asked to sit down and discuss Lewiston’s needs.
Then in June, I received an email asking for a meeting between the delegation and myself. After the first five minutes of this meeting, it became apparent that my column in this paper was hurting them politically.
Hoping against hope that they were sincere and really wanted to work together, I requested that they supply me with a list of programs designed to help grow existing and new businesses in Lewiston. That was the middle of June. Since then, we have had a meeting every month yet I still have not been given the information I had requested.
However, while at Lewiston’s Republican Victory Center, I spoke with Rep. Michael McClellan of Raymond and asked if he could send me some community development information. Within two days, I received that information. Two days later, I received additional information.
It’s time to send legislators to Augusta that will represent Lewiston property taxpayers, not advocacy groups. It’s time to send representatives who will fill a seat and raise their hands in support of those who actually pay the bills.
Lastly, you’re probably wondering about the number of TANF families that have currently applied for assistance. You’re also probably awaiting the amount local taxpayers must shell out, thanks to our local legislators teaming up with Portland legislators to kill a bill that would have prevented this.
As of October 12, 86 families consisting of 399 people have applied for continued benefits. To date, we have assisted 26 families at a cost of $11,177.39
Had enough? Remember in November.