Sunday, September 22, 2019

A Fire Bell in the Night: The Story of Maine Statehood (Part 1)

Guest Essayist: Jeffrey Hollingsworth
[Part of Constituting America’s 90 Day Study of State & Local Government]

Barely 30 years after the contentious adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, the experiment in self-government and democratic republicanism that enraptured de Tocqueville and other noted admirers of the new United States of America was at grave risk of collapse. Maine’s aspirations for statehood were at the heart of the hullabaloo. It was in a wrestling match with Missouri for admission to the Union. In fact, Members of Congress representing the District of Maine, as it was known—then belonging to Massachusetts—voted against legislation that would have admitted their home as a state even after longstanding agitation in Maine for statehood.

So why, when at long last statehood was within reach, did these officials and many of those they represented object to legislation that would unlock the door to statehood? Their reasons are at the heart of why we are “one nation, indivisible” and how small, remote Maine helped preserve the U. S. of A. at a grave hour in its early history.

Earliest Maine: How the Story Began
The first Mainers have been traced to approximately 3,000 BC. They’re known as the “Red Paint People” due to their liberal use of red ochre in pottery and burial rituals. Native American tribes still extant in Maine are the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet.

Why Maine is called “Maine” (the only one-syllable state) still isn’t clear. Some scholars say it was named after the French Province of Maine. Others suggest it’s from a maritime term for “the main” or mainland, to distinguish it from islands. Some sources claim Vikings visited Maine as early as 1000 AD, but the first recorded European was Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524. Others later included Capt. John Smith (yes, the John Smith) for England and Samuel de Champlain for France.

Champlain fostered an attempted permanent settlement in June 1604 on St. Croix Island off Robbinston, Maine, opposite Bayside, New Brunswick. The colony failed within a year, most settlers felled by “mal de la terre” (scurvy). It was home to the first known Christmas celebration in the New World. The island, though in U.S. waters, is an International Historic Site, the only one in North America, jointly administered by the U.S. and Canadian governments.

Instead of Jamestown, Virginia, the Popham Colony in present-day Phippsburg, Maine, could’ve been the first permanent English settlement in the U.S.A. Sir George Popham and Sir Raleigh Gilbert led 120 English settlers to landfall at the mouth of the Kennebec River in August 1607. Other English settlers had reached today’s Jamestown in mid-May 1607. The Popham colonists started off strongly. They built the first commercial ship ever constructed in the New World, the pinnace Virginia of Sagadahock. This milestone was commemorated by a 1957 U.S. stamp officially recognizing the origin of shipbuilding in the U.S.  Shipbuilding has been a mainstay (no pun intended) of Maine’s economy over the succeeding four-plus centuries.

But the Popham Colony was doomed. After experiencing winter, half the surviving cold, hungry settlers grew disillusioned and fled back to England. Gilbert later received news of his father’s passing and needed to address vital family matters. He left for England, never to return.

Lacking leadership, the remaining colonists abandoned the settlement almost a year to the day after landing. Jamestown’s settlers hung on, though barely. Today, archeological excavations at both sites keep unlocking secrets about our country’s first English settlers.

Maine Grows
From Popham through the next 175 years, Maine ownership shifted from one royal grantee to another. The major promoter of Maine settlement was Sir Ferdinando Gorges, an English aristocrat later dubbed “The Father of English Colonization in North America,” though he never set foot in the New World. With Captain John Mason (a principal colonizer of New Hampshire), Gorges secured a patent from King James I in 1622 for vast territory in Maine. During  the next 50 years, disputes and squabbles over Gorges family holdings and competing land claims finally led Gorges’s grandson to sell all the property to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1677.

Maine grew slowly but steadily, yet not without incident. Devastating hostilities with Native Americans erupted periodically, and colonial conflicts took their toll. France considered all the land up to the Kennebec River, which bisects Maine, to belong to New France. Its farthest outpost was the present-day town of Castine, which see-sawed between French and British control for decades. In 1674, during a war between France and The Netherlands, Dutch naval forces captured Castine and environs, part of a grandiose venture to establish Nova Hollandia (“New Holland”). Maine suffered further privations during the French & Indian War (1754-63). Then came America’s War for Independence.

