Like most Mainers, I watched the governor’s State of the State address last Tuesday night. Gov. LePage covered several points that Republicans and Democrats both should give serious consideration.

First, the governor outlined the heartless and brutal process of senior citizens being evicted from their homes because they couldn’t keep up with their property taxes. And instead of generalizing, LePage got right to the point, naming the town of Albion and criticizing their brutality. The town evicted an elderly couple and sold their house and land for a pittance.

The couple was left with nothing. Even worse, while the old people were managing to get by at home, now, without a place to live, they are both in nursing homes and the state is picking up the tab. So the act of foreclosing on people’s land and homes has more consequences than it might appear. The first, and most dire of these is that people are kicked out of their houses and the second being that with no resources, those evicted from their homes usually need to turn to some kind of assistance.

The couple the governor spoke of were honorable people, but because of rising property tax rates, were unable to pay their bill. Even worse, a neighbor attempted to help the old couple and pay their tax bill, but town officials refused and instead, seized the house and property and sold it.

The governor stressed that he isn’t trying to forbid foreclosures, but rather, towns should be humane and work with people, especially elderly people on fixed incomes. LePage explained that while retirement benefits remain the same, property taxes are continually on the rise, and thus the problem. And, the governor said, the problem is far more widespread than most people realize.

LePage stressed that people should think about their parents and grandparents, their friends and relatives and imagine them being thrust out in the cold. His message to municipalities was simple. Have a heart. Be humane. Pretty simple stuff. Hopefully, his message did not fall upon deaf ears.

Pure democracy

The governor also made a point regarding the referendum process. He explained that referendums represent pure democracy, where everyone has a say. But, “We are not a democracy,” LePage said. And of course he’s right. America is a republic, with a representative form of democracy. Pure democracy, as the governor mentioned, has been tried for thousands of years and has always failed.

The referendum process has many flaws, which the governor outlined. Out-of-state entities influence, or attempt to influence, Maine referendum questions. This was very clear during the bear-baiting referendum, when out-of-state, anti-hunting groups poured a fortune into television, radio and newspaper ads in an effort to sway public opinion. Their efforts failed.

Maine has two congressional districts, District 1 and District 2. District 1 encompasses southern and coastal Maine as well as the state’s major cities, with Portland being the most populous. Also, District 1 typically takes a liberal stance. District 2 covers rural Maine and tends toward the Republican side. The governor quipped that if he wanted to get a referendum question on the ballot, all he would need do is spend a weekend at the Portland Mall gathering signatures.

Back in November 2016, Maine had six referendum questions on the ballot. One was later found to be unconstitutional and the Legislature had to “fix” several other questions for them to be implemented.

Senate President Michael Thibodeau recently sent an “End of the Session Survey” to people in Senate District 11 and one of the questions asked if people would support an amendment to the Maine Constitution that would require that any referendum question have signatures from both northern and southern Maine. Seventy-eight percent of those responding voiced their support for LD 31, which would make it necessary for petition gatherers to collect signatures from both congressional districts.

If LD 31 passes, it won’t be too soon. A group led by former President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder, The National Redistricting Committee, has embarked upon a campaign that seeks to change voting districts to favor Democrats. Their “A” list includes 12 states that are being targeted now, and a “B” list of states that will be their center of attention in the future includes Maine.

How this group could affect the Maine vote seems unclear, since the dividing lines between liberal southern Maine and conservative northern Maine are well defined. And no matter how any group manages to reconfigure our two voting districts, the geographical location of Democrat and Republican voters will remain the same. And LD 31 would ensure that everyone, no matter where they live in Maine, will be properly represented.

The governor gave a good speech and we would all benefit by heeding his advice.

Tom Seymour is a freelance magazine and newspaper writer, book author, naturalist and forager. He lives in Waldo.