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Archive for March 2011

Weekly Review: Revenue Sharing; Government Creep; and Posted Roads

By Glenn E. Aho

Auburn City Manager

If there were ever a time for local government to change, it is now! Never before have so many external influences come together all at once and affect local government as it has for the past two years.

Sobering events, such as the rise of petroleum prices, the Great Recession, falling state revenues and the collapse of the housing market have left local officials scrambling to find funding solutions just to provide traditional services. For the past two years, the City of Auburn has attempted to overcome these financial adversities by reducing expenditures, though the reductions are pale in comparison to the amount of revenue loss the city has suffered.

These past two years have been marked by reducing expenditures through labor reductions, then compensating for that reduction by purchasing innovative technology and organizing the city’s local government to operate more efficiently.

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“Kid-Safe Products Law” could ban 1,750 consumer products

Beer, wine, bicycles, cell phones could be banned

In 2008 the Maine legislature passed the “Kid-Safe Products Law,” which sought to remove dangerous chemicals from products that could threaten the health of children’s. In 2010, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection voted to ban BPA from food and beverage containers, such as baby bottles, sippy cups and water bottles, even though the industry has already stopped using BPA in those products.

Governor LePage has proposed modifying the Kid-Safe Products Law, mainly because the law could ban almost 2,000 common consumer products, including beer and wine, toothpaste and bicycles. This is a perspective from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

By Dana Connors, President

Maine State Chamber of Commerce

I applaud the Legislature and the Governor for putting regulatory reform at the top of the list of things to do in Maine. The time has come to strike a balance between reasonable regulations and moving our economy forward.

As they consider a wide variety of rules, regulations and laws, we would encourage them to look at one law in particular; one that purports to be about kids, but in fact it is a sweeping law that puts Maine jobs in jeopardy and is unlike virtually any other in the country. The law needs to be corrected.

Passed by the Legislature two years ago, this law gives a single state agency, the Department of Environmental Protection, the ability to ban any consumer product sold or manufactured here that Maine people use every day. This authority to ban consumer products is unprecedented. How can this be?

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LETTER: “Right-sizing” report is challenged

To The Editor:

The amusing front-page article on “right-sizing” Maine’s government workforce commits a fundamental error of statistical analysis (“Rigth-Sizing” Maine’s government workforce could save $185M,” TCT, March 3, 2011).

Considering the source—the Maine Heritage Policy Center, otherwise known as “The Ministry of Truth”—one doubts that theirs was an innocent mistake.

MHPC’s “chief economist,” Scott Moody—yes, that Scott Moody—has gone and made up an official-sounding statistic: the “state employment ratio.” Fatally, it compares invalid terms.

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LETTER: Auburn Public Works gets an “Atta Boy!”

To the Editor:

The Auburn Public Works crew was in my neighborhood on March 3, removing the snow banks alongside the streets. I decided to make a short movie of their work for my grandsons, who, at the ages of two and three, are “big truck” and heavy equipment enthusiasts. I have seen the results of this type of public works effort plenty of times, but never actually watched the men at their labors.

I was very impressed by their industry and teamwork. While filming the comings and goings and the back and forth, I was reminded a bit of a busy anthill, with worker ants darting in and out with their burdens, all the while maintaining a productive traffic flow.

Graders, assorted plows, a power snow blower and numerous dump trucks maneuvered up and down the streets like clockwork. While graders were working on one street, knocking down the banks of snow, crews were hauling snow away from the next street over. In what seemed like a very short time, they were done and had moved off to another part of the city.

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LETTER: Don’t change the Fund for a Healthy Maine

To the Editor:

The Fund for a Healthy Maine (Maine’s share of the Tobacco Settlement Agreement) is a key component of changing our culture to that of a healthier community.

Talk about getting a “bang for the buck!” The Fund for a Healthy Maine provides a return of approximately $7.50 for every dollar spent. This money belongs to all Maine people, and it should be used the way it was intended: to prevent disease and promote good health for all Maine people.

The Healthy Maine Partnerships do that. Our local Healthy Maine Partnership, Healthy Androscoggin, has made great strides in our community to curb smoking and underage drinking, as well as to encourage exercise and healthy eating. These efforts reach our entire community, schools and particularly businesses.

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Snowe seeks to remove onerous regulations on small businesses

U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe

(R-Maine)

On Friday, March 4, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that almost 14 million Americans are unemployed—that’s 6 million more than when the economic recession began in December of 2007.

Worse yet, unemployment rates are not projected to return to pre-recession levels until 2016. So while the latest unemployment numbers are certainly moving in the right direction, we truly have our work cut out for us if we are to create the 285,000 jobs every month for five straight years needed to return to a more manageable unemployment rate of 5 percent.

To achieve consistent and more robust levels of job creation, it is incumbent upon Congress to ensure the economic climate is ripe for economic growth. That means providing tax, regulatory and fiscal certainty at the federal level.

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Mayor’s Corner: Patriots’ Ink sends subtle threat because of my MAIG membership

By Laurent F. Gilbert Sr.

Mayor of Lewiston

Regular readers of this column know full well that I am one of the over 550 members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) organization who supports good and reasonable gun legislation to protect the public, as the majority of Americans wants us to do.

A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from an organization called Patriots Ink out of Seminole, Florida. I believe the letter was a subtle threat that because of my MAIG membership I would be opposed “at the ballot box.”

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Weekly Review: “Please excuse our appearance;” Weekday Storm Stress Factor

By Glenn E. Aho

Auburn City Manager

Budget cuts and a heavy tax burden have forced Auburn’s hand to renovate nearly everything we do. The renovation has taken place in several phases.

For two years in a row, the City of Auburn has undergone a labor reduction, which could be considered as the first phase. This reduction has saved taxpayers over $857,000 per year in wages and benefits. But that’s not the entire cost. There are those who paid a cost when they lost their jobs, and then the cost to our taxpayers as their services have been reduced, eliminated or changed.

Our employees have also paid a cost in terms of added work, which only reminds us we need to work smarter, not harder.

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Androscoggin Dance presents “A Magical Performance”

Androscoggin Dance will present “A Magical Performance” on Saturday, March 5 at 2 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston. The event will feature two ballets, “La Boutique Fantasque,” a classical ballet about a doll shop that comes to life, and “The Magic Painting,” a contemporary ballet about artist apprentices’ that are beckoned into the enchanted masterpiece and their struggle to return to the artist studio. Pictured doing the “Can-Can” in “La Boutique Fantasque” are (l. to r.) Melina Plummer, Jacob Spellman, Heather Baxter, Laura Hansen, Kiah Baxter, Mariah Perry, Sara Spellman, Lacey Moyse and Neil James. See story, page 13. (Photo by Rob Spellman)

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“Right-Sizing” Maine’s state workforce could save over $185M

The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) has released a report touting nearly $200 million in savings that Maine taxpayers could realize if the state government workforce was reduced to the national average.

The report, “Right-Sizing Maine’s State Government Workforce,” was authored by MHPC chief economist Scott Moody. He states that in 2009, Maine’s employment ratio—the number of state government employees (including employment at Maine’s public colleges) for every 100 people employed in Maine’s private sector—was 5.51. That ranks Maine in the top half (rank 21) of all states’ employment ratio.

The report also explains that Maine’s 5.51 employment ratio is 16 percent higher than the national average of 4.74 state government employees for every 100 private sector workers.

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