Mainers were distinguished soldiers, sailors and commanders in the Revolutionary War, and Maine was the scene of several battles. The most notorious was the infamous bombardment and burning of Falmouth—now Portland—on Oct. 18, 1775. The British Navy launched a far-flung campaign to punish seaports aiding the rebel forces, and Portland fell into the dragnet.

The fierceness and merciless intensity of the assault was widely reported throughout all 13 colonies and helped inflame passions against Britain. It prompted the Second Continental Congress to pass legislation authorizing what John Adams wrote led to “the true origin of the American Navy.” Earlier, in the first naval battle of the Revolution, patriots in remote Machias swarmed and captured the British sloop HMS Margaretta in June 1775. The dead and wounded on both sides were carried to Burnham Tavern, where the plot to seize Margaretta was hatched. The tavern, a National Historic Site, still stands.

The worst American naval defeat until Pearl Harbor occurred near the mouth of the Penobscot River as vessels augmented by ground forces sought to oust the British from eastern Maine (“New Ireland,” as Britain had declared it). A 44-ship armada, reinforced by some 1,000 marines and a 100-man artillery contingent commanded by Lt. Col. Paul Revere, left Boston for Maine in late July 1779. The colonials were no match for the Royal Navy. Most American ships not blown out of the water either were scuttled or captured, then hauled upriver to Bangor and burned. The surviving colonials fled overland with few supplies or weaponry. The “Penobscot Expedition” is among the darkest episodes in U.S. military history.

Many Maine communities were occupied by British forces. It underscored the indifference and incapacity of Massachusetts toward defending the region. Maine took years to recover, and louder rumblings for statehood began. The crippling Embargo Act of 1807 made matters worse, since Maine’s economy relied heavily on seagoing commerce. Then, the War of 1812 put many Maine communities under British boot-heels yet again. Its easternmost city, Eastport, wouldn’t even be liberated until 1818, three years after the war ended. 

Two major (and other lesser) engagements occurred in Maine: the 1814 Battle of Hampden (near present-day Bangor), a humiliating U.S. defeat; and the electrifying clash between HMS Boxer and USS Enterprise on Sept. 5, 1813, just off Pemaquid Point near the mouth of the Kennebec River. The thunderous, furious, 30-minute slugfest, witnessed by scores of residents on shore and heard by many more, resulted in the capture of Boxer. It was a widely reported and celebrated boost for U.S. morale, memorialized by Portland native Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem “My Lost Youth.” The remains of both ships’ slain commanders were ferried to Portland, then reverently buried side by side with full military honors.

The war convinced most Mainers that their area was a mere stepchild of Massachusetts and the state government was nonchalant about defending it. The earlier crippling attacks by the French and native tribes hadn’t been forgotten, either. Besides, travelling to distant Boston, the state capital, on official business was an arduous, time-consuming, risky and expensive venture. The push for statehood acquired new life.

Jeffrey Hollingsworth grew up in Belfast, Maine, and is a University of Maine alumnus. He is a past president of the Maine State Society of Washington, D.C., and principal founder of its charitable foundation. He is the author of Magnificent Mainers (Covered Bridge Press), a compendium of mini-biographies of 100 famous Maine natives. His articles have appeared in Honolulu and Down East magazines and in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Portland Press Herald, and other periodicals.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

If Elected, I Promise to ….

