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Wednesday, March 29, 2006
'Block Party: Portland's Greens go for the Council" by Sara Donnelly in the Portland Phoenix: March 29, 2006
The bid for the council is part of a push to recreate recent Green victories in the school committee (where four Greens serve) and in the state House (where Portland’s John Eder is Maine’s first and only Green party legislator) elsewhere in the city.
“It’s not fringe, we are here to win,” says Donoghue. “On the city level, we are very serious.”
The Greens are so serious they plan to run candidates for every major elected seat on the Portland peninsula. So far, they’ve snagged informal commitments from candidates for every office except one at-large school committee seat, one at-large city council seat, and one Portland Water District seat. Even lefty Dem Herb Adams will face opposition from a Green this fall.
Prospective candidates for city council, school committee, and the Portland Water District have until August 21 to file the necessary paperwork with the city. Candidates for state office were required to file their paperwork by March 15, but if any withdraw, the party can substitute a new candidate as late as April 13.
The new crop of Greens hankering for political office is “an expression of people’s disillusionment with our leadership,” says Donoghue.
Donoghue has used what he calls “networking on the street” to dig up Greens willing to take the electoral plunge. Donoghue’s street recruiting is literal—he found his candidate to oppose state representative Adams while hanging out downtown Monday afternoon—and he says it’s part of the reason the Greens have a toehold in local Portland politics.
“We’re the second party in this city,” he says. “The Republican Party is the third party.”
Portland Green party co-chairman Rebecca Minnick will run for the school committee in District 1, and Stephen Spring will run for reelection to the same committee in District 2. At the legislative level, Ben Meiklejohn will run for state representative in District 120 in the seat to be vacated by Ben Dudley, who reached his term limit this year. John Eder will run for reelection to the state House in District 118, a mystery Green will run for House District 119, and two mystery Greens plan to run against Karen Geraghty and Will Gorham for the city council seats.
Donoghue declined to announce the name of the Green running for the House 119 seat before checking with the candidate first. The mystery Greens for city council plan to reveal themselves at a party planning meeting next week, for no other reason than that they want to wait and announce together, Donoghue says.
And you thought politics were cutthroat.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Interview with John Eder on the War in Iraq by Leo Knighton Tallarico in Spiritual Renaissance: March 21, 2006
Leo: As we approach the three year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, what thoughts do you have?
John: Why are we still there? What can I personally do to end it, because I can't leave it up to somebody else. I called a protest last weekend in order to reinvigorate my community on getting off our asses and screaming about this hell that is going on in our names.
Leo: Most of those in the two parties who speak against the war now tell us it will take quite a while before we can totally leave. And there are some like John McCain, who recently said that we need to send more troops. What do you fell about this?
John: Let's just talk about getting out of there and how quickly we can do it. There is no real difference of opionon between the two parties on this war. John Murtha called for withdrawal and the Democrats didn't have his back. 100,000 plus people have died now. sSo we have been made to understand that we are there killing Iraqis in order to free them from Saddam Hussein. Well, I guess that's one way to free them. Where is the logic in that? We killed 100,000 of those people, who were supposed to welcome us with open arms. So we kill them in order to free them from brutality? Get a clue, the story does not add up. We have mission creep like in Vietnam and, similarly, nobody knows why we're are there, including the soldiers. We see now that many soldiers in Iraq want us to leave.
Leo: What can we do as citizens to make sure this kind of situation does not happen again?
John: We can participate and get off our asses and realize we are compliant in what this government does. Government is not an "other." One does not get off that easy. We are the US goverment. We are responsible. I am responsible. We can't live with that, because the blood is on our hands.
John Eder is a state representative from District 118 in Portland, Maine. He is a member of the Maine Green Independent Party, elected to the State House in 2002 and re-elected in 2004. He is the highest ranking Green official in the United States.
"Meiklejohn to Seek House Seat, Remain on School Board" by Stephen Nunns in the Portland Forecaster: March 15, 2006
Meiklejohn, a 34-year-old Green Independent Party member, will run in District 120, which includes Munjoy Hill, the Old Port and portions of the West End. He announced his candidacy at the Greens’ caucus last week.
