Job training glass half full
While there are issues with the Maine job training system, as the April 18 BDN article about “Maine’s bewildering maze to work” points out, there is much omitted with respect to the efforts that occur regionally through the workforce boards.
As executive director of the Coastal Counties Workforce Board, I am proud of the work that our board does and the important contributions that it makes to Maine’s economy. Over the past decade, by aggressively pursuing federal discretionary grant opportunities, the Coastal Counties Workforce Board brought an additional $33 million of training funds to the region, serving more than 15,000 Maine workers with skills training and with more than 85 percent of them obtaining employment. While there are certainly issues with federal regulations and restrictions, an important take away is that, despite these issues, workforce boards and their provider networks significantly impact the lives of many Maine workers by providing skills training and placing motivated Maine workers into new employment opportunities.
Yes, the job training system is a glass half empty, but it is also a glass half full.
If Maine, like many other states, released its 10 percent federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act set-aside funds to the regional workforce boards, imagine how much more effective we could be.
Open primaries to independent voters
A recent poll of 771 Maine voters shines a light on the disconnect between Maine voters and the current political system. The survey, released by Mainers for Open Elections and Open Primaries, a national leader on election reform, and conducted by Public Policy Polling, identifies broad support for reforming Maine’s primary elections.
Eighty percent of Maine voters want independent voters included in primary elections. Support for opening the primaries runs deep across all demographics with majorities of women (81 percent), men (73 percent), Democrats (74 percent), Republicans (68 percent), and majorities in all age groups supporting reform. Seventy-three percent of voters believe taxpayer-funded primaries should be open to all voters.
The survey supports what political pundits and some media sources believe: The single largest impediment to voter participation is the closed primary system that excludes everyone who declines to join a political party. Our present election laws prevent the 384,587 unenrolled voters from participating in primaries unless they enroll in a party. And then they have to wait three months after the election in order to un-enroll.
We must enact laws that increase voter participation, not decrease or limit it. Membership in a political party should not be a prerequisite for casting a ballot. Maine must become an open primary state. LD 78 and LD 1086 represent bills designed to change Maine from a closed primary to an open primary state and allow independents to vote in primaries without needing to enroll in a political party.
Mainers for Open Elections
Implement ranked-choice voting
For the first time in my life, I’ve been dropping by our State House to watch how politics works. Turns out, it can get complicated. But I have a simple belief that if the majority of people vote in favor of a law, then it should be enacted in a timely fashion.
Last November, Maine voters approved Question 5, An Act to Establish Ranked Choice Voting, with the second highest number of yes votes in Maine’s history. Now, we need the ranked-choice voting system in place for the 2018 elections, which is possible once the Maine secretary of state begins implementation.
Ranked-choice voting gives us more voice and choice. We will not have to vote for the “lesser of two evils” when there is another candidate on the ballot with whom we heartily agree. And candidates will need to carefully hone their positions on policy rather than focus on personalities.
Finally, each thoughtful vote will actually mean something in the outcomes of elections. I was back in Augusta, on April 13, to witness a Maine Supreme Court hearing leading up to possible “solemn occasion” about constitutionality of this bill. Well, that just seems like a strategic delay by legislators who disagree with the people.
I grow weary of delays in implementing the people’s will. Now is the time for our secretary of state to get the ranked-choice voting process finalized, to educate the public on the new system, and to allow candidates time to sharpen their policy knowledge rather than their insults for each other.