Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues



Common Good…but NIMBY!

On Monday, March 22, we’ll discuss a current conundrum (but not a new phenomenon). While there is often consensus about a need to address a common issue (renewable energy, housing costs, etc.), proponents often [sometimes] find that there is much less consensus about where the related activities should occur.

The topic started as “how do we feel about the CMP power corridor?” which cuts through Maine to reach other New England states. Of course, this project is called the “Clean Energy Corridor” by its sponsors and proponents.

But the same logic can be applied to lots of other projects: windmills, solar array farms, highway construction, low-cost housing projects, etc.

So we’ll discuss a few of these projects as examples of the bigger issues at hand:

  • If the issues being addressed are so important, shouldn’t we all be prepared to make some sacrifices to help bring them from concept to reality?
  • And how should decisions be made about who makes those sacrifices?
    • Should lawyer-wielding ‘elites’ be insulated, leaving the sacrifice to those too poor to fight back? Or, perhaps worse, to the natural environment (think huge solar arrays in pristine desert land or windmills located offshore, where they’re less likely to bother people at unknown cost to wildlife at sea)?

Should be interesting.

March 15: H.R. 1

This coming Monday, we’ll discuss H.R. 1/S. 1, which focuses on voting rights. As is often the case, Wikipedia has a pretty good “Cliff Notes” summary of the bill.

From my perspective, there’s a lot of “good stuff” in the bill. But it does raise some issues that we can discuss. For example:

  • Early voting: How early is too early? In Maine, at least, early votes cannot be changed, no matter what the reason. So the electorate may not be able to respond to “late-breaking news”–positive or negative.
  • Citizens United: When we’ve discussed Citizens United in the past, we’ve often come to the conclusion that the “issue” is really about “big money” in political speech. Yes, some corporations and unions have substantial resources and use those resources to influence elections. But what about wealthy individuals? We’ve had lots of discussions–inconclusive, in my opinion–about where to draw the line.
  • Voluntary public campaign financing: Some of the “big money” advantage in elections would be diluted by a 6:1 match for small donations. Maybe someone will delve into the details enough to know whether this would actually make a difference or whether it will track Maine’s spotty experience with the concept. And, of course, this feature only applies to contributions to political campaigns (?), not to PAC-type political speech.
  • Statehood for the District of Columbia: Continues to express support for DC statehood, and identifies Congressional authority to admit the District as the 51st state.
  • Anti-gerrymandering: The Wikipedia version, at least, suggests that state redistricting commissions must include five members of the majority party, five members of the minority party, and five members of neither party. While the overall mechanism seems fairly reasonable (maybe others will spot faults), do we really want to perpetuate and concentrate power in the hands of the two largest political parties?

Am I missing something? Add a comment to this post.

March 8: DoD “Earmarks”

While perhaps not strictly “earmarks,” it has been common practice for members of Congress to advocate strongly for Department of Defense spending in their respective states. Think…Bath Iron Works here in Maine.

Here’s a press release from Jared Golden, our House Representative, announcing his appointment to the House Armed Services Committee. It’s short, but worth a read.

I expect that we’ll discuss some of the following (and more):

  • How should our representatives in the House and the Senate balance what’s best for their constituents vs. what’s best for the country overall?
  • Is this a case where the House, by design, should contain ardent advocates for their constituents and the Senate with those charged with a more “national” view?
  • If we accept that Maine’s representatives in Washington should advocate for us, how hard should they push? How much horse trading is appropriate, and when does it become too much?
  • How do the power hierarchies of tenure and committee assignments affect the “one representative, one vote” concept?
  • Is the system working well enough? Does it need some tweaks? (Like what?) Or is it entirely broken?

Since we’ll start with BIW as a case in point, here are a few short (free) articles related to our subject:

Maine Senators Push Back on US Navy’s Plan to Cut Shipbuilding
Distributed Shipbuilding for an Unmanned Fleet
As its term winds down, Trump’s White House plots a major naval expansion

Found something better? Post a link to it as a comment.

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