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Alex Hammer

A Citizenís Responsibility
By Alex Hammer
Mar 30, 2006 - 11:29:00 AM

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Iíve written several Op-Eds and focused significant emphasis on what I consider a Governorís responsibility, given that I am running for that office.

But I was leading up to this:

Save for the occasional appointed position, one cannot generally serve in office unless one is elected. And one cannot be elected unless one wins the confidence of the voters.

But what does this involve?

If you notice, there is a lot of criticism of government and public officials, and this is likely intensified during an election cycle. While we should always hold our elected officials accountable, we should, if we are not happy with their performance across the board or in major respects, do a better job at scrutinizing and filtering in regard to who we put into office. As a private employer we would (hopefully) put candidates through a rigorous interview or series of interviews (likely depending upon the type of position) and if we really are concerned about getting the right person we may provide a skills test, do employment personality testing, check references and do a background check.

If weíre so concerned about someone making $12 an hour (as just one example) why donít we have a deeper focus really testing the efficacy of proposed solutions for an individual that would like to work in managing the entire state?

Sometimes the most powerful word in the English language is Why. Or How. I invite you to go out to the websites of each of the candidates, pretend that you are a political reporter or sleuth from 48 Hours, and ask yourself, does this make sense? Is this a superficial answer or does it really explain healthcare, taxes, economic development? Given the complexities of running an entire state, does this person seem like they understand the issues at the level of depth that is required to be successful in that endeavor.

Certainly, the media should be pressing all policy proposals from all candidates to see how well they can be defended and explained and hold up against outside knowledge.

How well do you see this occurring at present? I think that it could be a little bit better.

I did live out of state for a number of years after college, including a decade in and around New York City. They donít play there. People are very dedicated and serious about making money. Now while I donít want to go to that extreme because I believe that there is more to life than money and quality of life factors are also of course critically important, Maine has been immersed in an economic slump for so long, and to such a degree, that we need a collective kick in the pants to shake us out of it.

And that begins with you.

I hope if you wish that you will read my other Op-Eds that are on this site and on our website, I talk about such things as lowered expectations, nibbling around the edges of failed policies and breaking free from these towards true prosperous economic development in a global economy. What that means and what it involved.

My dad, a retired professor of Psychology at the University of Maine, was discussing with me a theory that people may elect those they best relate to, are most similar to them, and/or to the closest degree share their values. While we certainly want someone that shares our general values in the individuals that we select, we certainly shouldnít be looking to clone ourselves in our political selections. I learned from business that one good rule of hiring is to hire those more knowledgeable and experienced than oneself in their respective area of expertise. And experience also includes wisdom and judgment. Weíve all most likely heard the expression of the difference between twenty years of experience, and one year of experience repeated twenty times.

They say that if you keep on doing what youíve always done then youíll keep on getting what youíve always got. Iíd like to see people travel more to other states and countries and see for themselves whether they also agree that this type of sentiment is true (not that I am, by any means, the only person that has been away and then come back, but I think too much insularity in general overadapts one to the familiar which is antithetical to being aware of and then utilizing best practices worldwide).

To give my Mom equal billing, I remember she used to have a button that said, ďLife. Be in it.Ē

I see Democrats and Republicans (not all to be fair - not smart to paint with a too broad a brushstroke - but some) butting heads back and forth. A versus B. A is right, B is wrong. No, B is right, A is wrong. No, Iím telling ya, A is definitely right and B is definitely wrong. Now, there is right and wrong in the world, but Iíll tell you this. While we are (almost shamelessly) beating each other the head in regard to A and B and who is more or less right, the rest of the world (including other states) is becoming more competitive and in danger of cleaning our clocks on the economic stage.

Debate is healthy. The best idea should win, and sometimes honorable (not dishonorable) trade-offs are a way of life.

But over-partisanship is a luxury that we as a State really cannot in a major way afford. And bipartisan efforts need to extend beyond an election year. An effective leader needs a special skill set to appeal to, and draw confidence from, competing interests.

Maybe you feel that we can afford major partisanship. It can be fun to argue for positions and fight to the end for A over B, or B over A. But the point that is too infrequently articulated and I feel too often overlooked, is that weíre in this together. When a young person of talent or potential talent leaves the state, many not to return at all or not for many many years, whether this be before or after college, it is easy, though we do certainly recognize it, to still diminish the importance of that loss. Please think about this. That person that has left generally has a family that has stayed. What does that do not only to individual family members but to real families in Maine on the whole. And collectively to communities when enough families are similarly effected.

They say that if we donít change direction, that we may (unfortunately) actually wind up where we are currently headed. Sometimes progress is considered going from A back to B, or from B back to A. I call that a cycle but I donít call that progress. Hereís another, if you agree, perhaps better idea. A + B = C. From thesis and antithesis can come synthesis. Synthesis, in its highest form, respectfully combines the best of both into a higher whole. And itís more inclusive and unified which makes it stronger. But it takes real leadership and listening and understanding so that there is a merger and not just co-existence. But it can be done, and Iíll explain.

If you live in the United States, you are just as much an American whether you live in Massachusetts or Texas or Maine, as much or as little as you may personally resonate to those specific locales. Similarly, we are one Maine. And I donít care whether you live in York County, Washington County, Downeast, Western Maine, or ďThe CountyĒ. We have to find a way to make it work in Maine such that we all prosper. And I will.

Now back to citizens. I donít want to hear any more of you complain. Enough. The next time that a politician does something that you donít like, that really really angers you, do whatever is in your power to legally get them out of office (including working for the election of their opponents). Or in many cases better yet, become part of the public effort to bring about the Maine (or part of Maine) that you want to see. Itís easy to criticize. Tell me someone that isnít able to do that. But itís only a cop-out if you are unwilling to have any skin in the game.

Many people will tell you how great Maine is. I myself say Maine is, can, will and should be great And this is true. But at another level weíve fallen far short. And I mean that in a collective we, myself as a Mainer included. We need, I believe, to pick ourselves up, look ourselves in the mirror, and talk to ourselves in regard to what each one of us is willing and going to do to personally make things better Ė for ourselves, for our children, for our families and for our state.

I mean that. If you agree, make a promise to yourself that you will do your part. In an ultimate and philosophical sense, our own actions are truly all we really are guaranteed of controlling in this world.

John Kennedy asked us not to ask what your country could do for us, but instead to ask what we could do for your country.

So I ask you. While youíre standing in front of this mirror, I want you to reflect on all the things that are wrong with this state. Mull it over in your mind so that you donít miss or forget anything. And then I want you to stare into the mirror in a determined (even ferocious) glare, and say in a loud voice (or softer if there are other people around) with all the courage that you can muster:

ďItís your faultĒ.

Alex Hammer is a candidate for Governor residing in Bangor. The campaignís website is

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