When you go to a pharmacist you want someone that knows about medications and their side effects. When you go to a mechanic you want your car fixed right (and without it bankrupting you). And when you go the dentist you want your toothache to stop hurting you without losing all your teeth!
When you elect a Governor of Maine, what do you want? Do you want someone that is an expert in laws? Do you want someone with the most experience with the legislative process?
Each voter will make up one’s own mind, but for me, when I vote for a Governor, it is for someone that I feel can best and most effectively manage the state, and do so from within a general sense of priorities, traditions and, yes, values that I share.
In a published column in the Ellsworth American (02-02-06) I articulate my views on the responsibilities of a Governor. I state in small part:
A governor should possess strong managerial skills and policy expertise. In addition, one must possess leadership skills to bring others together so that they wish and are motivated to participate in solutions for the common good as a whole, so that each may also benefit in part. This requires the strength to set direction, when needed, based in collaboration, so that others wish to follow. Leadership, however, while incorporating strength should not be confused with coercion. Leadership, while persistent, principled and disciplined, speaks to hearts and minds and weaves together a path towards shared desired
A governor works with others toward a shared language and envisioning of how hard work, productive and intelligent strategies and collective positive sacrifices (when required) contribute to the achievement of desired tangible and beneficial ends. These gains must be mapped in plain yet thorough stepwise fashion so that they can be clearly seen outcomes to be attained. I like to say, “It is difficult to get lost on a straight road.” But straightening that road, and making sure that it is in fact aligned with where one wishes to go, is not simple by any means.
Anybody that knows me well knows that I have plenty of ideas, but I work hard and believe that I am successful in regard to merging these well with others and then – most importantly - implementing them. Success never occurs in a vacuum. Just the opposite. Those that can work well with others and hang in there when the going gets rough generally will succeed, and succeed well.
In my Magic City Morning Star column of January 10, 2006, <a href="http://magic-city-news.com/article_5149.shtml" target=blank a state, I write in small part that Maine requires:
... a successful transition in which a significant enough portion of Maine’s economic mix profits from (rather than is diminished by) the 21st century information-rich global economy that the world has become. In addition, and this is the critical piece, this success incorporates Maine’s quality of life traditions and values. In other columns I address my views regarding building successful bridges generally across common divides for better government (Lewiston Sun Journal November 6, 2005) as well as a beginning detailing of successful economic development in Maine (Bangor Daily News September 15, 2005).
In the area of Maine being able to compete successfully in a full manner with other states, not just in small sized areas but overall, I propose the development of a Maine Competitive Council….The Maine Competitive Council and Maine generally will employ a list of strategies to have us working as smart or smarter than other states, not just as hard. Some ways in which this will be accomplished include:
- The use of coordinated statewide networks that focus on identified areas in which Maine can be a National and/or International leader in that 21st century economy. Such networks will research, identify and then integrate Maine’s unique and difficult to replicate strengths such that they can be more powerfully leveraged and marketed for export to address identified market needs in high growth areas (see the Maine Environmental Science Network detailed in BDN article as one example of this).
- The use of best practices such that rather than re-creating the wheel Maine is able to profit from the most efficient and effective processes and program elements utilized elsewhere.
- ROI-sensitive technology investments that increase productivity and profits. This can include business intelligence software that helps to optimize in line with desired goals and parameters projects and project management, schedules, inventory, distribution, vendor relationships etc. By ROI-sensitive in this case I mean that we will be looking at the investments carefully before making them to make sure that they provide real benefits in highly needed areas and that we possess the necessary expertise (or can successfully import it) to insure their success (that includes phasing things in at manageable levels rather than trying to do too much at once and all heck breaking loose).
- Other ROI-sensitive investments. No state can afford to waste money. Maine certainly cannot. We must be certain that we are investing in the right areas in the right amounts. By investment I mean spending that financially gives back (yes, over time) more than what was put into it. Otherwise it's only an expense. In regard to tax-break advantages – let them earn it. How about less or no money up front until promises are delivered and maintained? I realize that we are in competition with other states, but indiscriminate use of business tax break incentives is simply in my view “buying jobs”, which anyone can do if you pay enough for them. This competition, when it goes beyond the point of what makes logical economic sense for a State, is simply, as is termed, “a race to the bottom” that Maine does not need and cannot afford. In addition, I would refrain from giving any tax break considerations to those that do (not - omitted) show the proper respect for the health and vitality of the State of Maine by being good corporate citizens, both in their history and continuing forward. And they must respect Maine’s environment. Let us reach out as a state, as I have said previously, for Maine to be a beacon for all businesses that are environmentally friendly worldwide, for them to stay, grow and come to Maine and prosper.
