(from Maine Townsman, April 2010)
On November 2, 2010 Maine’s voters will put a new Governor at the helm of State. With that in mind, over the last several months MMA has been actively involved in the process of looking ahead toward 2011 and the incoming Administration by setting up informal staff-level conversations with all the gubernatorial aspirants who are willing.
In January, MMA’s advocacy staff published a “Municipal Priorities Paper” as an open letter to the 2010 gubernatorial candidates. For anyone wishing to read the Priorities Paper, it is available at www.memun.org/public/news/PrioritiesPaper.pdf. The Priorities Paper contains a considerable amount of data and related background information about the public-policy positions the municipalities have collectively endorsed
over the years with regard to such matters as home rule, unfunded mandates, “regionalism”, tax reform, intergovernmental financing, state-level financial support for public education, school consolidation, transportation policy, labor-management issues, etc.
The Priorities Paper was mailed to all 26 candidates who were running for office at the time, and the purpose of the distribution was two-fold.
First, the Priorities Paper served as the invitation and “discussion starter” for any of the Blaine House aspirants who wanted to have an informal chat over a cup of coffee with MMA staff about:
• the issues of greatest concern to Maine’s town and city leaders;
• what the state’s 25-year strategic plan might look like; and
• the appropriate nature of the relationship between state and local government over the next four to eight years.
The second purpose of distributing the Priorities Paper to all the candidates was to help inform their individual platforms and candidacies on local government issues even for those candidates who might choose not to come into the office and engage with us directly. After all, MMA is a non-partisan organization that neither endorses any candidate nor moves a single penny of donation in any candidate’s direction, so some candidates might not see any immediate political pay-off in stopping by for a chat. Even in that circumstance, the thinking was that if all the candidates would at least read the Priorities Paper, maybe the pre-primary debates on local government issues would become more information-based and less platitudinous.
Thankfully, a number of candidates accepted our offer and we have learned a great deal in the process. Hopefully, the benefits of the exchange have been mutual.
After June 8th when the primary season ends, the informal nature of the exchange with gubernatorial candidates will shift gears. During the month of July, MMA’s Executive Committee will be scheduling formal interviews with all post-primary candidates still standing, and the content of those interviews will be on the record, summarized in a late summer edition of the Maine Townsman and perhaps even recorded in video format and posted on MMA’s website.
And three weeks before the General Election, at MMA’s annual Convention on October 13th, a Candidates’ Forum will be held at the Augusta Civic Center. It is at that event where the several hundred municipal officials in attendance will have an opportunity to take a full inventory of the next occupant of the Blaine House.