The governor’s recission of the 2011 executive order that had put the state and Maine’s tribes on equal footing is disturbing.
INDIAN ISLAND — I am a Native person. I was born into the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and take an affirmed pride in my culture and my people.
I have lived in Maine for 29 years and eternally love this state. Until recently, I hadn’t shared many people’s outrage at Gov. LePage and the way he has taken to running it.
I have time and again defended the governor to people who have spoken out against him in my presence, even though I consider myself to be a very liberal-minded person after living in the Portland area for several years.
I defended him because he had done several things to help better the relations between the tribes and the state, including issuing the August 2011 executive order that states “the unique relationship between the State of Maine and the individual Tribes is a relationship between equals.”
The governor’s actions these past few days seem abrupt, like those of an angry child so quick to take away something that was given. The reasoning appears to be because he can’t handle that our nations are trying to push for conditions to be met, and our voices to be heard.
This rescission of the 2011 executive order comes at a very critical time. Maine tribes have just met with the Skowhegan school board to try to convince the people of the town to change the mascot of Skowhegan Area High School. And there’s also the ongoing fight with the Washington National Football League team.
I am proud to be who I am, but alone, without my tribe, I feel vulnerable. I grew up on the Penobscot reservation and was afraid to leave it because of the way I thought I would be treated. Off the reservation from a very young age, I have experienced a considerable amount of racism directed toward myself and my people. Luckily I am light-skinned and am able to assimilate very easily into white society.
I shouldn’t have to. As I travel, if I go to an area where there are no tribes and where people haven’t met a Native person before, if they find out that I am, almost instantly the first question they ask is “How much are you?” This may be because of my lighter skin tone, but I know many darker Natives who have received the same question.
The question isn’t “What tribe are you from?” Instead, they want to know my percentage of Native American blood. I have lived in several states, and as I travel throughout the U.S., this seems to be one of the universal reactions toward me when others realize my race.
At this point, I become a novelty for them. I am suddenly being asked questions I don’t want to answer, things that a normal person would never ask a person of color. But the sad truth is that we are not considered people.
If I travel to a place nearer to reservations I am even more reluctant to be found out, because in most cases there is a hostility toward Native people. In these areas we aren’t a novelty; we are a problem, something to be dealt with – “some thing,” not someone.
In these cases we are not people, we are a nuisance. Like with the Washington football team and many other mascots where Natives are depicted, we lose our humanity. I am so very tired of not feeling like a person, feeling like I am apart from everyone else in this nation.
Native people are uniquely treated, because for most people we either only exist in poorly informed textbooks, or as a small group that needs to be handled. It seems as though there aren’t enough of us to make an impact and have our voices heard.
In a time when people are shouting that black lives matter, we are still shoved aside and told to shut up and deal with things like the rescission of the governor’s order. When will we matter? When will we be considered someone and not some thing?
What the state of Maine needs is to avoid severing this relationship that we have finally been able build. It has taken hundreds of years to be able for us to finally be treated as we should be and only three to be taken away. I don’t think that I can express enough how hurt I feel about this entire situation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carter E. Cates of Indian Island is a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe and the Penobscot Nation.
It’s time the state realizes this would be the surest path to environmental and economic degradation.
BY CHRIS BUCHANAN | SPECIAL TO THE PRESS HERALD | April 2, 2015
BELGRADE — The proposed east-west transportation, communications and utility corridor has raised important questions regarding the state’s transportation policy.
Two bills have been introduced by Maine legislators to ensure the proper role for the state in transportation planning, maintenance and development, without increasing regulations or stymying infrastructure that is desired by local people. The bills would create an equal playing field for all significant transportation proposals that may be governed by the state’s law on public-private infrastructure projects.
L.D. 506, An Act to Improve Public-Private Transportation Partnerships, introduced by Rep. Ralph Chapman, D-Brooksville, and co-sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, will be the subject of a Transportation Committee work session Thursday.
The bill’s summary states: “This bill changes the law governing public-private partnerships to develop transportation facilities by removing the Department of Transportation’s authority to receive unsolicited proposals and to limit those proposals solicited by the department to those in accordance with the Sensible Transportation Policy Act.”
Davis is the sponsor of L.R. 373, An Act to Prohibit the Delegation of Eminent Domain Power to Private Entities. The proposal prevents eminent domain from being used by a private entity for transportation projects, or on behalf of a private entity in certain public-private partnerships.
