Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for Maine State Legislature, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the state. Candidates responding with their individual written answers will have their responses stored in the Pilot’s 2020 Election Resource Guide. Janice Dodge, Democrat, is seeking reelection to House District 97, which includes Belfast, Northport and Waldo.
1. Please provide a concise biography of yourself.
I was born in Belfast, graduated from Belfast Area High School and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. My Mom, Polly Dodge, was a teacher at Governor Anderson School, now Waterfall Arts. My Dad, Julian Dodge, was a mechanic at C.A. Paul & Son and Lothrup Ford, now Quirk. My brother, David, graduated from The University of Maine in Orono and works as an electrical engineer in Massachusetts. After a thirty-one year teaching career, I retired back to Belfast. I volunteered for and served various local and state groups and organizations. Problems implementing the 55% school funding referendum and the state government shutdown drove me to run for the Maine State Legislature in 2018.
2. What are the three most pressing issues facing Maine, as a state, today, and how would you like to see them resolved?
High speed reliable and affordable broadband statewide must be viewed, funded and provided as a necessary utility. Geographic location must not restrict business, agriculture, education and general citizen participation in the region, country and world! The bond and bills from the 129th Legislature are moving us in the right direction. In an odd mixed blessing, the pandemic has forced increased connectivity through the needs of students and teachers.
Climate Change and the Economy require acknowledgement of global warming and the climate crisis. We should address every facet of the problem with investments in solutions that will help the economy and with economic recovery. The plan for the state is being finalized by Hannah Pingree and a team of experts and it will be presented to the Legislature in the 130th. Now is the time to implement solar and wind power, create incentives to move us away from fossil fuels in transportation and home heating, expand weatherization of our buildings and homes and underwrite expanding research and development to help reach our goal of carbon neutrality.
Healthcare affordability and accessibility are problematic when tied to employment. Without regular preventive check- ups, necessary medical treatments, affordable prescription drugs, vision and hearing care, mental health counseling, reasonable deductibles and co-pays, a segment of the population is forced to rely on an array of social safety nets that are not meeting current needs. This undermines personal potential and quality of life and is further magnified by a global pandemic.
3. How will you protect the local (municipal) taxpayer as you help shape a state budget?
As a member of the Municipal Caucus, we successfully pressed for increased Revenue Sharing to bring us closer to the amount in statute, as part of the budget ratification process. Education funding needs to move closer to the 55% mandated amount. The current request for 10% curtailments in response to the pandemic revenue shortfalls was issued with initial protection for education funding. Increases in the allowances in the Homestead Exemption program would also help some local taxpayers. Additional relief options discussed have included increased exemptions for veterans and senior citizens and a local option sales tax with narrow parameters including a lodging tax that could be implemented by vote of the citizens of each municipality. Belfast bears a large share of this burden as our county seat.
4. Given the shortfall of housing in your district, how should the state approach the need for more workforce housing, as well as re-entry housing for the formerly incarcerated, and emergency shelter for those suffering through extended power outages?
Affordable housing is a challenge. Solutions range from zoning adjustments that allow tiny homes, subdividing lots and mother-in-law apartments to large scale housing units funded through bonds and Tax Increment Financing (TIF’s). Transitional housing for those who have been incarcerated and a homeless shelter are worthy goals I support. These must be planned and achieved in conjunction with access to case managers, career counselors and social workers. I would advocate for a Health and Human Services office in Belfast. Senior housing with step up care is also in short supply. There is not much available land for these projects in Belfast. Congregate living for elders who no longer drive will not work in outlying towns without improved access to affordable and reliable transportation for Belfast and Waldo County. This request is near the top of the list of many constituents I hear from in House District #97! I believe shelter for use during extended power outages only experiences an overlap problem if school is in session. State and Federal support is great, but I expect this issue has differing solutions by municipality and facility.
5. What legislative committees would you like to serve on and why?
As a second term legislator and fourth generation teacher, I believe I am best suited to the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. Getting things right for our kids Pre-K – 16 is so important!!! As I did two years ago, I will inform leadership of my preference and express my willingness to learn and serve where I am needed.
6. Maine’s economy relies on small and micro-businesses. How will you help the entrepreneur succeed in this state, especially given the pandemic?
