1,2,3,4,5,6! Runnin’ down the Maine ballot questions!

Brian Feulner | BDN File

Brian Feulner | BDN File

With election day fast approaching on Tuesday, it’s time to make your final decisions as to where you stand on Maine’s six big ballot questions.  Here’s my take as concisely as possible.

Question 1: Regulating Marijuana Like Alcohol

As I laid out in this piece last week, I’ve got no problem with a couple adults sparking up a joint in the privacy of their own home, but I just can’t get on board with the question that’s on the ballot in front of us.

On one side, the Marijuana Policy Project, a DC-based PAC that’s already spent over $300k advocating for the question has strong ties to the Koch brothers. On the other, many of Maine’s small caregivers oppose the initiative, condemning it as “a way for the rich to control the market.”

While the legislation does have several provisions in it that would protect local growers, like allowing any adult in Maine to cultivate up to six plants of their own and setting aside 40% of commercial growth acreage for small operations, I still think we can do better.

Legalization isn’t just about being able to smoke a bowl in peace, it’s about determining how we want to go about farming the most lucrative cash crop that Maine has ever seen. The way in which we do this will have a profound impact on Maine’s economy for years to come.

As I see it, from the oppressive working conditions to the toxic chemicals to the poor quality, hyper-marketed products that are ultimately released to the public, “big ag” sucks. Let’s not turn 60% of Maine’s cannabis cultivation over to the same sort of big, evil mega-corporations that control so much of our country already.

We can afford to pass on this, and we should.

Question 2: Stand Up For Students

Teachers in Maine make substantially less than the national average, and as I explored in this piece last week, this question offers a great way to close that gap by slightly increasing income taxes on the richest 2% or so of Maine households.

Maine has so much going for it, but right now, young families are leaving in droves, drawn to brighter opportunities and better schools elsewhere. Let’s share our tax burden more equitably so that we can reverse that trend.

Question Two would make a serious reinvestment in Maine’s schools, ensuring that our state remain the great place to grow up that we all know it can be.

Question 3: Background Checks for Gun Sales

Dear firearm enthusiasts, nobody is coming for your guns!

Seriously, as much as it might freak me out, go ahead and fill your barn with as many AR 15s and AK 47s as you please. As a feeble urban liberal, I don’t really understand why the occasional deer hunt requires you to maintain your own private arsenal of military grade weaponry, but hey, doing so is your God given right as an American.

But please, stop selling them for cash to convicted criminals with questionable mental health conditions from out of state. At least check the dude’s record before you start unloading thousands of dollars worth of deadly weapons in exchange for a fat wad of unmarked bills?

I get that the vast majority of these transactions are totally fine – you’re just doing business with friends and family – but, clearly, at least some of the people buying guns on the unregulated market are people the authorities already know to be violent criminals. I don’t see any way to stop those deals without making all these transactions illegal.

And, I suppose you’re right, really bad people will still get their guns somewhere, but there’s indisputable evidence that in countries where guns are harder to get, way fewer people have them, including criminals. Background checks are a necessary step toward making us all safer, and they should be mandatory.

Question 4: Raising the Minimum Wage

As I ranted about in this piece, it’s infuriating when conversations about raising our state’s minimum wage focus so heavily on the servers working in Portland’s best restaurants, many of whom earn substantially more than the vast majority of other low wage workers who would be affected if this question passes.

Even more upsetting than that, though, are the smug, middle class trolls who mowed lawns or something back in high school twenty years ago and now feel infinitely entitled to condescendingly castigate anybody struggling to get by on poverty wages as if they were simply being lazy and not trying hard enough.

Sure, your understanding of Economics is limited to some class you took at Orono back in the eighties, which you always showed up to hungover and ultimately got a C in, but hey, don’t let that stop you from projecting how Question Four will affect Maine’s GDP. I’m sure you know just what you’re talking about.

Here’s what I see.

I see a whole lot of people pulling long, backbreaking shifts. They’re making beds at fancy hotels, ringing us up at cash registers and taking care of the neediest people in our communities. Yet they’re still only barely keeping their heads above water. I see their greedy bosses sitting back in luxury.

I see 600 economists, including 7 Nobel Prize winners, who support raising the minimum wage. I see a very clear choice. It’s time to raise it!

Question 5: Ranked Choice Voting

If this year’s big campaigns are anything to go on, our representative democracy has dug itself a pretty deep hole. I doubt we’re getting out of this one any time soon. There’s no easy fix.

That said, implementing Ranked Choice Voting would be a strong step forward toward ensuring that every candidate who wins a race in Maine truly has the support of the majority of their voters, not just a particularly vocal minority.

Passing Question Five won’t necessarily tip the scales toward more progressive candidates, since in many tight three way races, the candidate whose views are most in the middle is often the one most likely to pull ahead when the second round of votes are counted.

But it will go a long way toward making Maine’s electoral races more accessible to independent candidates from outside the two party establishment, and hopefully, it will start shifting the political culture at large, providing political leaders with powerful disincentives against leaving any group of voters behind.

Question Five has genuine potential to shake things up, and at a time when it always feels like it’s mud season in Augusta, anything that can do that would be awesome.

Question 6: $100 Million Transportation Bond

Voters pretty much always approve these things, doesn’t really matter what I think, but it’s worth pointing out that Maine’s got pretty decent credit these days, and once you get outside of Portland, frankly, our roads are awful.

A few years ago, a bunch of local civil engineering professionals who live and work in Maine volunteered hundreds of hours to review public records and provide an overview of infrastructure in Maine.

The document’s 19 lead authors had a combined 460 years of experience. These people knew what they were talking about. Their assessment of our state’s roads?

Grade: D, the lowest of any category on their report.

Makes you wonder how bad our roads would have to be to get an F. Let’s approve this bond, so we don’t have to find out.

Rob Korobkin

About Rob Korobkin

Rob is a software engineer, community organizer, teacher and musician. He can often be found at Peloton Labs, staring at his laptop, drafting diatribes and programming software late into the night.