The need for state legislation has been demonstrated by the efforts of communities to protect themselves from the proposed East-West Corridor. Eight towns – Abbot, Charleston, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Garland, Monson, Parkman and Sangerville – have passed a local regulation, be it a moratorium, referendum, local self-governance or land-use ordinance.
In addition, local people of all political persuasions have formed organizations in opposition to the proposed corridor. One such group, started by grandmothers from Charleston – Grandmothers Against the East-West Corridor – gets together every fourth Friday to lead a silent vigil in front of the Pittsfield headquarters of Cianbro Corp., which proposed the private highway. All this is an example of how many people feel threatened and left vulnerable by existing state laws.
Over the past three years, Stop the East-West Corridor has focused on developing resources, advocating for transparency and supporting decentralized local resistance to the proposed East-West Corridor.
We are all Maine residents working together to help support people with a variety of concerns who are still unable to find answers to their questions from private or public officials.
It is time to ensure that we don’t have any more unfounded proposals that waste taxpayers’ time, money and resources the way the East-West Corridor is doing. The bills introduced by Sen. Davis and Rep. Chapman go a long way to address this problem and deserve the support of all the people of Maine.
Cianbro has been mostly quiet about its progress. However, Cianbro President Andi Vigue voiced continued support for and commitment to the corridor in a WABI-TV 5 news broadcast on June 16, 2014, and in May 2014, Maine Magazine published a feature piece with a photo of Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue in Wesley, where the corridor would “cross Route 9.” Like an inexplicable dark cloud on the horizon that never goes away, the corridor proposal lingers.
That the East-West Corridor is not in the public’s best interest was well documented in the state’s 1999 east-west highway feasibility studies. These studies explored the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of a new public toll highway from Calais to Coburn Gore, along with several other options.
In the end, the state concluded that the new-build option would create the most environmental impact, would not significantly increase manufacturing, would not stop people from moving away and was likely to create a negative bypass effect on rural downtowns, especially in Washington County, which is primarily served by east-west roads.
The price tag for construction at that time was $1.2 billion, although the total costs – incorporating all the negative factors, not just money – were estimated at $439,239 in 2015 and $229,691 in 2030 per job created.
Therefore, the state concluded that the costs outweighed the benefits; in other words, that a new public toll highway would have an overall negative economic impact. Instead, the state decided to improve Routes 9 and 2, a plan that the Maine Department of Transportation is still pursuing.
Why then are we still having to mobilize against this ill-conceived proposal for the East-West Corridor? It is time for reasonable state laws that prioritize the public interest in planning state transportation infrastructure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Buchanan of Belgrade is statewide coordinator of Stop the East-West Corridor. For more information about the group, visit: www.stopthecorridor.org.
Op-Ed by Chris Buchanan | March 25, 2015
The proposed East-West Transportation, Communications, and Utilities Corridor has raised important public policy questions regarding the state’s transportation policy. Two bills have been introduced by our Maine legislators to ensure the proper role for the state in transportation planning, maintenance, and development, without increasing regulations or stymying infrastructure that is desired by local people. The bills would create an equal playing field for all significant transportation proposals that may utilize the Public-Private-Partnership law.
LD506, An Act to Improve Public-Private Transportation Partnerships, introduced by Rep. Ralph Chapman (D-Brooksville) and cosponsored by Senator Paul Davis (R-Piscataquis), will be heard by the Transportation Committee on Thursday, March 26. The bill’s summary states:“This bill changes the law governing public-private partnerships to develop transportation facilities by removing the Department of Transportation’s authority to receive unsolicited proposals and to limit those proposals solicited by the department to those in accordance with the Sensible Transportation Policy Act.”
LR 373, An Act to Prohibit the Delegation of Eminent Domain Power to Private Entities sponsored by Sen. Paul Davis prevents eminent domain from being used by a private entity for transportation projects, or in certain Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) on behalf of a private entity.
The need for state legislation has been clearly demonstrated by the actions taken by local communities to enact local laws designed to protect their community from the proposed East-West Corridor when adequate state policy has been lacking. Eight communities have passed a local ordinance, be it a moratorium, referendum, local-self governance, or land use ordinance. These communities so far include: Abbot, Charleston, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Garland, Monson, Parkman, and Sangerville.
In addition, local people of all political persuasions have formed groups in opposition to the proposed Corridor. One such group started by Grandmothers from Charleston, “Grandmothers against the East-West Corridor,” get together every fourth Friday to lead a silent vigil in front of Cianbro’s Pittsfield headquarters. All this is telling how many people feel threatened and left vulnerable by Maine’s existing state laws.
