Letter to the editor: Gary Stimeling

Vote for Plan Z

Mon, 09/21/2020 - 7:00pm

If you live in District 96, you owe it to yourself to vote to reelect S. Paige Zeigler as your representative in Augusta. I’ve known Paige for 20 years and followed his work in the State House for four. He takes the job seriously and works hard at it, and he knows firsthand the real problems confronting Mainers.

Zeigler worked in many parts of Maine as a professional logger, a teacher, a resident director of a community college, a night counselor for a drug-rehabilitation program, an ambulance attendant, and then for thirty-five years as a merchant seaman on every ocean, rising from deckhand to captain.

In his first two terms, he has consistently advocated policies to benefit all of us, the 100 percent. He supports:

  • Increased state investment in public schools. Money spent on well-staffed, up-to-date schools pays the state dividends in the form of a well-educated workforce that can attract businesses and help stop the outflow of young Mainers in search of quality jobs someplace with better schools for their children.

  • A property tax freeze. Because the state has given away too many tax breaks, property taxes are rising, and the non-wealthy have to use a bigger percentage of their income to keep a roof over their heads. Zeigler has said, “Giving income and corporate tax breaks before paying for the services that benefit our community is like taking someone out for an expensive dinner before you’ve bought your weekly groceries.”
  • Student loan relief. Even if people complete their education in Maine, they often have to migrate to earn enough to pay off their student loans. As Zeigler never tires of asking, why not use loan relief to help the young thrive in Maine, especially to attract teachers, who are in short supply, and to fill the ranks of our relentlessly graying volunteer ambulance services and fire departments, which save us all millions in taxes?
  • Respect for our elders. To take just one example of Zeigler’s attention to the problems of the elderly, he worked with Representative Jim Handy to have hearing aids included in health insurance. As a retiree on a fixed income himself, he knows how important it is to keep the social bargain with our seniors, maintaining the medical and financial safety net for those who’ve worked all their lives, so they don’t have to beg their children for help.
  • Prosecution of fraud at all levels. Welfare fraud hovers at about 1 percent. It takes money from those who need it most, especially single moms and their kids, but financial and tax fraud are much more expensive to society as a whole. To quote Zeigler again, “We need to treat all thieves alike. We deserve a good, ethical society.”
  • Smart, humane drug policy. As a drug-rehab counselor, Zeigler learned about the pain of injury, poverty, and despair that lead to addiction and then to the pain of addiction itself. In his first term, he worked hard to help legalize over-the-counter access to the lifesaving opioid antagonist naloxone (Narcan) over Governor LePage’s veto, a measure that has saved over five hundred Maine lives since 2017, according to the Maine Attorney General’s Office. To Zeigler, addicts are not throwaway people, and the problem will not be solved by more drug-war prisoners, but rather by medically supervised gradual withdrawal along with counseling and access to job or training opportunities. We need more people contributing to society, not sighing in jail at public expense or for private profit.
  • Maintenance of the foundation. Zeigler’s primary focus as a legislator has been on Maine’s fields, forests, waters, and shores, along with its human-built infrastructures. He is working to address pollution by PFAS, a group of “forever chemicals” that leach from plastics into soil and water and thence into the food chain. He’s studying upgrades to the power grid so individuals and small solar or wind farms can feed power into it, and he’s consulting on the goal of statewide broadband coverage. He led the Maine contingent to a two-day Zoom conference of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, a group working for interstate cooperation in writing smart environmental laws. Toward the goal of Maine energy self-sufficiency, he’s working with like-minded colleagues on ways to stimulate development of offshore wind power—without harming fisheries.

    Such efforts are often a tough slog. A few years ago, the legislature failed to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would have allowed more people to buy into solar energy farms. The experience still upsets Zeigler, especially seeing some lawmakers leave the chamber so as not to be there for the override vote. Now he advises us all, “Ask anyone running for office what their comprehensive energy plan is, so no one will walk away from a vote again.”


Zeigler’s legislative efforts aren’t really an agenda, but simply the attempts of a good citizen to make the governmental apparatus work impartially for the benefit of all, including our descendants, so as to bequeath them a livable planet. Laws that work well for society as a whole—is that even possible? Given our current national debacle, Zeigler’s brand of lawmaking may seem like an impossible dream, a last-ditch Hail Mary play—a Plan Z, if you will.

One representative can’t do it alone, of course, but the more people like Paige we can put in the legislature—in every legislature—the sooner we can move beyond the politics of insanity, climb out of the hole we’ve collectively fallen into, and crawl toward a sustainable future. I live in District 99, so I’ll be voting for April Turner (and Chip Curry for state senator), but if you live in Montville, Searsmont, Lincolnville, Morrill, Belmont, Liberty, or Palermo, please vote for S. Paige Zeigler. Thank you.

Gary Stimeling lives in Freedom