[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

The following are agenda items that current Democrat candidates for the President have indicated they will pursue if they are elected to the presidency:

Socialism (in general), Laxer Abortion Laws and Infanticide, Raise Income Taxes, Increase Social Security Payouts, Open Borders, Defund Military, Confiscate Guns, Eliminate Usage of Fossil Fuels, Defend/Support Illegal Aliens, Suppress Free Speech, Reparations for Slavery, Abolish Electoral College, Free College/Forgive College Loan Debt, Universal Child Care, Ban Fracking/Offshore Drilling, Increase the Estate Tax, Implement a Wealth Tax, Raise Minimum Wage, Rejoin Iran Nuclear Deal, Support DC and Puerto Rico Statehoods, Contraceptive Mandate, Increase Funding of  Planned Parenthood, Repeal Hyde Amendment, End Capital Punishment, Never Implement Voter ID, Pack the Supreme Court, Housing Give-away, Medicare for All, Weaken the Economy, and the Green New Deal. There may be more – I have lost track!

I could not even begin to estimate how many trillions of dollars any one or more of these items would cost the American taxpayer – wealthy and/or middle class. Some, like confiscation of guns ("Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47!") do not have monetary implications, but extreme social implications: can anyone say Civil War and loss of life?

How about all these different health plan alternatives: Medicare for all? Has anybody even attempted to explain how this would work? All of the candidates seem to be very vague – and with good reason! How much is this going to really cost? Eliminate the private insurance industry? I don’t think so! Protect and expand on Obama care? I guess we can put a few million more people at risk of losing their coverage!

How about a new tax, a wealth tax? That way you can tax a person’s income, tax their estate which may have grown in value due to their prudent investments as opposed to consumption, and in the meantime combat income inequality by once again taking from the rich and giving to the poor – without regard to their contribution to society? 

Some have said that to accept a tax system that will never truly ensure that the rich pay their fair share (whatever that is!) will always have societal inequality. Funny: isn’t that the essence of capitalism? Isn’t it an economic system in which the factors of production are controlled by private owners for profit? “… the Ultra-Millionaire Tax, [is] a bold proposal to tax the wealth of the richest 0.1% of Americans.  The legislation, which applies only to households with a net worth of $50 million or more, is estimated by leading economists to raise $2.75 trillion in tax revenue over a ten-year period…. ‘It's time to fundamentally transform our tax code so that we tax the wealth of the ultra-rich, not just their income,’ said Senator Warren.” https://www.warren.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/senator-warren-unveils-proposal-to-tax-wealth-of-ultra-rich-americans

Let’s talk a little bit about eliminating the Electoral College. For an explanation of the Electoral College, please read “The Electoral College” by William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director FEC Office of Election Administration.  http://electoralcollegehistory.com/electoral/fecmemo.asp  

The other required reading is Federalist Paper # 68 by Hamilton.

 “The Electoral College was created for two reasons. The first purpose was to create a buffer between the population and the selection of a President. The second as part of the structure of the government that gave extra power to the smaller states.
“The first reason that the founders created the Electoral College is hard to understand today. The founding fathers were afraid of direct election to the Presidency. They feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power…

“Hamilton and the other founders believed that the electors would be able to ensure that only a qualified person becomes President. They thought that with the Electoral College no one would be able to manipulate the citizenry…

“The Electoral College is also part of compromises made at the convention to satisfy the small states. Under the system of the Electoral College, each state had the same number of electoral votes as they have a representative in Congress.” https://www.historycentral.com/elections/Electoralcollgewhy.html

Since the Electoral College process is part of the original design of the U.S. Constitution it would be necessary to pass a Constitutional amendment to change this system.” 
This would require three fourths of the states to ratify the change which is highly unlikely since the smaller states would lose their power.

I have only briefly discussed a couple of the items that opened this article. I leave it to the discerning reader to examine each item more fully. I would ask only that you extend your thinking beyond the realm of your own existence and critically evaluate how each item would impact the country as a whole. While many of these candidates would try to have you believe that each proposal only affects a few people, they fail to address the synergies that would be developed from many of these proposals being implemented simultaneously. 

They also don’t account for the interrelationships between the items nor the fact that there is a limited pool of resources available to tax to support each of these items. Taxpayer money will eventually give out. When this happens, of course, welfare and disability payments will stop; food stamps – no more; etc., and subsequently, a complete collapse of our economy at all levels.

