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. Glenn “Chip” Curry, Democrat, seeks election to represent Senate District 11, which includes Belfast, Belmont, Brooks, Burnham, Frankfort, Freedom, Islesboro, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Lincolnville, Monroe, Montville, Morrill, Northport, Palermo, Prospect, Searsmont, Searsport, Stockton Springs, Swanville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity, Waldo and Winterport.
1. Please provide a concise biography of yourself.
For the past 25 years Waldo County has been my home, living in the Unity area, Knox, and Belfast. My wife, Christi Goosman, teaches at the Searsport District High School, and my daughter is a student of RSU 71. I have worked my whole adult life helping people overcome challenges and achieve their goals. During the 1990s, I taught students leadership at Unity College in the context of outdoor recreation, environmental stewardship, and service-leadership. For over 10 years I worked with the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet where I led an initiative to strengthen community-based efforts to reduce child poverty. For the past seven years, I have served as an academic advisor for adult students returning to college; helping them to develop the skills they need to find good paying jobs. I am a union member, co-chair UMA’s Professional Employee Association, chair the Waldo County Advisors committee of the Maine Community Foundation, and serve as the informal resident set-builder for the Searsport District High School theater program.
2. What are the three most pressing issues facing Maine, as a state, today, and how would you like to see them resolved?
The most pressing issue we face right now is controlling the spread of this pandemic, supporting those who are most significantly impacted by the recommended isolation measures, and preparing to rebuild our economy. With over 10% unemployment and an estimated 2,000 fewer jobs in our district compared to a year ago, we must focus on responding to the immediate needs of our neighbors, businesses, and institutions. Even before this pandemic we have needed to grow the number of jobs that actually pay the bills. Strengthening our economic foundations and diversifying our economy is critical to supporting our families and communities. After responding to the immediate needs of the pandemic, this is my first priority. We need to be able to educate people for the trades, technology, health care and other high wage jobs right here in Waldo County. I will champion bringing these educational programs to Waldo county.
3. How will you protect the local (municipal) taxpayer as you help shape a state budget?
I oppose the cost-shifting strategies previous administrations have used in the name of lowering taxes. Funding education makes up a significant portion of property taxes and we need the state to fund schools at the 55% level mandated by the people through referendum. We must also balance the budget without reducing municipal cost sharing. I care about Maine people being able to make it here. The impact of legislation on our state and property taxes will play a prominent role in my decision-making.
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?
The cost of housing has skyrocketed over the past ten years and wage gains have not kept up. I believe the state needs to work alongside municipalities as well as the federal government to increase the ability of nonprofits and private businesses to build more affordable housing.
5. What legislative committees would you like to serve on and why?
I believe I can best serve on the Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement, and Business Committee. I want my daughter and her generation to be able to make a life (and a living) here in Waldo county. We need to strengthen, and diversify our rural economy. I am most interested in supporting our small businesses to grow so as to create more good paying jobs.
6. Maine’s economy relies on small and micro-businesses. How will you help the entrepreneur succeed in this state, especially given the pandemic?
Our first priority for small businesses is to help them survive this pandemic. We need to closely monitor the supports designed to help, determine if they are working, and quickly adjust if not. These assessments and interventions need to be conducted on a week to week basis. Beyond the specific challenges of this pandemic, we can also support small businesses and micro-businesses by helping them to connect with peers, advisors, suppliers, investors, and customers. Additionally, for many businesses the lack of reliable broadband access is a significant barrier. Increased access to broadband is an absolute minimum requirement to attract and grow businesses.
7. What is your vision for affordable health care?
Our district is predominantly rural with many people having few options for health care providers and services nearby. People should be able to see their providers and receive medical care without having to drive hours and without going broke in the process. The health care funding battle is complex and takes place predominantly at the national level. At the state level I will focus on keeping costs down, strengthening safety net programs, and ensuring that our rural health care system is strong, affordable and accessible to all.
8. Does the State of Maine need to improve its public health system?
This pandemic has shown us that we are not as prepared as we thought we were. We have already learned that the Maine Lab and CDC and have been neglected over the years. While they are performing to a high level of excellence right now due to the outstanding work of the committed staff, it's clear they should have been better supported. Our public health system also requires close access to clinics and hospitals along with strong broadband access to support tele-medicine. I am committed to strengthening all of these areas of our health care system.
9. What are the greatest strengths in your district, and how do you hope to support them?
The people of Waldo County are our greatest strength. We have grit, resilience, a strong work ethic, and the courage to live on our own terms. Too often, economic development efforts focus exclusively on recruiting businesses from away. I believe we need to support homegrown entrepreneurship as well as those businesses that have been the mainstays of our communities for years and years. During these unpredictable economic times, now more than ever, we need local access to education for the trades, technology, health care and other high-wage in-demand jobs.
10. What are the greatest problems to address in your district, and how do you intend to address them?
We continue to struggle with the opioid epidemic, high child poverty rates, domestic violence, meeting the needs of our seniors, and access to education for the trades and other high wage, in-demand jobs. We need to strengthen local efforts to address these issues, fund effective intervention programs, and create more good paying jobs.
11. What is your position on law enforcement reform in the State of Maine?
When our state and communities do not adequately respond to social problems such as homelessness, mental health access, substance abuse, and poverty it is often our law enforcement agencies, jails, and emergency rooms that are left to respond. These institutions are designed for another task. I believe we need to reinvest in prevention strategies and tackle these societal problems head on. We also need to provide strong back-up to our officers so that when they are called to a scene where a person is in crisis, they can quickly pull in an appropriate mental health/substance abuse counselor for support. I was excited to learn that the Waldo County Sheriff's Office has recently initiated such a program through grant funding and by working closely with community partners.
12. What are your thoughts about the state’s response to the pandemic?
I appreciate that the state has relied on the best public health science available and that they regularly review both the science and the effectiveness of safety standards and interventions. We were able to open many parts of our economy this summer while also keeping transmission cases low through the tourist season. Still the health and economic impact has been enormous. It is clear our systems including; online unemployment applications, support for small businesses, and guidance for school reopening have not been up to the challenge presented by covid. Still, I have observed our state government responding effectively by dramatically ramping up testing, efficiently distributing protective gear, managing outbreaks through contact tracing and quarantine, and communicating in a timely and straightforward manner. For all of that I am appreciative. Lastly, I believe the legislature needs to return and complete the work they were elected to do.
13. Do you support the proposed 145-mile Central Maine Power transmission line that the company hopes to build from Quebec to Massachusetts?
I am not in favor of this project. Rather than simply serve as a pass through for Massachusetts to get renewable energy from Quebec, we should be generating renewable energy for our own use and for export. Maine has the resources and the know-how to become a regional leader in the generation and distribution of renewable energy.
14. Do you support the Nordic Aquafarm proposal, as it has been submitted to the local and state permitting committees and agencies?
I believe the project should have a fair and rigorous review by our independent Bureau of Environmental Protection. If the project can earn all the required permits, and meets all legal requirements, then I support the project moving forward without further delay. Due to the importance of the bay to our lives and our economy, I believe this project, if it is approved, should be closely monitored to ensure it stays within the limits of its permits. Provided it does so, the project will have significant economic benefit to the region, generate sorely needed jobs, and represent a modern take on our heritage fishing industry.
15. Free space! Is there anything else you want voters to know about you or your vision not addressed through this questionnaire?
I am a small town rural Democrat. I am not interested in getting bogged down in the national fights that so often divide us. I’m passionate about people being able to make it here in Waldo county. I will work hard so that the next generation, my daughter’s generation, will be able to find good work, or start a business, and make a life here in the place we love.