Leadership builds a collective plan arising from a vision or set of principles that serve as the basis, importantly, to be distilled into concrete and clear policies and actions.
I believe that any discussion regarding greatness of a state would be remiss without a few words about expectations. It’s easy to get used to lowered expectations, especially when one experiences a lack of optimal performance over time. That, I believe is why we accept debates in which both sides of an argument are still focused around the edges in contrast to fundamental, positive and progressive change.
Mainers are as good as anyone anywhere, but I hear from many quarters throughout the state that we don’t always fully know it in terms of what we expect from ourselves or others in the state. I realize that it is of course always a little dangerous to generalize on any matter. Raised expectations, in my view, can also be thought of as embodying positive self-esteem. While not being overly prideful or boastful, when you know as a state that you’re good or as good as anyone else, you want and yes expect the best things available in life for those you love as well as yourself, and will not accept less.
If you examine the lives of individuals that have produced or been a part of great results, you will find that some of the characteristics that they share in common are optimistic vision well-defined and executed, determination, ability to inspire and work well with others, tenaciousness and/or perseverance. Involved with this also is greatly developed insight into current conditions and how to problem-solve efficiently and effectively towards desired outcomes.
In addition to these primary types of qualities, someone who has done well both in and outside of Maine (see my background at www.hammer2006.com/aboutus.html) I believe possesses a broader set of perspectives from which to tackle and address problems and an increased tendency away from insular, restricted or isolationist thinking towards solutions that are broader and deeper drawing upon and integrating a richer set of resources.
Someone who is most qualified to lead this state will recognize the importance of BOTH cost containment and ROI-sensitive but critical investments to foster economic growth. To successfully compete against other states and countries in the hyper-competitive information-rich global economy of the 21st century that the world has become, Maine needs to lighten the burdens on businesses so that they can grow and also leverage strategic business resources and expertise statewide that can most powerfully be coordinated and marketed to meet the highly sophisticated and developed market needs of this global marketplace. A focus on incubator and beginning technologies do not provide the sophistication and critical mass to meaningfully penetrate these advanced markets. As one descriptive (but recognized less than perfect) analogy, your high school (or even college) baseball team, despite additional practice and better equipment is not going to consistently defeat the Boston Red Sox. Our economic development efforts must not be amateurish and overly piecemeal, but instead constitute a highly leveraged and coordinated network of business offerings powerfully marketed. This should be built and developed by Maine business according to market needs with the government providing assistance but only secondarily involved. Under my leadership Maine’s economic development guidance and resources will utilize these principles – guided by Maine business - for increased acceptance into lucrative and targeted local, domestic and international markets as we demonstrate that yes we are in and can successfully compete in this global game.
In my January 21, 2006 Op-Ed in the Magic City Morning Star, Economic Road Map and Tax Reform, I discuss the importance of a comprehensive and integrated understanding to economic development and tax reform. I state in small part:
I am fiscally conservative (and socially moderate) and believe in, in the most general terms, a pay as you go philosophy in which you do not spend what you cannot truly afford. Although belt-tightening is certainly required as a responsible measure when financial circumstances dictate, and I would not hesitate at all to do so when needed, this should be fair, humane, and never “penny wise and pound foolish”. Curtailing spending all by itself also does not and cannot bring true lasting prosperity. If it did we could just keep cutting and cutting until we were down to zero, shut down the entire government at all levels in the state and we’d be rich (some of you may perhaps feel that I am on to something there!).
I present comprehensive, bi-partisan tax reform (some reasons for use of this terminology is below) encompassing six essential areas:
- Reduction or elimination of business taxes.
- Sales tax rate lowered but broadened.
- State Income tax rates maintained at current levels but increased for 1% of wealthiest Mainers.
- Property Tax Reform – Full implementation of mandated State contribution to education, with teeth to insure use as intended.
- In regard to surpluses, the first priority is debt reduction, the second priority is direct tax relief via reimbursements to taxpayers and rainy day fund, and the least emphasis and lowest priority is any new spending. These areas can co-exist but will differ in emphasis based upon their respective priority ranking.
- Towns and municipalities earning increased local options and incentives by demonstrating cost efficiencies and meeting performance metrics, with penalties for poor performance among those most lagging.. This involves also relative gains and losses (e.g. in percentage terms) rather than just absolute ones, so one is competing with oneself in large measure rather than just against others.
Each of these six areas are then detailed further in the article. I am an individual, unlike most politicians I believe, that will tell you, even at the risk of not being elected, what I feel is both doable and necessary for Maine to succeed, rather than what you may want to hear and then once one gets into office what one promised is undeliverable and/or one must resort to gimmickry or slight of hand to make the numbers come out right (or admit that one was wrong which I’ve seldom seen).
