Maine’s economy is in rough shape, and we face challenging issues in the coming months and years. Gov. John Baldacci is nearing the end of his second term. Many – and I mean many – candidates are lining up for the privilege of succeeding him.
Given that Maine’s economy faces such daunting challenges, it is perhaps surprising that so many have declared their intention to seek the Blaine House. As I write this, some 22 people have formally announced their candidacies.
We may be the only state that needs to express the number of gubernatorial candidates in scientific notation.
Nonetheless, and precisely because so many people want to lead the state, I spent some time reviewing the Web sites and announced positions of the candidates, and found some interesting commonalities.
What follows is a synthesis of the candidates’ views on many of the issues we face, the assets at our disposal and our best prospects. I expect readers will find a number of these rather familiar:
• Maine People: good, hard-working, resourceful, salt-of-the-earth individualists, oppressed and prevented from enjoying greater prosperity by a state government that is too large and too involved in their lives.
• State Government: big, unwieldy, wasteful bureaucracy that is ignorant of what really contributes to prosperity; apparently comprised of Other Maine People who do not fit the description of “real” Maine People (see above).
•Quality of Life: the indefinable essence of Maine. Natural beauty, safe and quiet communities, a clean environment and a stable (but not too robust) economy. No other state or community has Quality of Life. Period.
• Renewable Energy: a collection of nearly perfect, clean industries that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and function as “game changers” in our economy. Highly desirable, so long as we don’t actually construct energy corridors, build wind farms or other installations that might impact our Quality of Life (see above).
• Innovation: an essential quality if we are to adapt to a changing world. Maine People have the innovation gene in abundance. We just have to unleash it by protecting them from State Government (see above).
• Traditional Industries: very important jobs, particularly for those salt-of-the-earth Maine People who are, of course, Innovators in their own way, but who are not yet working in the Creative Economy (see below).
• Creative Economy: those jobs, industries and activities that, like Renewable Energy, have the potential to change our world, and always will. Included are artists, designers, professionals and all those not involved in State Government or Traditional Industries (see above).
• Health Care: the best in the world, but too expensive and increasingly beyond our means. Maine can’t afford to care for those who don’t have health insurance. There isn’t much we can do about it, but we must make it affordable (see below).
• Education: the essential tool for building tomorrow’s workforce, which encourages employers to locate here and which prepares young people for a decent future. Note: Education is delivered by Educators, not by Administrators (see below).
• Educators: great Maine People, most of whom work hard, though only for part of the calendar year, to prepare our youth for a future that, remarkably, includes Traditional Industries (see above). (Compare to Administrators, below.)
• Administrators: formerly Educators, many are now Other Maine People that are part of a bloated education bureaucracy that stands in the way of Innovation. Desperately in need of consolidation and streamlining. (See also, State Government.)
• Tough Decisions: those decisions that need to be made in order to deliver on campaign promises and change the direction of the state.
• Leadership and Real World Experience: essential qualities that every individual candidate has, but that, apparently, every other candidate lacks. Particularly important in making Tough Decisions (see above).
To be fair, if candidates didn’t address these issues and employ these familiar cliches and archetypes, we’d be wondering how they could ignore them. It’s also true that some candidates have offered specific solutions and strategies.
My point is simply that most of us know what the issues are, and we’ve heard most of this stuff before.
What we’d like to know now is specifically how, in this changing world, a particular candidate plans to move the state in a more positive direction.
We’d like to know how we can compete not with lower-wage environments, but with the states and countries we aspire to emulate.
We’d like to know how we can build the Maine of tomorrow, not recapture the Maine of yesterday.
I’m confident that the candidates will soon become more focused on concrete solutions. We can hasten the process, however.
Next time you encounter one of Maine’s announced candidates, ask for some detail beyond the platitudes. And listen closely.