On the issues: Senate District 12 candidate Scott Rocknak

Tue, 11/01/2022 - 7:45pm

    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 2022 Election Resource Guide.

    Scott Rocknak, a member of the Republican Party, is seeking election to represent Maine Senate District 12, which includes Appleton, Camden, Criehaven Township, Cushing, Friendship, Hope, Matinicus Isle Plantation, Mussel Ridge Islands Township, North Haven, Owls Head, Rockland, Rockport, South Thomaston, St. George, Thomaston, Union, Vinalhaven and Warren.

    He is running against Anne ‘Pinny’ Beebe-Center; read her questionnaire here.

    Please provide a concise biography of yourself, and state why you are running for political office.

    It has been an honor to work, intensely and on a professional level, with the people of Midcoast Maine for over 40 years. I have raised my kids here with all the great things the area can offer. Being a local job creator, I’ve seen employees grow and achieve in their fields, and in some cases, form businesses of their own.

    In addition to the maritime field, I’ve been involved in complex educational, logistical, and training projects. My experience is local, state-wide, national, and international in multiple areas. The perspective of running diverse businesses in Knox County for decades has provided me with the opportunity to witness what works, what is supposed to work, and what needs improvement.

    Running for office is not a decision I made lightly. We can either participate or we can watch; this year I’ve chosen to participate. Why? For many reasons but a large motivation for me was the way the COVID 19 experience and its associated mandates have affected small businesses here in Knox County and across the state. If it happened once, it could happen again.

    I’m also concerned about the disruptions to our education system and our healthcare system. We now see additional knock-on effects from troublesome policies like high inflation, fuel costs, and the dramatic increase in the cost of living, and the ever-rising cost of food. The attack on our lobster industry has been heating up for years. It is now make-or break time and all hands need to be on deck. It is my intention to leverage my experience to be the people’s advocate as State Senator for District 12.

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

    Impeding government regulations on our fishing industries. The Maine lobster industry is in peril and faces the weight of legal battles imposed by well-funded and mission-driven Federal and third-party interests.
    Cost of living. $75 bags of groceries, fuel, huge heating and electricity cost increases, across the board inflation.

    Incentivizing our workforce to stay home is not a winning solution. Other issues raised in this questionnaire relate to a dormant or hesitant workforce. Not mentioned as a question here is the issue of the impact of the Opioid and Fentanyl crisis and the lack of resources available or applied. Among the many issues facing our state and nation, this is certainly a top priority. 

    Maine is grappling with a housing shortage, and legislation has been crafted — and passed last year — at the Maine Legislature to try and ease the situation by allowing greater density in all municipalities. Those municipalities now are analyzing this new state rule to understand how it applies to local zoning ordinances. Do you think this was an appropriate law to pass?

    Let’s carefully observe the other states that have enacted similar legislation. Maine varies greatly and it is not a one-size fits all solution. It is not so much the property in District 12, it’s the cost of housing in District 12. Municipalities should be the entities deciding on property density. Housing is related to the economy. Economy is related to available workforce. Workforce is related to government policies and education.

    Do you have other ideas, and proposals, to help ease the housing problem? 

    Low or no interest loans, re-examine regulations concerning the private labor agreement. Collaborate on the Public/Private partnerships. It all goes back the reduction of costs.

    What legislative committees would you like to serve on and why? 

    1. Marine Resources. I have been interacting with the participants for decades. 

    2. Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement and Business. The health of the economic engine in the state is critical for all other areas. Maine’s economy relies on small and micro-businesses.

    How will you help the entrepreneur succeed in this state?  

    The first thing is help and not hinder. Employee availability, trade school support, youth retention, cost of living, taxes, growth, and access to available markets.

    What are the greatest economic, cultural and social strengths in your district, and how will you support them?

    The Midcoast culture of dedication, perseverance and hard work are evident in every town in District 12. This includes the small, independently owned and operated fishing enterprises and all of the businesses that support that industry. It includes those driving to work before sunrise and returning home after sunset.

    It includes the tireless caregiver balancing family responsibilities, work, and everything else. It includes the educators who strive to make their students the best they can be. It includes all our municipal workers who improve and safeguard our communities. It includes everyone who lives here that contribute greatly and diligently in their capacity and participation.

    I will support the rights of Mainers to pursue their livelihoods where government serves the citizen and not the other way around.

    What are the greatest problems in your district, and how do you intend to address them?

    The lobster fishing industry has many challenges from government regulations. Farmers face new, more restrict regulations each passing year. The cost to keep farmland is becoming prohibitive, if the land is not sold to developers.

    Maine’s high school dropout rates may decrease by enhancing education in the trades. Too many of our young adults can’t find jobs here in Maine in the fields they studied for in college. Realizing this with an eye on future job growth opportunities will be paramount.

    Government overreach in both our businesses and our school system is not resulting with the intended affects. We need to bring government of our people brought closer to the people.

    Do you support construction of the 145-mile Central Maine Power transmission line from Quebec to Massachusetts?

