By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
It turned out better than I had hoped. The news conference held in Lewiston City Hall announcing that 84 people had been removed from our welfare rolls—50 of whom will be prosecuted criminally—caused a ripple effect from Bangor to Wells.
Legislators are now asking city and town administrators what’s being done to curb welfare abuse and fraud in their respective areas. These managers are now seeking the same answers from their welfare directors. The match has been lit.
Several weeks ago in this column, readers were informed of what our crack welfare staff had uncovered. The numbers were given, but nothing further was said. This was because timing is everything. Our news conference on Tuesday, March 26 was deliberately scheduled two days before the Legislative hearings on welfare were slated to begin.
The 10 a.m. conference assured TV coverage at noon, 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Tuesday, as well as morning coverage on Wednesday. It also guaranteed radio coverage throughout those two days. Also in this mix were Wednesday’s daily newspapers that carried this story throughout the state. Thus, reports of welfare fraud that had been dismissed as “anecdotal” by the Maine Legislature the year before now became a reality that could not be ignored.
Sitting in the Hearing Room, I sat back, closed my eyes and enjoyed the bemoaning over the hardships that would befall our unproductive layabouts if their state aid was no longer available. I thought about our elderly, who worry daily about food, medicine and property taxes. I thought of the working poor and their children, who are denied sleep every night by our state- and property-taxpayer-sponsored welfare recipients.
I thought of those also testifying before the committee, whose funding of their legitimate plight was being siphoned from our state and local treasuries and diverted to the bums who filled the room.
Thanks to the yeoman work done by our welfare, police and code enforcement staff, our city is becoming safer and more habitable. Operation Hot Spots will continue to make our streets safer. It sends a message to those coming to peddle drugs in our city: if you want to deal drugs, find somewhere else to set up shop. Drug trafficking will not be tolerated here.
Our code enforcement staff continues to identify and seek condemnation of deteriorated and unsafe buildings. We are slowly but steadily cleaning up Lewiston, making it a desirable place to live and raise a family.
In the upcoming months, an ordinance will be introduced that will make landlords accountable for disorderly acts committed by their tenants. To compensate for their cooperation, I as mayor will promise that they will no longer have to compete with out-of-town developers flush with federal government money. This should enable them to upgrade their properties and be fairly compensated.
My actions have been met with criticism and dismissed by the Portland Press Herald, the Bangor Daily News and the Waterville Sentinel. They believe that these scammers are societal victims. The city administrations of these cities are opposing a law that would allow cities and towns to cease providing assistance for those who have reach their 60-month limit for TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families—known by the average citizen as “welfare”).
If these city administrators want to place these “societal victims” on their city welfare rolls, I have no objection. But they should at least have the courtesy and common decency to let those favoring this law to opt out of this continued lunacy, which enables the dependency cycle to perpetuate unchecked.
In Lewiston we have lit the match to address our local welfare abuse. The question now is this: Are you, John and Jane General Public, going to spread the fire and demand action from your federal, state and local representatives to address and fix this problem? Or are you going to stand by timidly and do nothing?