Freeport provides LePage no asylum from confrontation

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FREEPORT — Gov. Paul LePage’s latest town hall forum Tuesday night included exchanges between LePage and Freeport state Rep. Sara Gideon, and several constituents who angrily left the event.

LePage opened the meeting at the Freeport Community Library as he has prior forums in other communities, talking for several minutes about ways to reduce the income tax, cut welfare and energy costs, and the problems of student debt and heroin addiction. He then moved on to a question-and-answer session with the overflow crowd of more than 100 people.

Gideon, a Freeport Democrat and the assistant House majority leader, persisted in asking a question despite being rebuffed by LePage’s press secretary, Adrienne Bennett. Some in the crowd echoed Bennett’s statement that Gideon should instead let her constituents speak, but LePage agreed to hear the question.

Gideon said while she disagrees with many of LePage’s thoughts and ideas, she wants to work with him on a plan to create more jobs in Maine.

“What can we do together to actually do something about jobs, so that we’re not arguing about people on welfare or people who need help moving out of poverty?” she said.

LePage said Gideon should not rely on anecdotal information about issues and should work with her “bosses” in Augusta and have them work with him. Gideon noted that Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond are her peers, not her superiors.

That prompted LePage to tell Gideon if she ever becomes speaker of the House, “which I hope not,” she shouldn’t force others to vote the way she wants them to. He clarified that he hopes no Democratic becomes House speaker, not just Gideon.

LePage’s comment that asylum seekers are “the biggest problem in our state” elicited heckles from some members of the audience. Several people stood up and left the meeting, while shouting “shame on you,” “go to some other town,” and “hit the road.”

James Roux, who has recently been accused of harassing the Freeport Flag Ladies, was among those who were upset by LePage’s comments.

“They’re fleeing war-torn countries,” Roux said to LePage before leaving the meeting. “All they want is help.”

LePage responded to Roux that asylum seekers are different from refugees and that they’re coming from other states, not other countries. Roux argued, but was cut off by Bennett, who was asking everyone to settle down.

Earlier in the evening during his opening remarks, LePage said drug dealers are also a major problem in Maine.

“I believe people selling heroin in this state are murderers,” he said.

LePage emphasized that he believes dealers are the problem, not addicts, and that tougher laws need to be made to punish dealers.

He also spent the first part of the approximately hour-long forum discussing his “vision” for the state and the issues that are “preventing Maine from going from poverty to prosperity.”

LePage said Maine is the highest taxed state in the country and has a low per-capita income compared to other states. He said Maine is also the number one state for second home ownership and that a problem is created by people who live in Maine for only half the year because they don’t pay income tax in the state. The burden then falls to full-time residents, he said.

“Half the population pays $1 billion in income tax,” LePage said.

The governor said he wants to look at how income tax can be lowered. He also said the tourism industry should be better utilized and that tourists should pay a higher sales tax.

LePage also discussed a desire to attract younger people to Maine so more jobs can be filled and the average age in the state, 44 years old, can be lowered. He said student debt needs to be addressed as well, and that companies should assist employees in paying off debt.

He also discussed welfare reform, saying all able-bodied people should have to work and electronic benefit transfer funds should be better tracked.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Gov. Paul LePage speaks at a town hall meeting at the Freeport Community Library on Tuesday evening, Feb. 16. (Melanie Sochan / For The Forecaster)

Gov. Paul LePage listens to a question at a town hall meeting at the Freeport Community Library on Tuesday evening, Feb. 16. (Melanie Sochan / For The Forecaster)

James Roux, 29, defends asylum seekers after Gov. Paul LePage said “illegals … (are the) biggest problem in our state,” during a a town hall meeting at the Freeport Community Library on Tuesday evening, Feb. 16. Roux and several others left the standing-room-only meeting after LePage’s remarks about refugees. (Melanie Sochan / For The Forecaster)

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.
  • jack bauer

    Although LePage faces opposition from a vocal minority who support bringing unvetted individuals from the Middle East and other parts of the world into Maine, he is to commended for not buckling to this pressure. He puts the safety and security of Mainers and their children first…just as it should be.

    • standing domer

      the 2 goals are not mutually exclusive – he presents a false choice. he is to be chided for his unwillingness to attempt to reconcile the 2

    • Jamie Roux

      He already buckled when he gave into unfounded fear. Now he’s just maintaining his xenophobia by misinforming the public. Willful ignorance is dumb.

