an editorial by Ally Wehrle
On Wednesday, April 27 Governor Paul LePage held a town hall which six LA students, including me, attended at Great Salt Bay Community School to discuss topics such as taxes and energy usage; however, questions posed by the public were carefully chosen.
Before attending the town hall I expected there to be some questions or discussion of a more diverse topic area; however, LePage’s focus, as well as, it seems, the focus of screened audience questions, was on for the most part how to become less anti-business.
While I can imagine that LePage is under pressure to curb his off-the-cuff and often offensive commentary, I do not think that it should be necessary to censor questions to weed out dissent. When only select questions are granted the go-ahead, it alters the appeared collective opinion to be in favor of policies and ideas that may not be the case. With posters and signs not permitted into the event, the silent are even more likely to be viewed as supporters. Stifling critical or unfavorable opinions homogenizes a diverse population.
In regards to the topics which LePage addressed (including the minimum wage, energy costs, and becoming less anti-business), some of his views seemed contradictory. After having previously noted the missed opportunity to have mining in Maine thanks to blocks from the Natural Resources Council of Maine, LePage later credits Maine for being in his opinion the most beautiful state, a description that would be sizably diminished if LePage’s ideal plan for the state were to be realized.
Falling in line with LePage’s proponency of mining in Maine, the governor seemed to be focused on short term goals and impacts versus the larger scope. A resolute opponent of solar energy, LePage’s veto of the solar energy bill and the consequential failure for that bill to pass late last month has caused a hinderance to attempts to expand Maine’s use of solar energy. While solar panels and other forms of renewable energy may be expensive upfront, that cost ends up paying for itself as one has the energy necessary, as opposed to being a consumer of fossil fuels. LePage seems unwilling to consider the long term effects of solar energy as well as a staggered minimum wage increase, something which I believe is imperative for a governor or anyone in direct influence of a population’s future to do. Short-sightedness in policy decisions can become detrimental to the livelihood of our state’s environment, people, and economy.
It is so imperative to become engaged in that political processes which will decide the direction of our lives, and opportunities such as the town hall’s LePage has been hosting should be used to the fullest extent to do so and make heard the needs of the people.