Penobscot Bay Pilot has posed questions to each candidate running for the Maine Senate District 11 seat encompassing all towns in Waldo County, providing the opportunity for the public to better understand their position on issues important to the town and region. The candidate responses are posted as they are returned, and are collected on the Pilot’s Elections Resource Page.
Among the candidates seeking the nomination are Glenn “Chip” Curry (Democrat), Duncan Milne (Republican), Charles Pattavina (Democrat) and Robyn Stanicki (Democrat).
Incumbent Erin Herbig decided to not seek re-election after accepting the City Manager position with the City of Belfast.
Please provide a concise biography of yourself.
I am a semi-retired emergency physician from Winterport who moved to this area twelve years ago and rebuilt the Emergency Department at St. Joseph Hospital. Throughout my career I have held leadership positions in medical staffs, hospitals and professional organizations, including the national board of the American College of Emergency Physicians and most recently as President of the Maine Medical Association from 2016 to 2018. I was always involved in federal, state and local advocacy. One thing I have learned over my career is the importance of showing up and speaking up and I regard service in the state Senate as the utmost form of "showing up”.
A lot changed when Erin Herbig, our popular and very effective Senator, took the position of Belfast city manager. Then, within days, so much more changed when a deadly virus that was making its way around the world and into our country took off. At least for now, the virus and the necessary measures taken to mitigate it have severely changed our lives. In addition, this coronavirus has drastically changed how people currently run for office. I'm glad I met a lot of people when we had the chance and I look forward to meeting as many more people as possible when it is safe to do so.
I am running because I'm worried about this country and all the division that has taken place. I have a long record of working with others with different views to make good things happen for the community. I have the life experience and skills we need help us come together and heal and I’m ready to give back. And on top of polarization, we are now suffering the direct effects of COVID-19 and a critical injury to the economy.
My main issue is to represent your interests as well as anyone can. Things important to me include: civility in politics (and everyday life), climate change (and how addressing it can help us have a booming economy), health care for all, income inequality and tax fairness, affordable broadband access, water rights and more. Unfortunately, it now looks like Maine will still be addressing COVID-19 and the economic damage well into the next legislative session – and perhaps beyond - due to the failure of national leaders to manage this event. There will be urgent work but it will not preclude work on other issues; work on other issues should actually help us recover and be better prepared for any future disease epidemics.
I am a reasonable liberal Democrat willing to work with other good people to make positive change for the people of this county and the people of Maine. Our country and our government have to work for everyone and — as an emergency physician — I see a lot of people on a regular basis for whom it doesn't work — and that is without regard to wealth or social status. I also work with people in opioid recovery weekly in a "low barrier" health center. Most of them are doing amazingly well, but many could use more help overcoming acute and lifelong struggles, especially homelessness.
My job will clearly be to represent the interests of the people and I take that responsibility very seriously. I have no aspirations to higher office so I can’t be tempted away from representing the interests of the people of my district and doing what is best for our state. Over the years and especially recently, people who know me well suggested I run for office or find other ways to serve the community and continue trying to make reasonable outcomes happen in government. Although I am semiretired and have been a bit busy lately with preparations for the expected COVID-19 surge, I am making time to devote to this campaign. Please read more about me on my Facebook page and cpattavina.com and please contact me with your thoughts and concerns.
What are the three most pressing issues facing Maine, as a state, today, and how would you like to see them resolved?
I am very concerned about the division, distrust and polarization that has taken place in recent years, even in our county. Leaders at any level can help make this better by listening well and respecting the views of good people with different opinions. We have seen some state leaders do the opposite, so we know it is possible to heal these wounds. If we work together, there is so much more we can accomplish.
COVID-19 and the resulting economic damage have now become huge issues. As we understand the disease better every day, we need to continue helping everyone understand what we need to do to get control of this virus so we can return to a level of normality in every day life and in economic productivity. Sadly, we now know we can’t always count on the federal government to manage a pandemic, so we must prepare Maine for future events. As with any adversity, there is also opportunity presented, including ways we can learn to live better but also ways to do business and use technology better.
Climate change presents a huge economic opportunity for the state and we are just at the dawn of that opportunity. Regardless of what one thinks about the cause of climate change, there is every reason to find ways to mitigate it and reverse our impact. We need a fivefold increase in electrical generation from renewable sources to get to cleaner transportation and heating and this is a $65 billion opportunity over 25 years which is affordable because of low interest bonds, and this will also create a lot of good-paying union jobs.
Healthcare is an issue in that so many people have inadequate coverage and many of them don't even know it until they need health care and they get a bill because they haven't met their deductible or something. (Why does health insurance even have deductibles?) We have a lot of people who are uninsured which is not right for a country like ours, and it is unfortunate the current federal administration is trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act. I expect we'll have to start over and look at successful state models such as Massachusetts and Hawaii, although there is at least one bill still alive in this state legislative session. Fortunately, we now have the Medicaid expansion for the working poor, but we need everyone to have decent affordable coverage. You might think that will cost a lot but the reality is we are already paying for the health care of these people, just not in a sensible or economical way.
How will you protect the local (municipal) taxpayer as you help shape a state budget?
We need to maintain traditional levels of revenue sharing with the cities and towns and make sure the property and income taxes are fair. We are somewhat limited because we can't change the Federal income tax which has recently been tilted to favor the rich more but we do have options to make our own tax structure more fair and not hurt the middle class at the expense of the wealthy. Many wealthy people don't even mind paying more tax as long as they know their money is being put to good use. Just as people want to know what they're getting in return for a tax increase, people should know what they are losing when they get a tax cut.
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?