      • danmaine

        I sat behind you James, you should be ashamed of your behavior, calling LePage a racist and disrupting this informative event. The clapping for his efforts drowned out the disruptive actions of a few out to make a statement. His statements were correct, you just don’t want to hear them. Sitting down to discuss things is different than yelling and name calling. People that don’t share your opinion are not evil, they just don’t agree with you. Many of our asylum seekers came here through other American cities. Because of that fact the Federal Goverment doesn’t give Maine any Funding. 18 months of funding comes from the Feds to the original city. They then come here because the find they can get better benefits and Mainers suffer. That’s a FACT James.

        • Jamie Roux

          I did not call Lepage racist. I said he was in the news because he’s said racist things. This was after he said he doesn’t read the news and then incorrectly stated what was being written about him. Also I was not the first heckler and I was not a frequent heckler.

          • danmaine

            You yelled “You say racists things”, it was your first rude disruption. You yelled out when he talked about wind and solar, 3-4 times. You yelled out multiple times on the asylum seekers. The majority of the attendees spoke out, asking you to leave. Not being the first wow, what an accomplishment, you must be proud of yourself. At least you admit that you were a heckler, next time stay home so that others can get the most out of their experience. Limiting refugees when ISIS states that it will infiltrate them with radical terrorists and current events proving that they already have is not unfounded fear. Our own Federal officials have stated to Congress that they can not vet these people

          • Jamie Roux

            I didn’t say anything during the wind solar talk. That was the lady next to me.

        • Lucy Ball

          When Lewiston had many refugees/asylum seekers arrive years ago it was denied that many came from Atlanta because the benefits in Maine were much better. I listened to Neil Boortz on talk radio out of Atlanta. He said that it was a fact and that a certain radio station ran information ads advising moving to Maine for the better benefits.

      • Lucy Ball

        ‘“They’re fleeing war-torn countries,” Roux said to LePage before leaving the meeting. “All they want is help.”’ If that is the extent of your information you are lacking a whole lot of information. Check in with Sweden and Germany for starters.

        • Jamie Roux

          Check in with Asylum seekers in your own state. They exist and they are resilient, hardworking people who don’t deserve to be vilified by their own Governor. By appealing to your fear and ingrained racism, Paul Lepage is able to scapegoat asylum seekers the same way Hitler did with the Jews. It’s abhorrent.

          • Aliyah33

            I’d agree with a comment re asylum seekers in general when someone writes in the word most, such as in most asylum seekers are fleeing war-torn countries, persecution, devastation, torture; and most asylum seekers are resilient, hardworking human beings deserving of our help. However, it appears most of the comments take the dichotomous route – kind of like politics – one side or the other.

            My understanding of Lucy Ball’s comment is not one of scapegoating all asylum seekers, but observing that some are not exhibiting, by their own actions, they’re seeking a better life, want to belong in new societies to escape persecution, and positively contribute in those societies.

            Watching the news, seeing the people desperately fleeing their war-torn countries, risking their lives (some drowning, suffocating in backs of delivery trucks, etc.) most empathetic individuals cannot help but feel saddened and want to help, realizing they’d do the same (fleeing their own countries), too, if it were necessary.

            However, anyone can find news outside mainstream media and see another side. Some examples: police officers in one European country were handing out cases of water and food, only to have some of these asylum seekers laugh and then hurl the food and water. A teenage boy sneered at being videotaped and made a throat-cutting gesture. An elderly German woman reported being harassed as she attempted to do her shopping by a young male asylum seeker in the subway showing her a picture of an erect penis and asking, this is good? And there are videos of women being mobbed to be sexually assaulted. There are store videos of thefts, and store owners being threatened. The list goes on.

            Does this mean we shouldn’t help refugees? Of course not. But there needs to be some common sense efforts at a vetting process, some kind of system in place, and consequences for those not willing to be law-abiding citizens in their new countries.

            We also need to look at the leaders of the U.S. and expect some consequences for those starting wars in other countries. Our own government created ISS, and throughout history have started wars and armed people, created conflicts to line the pockets of those only looking to profit through human tragedies and creating chaos.

            Lastly, we cannot wholly compare Hitlers and others’ persecution of the Jews (the U.S. also turned ships carrying escaping Jews which went back to Europe to be killed) to this current situation. It’s reasonable to say none of those escaping Jews were terrorists.

        • EABeem

          And maybe you should check in with the colonialists. The first non-native “Americans” were people fleeing persecution in their own country. I figure people who risk their lives to get to the4 U.S. are at least as “American” as people who just had the good luck to be born here.