I believe that we in Maine are adults and when we have difficulties to solve that we face them honestly and straight on. I know of no way to solve a problem without acknowledging it, looking into it and seeing what it involves.
Don’t let them insult your intelligence with simplistic platitudes such as that tax cuts alone will cure all ills (see for example cutting down to zero illustration outlined above). Fiscal discipline and tax relief is a very significant and major aspect of both economic growth and health. But it is a little more complex than that and one needs a comprehensive plan that addresses tax reform across the system as a whole and its relationship to economic growth directed to penetrating sophisticated markets in a global economy.
I believe that this is a difficult time to be Governor or live in the state of Maine, and that we will need to make significant sacrifices for some time in order to reverse economic course. That may (see the article) require greater movement on consolidation and other sorts of things. I believe that I possess the leadership skills to institute meaningful and real bi-partisan economic advances – or get thrown out of office trying. I’m in this race not to be Governor, but to be Governor in order to improve things.
In my February 18 Op-Ed in the Magic City Morning Star entitled The Problem with Moral Victories, I talk about the difference between fighting “the good fight” and building a productive Maine (never confuse activity for progress is one saying you have probably heard). In small part I state:
There is a famous story of a hand that said that it wasn’t going to feed food to the mouth, because the mouth got all the pleasure of eating and the hand did all this unrewarded work! So it stopped out of stubbornness, wouldn’t listen to reason and the person starved. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! In Maine we have many great resources and parts and individual and collective efforts that make up the whole. And sometimes we have hands that – clinging to those moral victories – will not feed those mouths.
I’d like to see strong parties (and Independents) within a more productive Maine. When well managed, a team can have stars (i.e. political party-based ideas that win out) without undermining the fundamental concept of team. Sometimes one idea is more right and can carry more of the lead. But it is a delicate balance and the team concept must come first for optimal success (how many superstars, not well integrated or accepted or accepting of the contributions of others, reside on losing teams?).
Although I have been outlining proposed policies for Maine in the press (including recent interviews by Congressional Quarterly and the Gleason Radio network in Maine) I am not about self-promotion but about setting and then executing every day a real agenda for Maine that will get things done. I will not be attending lots of ribbon cutting ceremonies nor issuing excessive proclamations. To my mind those are mainly ceremonial duties that can be handled by a representative in many cases. I’ll be managing the State in collaboration with the most talented and expert staff available (hiring others in their respective areas more knowledgeable than you is a given, rather than relying on yes-individuals or only those that first apply), everyday, facing the challenges head on and rolling up one’s sleeves to every day get things done. Working with the media, as a tool to promote these policies and increase name recognition statewide, is not an end in and of itself. I have been happy throughout my life not being Governor and not being that much in the press, and I will be happy in November win or lose because being happy is a choice that one makes independent of role of circumstance.
In my January 28, 2006 Op-Ed in the Magic City Morning Star, What Your $5 Gets You, I talk about the power of Maine citizenry. Any governor of Maine to be successful will need to in more powerful ways empower individuals to take a more involved and participatory role to work together towards truly productive results. And being beholden only to the citizens for one’s election is an incredibly powerful, I believe almost revolutionary, development.
Putting this citizen empowerment and involvement into practice, on our campaign website, www.hammer2006.com, we’ve introduced some specific tools that make it easier than with any of our competitors to have your voice heard and registered, in addition to traditional participatory avenues.
And finally in my February 4, 2006 Op-Ed in the Magic City Morning, Star, A Different Type of Independent, I discuss why one must move beyond labels and utopian visions to make real change.
In regard to glossy campaigns and sound-bite answers to solving Maine’s major difficulties, I believe that Mainers will (hopefully) not be seduced by “desert politics” but will choose substance over simple style (if forced to choose, appearance also has importance) in regard to fundamentally addressing the challenges of this state. Such examination is rigorous and requires that we need not be intellectually lazy and must understand well what we face and then take the actions necessary.
And let us not fall into continually blaming others for our difficulties. That takes us away from the hard work that we need to do to make things better. I know that we are a state of much more than excuses and blame.
And I realize that there is also a point of diminishing returns where we can discuss too much and lose people in that way. As we increase our expectations and performance and shoot for the stars we must not be perfectionistic and let that, as the expression goes, become the enemy of the good.
In Maine, as anyplace, there will always be more work to do. Despite this fact, some paths will make much more progress than others and they are very different and not all the same.
And in the same way, no candidate is or will ever be perfect.
But in regard to improving things in Maine, I am the best choice to work well with others to move Maine forward in these times.
Alex Hammer is an Independent candidate for Governor of Maine residing in Bangor. The campaign’s website is www.Hammer2006.com