It is amazing to me that the hatred towards President Trump is so great that many wish our country would have a recession because they think that would get rid of him. And all of this because he is doing what he said he would: Make America Great Again! And he is doing this in spite of, not because of any support from the Democrats who want him – and by extension, the country – to fail. 

All of the Democrat Presidential Candidates are making empty promises; there is no way to implement their agenda. Even worse, if they succeed in implementing even parts of their agenda, the country will tilt more toward socialism and eventual failure as a successful capitalist society. President Trump’s new campaign slogans, “Keep America Great” and “Promises Made, Promises Kept”, say it all. 

Normally, I would not worry about his reelection at all! But in today’s society, everyone believes that there are all these freebies to be had. For some reason, many believe that socialism is good – in spite of its abject failure whenever it is tried. My fervent prayer is that people enter the voting booths having separated empty promises from reality – and reelect President Trump!

Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Political Change Curve


[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

What is going on with the Democrat Party? The Kübler-Ross model attempts to explain the five stages of grief in terminal illness: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. 

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kübler-Ross_model] The model was first introduced by the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. It was inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. I started with this model since the Democrat Party seems to have disappeared down the rabbit hole of mental and terminal illness.

After the election of President Donald Trump, I was amazed by the amount of animosity and blind hatred exhibited by so many people. In all of my years of presidential change, I had never observed a complete lack of respect – not only for the President – but for the entire electoral process. What I am going to do is try to explain the political change process, where I believe the democrats are now, and where they might be going in the future. Let’s review the model.

Shock. The first stage of this process is shock. On election night if you watched the various networks which announced that Donald Trump had won the presidency you could see the look on their faces: gobsmacked. This was quickly followed by a room full of the walking dead.

Denial. Once it became evident that Donald Trump had actually won the presidency, it seems as if everybody proceeded into the next stage – denial: impossible, they collectively thought – something must have been misreported.

Anger. After denial, came anger: how can this be? How could he have possibly beaten Hillary Clinton? People felt cheated – after all, she was the queen on her way to the coronation!

Blame. After the anger had slightly subsided, everybody started pointing fingers and blaming anybody they could. Those stupid people – how could they? It was a terrible campaign! He wasn’t a politician; what business did he even have in running for the office?

Depression. Once it became evident that he was the President, depression set in as everybody began to realize that he was going to be the President for the next four years. Or maybe not – we can always impeach him! Most realists, however, settled in for the possibility he would fulfill his complete four-year term.

Fomenters. This next stage came about from the ashes of the Phoenix: maybe something will roil the environment enough that his presidency would be seen as a joke. This allowed for three main factions to come to the forefront and completely obfuscate everything he was trying to do – or did – especially the positive successes. To that end arose media bias, fake news, and the Law of Institutions: “The people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution "fail" while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to "succeed" if that requires them to lose power within the institution.” https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Iron_law_of_institutions (This explains so many Democrat (and Republican!) politicians.) Most reporters and editors are liberal. When you are liberal, and everyone else around you is as well, it is easy to fall victim to Confirmation Bias.

Acceptance. For some who had lived through one or more of the preceding stages of the Political Change Curve, they realized that acceptance would become the best way to move on – to eliminate the complete nonproductive existence they were living, the anxiety and angst they experienced every day, and to try to refocus their existence to look forwards instead of backwards. They realized that life goes on and they needed to make the best out of a bad situation.

Critical Analysis. This stage recognizes the need to improve, correct, and otherwise mitigate the intolerable environment – in other words figure out a way to correct the problem. 

Rebuilding. This final stage occurs when all of the preceding stages have been experienced in part or in total: it is the actual implementation process of corrective action to bring about the desired success: control by the Democrats.

The Democrat Party has failed to recognize a key component in helping its members who are trying to navigate this environment: the easier it is for its individual party members to move into the healing process of trying to live with Donald Trump’s presidency, the easier it will be for the Democrat Party to credibly move cleanly into the next election cycle.

