Meet your candidate

House District 94 Candidate: Kathleen Meil

Posted:  Sunday, October 2, 2016 - 6:45pm

Kathleen Meil, D-Rockport, is seeking the House seat for District 94, which comprises Camden, Rockport and Islesboro.

I understand the challenges Maine families face because I’m living them every day. Here in Rockport, where I work in energy efficiency, my husband, Ari, runs a small business, our daughter, Tessa, attends Camden-Rockport Middle School, and our son, Calder, is a third-grader at Camden-Rockport Elementary School, we have an incredible community network. Still, the quality of life we can provide for our kids depends on state decisions about education, energy, sustainability, and information access.

My commitment to public service started with the lessons my grandparents taught me as a little girl, and I’ve always worked to support strong and healthy communities. I spent a decade teaching in public and private schools; I work in the green economy, educating homeowners about the environmental and economic power of energy efficiency; and I chaired Rockport’s library committee through some very complicated conversations.

I am a graduate of Kenyon College, where I studied English, molecular biology, and public policy, and of Lesley University, where I earned an M.Ed. in elementary education. I serve on the Friends of the Rockport Public Library, was a member of the Midcoast Habitat for Humanity board of directors, and am an active volunteer in our schools and faith communities. I’m also an avid reader and enthusiastic supporter of local farms and food.

What are the most pressing issues facing Maine today, and how would you like to see them resolved?

 Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for the Maine Senate and Legislature, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the state. The candidates have responded with their individual written answers.

Maine is rich in natural resources and hard-working, creative people. We care deeply about our communities, but we lack the leadership we need. From education and health care to energy and infrastructure, our state is focused on immediate needs at the expense of long-term policy. We must look ahead to the kind of Maine we want – a Maine where our infrastructure supports traditional industries like farming, fishing, and boat building and clean energy and technology-based jobs; a Maine with good jobs, strong educational opportunities, and family-friendly policies; a Maine where we can all thrive. Government is neither the problem nor the solution to these challenges. Government is a tool, and using it effectively requires experience, vision, leadership, and collaboration.

How will you protect the local (municipal) taxpayer as you help shape a state budget? 

Too often, state and municipal government compete rather than collaborate. A state budget that cuts taxes might sound like a win in Augusta, but it’s a loss if it means that our towns have to raise property taxes to make up the difference. I’ll fight to make sure the state lives up to its responsibilities – like funding 55% of education costs and restoring municipal revenue sharing – and doesn’t just shift the burden onto local taxpayers.

What policies would you create and promote to build Maine's natural resource-based economy? 

Maine has always been rooted in our natural beauty and resources, and we have the opportunity to meet environmental challenge with economic possibility. This incredible opportunity gives us the chance to envision a new economy, where everyday Mainers and entire towns have a say and a stake in the energy that we produce and use; where workers from dwindling industries, like paper mills, are re-trained for manufacturing jobs in renewable energy; where our local foods movement flourishes and provides nourishment to all Mainers; where communities across the state, many of which are already adapting to a changing climate in creative ways, are given the support and resources they need to build their own resiliency. Bold policy can help up match our incredible natural beauty with incredible economic opportunity.

What policies would you create and promote to sustain the natural resources of this state (fisheries, timber, mining)?

Sustainability and creativity are the keys to protecting and continuing to benefit from our natural resources. For too long, we’ve been presented with a false choice between a healthy environment and a functioning economy, when in reality we can achieve both if we’re willing to be bold. Our fishermen are on the front lines of climate change, and we must engage them in creating policies that grapple with warming waters and shifting seasons and support the emergence of new industries like aquaculture. We can be similarly bold around the timber industry by investing in new and value-added products and maintaining our commitment to sustainable harvesting. For these efforts, and for the mining industry, policy must pass the dual tests of environment and economy.

What is your position on alternative energy and public investment into it?

Renewable energy presents an incredible opportunity to help Mainers lower our energy costs, protect our natural resources, and create jobs in a new economy. The Public Utilities Commission’s own studies indicate that solar power contributes greatly to our state by reducing demands on the grid, especially in peak usage periods, and supporting quality job growth. Well-sited wind projects, on land and off shore, are an important part of Maine’s clean energy future.

Achieving the tremendous value of renewable energy requires creative, comprehensive energy policy. Maine has already seen a significant boost thanks to our participation in the 9-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which caps carbon emissions from large power plants and funds Efficiency Maine. Efficiency Maine, in turn, helps homeowners invest in long-term efficiency improvements and renewable energy projects that benefit us all. 

What is your position on the five citizen initiatives that are before voters Nov. 8? 

Maine voters face so many big, complicated issues this November because the legislature either would not or could not find consensus and create strong policy. Voters will weigh in on five crucial initiatives, and whether we take the same positions on them or not, I look forward to working in the next legislature to implement your will.

Question 1, Marijuana legalization and regulation
The national trends around recreational marijuana are clear, and I’m confident that legalization and decriminalization can create a net good for our state. I have some questions about whether this particular legislation adequately protects Maine’s small growers, maintains our successful medical marijuana system, provides for health and safety concerns, and addresses the economic complexities of a new industry.

Question 2, Education funding
The Stand Up for Students initiative is a response to the sad truth that Maine does not adequately or equitably fund public education and that, despite a clear citizens’ mandate, state leaders have been unable or unwilling to meet this obligation. Tired of empty promises to prioritize school funding, citizens have stepped forward with their own proposal and outlined a funding mechanism that will finally bring Maine to the 55% requirement for state funding for public schools passed by voters in 2004.

