Petitions, Pellets, Poll Results - and Some Guy's Armpit
We’ll find out Thursday, July 17, whether those opposed to higher taxes on beer, wine, soda and insurance premiums have gathered enough petition signatures to force a referendum to repeal those levies. This past week, leaders of the People’s Veto campaign expressed confidence they’d submit well over the required 55,000 names needed to block the tax hikes and put the issue on the November ballot.
They say Maine can’t afford the additional taxes. Supporters of the new revenues are already organizing to save them. They claim repeal will cost 18,000 people covered by the Dirigo Health program their insurance. Both sides should probably keep in mind this profound insight from author and former Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Freidman. “Health,” he said, “is merely the slowest possible rate at which we die.”
I bring up Kinky not just because I needed to quote him in order to write off the cost of his latest book on my income tax, but also because out-of-staters figure heavily in this week’s news. Let’s start with the most famous of them.
Ortiz has been on the disabled list since May 31, recovering from a torn tendon sheath in his wrist. He’ll play three games with the Sox’ Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, R.I. If all goes well there, he’ll come to Maine for Double-A Dogs games on July 21, 22 and 23, before joining the big club.
Don’t worry about the petition drive on Dirigo Health affecting Ortiz’ visit. He has his own insurance.
As long as I’m on the subject of baseball, let’s get that armpit story out of the way. For much of the past week, the network sports shows have carried video of the minor-league manager of the Wichita Wingnuts throwing one of the … er … wing-nuttier tirades in the history of organized play.
The manager let an umpire know what he thought of him by pulling off his shoe and comparing its odor to the object of his scorn. Then, he pulled up the sleeve of his jersey, pointed at his pit and made a similar observation. The Bangor Daily News recognized that armpit. It belongs to Kash Beauchamp, who managed the independent minor-league Bangor Lumberjacks in 2003 and 2004. Beauchamp has been suspended for his antics.
One more tale of flatlander foibles, before I get back to serious news. A Maine State Police trooper was stationed at the Maine Turnpike’s Gardiner toll plaza recently, when he saw a car from Kentucky pull up. The driver was paying scant attention to the road, because she was watching a re-run of “Gilmore Girls” on her laptop.
Stopped by the cop, the woman explained she was sleepy, and the show helped keep her alert. Here’s something even stranger: It’s not clear if watching a laptop while driving is against Maine law. A few years ago, the Legislature banned TV viewing while operating a motor vehicle, but the wording of that statute might not apply to computers.
There’s less driving and more crying on the turnpike these days. The high price of gasoline appears to be reducing traffic, which means toll revenues are down, which means the budget may have to be cut.
Pike use is off 1.4 percent so far in 2008, the first such drop in more than 20 years. To date, income has declined over $500,000, but that deficit could balloon in the next few weeks if prime tourist season doesn’t herald the arrival of many of those prime tourists.
The high price of petro may call for some retro. A state task force says 10 percent of the state’s homes could be converted to wood heat. The report recommends wood-pellet furnaces and says there are plenty of trees to meet the demand for those pellets, although some experts dispute that.
The task force is chaired by Les Otten, who just started a company importing wood-pellet furnaces, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with the group’s conclusions.
The state is also considering putting a bond issue on the ballot next year to help pay for conversions to wood or wood-pellet heating systems.
An unspecified amount of money from the bonds might provide low-interest loans to individuals and businesses, as well as funds for converting state buildings to wood fuel.
Wood heat or not, many Mainers aren’t optimistic about the future. A Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll released July 8 shows nearly 60 percent of those questioned said the state is headed in the wrong direction.
Other results: Republican Susan Collins defeating Democrat Tom Allen for her U.S. Senate seat by more than 15 points; Obama over McCain in the presidential race 46 percent to 32 percent; opponents of a casino in Oxford County leading supporters 51-36 and almost 53 percent think Gov. John Baldacci is doing a decent job.
Voters spent nearly seven hours on July 12 trimming the municipal budget, before approving a spending plan that restored town operations suspended on June 28 after a budget rejection vote.
While there’s still some griping about who gets deposits from unreturned containers, no major changes in the measure are planned.
The Washburn & Doughty boatyard in Boothbay was destroyed by fire on July 11.
Damage is estimated at $30 million. The owners say they’ll rebuild.
Among the suggestions of a study committee: higher parking-meter fees, charges for residential on-street parking, more bike lanes and a trolley on Commercial Street.
The Land For Maine’s Future board met July 9 and voted to spend $18 million to buy property, easements and other complex legal deals for 50 projects across the state.
Jan Willem van de Wetering died July 4 in Ellsworth.
The Netherlands native was the author of more than 30 books, of which his detective novels were the best known. He’d lived in Hancock County for more than three decades, although he only set one book, “The Maine Massacre,” here. He was 77.
Two roads were closed and an explosives-sniffing dog was summoned on July 8, after somebody noticed a bag outside Brunswick Variety and Deli in Brunswick that they thought was a bomb.
Before the dog could arrive, police officers opened the bag to discover … part of a sandwich and other lunch foods. One cop said the bag had been there for several hours, meaning it probably smelled worse than Kash Beauchamp’s armpit.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.