I believe that most of the Democrat party is stuck in the Fomenter stage: complain, misdirect, whine, etc. I think that acceptance may come within the next couple of months when the presidential hopeful herd thins out and a nominee emerges. I believe that the Fomenter stage will be sporadically interleaved with messages about the Democrat candidate (positive) supplanting fake news about Trump (negative). 

Once this Acceptance stage is adopted, the Critical Analysis and Rebuilding stages will begin rapidly because a completely disgusted electorate will have to be recaptured to the party of fake news, years of Russian collusion and impeachment threats. “We should all be worried that more than 65 percent of voters think there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media and that our major media institutions are seen as creating, not combating, our growing partisan divide.” https://nypost.com/2017/10/21/the-other-half-of-america-that-the-liberal-media-doesnt-cover/

Here is food for thought. Biden will not make the final cut (bunch of reasons). Neither will Bernie: always a bridesmaid. Plus, he, like Biden is an old, white, male – not a chance. A possible combo of Presidential hopefuls for the Democrat ticket: Elizabeth Warren and V. P. Kamala Harris? The Republicans will probably run Trump and V. P. Pence. But with two females or a minority candidate on Democrat ticket: who knows?  Maybe V. P.  Nikki Haley? Republicans may have to think outside of the box. With politics, who knows? Forget the polls. If it involves Trump, all bets are off!

Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Friday, August 16, 2019

NEW HOPE FOR CANCER PATIENTS


PUBLISHED ON NEWSMAX

https://www.newsmax.com/scotfaulkner/photobiomodulation-pbm-cancer-oral-mucositis/2019/08/15/id/928715/

A new era of cancer treatment just dawned, giving hope to America's 15.5 million cancer survivors, and the estimated 1.8 million who will be diagnosed with cancer this year.

On June 22, 2019, the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC) recommended the use of Photobiomodulation (PBM) as the standard of care for preventing and treating the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. 

The tragic challenge of fighting cancer is that the treatments severely damage the patient’s body.  Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and stem cell transplants can cause inflammation and the formation of ulcers inside the mouth.  The painful sores make it painful to eat.  In severe cases, known as oral mucositis (OM), patients can no longer swallow food.

OM occurs in close to 40 percent of patients receiving chemotherapy and nearly 80 percent of patients receiving radiation therapy, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

OM can disrupt cancer therapy.  The pain is excruciating.  A feeding tube is usually required, sometimes cancer therapy is suspended so the patient can recover.  Under these circumstances, the cancer treatment may be less effective, and patients can become depressed and demoralized by these multiple shocks to their system.  Quality of life is significantly diminished.

Photobiomodulation (PBM) is a light therapy treatment that helps fortify the oral tissues, reducing pain and inflammation and promoting repair. It works by improving energy production in cells by stimulating their mitochondria, which can absorb this light and use it to increase energy (ATP) production and reduce the free radicals (ROS) that cause inflammation and cell death. Under these circumstances, tissues heal and become more resilient. Energized mitochondria repair cells and restore them to being fully functioning. The patient’s side effects disappear. PBM use, as part of the preparation for chemotherapy, prevents the side effects from occurring in the first place.

This medical breakthrough led to MASCC recommending PBM as the standard of care for all cancer patients who develop OM or are at risk of developing OM.

PBM was discovered in 1967.  It remained mostly in research laboratories in until the 21st Century. Now researchers at major medical schools and pioneering hospitals, are exploring the clinical applications of PBM for the brain, heart, eye, spinal cord, neuropathic pain and hard to heal wounds.  They recognize that the 32 trillion cells in the human body are the battleground for how the body remains healthy in the face of disease, injury, and aging.

Oncologists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), and other cancer centers, started to treat patients with PBM and are documenting the excellent results.  UPMC has treated over 850 cancer patients with PBM, significantly diminishing the side effects of cancer therapies.  Preventing OM eliminates treatment interruption, leading to a substantial increase in “progress free” cancer survivability.  Lessening side effects meant shorter hospital stays, less readmissions, and reducing overall cost of care.

PBM's success and safety recently led St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to start using it on their pediatric cancer patients. 