If elected, Meiklejohn plans to serve simultaneously in the Legislature and on the School Committee for one year.
“Since the Legislature is only in session from January to May or June, there would really only be a five- or six-month overlap during which I would be conducting the business of both offices,” he said. He said he would not run for re-election to the School Committee in 2007.
Meiklejohn said he hopes to expand the work he has done as a School Committee member. “I hear every week that people are pleased with the effect I have had on the committee,” he said.
He also said he hopes to offer “a fresh approach to state politics.”
Meiklejohn was re-elected to the school committee in 2004 and is serving his fifth year.
The District 120 seat is held by Rep. Ben Dudley, a Democrat. Because of term limits, Dudley cannot seek re-election. Democrat Anne M. Rand, who previously served three terms in the Senate and three terms in the House, is Meiklejohn’s only opponent.
Meiklejohn said that he has a laundry list of issues that he believes are important to the area, including lead abatement, sewage treatment and containment, tax reform, salmon fishing regulation and, of course, education.
Meiklejohn has been a highly visible member of the Portland School Committee, particularly over the last year, when the committee has been in the throes of partisan disagreements on policy. Last fall, he was embroiled in a fierce debate over a proposed 3 percent salary increase for Superintendent of Schools Mary Jo O’Connor. Meiklejohn publicly pushed for a 1.5 percent raise for O’Connor, but eventually relented.
Along with fellow Greens Jason Toothaker and Stephen Spring, and, to a lesser extent, Susan Hopkins, who was elected this past fall, Meiklejohn has been instrumental in promoting several School Committee initiatives. Some, like the city’s current “opt-out” policy for military recruiters, have been very successful. Others, such as the “Green Initiative” to have every child entering kindergarten in 2006 graduate with a college degree by 2023, have been scuttled by the committee.
Meiklejohn was chairman of the Maine Green Independent Party from 2000 to 2004. He is a graduate student at University of Southern Maine, studying music performance for oboe. In 2004, the was elected student representative to the USM board of trustees. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat in House District 31 in 1998.
Maine Voices: "State Shortchanges Lowest-Paid Workers" by Rep. John Eder in the Portland Press Herald: March 15, 2006
Last week the Maine Legislature passed a minimum wage increase from six dollars and fifty cents an hour to seven dollars over the next two years. This increase will do little to alleviate suffering Maine workers. The debate over the increase existed predictably between most Democrats, who argued in favor of this meager increase that amounts to an additional ten dollars a week and Republicans who argued that an increase would be followed by job losses. With the debate existing so narrowly between these two poles how we can make significant progress improving wages in Maine? Too few voices were calling for a living wage.
The living wage is the wage a full-time worker needs to earn to support a family above the federal poverty line matched to the cost of living in their town. Workers in Portland with its higher cost of living would make more than those in Calais. If the federal minimum wage had kept pace with the cost of living since 1968, it would be at approximately $9.00 today which is closer to what is now refered to as a “living wage.”
If you are having a hard time getting by, you are not alone. Half of us in Maine are now earning less than livable wages. Some working families skip a meal and some Mainers working full time jobs live in homeless shelters, while many others are only one check away from the same fate.
Don’t we all agree that working a full-time job should be the best way to keep people out of poverty? So, then why has it become acceptable that Mainers who work so hard have to also rely on multiple jobs, charity and services to get by? Our upside-down sense of righteousness today seems to suggest that hard working Maine people who can’t make ends meet are somehow the ones who are immoral and deserve their misfortune but it’s our out of touch politicians who have let us down.
Of course this is not only a problem in Maine, economic disparity is growing nationwide. While the top 20 percent of households in this country are on the way to earning more than one-half of the total national income, wages for the bottom wage earners fell nearly 10 percent between 1979 and 1999 and this reflects the trend in the middle class as well. We should all be interested in low wages because we all share this problem together. While the top income earners bear less and less of this burden, lower and middle income earners pay the lion share of services like food stamps and heating assistance needed to fill in the gaps for those of us who do not make livable wages.