  • jack bauer

    “The German national security service warned Friday that Islamic State militants are infiltrating Europe under the guise of asylum seekers.”

    Lepage is doing what he can to protect the lives of Mainers which deserves all of our support not ignorant, mindless criticism. Wake up.

  • EABeem

    Rep. Sara Gideon asks how she can work with the governor to create jobs and he insults her. Classic LePage. What a rotten individual, but then his entire administration is rotten to the core.

    • jack bauer

      Everything you write proves you are the one who is “rotten to the core.”

      • EABeem

        Why is it that the standard conservative reply is “I know you are, but what am I?”

        • jbs01

          Jack and Lepage must attend the same chapter of Insulters Anonymous

      • jbs01

        Jack – you can’t even acknowledge when Lepage is off-base and insulting?

        It was a good question. A statemanlike question.

        And LePage turns it into an opportunity to insult fks across the aisle.

        Shame on him and shame on you.

  • danmaine

    I was there, LePage was respectful to everyone in attendance. This write up is very slanted AGAINST the Governor, like most of our media. His representatives explained to everyone before he arrived what the format of the event was and how people could submit questions in writing. I sat right behind Mr. Roux, he yelled, called LePage a racist and raised his voice interrupting the event 6-7 times. Many attendees asked him and 4-5 other rude, disruptive attendees to be quiet and respectful, finally asking them to leave. I’m sure that there is video of the event, there were several camera crews present. Watch the video, LePage and his representatives were professional and courteous. The many “protesters” were NOT.

    He was NOT disrespectful of Rep. Gideon, he did not insult her, they made an exception to the format to allow her to ask a question, the audience didn’t like her getting special treatment. The Governor was very open and answered her question. He asked her to not just follow leadership but to evaluate bills on their merit vs. Political blocs.

    Ed, were you there? I didn’t see you, calling conservatives names yet again? Why do you expect civil discourse when you are apparently not capable of it yourself?

  • jbs01

    What is the objective basis for LePage to state that illegal immigrants and/or asylum seekers are the biggest problem in our state?

    Does he have one?

    They are not killing scores of Mainers. That would be traffic accidents, heroin, obesity, diabetes, alcoholism etc. in no particular order.

    Are they the largest portion of our state budget? No, that would be Mainecare and education.

    What is his basis for the statement? Does he have one other than unsupported innuendo and demagoguery?

    • truther

      This was what I didn’t understand. If you asked any knowledgeable, objective observer to list the top 10 problems facing Maine right now, “already-admitted asylum seekers moving to Maine from other states” would rank somewhere around 812.

      • tiresias75

        Don’t forget the infamous Ziki fly!!

  • Aliyah33

    According to this article it sounded like LePage insulted Rep. Sara Gideon, but after reading several comments, and especially danmaine who wrote he was there, I’m wondering what’s really going on.

    From experience, this is my opinion: oftentimes LePage is telling the truth, but I can absolutely understand why his delivery of certain information is criticized. For example, LePage says people come here from other States to seek the welfare system in Maine. Where I’d worked it was told that one such person made a statement he chose to come to Maine because the welfare benefits are the highest he could find in the country. When asked how he knew this, the reply was something like “easy, just go look it up on the internet”, and word gets around. I don’t blame people for trying to meet their basic needs – for healthcare, food, and shelter. This person was doing the best he could – to survive.

    It’s also been my experience that LePage responded when I wrote to him, and I appreciate that very much. We’re told it’s our civic duty to contact the people representing us, and I’ve done so in the past. LePage and King responded, but none of the others, including Susan Collins.

    Regarding LePage’s concern about heroin, I’d say to him and everyone, start researching about where our country’s drug issues (and other countries) begin. Look up Sibel Edmonds (former FBI and whistleblower) and learn why heroin and other drugs began infiltrating our States. We can’t even begin to fix these drug issues without understanding how we got to this point.

    • danmaine

      He told Sarah that lower cost energy was the key to increasing jobs. He detailed the problem with limiting renewables to 100 MW therefore eliminating Hydo Quebec. He stated that the laws were using Government to pick winners and losers. How biomass was getting shafted and how many jobs were going to disappear, how it was destroying our wood products industries, wood products in Maine used to be a predominant, well paying staple of our economy.These facts were used to lead into the don’t follow your “bosses” comments. Bosses, leaders, semantics, NOT an insult.

      • Aliyah33

        I agree. Something’s wrong with the reporting.

  • tiresias75

    D0 tell us more,Governor, about this oh-so-lethal Ziki fly…?