In 2018, Britain’s National Institute for Care Excellence (NICE) adopted PBM as their standard of care for preventing OM.  Health plans in other countries have followed, building momentum for MASCC’s recommendation at their international meeting. 

“This a major milestone for the field and we are confident it will set a clear path for several exciting clinical applications for Photobiomodulation therapy from concussions and wound healing to exciting new work with regenerative medicine and stem cells,” said Dr. Praveen Arany, President of the World Association for Photobiomodulation Therapy.

Arany is one of the leaders of the movement to establish PBM as a mainstream treatment.  Four thousand published research papers, featured in major medical journals like the Lancet, and over seven hundred Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) are building the case for broader applications of PBM.  Clinical evidence is proving PBM Therapy is effective for musculoskeletal, neuropathic, and traumatic pain.  

The National Library of Medicine (NML) has recognized the legitimacy of PBM’s role in fortifying cells by accepting Photobiomodulation (PBM) as an official Medical Subject Heading.  The NLM catalogue contains more than 6,000 articles on the medicinal effects of light on cells and helping the body’s ability to defend itself and regenerate.

“PBM Therapy is more than just a form of pain relief, it actually helps patients heal”, explained James Carroll, CEO of THOR Photomedicine, a PBM device manufacturer.

The MASCC recommendation is an historic milestone and a major turning point in making Photobiomodulation the future of medicine.  Healthcare professionals and their patients are looking forward to updating other standards of care as PBM moves into the medical mainstream.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM


CONSTITUTING AMERICA” SERIES ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Every year elections are held in the United States.

Federal and state elections every other year (except a few states who are truly “off-year” outside of the two-year cycle).  Local elections, county and municipal, are held somewhere every year.

There are approximately 88,000 local governments, districts, and commissions containing over 500,000 elected officials.

Many local offices are nonpartisan, meaning not party affiliation.  School Boards and small cities and towns assume local functions are not truly partisan.  Is there a Republican or Democrat way of collecting trash or plowing snow?

Local government is designed to be more intimately related to the people it serves. Ironically, few Americans understand its functions, and fewer know their local officials. 

This is unfortunate, as local government is, in many ways, far more important than national and statewide offices.  Local laws and their enforcement can affect property values, quality of education, quality of water, and determine life or death when managing first responders.

This dichotomy of importance and ignorance creates numerous challenges and opportunities.

On the one hand there is less interest in running for these offices.  In smaller towns and cities, of importance and as many as 79 percent of local elections are uncontested.  There is also less interest in voting for these offices.  Stand alone local races, held in off-years, may experience voter turnouts of less than 20 percent.  Local elections held during regular cycles, usually county and school boards, may garner 30-40 percent less votes than for the high-profile state and federal offices.

On the other hand, smaller voter turnout means a dedicated group of activists can elect a candidate as change agent.  It also means a low thresh hold for a first-time candidate entering a local race.

21st Century campaigns have become extremely expensive. 

In 2014, the average winning campaign for the U.S. Senate campaign spent $10.6 million.  In 2018, incumbent U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) spent $33.5 million in her losing re-election campaign.  In 2018, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) spent $25 million to lose his re-election, while Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) spent $68 million to defeat him.

Campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives can also be very expensive. Congressman Alex Mooney (R-WV) spent $1.8 million for winning his 2018 re-election.

These campaign finance numbers do not include the millions spent by “independent” organizations to promote or oppose candidates through direct mail and professionally produced radio and television advertisements.

Compare this with county-level campaigns where $5,000-$20,000 may be all that is required for victory.  Winning small town and School Board campaigns may only require a just few hundred dollars.

“Down Ballot” offices are ideal for average citizens to run for office for the most idealistic of reasons – to help their community.  Many who run for these positions do not desire political careers.  They are motivated by seeing something that needs to be done and answer the call to do it. 

Another aspect of local “down ballot” campaigns is that they usually transcend partisanship.  This is certainly the case for officially nonpartisan offices.  Even partisan local campaigns will see bipartisan cooperation when community values, honesty in government, and civic reform is at stake.  There are countless examples of activists who may be deeply divided on national issues joining forces to “drain the swamp” of county courthouse insiders.

