By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
A bottle of gin, a pair of dice and a straight razor, issued along with one’s monthly welfare check, was a popular solution designed to reduce welfare in the working-class neighborhood that I grew up in.
Wisdom, born of the street, it reflected the attitude of the average working man and woman towards those who expected to live by the fruits of their labors.
After reading the Sunday edition of Lewiston’s daily paper, it is clear that welfare reform is long overdue. (Stories included “The ins and outs of EBTs,” “Benefits can buy booze, cigarettes, anything legal” and “Welfare cheats: Maine ramps up battle against fraud.”)
Our career politicians in Augusta must immediately be replaced by people with a practical understanding of our problems and a clear, simple, common-sense vision of how to solve them.
We need representatives who put the financial stability of the taxpayers before the financial stability of numerous nonprofit agencies. Taxpayers vs. taxtakers.
We can no longer afford legislators devoid of ideas relating to our current problems; legislators who have created a myth among their constituents that without them life as they know it would come to an end. These legislators have created an illusion called The Term Limit Law. This allows them, after four consecutive terms, to swap from the Senate to the House or vice versa.
They are like welfare recipients who, once disqualified from one program, find another. Should a legislator fail to get re-elected, not to worry! The Good Old Boys will find them a cushy job somewhere in state government—whether they are qualified or not.
Sadly, Governor Paul LePage and his Administration are now uncovering the corruption and its ineptness that has run rampant throughout our state government: corruption at the Maine Turnpike resulting in its director about to be sentenced to prison; investigations into questionable practices at the Department of Health and Human Services and Maine State Housing.
While this is happening our two senior career state legislators, Senator Margaret Craven and Representative Peggy Rotundo, repeatedly deny the magnitude of the existing problem. Additionally, over the years they have failed to focus and seek solutions to Lewiston’s welfare plight.
In our last City Council meeting, by a vote of 5-1, the council passed a resolution calling on the Governor and the Legislature to resolve the Department of Health and Human Services issue in a way that would cause the least amount of impact on Lewiston taxpayers and two of our major employers, Central Maine Medical Center and St. Mary’s Regional Hospital.
After a short debate, Councilor Richard Desjardins of Ward Seven cast the lone negative vote. He requested a second page be added containing solutions to remedy the problem. In that spirit, I now offer a short list to remedy our problems. They include:
A picture on the EBT card of the person issued the card;
A page on state and local government websites dedicated to listing names, addresses and services people are obtaining at the public trough;
A monetary reward for information leading to the recovery of misappropriated funds. This amount to be added to any restitution the subject is ordered to pay;
If the state/federal government discontinues a program, local governments will not be required to place people using up their benefits on its General Assistance; and
Require recipients to explain how they support and feed their pets, especially if the pet is a pit bull or a Rotweiler.
My campaign for mayor was based on finding solutions to Lewiston’s burdensome welfare problem. In the six weeks that I have been in office, the only member of Lewiston’s State Delegation to contact me about our plight was Rep. Michel Lajoie. So far, he is the only local legislator to show his concern.
Lewiston can no longer bear the crushing welfare burden that has been thrust upon us. If our local representatives don’t start assisting us in solving this problem, then we’ll be forced to implement a new welfare policy. Along with their issued benefits, we’ll be forced to include a pair of dice, a straight razor and a bottle of Allen’s Coffee Brandy.