    Maine had the opportunity for a parallel corridor that would have benefitted Maine more directly. This would have changed the cost/benefit analysis of those on the fence. The massive advertising campaign presented 2 years ago I felt was somewhat disingenuous making me question the issue. I’m one of the people on the fence and really need to dig in deep to have a thorough understanding of both sides.

    The Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services recently received funding from lawmakers to fund five public defenders to travel the state representing indigent defendants. Its executive director says that is “not a solution, it’s a patch" and that the agency needs an estimated $51 million to open public defender offices in all 16 counties. Should the legislature be looking to fund more public defenders?

    Maine ILS (Indigent Legal Services) presently contracts with private-sector attorneys. With a reduction of half of the available attorneys over last year, the right of representation can or will suffer. In part, this scenario resonates with an underlying issue in Maine, and that is the availability (or willingness for whatever reason) of a workforce.

    Less attorneys in the pipeline, the longer the wait for a hearing. This equates to waiting in jail for that attorney. Workload and waiting times are not ideal situations for a proper defense. It is not clear if trying for a PD in all counties is needed or practical initially. It would be good to see if a district-oriented approach makes sense in the beginning and then modify as needed.

    At least four county jails in Maine have combined to record nearly 1,000 phone calls between jailed defendants and their attorneys. What action would you like to see the legislature and governor take to ensure this never again happens?

    From what I understand, the way the system is *supposed* to work is the defendant has the phone number of their attorney entered into the system. The system software then determines if the call should be recorded. So, at a minimum, the number has to be correct, it can’t change, be entered incorrectly, or use another number the attorney has in order for the call to be flagged for no recording. The contracted phone vendor varies per jail.

    It is also possible that the software isn’t working as intended. It appears some vendors and their software have performed better than others. When a call is being recorded there is supposed to be a message saying so. Jails are also understaffed and again, there can be consequences to that. Is there a nefarious reason for the recordings or is there a problem with implementation? This we need to discover.

    Maine is one of 16 states that does not offer parole after abolishing it in 1976. Should the state reinstate the possibility of parole?

    Maine has a system that allows for re-entry centers, monitoring systems such as ankle bracelets, home release and other solutions. Judges can have more breadth in leniency in county jail settings than otherwise. It is not always one size fits all. All situations are not the same.

    Attention to the type of rehabilitation, transitionary processes, and their respective effectiveness, is one side of the argument. The other is to serve a sentence in its entirety. Maine has unique solutions on re entering society. Getting more information on this subject will be important to understand more thoroughly.

    There is a statewide shortage of nurses willing to work at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. What more should the state be doing to attract workers?

    Again, a reoccurring theme on worker retention and attraction to be comfortable in the position for longer periods of time. Understaffing can only add to stress in the workplace environment. Retention suffers. The residents in the facility suffer. An honest approach to the root causes which include, but not limited to the above, will be required.

    What is your position on abortion?

    Title 22 1598, is a policy that does not restrict a woman’s exercise of her private decision to terminate a pregnancy before viability. This policy has been in effect since Gov. John McKernan’s administration 28 years ago. My opinion is to leave Title 22 1598 in place. Additionally, it is important to continue our efforts to support our neighbors who face difficult choices.

    The Maine Dept. of Transportation is focusing more on active transportation (bike and pedestrian, as well as public transportation). How would you like to see this implemented in your district?

    The new sidewalks appearing in my hometown of Camden look well done and useful. What is being described as active transportation should be a collaborative effort with the individual towns, private participation, and the state where appropriate.

    What is your position on Gov. Janet Mills' energy policy?

    Any policy that desires to replace hydrocarbons (particularly for industry) with renewables can only be implemented in a feasible matter with considerable overlap and no premature loss of capability or detriment in cost to our vulnerable population.

    If a voter expressed concern to you about voting security in Maine, how would you respond? 

    Maine has a strong election system. We also have a paper ballot backup which sets us apart from some other states. It is a good system and to keep it so I would encourage the voter to consider participating as a poll watcher.

    What is your position on gun control? 

    I support the responsible ownership of firearms.

    What is your vision of Maine in 20 years?

    Years ago, I saw a cartoon in the New Yorker. The setting was a cocktail party and the high-society lady character asked a guest where he was from. He responded “Maine”. The lady in turn responded “What a unique place to be from!” 

    I have always thought of that cartoon and have been impressed with fellow Mainers and their ability to be unique as individuals and together as a state. Maine should maintain its individual spirit and its approach to solving issues. When future Mainers 20 years from now cross the Piscataqua bridge, I hope they feel the pride and sense of home as I do every time I cross the state line.

    Free space! Is there anything else you want voters to know about you or your vision not addressed through this questionnaire?

    As a community, let’s find and recognize common ground among us to reduce the polarization driven by identity politics and the steadfast adherence to fringe political dogma. Exploring what we desire in common will strengthen us as a whole.

    Concentrating on cost of living, supporting our heritage industries, assuring quality of life for all our residents is a good start. Maintaining a sensible approach means that the party in place doesn’t take the ball and run all the way to the other end of the political court. Our common future is before us and what steps we take today will shape it.