I will support bills that are brought forward by the Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business Committee. This is the focus of Gov. Mills’ newly created legislative committee in the 129th which proved to be a valuable conduit for small business in conjunction with the Department of Labor. I’m eagerly awaiting updates on the recent Red Zone improvements in Belfast. The wireless fiber optics should help small businesses with communication, advertising, inventory and marketing. Perhaps a similar initiative will achieve improved connectivity for Northport and Waldo.
7. What is your vision for affordable health care?
This is a fundamental right. I advocate for a complete overhaul, but public support broadens if a person can keep their current plan if they prefer. Perhaps we can incrementally expand the qualifying age for Medicare downward or work toward a New England ALLcare cooperative. People need and want good affordable healthcare. We should learn from ALL the other civilized countries in the world that have universal care. See question 2, item 3 above.
8. Does the State of Maine need to improve its public health system?
Yes, the State of Maine needs to improve our Public Health System. All positions should be filled, fully funded and expanded to include administrative staff and increased financial support! These nurses provide a much needed community health safety net for newborns and mothers, young people, the disenfranchised and homeless in addition to coordination and communication with school nurses, health care providers, law enforcement, first responders and the local hospital. We are lucky on this topic here in Belfast!!!!
9. What are the greatest strengths in your district, and how do you hope to support them?
Belfast, Northport and Waldo have more strengths and positives than you have column inches to assign for my answer! We are a collection of people with a wonderful mix of backgrounds, experiences and interests, living and working in a beautiful place that offers a wide variety of geography, history, culture, education and activities throughout the year. We are civically engaged, environmentally aware and accepting of differences. Throughout my life and as a volunteer cruise ship greeter for the Chamber of Commerce, I enjoyed talking about our area’s many positive attributes!! There has never been a time in my life when I did not appreciate Belfast and consider it my geographic center.
10. What are the greatest problems to address in your district, and how do you intend to address them?
Reliable and affordable internet access – I will keep voting to support.
Regional Community College to provide job training with a shorter commute – continue advocating.
Area Homeless Shelter needed – Local group, From Above, is addressing immediate needs and looking to the future possibility.
County Office for Health and Human Services – I will keep asking and advocating for this.
Coordinated Expanded County Public Transportation System – Waldo CAP efforts need to be supported and expanded to include a public option.
11. What is your position on law enforcement reform in the State of Maine?
I support social justice and I am shocked and saddened to have witnessed recent law enforcement encounters. Our Waldo County Sheriff’s Department adopted the concept of community policing years ago. I believe our deputies and local police heeded their training on deescalating volatile situations and fair and respectful treatment of all citizens. Officers of the law, like educators, are currently expected to do more than used to fall under “serve and protect.” They deal with the mentally ill, the homeless and those under the influence of alcohol or drugs and assist in the decision whether behavior is best addressed with time in a treatment facility or a jail cell while awaiting setting of bail and/or appropriate medical and psychological assessments.
I support full funding of law enforcement and first responders. I believe if we fund mental health services and increase treatment capacity this will preempt, minimize or reduce negative contact with law enforcement.
12. What are your thoughts about the state’s response to the pandemic?
Maine’s numbers and statistics regarding COVID-19 speak volumes about the scientific and measured response developed by Governor Mills and Dr. Shah of the Maine Center for Disease Control. I fielded many constituent calls and emails from those who were angry about the prescribed precautions. I hope those same people are now comparing Maine with other states’ disease progression and results.
13. Do you support construction of the 145-mile Central Maine Power transmission line from Quebec to Massachusetts?
I am disappointed that this project will not be decided by referendum. I still question the projected rate benefits for Maine power consumers, the legality of the money the government of Quebec was allowed to spend on advertising to influence the now cancelled vote, the failure to confirm through an independent study that this will not result in a shift or addition of polluting power generation elsewhere in Canada and why the already approved underground Vermont version wouldn’t be better suited to protect Maine vistas and the citizens in affected towns who have not granted or have rescinded earlier permission for the lines to pass through their areas.
14. Free space! Is there anything else you want voters to know about you or your vision not addressed through this questionnaire?
I still get goosebumps when I round the second rotary in Augusta, see the Capitol dome and begin each day! It is an honor and a joy to do this work! I promise to use both my brain and my heart as I vote. I have energy, enthusiasm and Legislative experience ready to continue to represent House District #97 – Belfast-Northport-Waldo!!!!!