Successful “Down Ballot” campaigns may include a few yard signs, but rarely include major advertising.  Social media, especially Facebook pages and groups, have been the winning edge for many of these first timers.  Some create their own Facebook and Youtube videos to introduce themselves or highlight issues.

The intimacy of local campaigns also allows for neighbors to help neighbors.  “Meet and Greets” in private homes and door-to-door face-to-face interactions are the purest form of grassroots campaigning.  Money is not as important.  One local candidate, who was revered for her charity work, won by a landslide despite being outspent 21-1.

This lack of interest in running and voting has, by design or chance, levelled the field for average citizens to make a difference.  Either as a candidate or as a supporter/voter of that candidate, “down ballot” offices provide a way for caring members of the local community to get involved and contribute to the greater good.

What could be more American than that?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

MacDONALDS OF MAINE


Opening Remarks
Interment of Ashel MacDonald, Irene MacDonald Faulkner, and Clarence “Ki” Faulkner
North Brewer Cemetery, June 14, 2019.

We gather today to celebrate the lives of Ashel MacDonald, Irene MacDonald Faulkner, and Clarence “Ki” Faulkner.

They were linked throughout their lives.  Ace and Irene were brother & sister. Irene raised Ace after the passing of their mother, Ida MacDonald.  Irene married Ki.  Ki became part of the MacDonald family, hunting and fishing with Ace, Papa, and Sonny.  We are here because of them.  We are who we are because of them.  We are their living legacy. 

“Ace” served in the Air Force, Ki served in the Army, and Irene was active in the USO, so it is fitting for us to be here on Flag Day.

We celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday, so we celebrate our fathers, Ace and Ki, who raised us.

Just like Ace, Irene, and Ki, we are part of Maine. Our ancestors farmed and fished on the western islands of Scotland, including Mull and Skye.  In the 1840s, they moved to Prince Edward Island seeking better lives.  They settled in Maine around 1900.

Maine shaped them, like it shaped all of us.  

One of my father’s favorite books was “The Maine Woods” by Henry David Thoreau. Ki especially loved Thoreau’s description of canoeing on Moose Head Lake.  He marked other passages, which are appropriate for today: 

On the 31st of August, 1846, I left Concord in Massachusetts for Bangor and the backwoods of Maine,...I proposed to make excursions to Mount Ktaadn, the second highest mountain in New England, about thirty miles distant, and to some of the lakes of the Penobscot, either alone or with such company as I might pick up there.




WE ARE THE MACDONALDS OF MAINE!


Monday, June 10, 2019

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY

CONSTITUTING AMERICA” SERIES ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT

America’s 3,034 counties are the backbone of local government and form the core of our civic culture. 

Counties are embedded in each state’s constitution and given explicit governing roles and responsibilities.  They arose during the Middle Ages as the domain of a Count or vassal serving a monarch, thus the name.  When the Normans conquered England, they supplanted the local Saxon shires, governed by chieftains, with “contés”, governed by agents of the Crown.

The core activities of counties have seen little change since Counts were given responsibility for maintaining law and order, providing for local roads, and arbitrating disputes, in their domain.

In his timeless masterpiece on American culture, “Democracy in America”, Alexis Clerel, Viscount de Tocqueville, described the functions of county government and the selection of local officials:

The town-meeting chooses at the same time a number of other municipal magistrates, who are entrusted with important administrative functions. The assessors rate the township; the collectors receive the rate. A constable is appointed to keep the peace, to watch the streets, and to forward the execution of the laws; the town-clerk records all the town votes, orders, grants, births, deaths, and marriages; the treasurer keeps the funds; the overseer of the poor performs the difficult task of superintending the action of the poor-laws; committee-men are appointed to attend to the schools and to public instruction; and the road-surveyors, who take care of the greater and lesser thoroughfares of the township, complete the list of the principal functionaries.