Over the past three years, Stop the East-West Corridor has focused on developing resources, advocating for transparency, and supporting decentralized local resistance to the proposed East-West Corridor. We are all Maine residents working together to help support people with a variety of concerns, who are still unable to find answers to their questions from private or public officials. We appreciate that our state legislators are sponsoring these bills in response.
It is time for the state to ensure that we don’t have any more unfounded proposals which waste taxpayers time, money, and resources the way the East-West Corridor is. The bills introduced by Senator Davis and Representative Chapman go a long way to address this problem and deserve the support of all the people of Maine.
Although Cianbro has been mostly quiet about its progress, Cianbro President and COO Andi Vigue voiced continued support and commitment to the Corridor in a WABI-TV 5 news broadcast on June 16, 2014, and Maine Magazine published a feature piece in the May 2014 issue with a photo of Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue in Wesley where the Corridor would “cross Route 9”. Like an inexplicable dark cloud on the horizon that never goes away, the Corridor proposal lingers.
The fact that the East-West Corridor is not in the public’s best interest was well documented by the state in its 1999 Feasibility Studies of an East-West Highway. These studies explored environmental impacts and socio economic impacts of a new-build public toll highway from Calais to Coburn Gore, along with several other options. In the end, the state concluded that the new build option would create the most environmental impact, would not significantly increase manufacturing, would not stop out-migration of population, and was likely to create a negative bypass effect on rural downtowns, especially in Washington County that is primarily served by East-West roads.
The pricetag for construction at that time was $1.2 billion, although the total costs, incorporating all these factors and not just money, were estimated at $439,239 in 2015 and $229,691 in 2030 per job created. Therefore, the state concluded that the costs outweighed the benefits. In other words, there was an overall negative economic impact of that new build public toll highway. Instead, the state decided to improve Routes 9 and 2, a plan that the MDOT is still pursuing.
Why then are we still having to mobilize against this ill-conceived proposal for the East-West Corridor? It is time for reasonable state laws that prioritize the public interest in planning state transportation infrastructure.
Chris Buchanan is the Statewide Coordinator of STEWC and Maine Coordinator of Defending Water for Life, and lives in Belgrade. More info at www.stopthecorridor.org
Posted Feb. 27, 2015 | Bangor Daily News
Maine at crossroads
I agree with Doug Thomas ( BDN column, Feb. 19) about one thing — a new Maine economy is going to have to come from Maine people. However, many ideas for development expressed in the pages of this paper of late, positioning Maine to take advantage of extractive industries in the North, building an east-west highway, are patently bad ideas. It’s simply immoral and irresponsible behavior to continue economic activities that not only defer true costs to the future but result in ecocide and genocide.
Here are two simple ideas to get Maine going on the right track. First, build out high-speed Internet connectivity throughout the state. Instead of throwing billions away on a highway to serve Canada, build an Internet infrastructure that all Mainers can benefit from.
Second, Maine people need to take control of our energy supply. Burlington, Vermont, has achieved energy independence using solar panels, and we can, too. This is not an idea that’s too expensive, or something to think about for the future. What’s too expensive is what we are doing now, sending our energy dollars away and paying fossil fuel industries to ruin the environment.
The Maine economy is at a crossroads. The old ways are gone. We can be bold and go for green economic growth, or we can fall back on old chestnuts such as an east-west highway, an effort that would set us back relative to the way the rest of the world is moving forward. The only thing in the way is ourselves.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: A trade deal’s corporate giveaway
February 27, 2015
The United States is in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive free-trade agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries. Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?
One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.
ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.
If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?
If the tilt toward giant corporations wasn’t clear enough, consider who would get to use this special court: only international investors, which are, by and large, big corporations.
Why create these rigged, pseudo-courts at all? What’s so wrong with the U.S. judicial system? Nothing, actually. But after World War II, some investors worried about plunking down their money in developing countries, where the legal systems were not as dependable. They were concerned that a corporation might build a plant one day only to watch a dictator confiscate it the next. To encourage foreign investment in countries with weak legal systems, the United States and other nations began to include ISDS in trade agreements.
Those justifications don’t make sense anymore, if they ever did. Countries in the TPP are hardly emerging economies with weak legal systems. Australia and Japan have well-developed, well-respected legal systems, and multinational corporations navigate those systems every day, but ISDS would pre-empt their courts too. And to the extent there are countries that are riskier politically, market competition can solve the problem. Countries that respect property rights and the rule of law — such as the United States — should be more competitive, and if a company wants to invest in a country with a weak legal system, then it should buy political-risk insurance.
