File this in the category of things that prove our similarities rather than our differences.
Staff writers at the Bangor Daily News picked the top-10 stories to watch in the coming year. The wording on the issues may be off slightly, but generally speaking these are some of the very same issues – selecting politicians and getting them to do their jobs, state budget problems, finding renewable energy to sustain us, affordable health care, medical marijuana, protecting and balancing wildlife – faced here in California.
Here is a link to the story and the BDN list:
1. Governor’s race – This will be a big deal in California, too, what with the way things are here and the way things have gone with the Governator. He got into office as a result of a recall election, but his popularity numbers are pretty low now. He wasn’t exactly a government action hero. It seems like the recall was more of a waste than people realized when it happened. Maine will require strong leadership in the coming years to deal with the challenges ahead. I wish that upon Maine.
2. State budget woes – Same here. The economy has hit everyone very hard, including governments. The thing about governments, of course, is that lawmakers often fail to be creative in generating revenue and cutting expenses. Increasing taxes and fees and trimming essential programs is only going to hurt the common person. It’s time for politicians to do the job for which they were elected – run government within the means their bosses – taxpayers – dictate. I may sound a bit conservative on this point, but I’m more than a little fed up with politicians working the system to their personal benefit when they should be doing things to benefit their constituency.
3. Wind power expansion – I like green. I like wind power. I recognize there are critics. I may be missing something – it wouldn’t be the first time – but the biggest criticisms seem to revolve around viewscape and noise issues. Power companies that will profit from wind farms must deal with these issues quickly and move this along. We as a nation are addicted to oil, and a vast portion of that oil comes from regions that simply are no longer friendly toward the United States. Wind farms have been in California for decades and it is time more regions at least consider wind power to help lessen out dependency on foreign oil.
4. Health care reform – Health care in this country is broken and needs fixing.
5. Medical marijuana – If I or anyone in my family or anyone I knew had cancer or another illness that caused extreme pain or debilitating nausea, I would want for myself and them the relief that medical marijuana can provide. And it has to be regulated.
6. Bangor’s new direction – City and county governments around the country seem to be suffering from a void of leadership. It is time for strong leaders to step forward to do what is best for all.
7. Folk Festival future – Cultural enrichment is a necessary part of life and is a measure of a society. Across the country, the economic downturn has hurt nonprofit agencies and events such as the Folk Festival. Better leadership for such agencies and event boards is necessary, as is public-private support.
8. Tax reform referendum – Taxation is a necessary evil. It is the means by which we fund necessary functions of government, from filling potholes to propping up those who are unable to support themselves. But there are abuses and there are limits. We must find a balance that allows us to sustain that support of basic functions and social services, while allowing for taxpayers to prosper. I’m not sure if the reform question on the June ballot is a “Maine miracle” or will hurt working poor and the elderly. And while I recognize that tourist will be paying the higher sales taxes, so will people who are already hurting financially. The idea of filling the gap by raising the number of items on which sales taxes can be charged seems a problem. But if it does pass and it works as supporters believe it might, it could be a template for reform around the country.
9. Maine’s deer herd – This is a problem that needs real short- and long-term solutions. Logging practices that have eliminated habitat, predators such as coyotes and bears, and harsh winters have all taken their toll. Deer hunting is critical because it draws tourist dollars and because families that are suffering, have a chance to put meat on the table. The harshness of winter is something we cannot control. Restoring habitat will take time. The necessary thinning of the coyote and bear populations to a point that allows the deer to recover will take time. The efforts to reduce the coyote and bear populations must be regulated and not done willy nilly. A chamber of commerce recently sponsored a “tournament” to kill coyotes. That is not a solution. That is a tantrum. We lessen ourselves as a society if we resort to such tactics.
10. Fisheries regulations – This will be interesting. Lobstering is a tough business. And these regulations seem to make it even tougher. Granted, I believe the effort is an attempt at striking balance. Whether it works make take some time.