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Glenn Curry: 'It doesn't need to be this hard'

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Sep 03, 2020
Glenn 'Chip' Curry is the Democratic nominee for Maine Senate District 11.

Belfast — Glenn "Chip" Curry is a Belfast Democrat running for the Maine Senate District 11 seat, which represents Waldo County. If he beats Republican Duncan Milne, he would replace fellow Democrat Erin Herbig, who is leaving the Senate because she was hired in March as Belfast's city manager.

In an interview in June, he told The Republican Journal that his work as coordinator of student services at University of Maine Augusta's Rockland Center has influenced his desire to run for state Senate. "It's pretty darn hard here in Waldo County," for people like the adult students he advises, and he wants to increase opportunities for county residents, he said.

Curry said in June the first thing on his priority list if voters send him to Augusta is to "get us through this pandemic." He noted that individuals and small businesses in the county have undergone "tremendous stress," and said it is important to make them whole, as much as possible.

His second priority is to bring the resources of Maine's community college system to Waldo County, perhaps through the Hutchinson Center, to make career education much more accessible.

Regarding taxes, he said it is important to balance them with business incentives. "I care a lot," he said, "about our safety net programs. I care a lot about quality education." He said a strong economy is essential to be able to invest in our social safety net, education and other programs that enhance people's quality of life.

We recorded a Zoom interview with Curry Aug. 14, in which he said he wanted to be Waldo County's state senator "because Waldo County is pretty special, both the place and the people, and I want to be a champion for this county."

Pandemic

Maine is doing a lot of things right with regard to controlling the spread of the coronavirus, Curry said. "Living together is about rights and responsibilities, and this is ... people taking on the responsibilities to keep each other safe."

He said government's role is to give people the most up-to-date public health information and help them understand what they need to do.

Policing

"I'm a very big fan of having an associate's degree ... or similar level of training required for law enforcement officers," Curry said. He added that society is asking more and more of police, compared to 40, or even 20, years ago. Because the level of responsibility and the complexity of their work has increased so dramatically, he recommended training beyond the Criminal Justice Academy.

He praised the leadership of Department of Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty and the involvement of Restorative Justice to help determine how to help inmates reintegrate into their communities after they are released from state custody. However, Curry would like to see more progress in the area of juvenile justice, with early intervention programs to prevent young offenders from returning to the justice system.

There may be cases where it would be helpful to have emergency medical services assist police where mental health or substance abuse issues are involved, he said, or even to have EMS respond instead of law enforcement.

Maine economy

Curry said Waldo County has "a tremendous opportunity in renewable energy, and also in energy conservation," citing increased installation of heat pumps as an example of the latter.

Maine has enough natural resources, onshore and offshore, with wind and solar power to be a net exporter of renewable energy, he said, and Waldo County could be a part of this growing sector of the economy. "We've got high populations to our south that really want that renewable energy, and we could be providing it."

He would like to see the state invest in business hubs where would-be business owners can connect with experts, advisers, peers and investors to help turn their ideas into small businesses, and small businesses can get the support they need to grow. He said each town should develop its own economic development mission and vision, which the state can support with grants. He would have the state university system help communities by doing research on effective economic development strategies.

Taxes

On how to provide property tax relief for Maine residents, Curry said, "The strongest answer is (for the state) to move to the mandated 55% of school funding for essential programs and services," which he acknowledged would be hard, given the state's pandemic-induced revenue shortfall.

He added that the state could help school districts reduce their costs by centralizing purchasing and making back-office functions more efficient.

On the question of whether to allow municipalities to create local sales taxes to offset the cost of providing services, he said, "I don't have a position on that" and would have to research the question more before forming an opinion.

Climate change

Curry said he was "very excited to see the governor's leadership in the formation of the Governor's Climate Council," and planned to look closely at what the council comes back with. He said it was essential that any climate plan for Maine have bipartisan support.

To reach Mills' climate goals, he said, the state will have to move its heating and transportation to renewable forms of electricity. "How do we do that and how do we make sure that it's equitable" will be important questions to answer, he said.

Abortion

He said he does not support restrictions on the availability of abortion. "We all have the authority of our own bodies, our own health care."

Guns

On the issue of mass shootings, Curry noted that Maine has not been affected much by the phenomenon, though it has become "normal" in much of the country in the last 25 years. "In Maine, we have a long tradition of responsible gun ownership," he said.

He supports background checks to make sure people who should not have guns don't get them. Regarding restricting particular types of weapons, he said he had not studied the matter in detail, but would draw a distinction between firearms that are appropriate for sport or personal protection and "weapons of war."

Education

According to Curry, "Education is the challenge. We need 75,000 new workers in the workforce by 2030." He sees those workers coming from the ranks of those who are unemployed, and people who have moved out of state who can be induced to return.

He thinks middle school is the time for students to begin learning about what jobs are available, what they are about, and how to get into them. He also said, as with the recession of 2008-9, the jobs that return after the pandemic, "will most likely not be the same jobs that left."

Maine must develop accessible routes to various types of credentials, including trade school programs, he said, and, ideally, programs would build on one another. "If you need to be working sooner than later, great. Here is this six-month to one-year program and you're into a field that pays well." Waldo County needs to educate workers for health care, the trades, and "heritage industries" like shipbuilding, he said.

Broadband

Curry supports increased funding for broadband. He sees the internet today as a public utility, analogous to electricity in the 1930s and '40s, and would like to see a similar national effort to make it available to all. Especially with telework and remote learning, families need better internet connections, he said, adding that broadband is essential for economic development and telemedicine as well.

In conclusion

Curry summed up his candidacy, saying he has been in the county for 25 years and has learned that people here are "incredibly hard workers, incredibly good problem-solvers ... but it really is hard to make it here, and it doesn't need to be this hard."

Glenn Curry: 'It doesn't need to be this hard'
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