The use of ISDS is on the rise around the globe. From 1959 to 2002, there were fewer than 100 ISDS claims worldwide. But in 2012 alone, there were 58 cases. Recent cases include a French company that sued Egypt because Egypt raised its minimum wage, a Swedish company that sued Germany because Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after Japan’s Fukushima disaster, and a Dutch company that sued the Czech Republic because the Czechs didn’t bail out a bank that the company partially owned. U.S. corporations have also gotten in on the action: Philip Morris is trying to use ISDS to stop Uruguay from implementing new tobacco regulations intended to cut smoking rates.
ISDS advocates point out that, so far, this process hasn’t harmed the United States. And our negotiators, who refuse to share the text of the TPP publicly, assure us that it will include a bigger, better version of ISDS that will protect our ability to regulate in the public interest. But with the number of ISDS cases exploding and more and more multinational corporations headquartered abroad, it is only a matter of time before such a challenge does serious damage here. Replacing the U.S. legal system with a complex and unnecessary alternative — on the assumption that nothing could possibly go wrong — seems like a really bad idea.
This isn’t a partisan issue. Conservatives who believe in U.S. sovereignty should be outraged that ISDS would shift power from American courts, whose authority is derived from our Constitution, to unaccountable international tribunals. Libertarians should be offended that ISDS effectively would offer a free taxpayer subsidy to countries with weak legal systems. And progressives should oppose ISDS because it would allow big multinationals to weaken labor and environmental rules.
Giving foreign corporations special rights to challenge our laws outside of our legal system would be a bad deal. If a final TPP agreement includes Investor-State Dispute Settlement, the only winners will be multinational corporations.
Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts in the Senate. This column first appeared in The Washington Post.
February 23, 2015 | Portland Press Herald | Letter to the Editor
Thank you for publishing Nickie Sekera’s column regarding the Penobscots’ fight to retain their authority over the Penobscot River (“Maine Voices: State should drop lawsuit that would grab river from Penobscot Nation,” Feb. 17).
Her column points out a number of problems with the state’s claims to have jurisdiction, and it also notes important flaws in the historical understandings of the state’s expert witness, Bruce Bourque.
Like Professor Bourque, I teach American Indian history at Bates College, and, like him, I respect the rights of my colleagues to hold contrary views. Unlike him, I do not see the grounds for the state’s case.
My reasoning is simple. Every American Indian reservation in the United States consists of aboriginal territory that a tribe did not sell to a state or federal government. The Penobscots never sold the river, and by retaining the islands in its channel, they made very clear that they did not intend to do so.
Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has earned my respect in the past by refusing to pursue cases that she does not believe to have legal merit. She would do well to follow her own example in this particular case as well. The Penobscots and all Mainers deserve no less.
Our economy won’t improve if we reject development
We all know Maine is a poor state. We’re told how high food stamp rates are, how many of our children need free lunch at school and all the other measures of poverty. I deliver firewood all over central Maine, and I see the consequences of our dismal economy every day. You can know how poor we are, but when you look poverty in the eye it becomes much different. It becomes unacceptable.
A few weeks ago, a friend and I counted up the job losses in this part of Maine over the last 20 years. Starting at Interstate 95 through Dexter and Dover-Foxcroft to Millinocket, we counted 10,000 middle-class jobs gone from a population base of about 50,000. At one time, this was the most prosperous part of Maine, a major driver of the Maine economy. Now if we aren’t the welfare and unemployment capital of Maine it’s a miracle.
Then, look back over the last few decades at all the projects that have been proposed to improve our economy to which we’ve said no: the Dickey-Lincoln dam that was never built on the St. John River, a container port on Sears Island, Port of Searsport development, the Big A Dam meant to power the Great Northern Paper Co. mill in Millinocket. Plum Creek spent tens of millions of dollars to be allowed to sell fewer than a thousand house lots on 16,000 acres in the Moosehead region. Even though the company has gotten through the first step, most of a decade has passed and no development has taken place yet. We’ve let our freight rail service degenerate to the point at which it’s almost useless.
Mills are shutting down in the winter to avoid the high cost of electricity while we’ve torn out dams and dismantled generators of cheap power. But we’re bulldozing mountain tops to build windmills. We aren’t allowed by our Legislature to buy cheap electricity from Canada.