I have to say I haven't given this a lot of thought but I know affordable housing is always an issue. I could imagine funding affordable housing either for rent or for purchase through the use of state bonds. I would hope emergency shelters will be needed less if we can improve our electrical power delivery infrastructure. I know Maine is tough terrain and a tough climate and companies and people work hard to keep the lines up but I’m still surprised we have so many extended power outages.
What legislative committees would you like to serve on and why?
As a physician, I expect to be tapped to serve on committees related to health and health care (which may include climate change) and I will be happy to serve on those but I have other interests including ethics and revenue.
Maine’s economy relies on small and micro-businesses. How will you help the entrepreneur succeed in this state, especially given the pandemic?
A lot of health insurance in our country is employer-based. Employers used to be able to buy great coverage for their people but it has always put a damper on entrepreneurism because, unless a person has a spouse with family coverage, one risks becoming uninsured when leaving an employment situation to start a business. If we can develop low cost options with decent coverage, it would be a great stimulus for small business development.
What is your vision for affordable health care?
Even though we now have insurance for the working poor, we need to explore more options that will cover more people with affordable plans. We should start by looking at what successful states have done, including Massachusetts and Hawaii. (The Hawaiian plan predates ERISA however so we can't exactly follow their model.) The Affordable Care Act did limit the amount of overhead/profit that could be taken by private health insurers but that doesn’t seem to be working as well as we would like; we should look into what options the state has towards making sure the insurance companies spend enough money on the health care of the people they insure.
Does the State of Maine need to improve its public health system?
Yes. When a public health system is doing a great job, people have no idea because they are going along living healthy lives and sleeping well while people in the CDC (for example) are monitoring and tracking diseases and even creatures such as mosquitoes and bats that carry disease. It's easy for people to think that epidemiologists and public health nurses exist for someone else's benefit when in fact they are working, sometimes around-the-clock, to keep all of us well. I think this is what happened under the previous administration which failed to maintain the public health nurses, even when ordered to do so, but fortunately the Mills administration moved quickly to restore their ranks and this was a really good thing because it wasn't long before the COVID-19 pandemic was upon us. I have close friends and advisers who will certainly make sure I do my part to maintain and improve our public health system.
What are the greatest strengths in District 11, and how do you hope to support them?
I think our greatest strengths come from the people who live and I work here. I am fortunate to have met many people already and I think we all really want to get along and we basically want the same things out of life. There are all kinds of interesting projects, businesses and passtimes that have been developed by local residents. We have great local agriculture, aquaculture, farmers markets and all kinds of local festivals and entertainment. We have great wilderness areas and water access and we treat our natural resources with respect.
What are the greatest problems to address in District 11, and how do you intend to address them?
Right now those are the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic damage. Affordable taxes, affordable housing, poverty and climate change are also problems and opportunities. We've been hearing talk about wide broadband access for years and it's time to get that done but it has to be affordable.
What is your opinion on how Gov. Mills’ administration has handled the pandemic in the State of Maine?
I think Governor Mills is doing an admirable job managing the COVID-19 outbreak in Maine. If the medical community had our way, they would have been even tougher with regard to restrictions but, while we are a very important voice, there are other voices. From the beginning, she was aware of and very concerned about the human and economic tolls of the stay at home order.
With some anticipating another wave of COVID-19 in the near future, what actions would you want to take in the new legislative term to shape how Maine responds to any resurgence?
Because we are learning as we go along about this virus, Maine has seemed at times almost to be “winging it”. And now that we know we can't always count on the Federal government to manage a pandemic, Maine must always be prepared to play a leadership role. There is a lot we can learn from this disease and the pandemic so when things are more stable, I would assemble the people who have managed the crisis here and take their ideas first but also continue to network with other states. Also, since the current federal administration has now terminated our relationship with the World Health Organization, we should start by reinforcing our relationships with other states and joining with them to develop a new relationship with the W.H.O.
Do you support the proposed 145-mile Central Maine Power transmission line that the company hopes to build from Quebec to Massachusetts?
I haven't made up my mind because I'm not privy to the details yet. Before we give up any pristine wilderness, I would need to know if the excess power in Canada really does exist, what alternatives there are for placing the lines and what is the true impact on climate change. Simply saying that we're going to build transmission lines and Massachusetts is going to pay for it, is not enough for me. Any time you have a private company that wants to take a public resource, intense scrutiny of the proposal is required and at the very least, I think we could be getting a better deal.
Do you support the Nordic Aquafarm proposal, as it has been submitted to the local and state permitting committees and agencies?
As far as I know that’s not going to be an issue for the legislature so I’ll do what I can to make sure the people of Belfast get all the accurate information they need in order to make the right decision on the project. (The other two Democratic candidates do live in Belfast so they will have to make their own private decisions as city residents.) Any time you have a private entity that wants something from the public, whether it’s water rights, cutting through the wilderness or using resources for a fish farm in a seaside city, you must very carefully scrutinize the data and promises presented by those companies. If individuals don’t have the time to do their own research, they should very carefully listen to those who have looked deeply into it.
Free space! Is there anything else you want voters to know about you or your vision not addressed through this questionnaire?
I may be a newcomer to politics but ours is a citizen legislature. I would like to take my "people skills" and use them to benefit all of us. As you can imagine, I've worked with a lot of opinionated people in my career including doctors, healthcare executives and politicians from both parties and I've been able to get things done because I am polite but determined and I treat others with respect. I have also learned the importance of kindness. I know I had a very fortunate life but many have not and no matter how well or well off someone appears to be, you really never know what great difficulty or suffering that other person might be going through at that moment. Many of the people who encouraged me to run are people I had the good fortune to be able to hire and keep. They tell me they came to work for me and stayed because they knew I would take care of them. Of course, I'm no longer their boss but many have asked to help with the campaign and have offered to write comments and letters for me and I'm happy to let them speak for themselves.