November 26, 2010

OUR OPINION: Ship of state doesn’t need this carpenter

Among an august assembly of advisers announced by Gov.-elect Paul LePage on Tuesday is a carpenter known for extreme political views, and populist popularity within the political group called the tea party.

Pete Harring isn’t widely known, but in his circles, “The Carpenter” is a leader. He runs a popular online forum, the Maine Refounders, which says it exists to uphold the Constitution and to “expose” those with contrary political viewpoints.

Sometimes gleefully, as it turns out, such as Harring’s posting of a graphic that stated liberals are like Slinkies — fun when pushed down stairs.

Some groups called this an implied threat of violence. It isn’t. It’s a crude, stupid, juvenile attempt at humor.

An individual who purveys such drivel should not have his expertise courted by Maine’s incoming administration.

LePage’s staff defended the Harring choice as emblematic of voters’ frustration with the direction of the ship of state, and suggested this viewpoint should be heard even if the governor-elect disagrees with much of what Harring believes.

We respectfully submit that the governor-elect, by virtue of being elected, is much more representative of voter frustration than Harring, and it makes absolutely no sense to ask somebody you disagree with to advise you.

In short, what is Harring doing on this advisory committee? What qualifies him to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with folks who have worked tirelessly to improve Maine’s schools, such as Peter Geiger, or who have represented the people, such as Sen.Lisa Marraché or former Senate president Rick Bennett?

The decision to name Harring indicates the LePage transition team hasn’t made its own transition from campaigning to governing. This is the time for expertise, ideas, policy exploration, political groundwork and coalition building.

Many members of the advisory group offer much in terms of credentials and experience and represent broad and disparate interests.

Such diversity is desirable, but with 30 members the potential exists for the group to become unwieldy, particularly when it is broken down into smaller teams to review applicants for state jobs, as is intended.

Maine needs this panel to work hard, and also smart. The new administration takes over in mere weeks, and with the recent positive news about revenue and unemployment, momentum has been created that must be maintained.

This means campaign rhetoric must be shelved. The election is over. Now is the time for making decisions, not swaying voter opinion.

So if the governor-elect wanted a constitutional expert on his transition team, there are plenty of legal scholars who could have served. If he needs help with his website, the state has a ready staff of people at his disposal.

What he doesn’t need is somebody around to remind him that voters are frustrated, and government should do something about it. What LePage needs are qualified people to help him do it.

The group he unveiled Tuesday has enough members — maybe more than enough — to accomplish this task. One less carpenter wouldn’t hurt.

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