Saturday, May 18, 2013
AUGUSTA -- After an election that was good for progressives, activists are committed to advocating for peace, the poor and the environment at the state and national levels.
Lisa Savage, standing, facilitates a meeting of activists held to discuss the fiscal cliff on Saturday in Augusta.
Staff photo by Joe Phelan
About 40 liberal activists gathered in Augusta Saturday to map out a strategy to push back against what they described as corporate dominance of government. They hope to present a unified front to amplify the voices of ordinary Mainers.
Several organizations will use the name Alliance for the Common Good to engage in educating the public, pressuring state legislators and Maine's Congressional delegation, and advocating that Washington's solution to the so-called fiscal cliff target military spending, not the social safety net.
Several people said that the incoming Democratic majority in the Legislature and a new, independent U.S. senator provide openings to push progressive policy.
"This is a moment where we have an opportunity to win a huge conversation about where our money comes from and what it goes toward," said Kevin Simowitz, York County organizer for Maine People's Alliance.
Simowitz said the alliance's priorities in the next few years include immigration, the environment and health care, and all have price tags attached.
Several other people said those issues are also important to them, along with campaign finance reform, public education and support for poor and vulnerable people.
The meeting was organized by the Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home, and a common theme was the need to reorient the government away from military spending and toward investments in people.
Larry Dansinger, a volunteer with the campaign, touted the results of a penny poll conducted on Election Day. Maine voters dropped pennies into jars to show they want their tax dollars spent on education, health care and veterans benefits, not the military spending that makes up more than half of the federal discretionary budget.
The activists plan to make door-hangers to distribute that information and organize public meetings in several cities to talk about spending priorities.
Several of the groups that were represented Saturday are coordinating demonstrations for the opening day of the Legislature on Jan. 8. They plan to make signs tying their own issues to common themes such as "money out of politics" and "a Maine-based economy that protects our environment."
Several activists spoke of the need to put aside divisions and competing issues so that government officials will see unity among supporters of the environment, worker rights, gay rights, the Occupy movement, marijuana legalization and other causes.
"I have great hope that something powerful will come out of the people that are here," said Regis Tremblay, a filmmaker from Woolwich. "If we continue down the road of being single-issue people, we'll continue to lose, and we can't afford to lose any longer."
Some of the participants on Saturday have already requested a meeting with independent Sen.-elect Angus King, and several people spoke of the need to get him on board with their issues early.
Leslie Manning, president of the Maine Council of Churches, said she sees an opportunity with King but doesn't want the activists to ignore Maine's other representatives in Congress, especially Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who has an election coming up in 2014.
"As important as it is to talk to King, she is sending the signals out, in very discreet Morse code, that she's willing to be pushed harder," Manning said.
Collins is receptive on the environment, small businesses and reining in defense spending, Manning said, and all of those are popular with Maine people generally.
Susan McMillan -- 621-5645