We’re about to let a $2 billion dollar investment in the Maine economy slip through our fingers like we have so many other improvements over the years. A project that would provide hundreds of full-time, benefit-paying jobs long after the hundreds of millions in construction payroll is gone. A project that would lower our property taxes because of the taxes this business would have to pay. A project that would improve our transportation system and lower those costs to help our businesses compete. That project is the East-West Highway.
We’re told tourism is the answer. Heaven knows we need those jobs, but how do they compare to the jobs we’ve lost? We’re told we all can raise vegetables in our backyard and sell them beside the road. I can assure you, welfare pays much better and you won’t get sunburned.
The point is, we’re being convinced to say no to all these projects by out-of-state groups that don’t have any answers and really don’t care. If anything is going to be done to cure this poverty, it’s going to come from us.
We might think government knows best and will get this economy moving. How has that been working out for us?
You might think there’s really nothing we can do, and if we speak up some group will attack us claiming all kinds of bad things about us. Could be, but we are the answer if we can find the courage. I served in the Legislature for 10 years, and I can promise you the solutions to get our economy moving again won’t originate there. The solutions will have to come from us, and we’ll have to demand those fixes in a loud enough voice so those who want our votes listen. If we lead they’ll follow.
Let’s start leading and make Maine as good a place to make a living as it is a place to live.
Doug Thomas of Ripley is a former Republican member of the Maine Senate and the Maine House.
The Penobscots are an ancient river-based people. Taking away their waterway is cultural theft.
FRYEBURG — In 2012, then-Attorney General William Schneider, on behalf of the state of Maine, initiated a dubious claim against the Penobscot Nation, challenging their rights to the river water on their reservation. The Penobscot were left no choice but to defend their territory through legal channels.
Schneider’s successor, Janet Mills, is continuing the litigation process with the backing of powerful corporate interests, along with the support of some municipalities where these corporations are based. The lawsuit’s intent is clear: to rescind the Penobscots’ inherent rights to the river that bears their name.
The Penobscot people are an ancient riverine culture that has lived in synergy with the river for thousands of years before the disruption of European encroachment. Like other indigenous peoples of the Americas who have been subjected to genocide and conquest, the heritage and culture of the native peoples of Maine need protection and respect, not continued assault.
The Penobscot should be able to live in peace and safety after enduring the multigenerational traumas inflicted upon them. Why are we engaged in such a battle involving our own Maine peoples? Why is the state poised to seize part of the Penobscot reservation, which has always included the river, using our tax dollars?
Attorney General Mills has an opportunity in this case to champion the rights of Maine’s indigenous people. History informs us that the Penobscot territory has been reduced to its current boundaries and negotiated by the state for 195 years.
Their territory was purportedly legally protected: first in 1775, through a resolve passed by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress (Maine was part of Massachusetts until 1820); again through the 1796 Treaty with Massachusetts, and, finally, again through the Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1980.
Then-Attorney General James T. Tierney cited the Indian Claims Settlement Act in 1988, when he issued an opinion that the Penobscot reservation included the water of the Penobscot River and that the tribe was entitled to take fish within the reservation boundaries as long as the fish were used for individual sustenance. It would be in the state’s best interest for Mills to issue an opinion that aligned with Tierney’s, if solely for the purpose of achieving truth and reconciliation.
The state cannot succeed alone in this lawsuit; it must have accomplices. I understand that Bruce Bourque, a senior lecturer in the anthropology department at Bates College, is serving as the state’s expert witness against the Penobscot Nation in the theft of their ancestral river. His deposition aids and emboldens the state in its attempts of another breach of treaty, to further lay claim that the Penobscot have no rights to the river.
Bourque has stirred controversy among his fellow anthropologists and local historians with his “thousand-year theory.” Essentially rewriting Native American history, Bourque hypothesizes that the “red paint people” are a lost tribe that existed thousands of years ago and mysteriously vanished, and that the Penobscot and other tribes of the Wabanaki Confederation (which also includes the Abenaki, Maliseet, Mikmaq and Passamaquoddy peoples) are relatively recent arrivals to the region.
Bourque’s theory puts his own self-interests in sharp focus as it allows the Maine State Museum – where he is curator – to hold on to any artifacts, bones or other relics that are over a thousand years old, on the grounds that they belong to some mysterious, vanished race rather than to Maine’s native tribes.
This is one example of continued oppression that the Wabanaki face. Actions such as this occur as part of a long continuum in the erasure of their inherent rights and cultural narrative, a history and culture that remain under threat of continued ethnocide and colonization. Bourque’s interests appear to be aligned with his position in the state government and not in the preservation and dignity of native peoples.