The United States currently has approximately 88,000 local governments, districts, and commissions comprised of approximately 500,000 elected officials. This is 20 times as many officials as exist at the federal and state levels. Local governments collectively spend over $1 trillion annually.

As de Tocqueville outlined in 1835, today counties provide the basic services we require in our daily lives:

  Police, fire and public safety services 
  Sewage, water treatment and waste management 
  Schools, libraries, and other education resources 
  Roads, paths, and bridges
  Public transportation 
  Planning, permitting, and enforcement 
  Public health services, including mental health, and services to the disabled
  Tax collection and disbursement

The provision of these services requires close cooperation with “sister” jurisdictions, which may include the state, municipalities and townships embedded within the county, and adjoining counties. Sometimes regional commissions or authorities are established to formalize this cooperation.

County Commissioners or Supervisors act as a “board of directors” to establish policies and oversee these services.  In most cases, there are only 3-9 who are elected and serve in this capacity in each county. These are part-time positions, except in the most populated counties.

The Clerk is a fulltime elected official who is the keeper of all public records, from land ownership to births, deaths, and weddings.  Clerks, and their full staff, administer the settling of estates, or probate, when deaths occur.  Most importantly, Clerks manage voter registration, candidate filings and reports, creating the ballot, holding the election, and counting and reporting the vote. 

The elected Sheriff is more than the chief law enforcement official.  Just like in “Robin Hood”, the Sheriff is the tax collector and manages the county’s finances.

Depending on the population of a county there are an array of other public officials, either elected or appointed, who handle assessing property for tax purposes, certifying the health and viability of water systems and food service establishments, coordinating emergency response, and providing parks and recreation.

Public Schools are governed by a separate and independently elected School Board of 5-9 members.  While schools are funded from the property taxes assessed by the Assessor, and collected by the Sheriff, the Board administers and disburses the funds themselves.

The detailed work of counties is conducted through boards and commissions. These include land-use regulation, building permits, water & sewer, and economic development.  Those serving on these boards are part-time volunteers appointed to the County Commission.

This is where local communities face a fundamental challenge. 

Most Americans have poor awareness and understanding of local government.  The decisions and activities of the diverse array of elected and appointed officials go unreported, or under-reported.  Holding local power accountable is one of the greatest problems in America today.

In his groundbreaking book, “Bowling Alone”, Robert Putnam described the deterioration of communities in 21st Century America.  This is borne out in how few people volunteer to serve on local boards and commissions, how few attend local public meetings, and how few take actions when incompetence or corruption arise.

Corruption and incompetence are more prevalent than ever.  Land use can make or break fortunes, and help or harm a community, especially in the wrong hands. Unfortunately, conflicts of interest are predictable around land speculation.  Misuse of public funds, especially directing contracts to friends and family, or for unrecorded payments, is always possible.

Prior to the digital age, local newspapers were the bulwark against corruption and malfeasance.  Unfortunately, many of these newspapers are vanishing.  Recently, Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of the New York Times, told the World Congress of News Media that “The greatest crisis in American journalism is the death of local news”.  He predicted most local newspapers “are going to die in the next five years”.

Digital media remains more interested in national issues and popular culture.  The journalistic capacity for demanding accountability, or reporting basic information on county government, is vanishing.

It is up to local citizens to demand accountability. This means demanding transparency, including all public documents being public and all public meetings being public. 

Few local officials, especially on appointed boards, support full accountability.  Countless citizen lawsuits have forced public notices to be on websites instead of posted on index cards on courthouse bulletin boards.  This is vital in “bedroom communities” where most citizens commute out of the county for work.

The citizen-led victories for accountability and transparency are based upon state laws that mandate public access. These laws are called “sunshine” laws and “freedom of information acts”.  It is important for those concerned about their communities to learn these laws and fully understand the importance of “adequate public notice” for public hearings and decisions.

America will remain a beacon of hope for freedom loving people everywhere only if Americans take their citizen responsibility seriously and actively participate in their local government.