What Happened in Millinocket?|
By Mary Adams
Editor's note: The debate over Roxanne Quimby's plan for a National Park in northern Maine came to a head this summer during a public meeting in Millinocket at Stearns High School. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior flew in from Washington for the event. From the tenor of the meeting it was clear that local citizenry is deeply divided over this volatile issue. Maine conservative activist and local control advocate Mary Adams, from Garland, had a front row seat/ This is her report on the event.
I wish you had all been at the Millinocket Thursday afternoon, August 18, 2011. It was alarming because of Secretary of the Department of the Interior Salazar's arrogance in setting up the meeting for himself, ignoring and by-passing the publicly-expressed opposition of a federal park by Maine's Governor, Maine's Legislature (two no-park resolves- one just weeks ago), Maine's Congressional Delegation, and the boards of several towns and counties.
Pro-park, professional environmentalists drove up from southern Maine to support Salazar and came face to face with local people who are dependent on earning their living from the Maine woods. It was quite a contrast. A group of us got to Stearns High School early and were greeted at the entrance of the parking lot by none other than Senator Cynthia Dill from Cape Elizabeth, dressed smartly in navy blue blazer and high heels. She was waving a pro-park sign. She was one of the few who did not support the no-park resolve of the Maine legislature. From the pro-park crowd, you'd have thought it was "Southern Maine Day" in Millinocket!
Salazar was their man. He and Roxanne are cut from the same cloth as they. He told them what they wanted to hear; he outlined a fast-tract way to get the process started. I sat down front during the performance and noticed afterward the adoring welcomes and handshakes from the park crowd in response to his pitch, so happy that one of their own was in charge and had come to create a path around the obstructionist natives.
Mr. Salazar, met his match in the first few minutes of the Q & A when the state senator who represents the area, Senator Doug Thomas, stood up and asked politely in words close to these, "Who invited you to come here?" That was the key question and it threw the interloper for a loop. He couldn't very well say it was Roxanne Quimby. He paused for a moment and said "I invited myself."
From that moment on nothing else mattered and he knew it, even if most of the audience didn't. I was sitting in the front row right in front of Salazar and his side kick who heads the National Park Service, and I could see that he was bothered by the question. The "Who invited you?" question was nicely re-framed and asked again by Millinocket Councilman, Mike Madore. See an interview with Madore in which he explains how the Quimby/Salazar method of going outside the political process is undermining that very process: http://bangordailynews.com/2011/08/19/outdoors/quimby-should-launch-her-national-park-privately-councilor-says/
Before the end of the meeting Salazar figured out an answer to why he had come which would have been expected of Dr. Phil. He said soothingly that he had come because some of them had questions.
I wondered what Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson would think of their country now if they had been sitting in the auditorium of Stearns High School?. Have we come so far in our lack of understanding of the power of the states vs the federal government that we tolerate.....and even welcome....federal intrusion and undermining of duly elected representatives? I wondered as I watched in horror: Where was the rule of law here? Is it now every man for himself, and if you have enough money, people like Quimby can cleverly market an idea and collude at the highest level to undermine state sovereignty? Obviously, our elected Maine officials are just doorstops in the eyes of Washington which means that we who elected them are just doorstops too.
Suddenly, it became very clear to me that here was another example of America in great distress, when an appointed federal official violates states rights openly and without apology. I was seeing it played out before my eyes by a willful bureaucrat (a cabinet official) who came to involve himself in local affairs and to sway local opinion. To add insult to the injury, it is an issue which is already being dealt with by legitimately-elected representatives of the people of Maine.
When he left, I spoke to him as I shook his hand, and told him he was ill-advised to come, that Maine was a town meeting state, that local control was part of the our structure and that he had overstepped himself. He was on automatic by that time and said "Thank you for coming". So I squeezed his hand tighter and said, "Do you hear me?" He said "yes". So far he may think he has gotten away with it, but that doesn't mean he will. Except for the elected town councilors of Millinocket who spoke at the meeting, and the area's state senator, we haven't heard yet from the state, county and congressional representatives he trampled over to get to Millinocket.
Salazar reminded me of a modern redcoat in Dockers, and I remembered the words of Captain Preston, a veteran of the Concord battle during the American Revolution, who told a young reporter this when asked what made the farmers fight? "Young man, what we meant in going for those redcoats was this: we had always governed ourselves and we always meant to. They didn't mean we should." Salazar wants to do our governing for us. We don't mean he should. The situation hasn't changed in over two centuries. Let's hope we haven't.
Stay tuned. This example of arrogant federal overreach is what political backlash is made of and what Constitutions were designed to correct.
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