Question 3, Background Checks
Though Maine has so far been spared the mass shootings that plague our nation, gun violence still claims and affects too many lives. Question 3 could change that. In states that require background checks, 46 percent fewer women are shot and killed by an intimate partner, 48 percent fewer police officers are shot and killed, and the number of suicides with guns decreases. The Maine Chiefs of Police Association calls background checks “the single most effective way to prevent felons, domestic abusers, people with severe mental illness, and other dangerous people from purchasing a firearm.” I support the proposal to require criminal background checks for every gun sale because it is reasonable, responsible, and respectful of Maine’s traditions. It includes exemptions for transfers among family members and provides for unlicensed sellers at gun shows with a system that’s already working in other states. 

Question 4, Minimum Wage
The proposed minimum wage increase is long overdue for close to 90,000 Maine workers who do not currently make enough to reliably pay for essentials like food and housing, it will also boost our economy. The 13 states that increased their minimum wage at the start of 2014 saw significantly higher job growth than those states that did not raise the minimum wage. This economic development, along with personal stories of families surviving on minimum wage and tipped workers who are finally empowered to report sexual harassment once they are assured a fair wage, proves that a higher minimum wage translates to a more secure community. I am sensitive to the concerns of small business owners, but heartened by the many who already pay their workers more than minimum wage and who publicly support this referendum.

Question 5, Ranked Choice Voting
If there was ever an election cycle that demonstrated the need for ranked choice voting, this is it. Too many people are torn between voting for a candidate they admire and voting against one they fear. Ranked choice voting, sometimes called instant run-off voting, allows people to vote their conscience and indicate their second choice and ensures that the winning candidate has a majority of votes.

What issues are emerging from your conversations with the public as you go about your campaign, and what solutions do you envision?
What I’ve heard, time and time again, is that we must set a course for Maine’s future that matches our outstanding quality of life with outstanding economic opportunity. That demands strong education funding that doesn’t overburden us with property taxes, social services that meet the very real needs our neighbors with programs that are efficient and accountable, and business development that nurtures innovation, supports remote work with expanded broadband access, grows new industry by investing in the next technology, not the last one.

We’re rightfully concerned about the health and safety of our communities, especially in the face of staggering substance abuse problems. We must draw on every available resource to meet this challenge, from Medicaid expansion and federal grants to evidence-based prevention programs and a whole host of supportive paths to recovery.

Almost everyone I’ve spoken with, whether Democrat, Republican, or unenrolled voter, has asked the same question: What are we going to do about our governor? Whatever else may divide us, we all seem to agree that bullying is not the same as leading, and that obstruction is not the same as action. As your next State Representative, I’ll focus on policy, not politics. I have strong, collaborative relationships with legislators and citizens on both sides of the aisle, and I’ll work with anyone and everyone to address our state’s pressing needs.

A recent Maine Dept. of Labor report indicates the work force will get even older, and more jobs will require post-secondary education. How will you work to build a knowledge-based economy when so many of Maine high school graduates do not seek higher education?

Our young people face so many challenges in planning for their futures. The skyrocketing cost of college, coupled with a stagnant economy that has not seen the recovery experienced in other states, encourages too many students to skip post-secondary education, to leave Maine, or to struggle. In this new landscape, there are many paths to economic opportunity. We must improve our education system, expand our information, and foster the kind of environment that draws and keeps young families in Maine. That means supporting strong technical schools, which give students the skills they need to earn good, skilled jobs right out of high school, and strong community colleges, which prepare students to work in emerging and thriving industries, or to get an affordable head start on a four-year degree. It also requires state leadership to systematically expand access to broadband internet service.

Is Maine doing enough to accommodate the successful assimilation of immigrants?

Maine’s future depends on welcoming people from Away, whether they were born across our state border or across the world. These new Mainers will help revitalize our workforce, enrich our communities, and expand our horizons. Success begins with respect, and xenophobic insults from our administration undermine the work many communities are already doing. We can do better. 

What is the best legislative activity that has occurred in Augusta over the last six years. This does not have to mean legislative action, but can include collaboration, research, etc.

When it comes to solar power, Maine lags behind every other New England state. Last year’s comprehensive solar bill was the pinnacle of good policy making. It was the result of a broad coalition of diverse interest groups, from utility companies to solar providers, environmentalists to the Public Advocate, all united to develop policy that helps us catch up and lead. I supported the proposed policies, including “neXt metering” and a framework to expand community solar farms, and, just as importantly, the process that got us there.

How would you define "good state government?"

Good state government is collaborative, accessible, hopeful, and realistic. It reflects our communities, responds to the needs and will of the people, and is bold enough to set a long-term vision that provides for the public good for generations to come.

Is there any other topic or issue you'd like to talk about here? Have at it!

Among the public health challenges facing our state, one is something most of us don’t think about: water quality. Half of all households in Maine rely on well water for drinking and cooking, and too few well users know the importance of testing their water regularly. Arsenic and other toxic chemicals are present in an estimated 150,000 Maine wells, and prolonged exposure to contaminated water can cause cancers of the bladder, skin, and lung, as well as neuro-developmental disorders in children. If your family relies on a well, please contact me for information about testing your water. 

I’ve already pledged to support legislation expanding outreach and education programs that boost our state's testing rate through creation of a Safe Well Water fund. The fund would be paid for through a small fee collected whenever a drinking water test is conducted by the State of Maine Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory, and therefore requires no additional spending from our state budget.

I’m committed to efforts like this, which make our communities healthier and safer without demanding additional state spending.