Originally published in The Weekly Packet, October 25, 2012
Candidates for Senate District 28 answer questions on local issues
by Faith DeAmbrose
In a race for the state senate seat for District 28, voters will have a choice between incumbent Brian Langley (R-Ellsworth) and challenger David White (D-Bar Harbor) on November 6.
Incumbent Brian Langley is an educator and a small business owner. He is currently serving his first term as a state senator.
David White is a small business owner who serves on a number of state and national boards focused on health care.
Senate District 28 includes Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Deer Isle, Isle au Haut, Sedgwick, Stonington and Surry plus 16 other towns in Hancock County.
Internet accessibility, regulation
Opening broadband is “crucial” to business in Maine,” said Langley in a recent interview, noting that the service is just as important as electricity and telephone service, both of which are (unlike the Internet) regulated at the state level.
While Langley said he does not know if he would push to have the service regulated, he said other options such as “bonding” should be discussed. He sees a type of public/private partnership as the best solution to moving the utility forward.
White also says that a blend of public and private resources are needed to create viable Internet service throughout the state. While White stopped short of calling for regulation, he said, “we need to agree on and set standards,” adding that in making rules, there needs to be some “teeth” in order to ensure that providers meet them. “Our first priority has to be people, not money” made by the providing companies, he concluded.
The lobster economy
As a senator in a district that relies heavily on the lobster fishery and as a restaurateur specializing in the popular crustacean, Langley is not only thinking about the question of lobster market sustainability, but he says he is at the forefront of it with a new idea that focuses on micro-processing.
Working with a crab picker in Stonington, Langley said he is working on a plan that would allow crab pickers to also process lobster meat under an “expanded” licensing system. Langley acknowledges that this is only one small step forward on the concept of establishing a viable processing industry, “but it will allow hundreds of little nibbles on the larger issue.”
If successful in legislating the expanded license, Langley said it will make Maine lobster meat more accessible to the public “without a huge capital investment on the part of the picker.” Langley calls the idea “low tech” and is most impressed with its “grassroots, common sense” approach.
Lobster processing should be augmented by state and federal dollars, said White, who added that science and fishermen should come together to find solutions to market fluxuations and sustainability. “The more we can control the market, the better it will be,” said White, speaking about the price of the lobster.
White advocates for the use of marketing and believes that forging an alliance with state and federal sources will help stabilize the industry and allow it to be more “reactive” when problems arise.
The cost of education
As the chairman of the state’s education committee, Langley is aware of the area’s high per pupil cost for education and he says his committee is working on examining the way funding is calculated. Currently, state subsidy is doled out using a formula that relies heavily on a town’s valuation. For some towns, such as those in high-valuation coastal areas, the tax burden is greater. “No one feels the formula is working properly,” said Langley, who said the process of examining the way education is funded is now in the hands of an independent reviewer who will present findings to the state in October 2013. “All options are on the table,” he said.
“We need to have a conversation about what education is,” said White, “let’s define what we’re for and then go from there.”
For White, there are many problems with education in the state, most importantly how it is paid for (through taxation tied to property valuation) and the fact the state does not pay its required share. Something must be done to address those issues, said White, adding that in his professional life as an auto mechanic “we find out what is wrong first, and then we fix it; it’s so simple.” White says that this common sense approach to problem solving is often overlooked when dealing with government.
As an advocate for affordable health care, White sees a direct correlation between the rising costs of health care and the continually-increasing cost of delivering quality education. As a small business owner, White used to pay 100 percent of employee health care, but given the rise in costs, has had to make some tough choices, including laying himself off for six months last year. He believes that by “fixing” health care, many things will become more affordable.