While Bourque’s actions raise serious questions regarding academic integrity, of greater concern is the willingness of the Maine Attorney General’s Office to use such revisionist history to advance their corporate-backed assault on the heritage, identity, dignity and human rights of our state’s indigenous peoples. Such institutionalized racism has no place in Maine’s reputable state institutions.
I ask others to question the Maine attorney general’s case against the Penobscot and critically examine Bruce Bourque’s conflict of interests. We can all learn from this example of harmful and unnecessary cultural conflict. As citizens, we have a duty and a right to speak out against this lawsuit and the state government’s insistence on instigating this conflict with our tax dollars.
— Special to the Press Herald
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nickie Sekera is a resident of Fryeburg.
Posted Jan. 04, 2015, at 9:29 a.m. | Bangor Daily News
Monday, Jan. 5, 2015: East-west highway, portrayal of Maine, New Year’s Day hike
It’s been over six years since the Cianbro Corp. published its feasibility study on the 220-mile strip of industrial development known as the east-west corridor.
Since Peter Vigue met strident opposition airing his plan before the Penobscot County Commissioners in Bangor in May 2013, the status of this construction project that would be the largest in Maine’s history has been shrouded in the same secrecy that has characterized the process all along. No one in the affected regions asked for this project, no democratic process spawned it, yet many have experienced Cianbro employees showing up in our towns telling us “this is going to happen.” As a result, many Maine citizens living near the proposed route continue to live with the stress of uncertainty, unable to make informed decisions about their futures.
In addition, many Maine working people who passionately believe the east-west corridor is inappropriate development for our state are spending their own money and time organizing and raising awareness about the effects of this project. There are no deep pocket corporations sponsoring the opposition.
It’s simply not right that a Maine corporation can wield this kind of power and control over Maine people, and what we have here is nothing more than a local example of the corrosive corporate hegemony extant in this country. It’s past time for the Cianbro Corp. to step up and not just make the process transparent, but take this boondoggle of a project off the table once and for all.
Invest in ports, rail, not a new highway
We already have two good east-west highways. A much more cost-effective approach to enhance east-west commerce would be to accentuate use of the St. Lawrence and Atlantic and the Central Maine and Quebec railroads. Keep in mind, the Canadian Pacific bridged across Maine to the Canadian Maritime ports. How? Further development of intermodal (truck/container) and carload distribution facilities. Throw in traffic development to the Port of
Searsport. If the traffic is truly there, a facility in the Bangor area coupled with facilities in St. John should take off. Keep in mind rail distance from Toronto to Searsport is far less than to Halifax, while relative steaming time between Halifax and Searsport is about one day.
We need a coordinated marketing effort to accentuate assets in place. Let’s say $30 million is invested in the Bangor area and $40 million elsewhere for increasing asset capabilities of the rails. Seventy million dollars is far less than the predicted $2.1 billion to build a highway. A cheaper way to test the need and can be accomplished in a shorter time frame. One only needs to look at the joint public/private intermodal crescent corridor project underway from New Jersey into the deep south.
Maine, north of Bangor
How disappointing to watch the Maine episode of “Aerial America.” Producers didn’t do much research north of Bangor, missing two-thirds of the state including Aroostook County — the biggest county in the state. There was no mention of the beautiful St. John Valley, the Allagash wilderness, the logging industry, the potato blossoms and harvest time should have at least been mentioned to name a few. The county was host to the recent International Acadian Festival.
Don’t get me wrong, Bangor south is majestic with all the coastal beauty and history. They missed the dynamics that comprise the entire state. I hope the portrayal of other states is more complete for the enjoyment of their residents, otherwise, they will be as disappointed as we were.
A big thank you to Mark DeRoche, manager of Lily Bay State Park in Beaver Cove, just north of Greenville. On Jan. 1, he hosted an eclectic group of us on a First Day Hike with the assistance of park employees Sam Squires and Liz Munn. The snow was packed, and the air was crisp. The 2.5 mile-hike featured a bonfire with a view of Moosehead Lake complete with warm beverages and homemade treats.
Lily Bay was one of five Maine state parks offering hikes on New Year’s Day, and this one highlighted the winter activities in the park, including ice fishing. I learned that Lily Bay State Park is open through the winter and that DeRoche and his crew groom and maintain miles of trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. This was a delightful start to 2015, and I’ll be back before the snow melts.