We are often told by our political leaders in Maine that Increasing access to higher education is the best way out of poverty and of course increasing access to higher education is an excellent goal, but education alone is not the complete answer to increasing wages across the board. Maine is now predominantly a service industry, and even if we all had PhD’s we will still need people to care for the sick, disabled, and elderly among us, make our food and bag our groceries. These jobs, like being a lawyer or doctor are all valuable components of a well run community and without them, our civil society would break down. See post Katrina New Orleans to realize that a society is unable to operate without its low paid service workforce. Moreover with the current rate of off-shoring of jobs the nationwide trend toward a service economy shows no sign of reversing soon. You will notice most of these service jobs in Maine are filled by adults and not teenagers waiting for their lives to start as opponents of higher wages would have you believe. Many adults in Portland are sharing apartments with multiple roommates and living check to check. In order to get by many Mainers must work multiple jobs, rarely see their loved ones, and make impossible choices between paying heat, rent, electric, food or medicine? Surely the hard working Maine people who fill these jobs are no less worthy of a decent livable wage than others, yet our state’s leaders have come to accept that people working these service jobs somehow deserve below even subsistence wages. In other words, they allow that half the people in Maine will live in poverty. This is unacceptable, immoral and harmful to us all.
Despite what critics say a living wage is possible. Over seventy localities across the country have adopted living wage ordinances and studies show that no significant job loss has resulted in these places. The ordinances are usually enacted on the city level and seek to increase the wages of city employees who make less than a living wage with the theory being that this will have a significant upward pressure on wages across the board.
Rather than continuously pine over the lack of good paying jobs that are always just beyond the horizon let’s take action to make those jobs that we do have here and now pay well enough to support ourselves and our families so that we might realize that American dream of doing better than our parents did. It’s a moral imperative.
We all must share this burden. Let’s have the real debate that really affects people’s lives today. It is time we insist that every working person in Maine not make merely the minimum, but that we as policy makers and citizens make it our full time goal to see that every worker in Maine makes a living wage.
-Special to the Maine Sunday Telegram
Friday, March 24, 2006
"50 Anti-War Protestors on Casco Bay Bridge; Congressional Candidate among Protestors" by Ed King in the West End News: March 12, 2006
Dexter Kamilewicz, an independent candidate for Congress from Maine’s 1st District, who is calling for an unconditional US troop withdrawal from Iraq, was in attendance at the protest. His son, Benjamin, is currently serving in Iraq with the Vermont National Guard.
The event was organized by West End State Representative John Eder. Another peace demonstration is scheduled to take place on the bridge on Sunday, March 19th, from noon to 2:00 p.m., starting at the South Portland side and stretching across to Portland. The group sponsoring that event has been holding vigils on the bridge since before the war began. Every year on the anniversary, they have expanded their usual one-hour Sunday vigil to two hours and have been joined by about a hundred people in the Portland area, and others on bridges across the state of Maine. For more information, contact Joie Grandbois-Gallup, firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-671-4292
The idea was brought to the Committee by incoming Green Party Chair Kevin Donoghue and Justin Alfond, Director of the League of Young Voters. Alfond told the Committee that there might be a certain ‘fear factor’ on the part of local developers, but that inclusionary zoning was working in other parts of the country. Donoghue called it a ‘bulwark against gentrification’.
Committee Chair Karen Geraghty suggested that the idea be discussed with some local developers to get their input, and some community forums be held to answer questions about the idea.
"Spring Says Elected Officials Should Make Bus Decision" by Ed King in the West End News: March 2, 2006
West End School Committee member Stephen Spring says that the decision to put Portland high school students on public buses should be made by the School Committee and the Portland City Council, and not settled by City staff members and school department members.
The busing plan, which was proposed by Spring at a joint School Committee-City Council Finance Committee meeting last fall, was deemed to be unworkable for a variety of reasons at a meeting of City and school staffers and Metro officials in February.