Saturday, July 16, 2005

Maine Elections - Washington County Perspective

Ah yes, once again we are entering campaign season. The parties are tuning their engines, perspective candidates are the subject of speculation, and, more important, the weaknesses of the incumbents are being evaluated – so, as he emerges from Augusta, eyes turn to the job done by John Baldacci..

EPS remains at issue. Democratic majority leaders Brennan and Cummings – both from Cumberland – have taken credit for using EPS funding to reallocate our $2 million to Penobscot County. It would appear they determined they could buy more gubernatorial votes there than would be lost here.

On balance, if not for the bigotry of their right-wing, the gubernatorial election would now a matter of the GOP losing it. Baldacci? His chances – when fiscally irresponsible Racino expansionists and their right-wing homophobic allies reveal their electoral clout via the 2005 ballot, we’ll know for sure.

We were promised a 13% property tax reduction – in 2006, property taxes should be 87% of what they were in 2004. In addition, State funding to our schools should be restored and dramatically increased.

We have highly qualified teachers receiving pay cuts – politically, that’s poison. For any children who will be denied the benefit of competent educators, affected, Augusta will be held accountable.

Gee, does Washington County, or the state, deserve poorly educated children? Voters should say NO!

Clearly, the issue of retaining his traditional 2nd District power base is at the forefront of the governor’s re-election aspirations – this explicit in his June 30th BDN Op-Ed piece, which followed a preliminary re-election case in a May 22nd Sunday Telegram op-ed piece – alleging five administration positives.

In his May 29th column, economist Charles Lawton, delivered some sharp economic reality – negating the alleged economic positives. The analysis in Lawton Sunday Telegram column was solid.

With regard to the Racino, the governor is on record as saying, “I do not support casino gambling as economic development, and cannot support its expansion in Washington County.” Clearly – based on last week’s column – this columnist supports that position.

I remain on record as believing the Tribe should take a wait-and-see attitude regarding the Racino. Let Bangor make the mistakes. On that point, there is no deviation between reality and a governor’s veto.

Maritime traffic flows through Calais. If the Bangor Racino causes it to swell with well-healed folks with money to lose, the Tribes can tap that traffic and produce sustainable economic growth. But the slot landscape is changing a lot faster than many would have expected.

In June, Nevada authorize gamblers to play slot machines, video poker, blackjack and other games on hand-held wireless devices from public spaces in casinos. People can now sit by the pool, and lose their money while they get a tan – can Bangor compete with that?

The wave of the future is broadband internet gambling – people in the Maritimes don’t need to go to either Bangor or Calais to connect their computer to legal Internet sites. It is noted that, under a 1961 anti-racketeering law, Internet gambling is illegal in the United States; however, in a global economy, such laws are effectively unenforceable against foreign operators.

The current worldwide market for gambling on mobile devices – about $2 billion – is, according to a recent report by a United Kingdom research firm, Juniper Research, still relatively modest. However, it is expected to reach $19 billion by 2009. If the United States eases restrictions on Internet gambling, that number will be higher, and the bottom will fall out of Racino profits.

Here political and local realities coincide. We should make no investment which is not sustainable. A racino, absent a broadband internet component, cannot succeed. Next week: 2005 precedes 2006..

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