Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Maine To Set Fox In Charge Of Henhouse? Nestlé Exec Proposed For Board of Enviro Protection

Appointment or Disappointment?
Guest post by Nickie Sekera, Community Water Justice

Maine Governor Paul LePage is in the process of appointing a full-time employee of Nestlé (Poland Spring) and is the world’s largest food and beverage corporation, to Maine's Board of Environmental Protection. The appointment of someone which such a flagrant conflict of interest in unethical and constitutes a dangerous and short-sighted precedent.

The Environmental and Natural Resources Committee will be holding a hearing this Wednesday and will be open to the public.

Committee Chairman Senator Thomas Saviello has acknowledged his longstanding personal relationship with Nestlé executive Mark Dubois, the governor’s pick for the sensitive post, and has endorsed his appointment. Sen. Saviello represents Maine's 17th district, in which Nestle is expanding its Poland Spring bottling plant and which contains several extraction and test well sites feeding into it, adds a further conflict of interest to the confirmation process.

For the past twelve years, Dubois has served as Natural Resource Manager for Nestlé, a position in which he oversees the selection of new spring sites for water mining in environmentally-sensitive areas to export out of state. In his position, he is obliged to increase profits for the shareholders to his company and therefore cannot be trusted give priority to defend the best interests of Mainers by serving on the board which would oversee an important component of Nestlé’s operations.

There is already a disturbing level of interplay between Nestlé and a number of state agencies, regulatory boards and municipalities. For example, Tom Brennan, another natural resource manager for Nestlé, sits on Maine’s Drinking Water Commission. The Maine Public Utilities Commission, which oversees water rates for consumers, is also rife with conflicts of interest with Nestlé.

Too much time and resources are already being spent by citizens having to serve as watchdogs to keep these public entities from compromising the public good for private interests, a process made all the more difficult when so much of Nestlé’s decisions that impact the state are proprietary and not available to the public.

The people of Maine need assurance that our best interests are being represented. The imbalance of power with a corporation which boasts a market capitalization of $247 billion—more than 30 times the entire annual state budget—is not something to take lightly. United Nations consultants have referred to Nestle and their subsidiaries as “global water predators” due to their troublesome environmental record. Maine has water and Nestle employees like Dubois are tasked to secure it.

It's no wonder the Center for Public Integrity gave Maine an "F" rating in a recent 2015 report, due to the state’s lax laws upholding ethics and accountability. Conflicts of interest such as the Dubois appointment are a huge obstacle to maintaining the integrity of our government in serving the people of Maine. In theory, state civil servants must recuse themselves from actions in which they may have a conflict of interest, yet we often have little legal recourse in challenging such betrayals of public trust.

We must ask our state senators and representatives: Which side are you on? Protecting the public good or serving private corporate interests?

This is not an appointment but a disappointment.

If our elected state officials are unwilling to do the right thing on their own volition, the people of Maine need to take action to challenge such conflicts of interests and restore faith in our state government.

Please encourage your state senators and representatives to oppose the Dubois nomination and consider attending the public hearing of the ENR committee that will be taking place at the state capitol in Augusta at 10:00am on Wednesday, January 24, in Room 216 of the Cross building.

Write to the members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee that this appointment is unacceptable:

Also, reach out / copy the email to your State Senator and Representative. We need to let all our leaders know that this is unacceptable. You can find them by town at this link: http://legislature.maine.gov/house/townlist.htm

Thank you.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

No Substitute For Respect - White Supremacists Infesting Maine, As Usual #mepolitics

 Elizabeth Ann Mitchell, Penobscot, On Why She Interrupted Janet Mills With Some Truth
Central Mainers often claim, We're not racist because there are no people of color around to be racist to. It's not true and never has been, but it's a pitch perfect example of why racism is not about the hatefulness of any individual. Racism is a systemic problem that affects and harms every single person living under it, no matter whether they are deemed by their appearance to be one of the "superior" group or one of the targeted groups.

Native people have maintained their culture, including language, while being sytematically robbed of their territory and persecuted for their beliefs in Maine. 

The Penobscot and Passamoquoddy are sovereign nations, and if anyone should leave so that a homogenous group of people can live in paradise, it certainly isn't Natives who should go. Skowhegan Area High School in central Maine continues to cling to its racist mascot the "Indian" despite the sobering testimony of Natives explaining how damaging this is to their children

Now lots of immigrants from around the globe have settled in Maine and are subject to racist harrassment and microaggressions daily. Check out this substitute teacher addressing a high school student with Lebanese ancestry. Brody Elahmar recorded her threatening him with deportation (though it's doubtful she knows such a big word) and ordering him to "speak her language." 

His comeback is priceless: "How many languages do you speak? I speak three."

Posted to YouTube by Brody Elahmar with the comment: "My teacher was harassing me because of my color !"

On the heels of this abuse of power by a public employee came news that the town manager of far north town Jackman is an avid white segragationist who invented a flag for an all-white New England devoted to Anglo culture that he imagines. With the ironic name Kawczynski, he is now trying to raise funds on a site called Hatreon (I can't make this shit up) that lacks guidelines banning hate speech like other crowdfunding sites have.

The town's selectmen may not have known about his desire to build an all-white "Albion" when they hired him, but he's been really active on social media since last November. Currently, they are conferring with their lawyer and I suspect he, like the substitute teacher, will be fired. 

The Chamber of Commerce in Jackman has already come out publicly in favor of firing him. 

(Too bad the Skowhegan Chamber of Commerce has not done the same; instead, it concocts racist promotions to "help" local businesses.) Jackman relies heavily on tourism for revenue, and a boycott would hit them where it hurts.

Here is the letter I sent to them via the contact listed on the town's website, Administrative Secretary Heidi.Dionne@Jackmanme.net:

Dear Jackman selectmen,
Your recently hired town manager, Tom Kawczynski, is making quite a splash as the public face of racism and religious bigotry in northern Maine. I am going to assume that you knew nothing of this when you hired him. Of course he is entitled to his views and to express them under the 1st amendment. But, in his capacity as town manager, encouraging those who share his hate to move to Jackman is problematic.

As a resident of central Maine along Route 201 I am concerned that a nearby town's manager is an active white supremacist. I hope the hateful crowds who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia last year do not feel welcome to congregate near my little town on the Kennebec.

As a teacher I will continue providing opportunities for children to learn what we all have in common: our humanity, our compassion, and our critical thinking abilities. As a history major I have a keen appreciation of what happens to societies who descend into hateful beliefs and practices. It is not a happy outcome for any group, however much they consider themselves "superior" to other people.

Lisa Savage

I think such groups and individuals are afraid of competition. Who wants to be outdone by a teenager that speaks more languages than you do? 

Would it surprise you to learn that the KKK was active in Maine in the 1920's marching against Francophone immigrants who were taking "our" jobs?

The KKK in Maine is having a resurgence in these troubled times.

It is time for those quietly watching the rise of white supremacists in office to stand up and be counted.