Friday, January 14, 2011


As reported in the Portland Forecaster and then in the Portland Press Herald, the news of the Council’s efforts at curbing crime in the Bayside neighborhood of Portland should be a wake-up call to all Portlanders.  The Council’s decision to hang a liquor license extension on the stipulation that the owner of the establishment pay for, erect, and monitor video cameras sets a very disturbing precedent and should be reconsidered completely and immediately.

Now I’m reasonably sure that you will not see the pages of the Maine Progressive replete with calls for dramatically less regulation or oversight over businesses in the state.  In this case, however, the Council’s clumsy approach at solving a crime problem is not only over-reaching, but poses a clear and present danger to the civil liberties of residents and visitors of the city.

As the articles referenced point out, even the Portland Police Department does not hold the establishment responsible for the ills of the neighborhood.  But scapegoating is easy, especially if you play fast and loose with the facts.  A bar in a working class neighborhood is an easy target.  Couple that with the liquor license extension and you have the ingredients needed for a good old-fashioned blame game, complete with righteous indignation.

There’s a crime problem in Bayside.  Ok, the numbers can corroborate that.  Rather than attacking the problem of crime by taking stock of the climate of the neighborhood and addressing the root causes, the Council will have us smile on candid camera, on public property.  Cameras that will be “monitored” by untrained personnel.  Cameras that will likely just displace crime deeper into the neighborhood.  Cameras that Councilors can ignorantly point to as a good faith effort to clean up a neighborhood.  This is both lazy, short-sighted, and unfairly targets an area where ore most vulnerable populations live and as served by social services.

Further, one cannot help but think of the other repercussions of such public policy.  Merely installing cameras may very well displace, not reduce, crime.  The same neighbors that demonize the establishment in questions may get much more than they bargained for with this impotent approach.  Also, do people get into mischief and congregate in front of other establishments in the city, perhaps in more affluent neighborhoods?  If the answer is yes, should we advocate for cameras on those streets too? 

Crime and poverty should be addressed in a comprehensive way.  We won’t solve this problem overnight, but what would a short wish list look like?  More job training opportunities?  More efforts at keeping kids in school, and helping their parents and caregivers make positive choices?  More opportunities for young men and women to spend their time productively?  More drug and alcohol prevention programs at an early age?  This takes time, commitment, money, community engagement, and a strong will to avoid the politically expedient.  The mounting of cameras peeping down public streets and walkways isn’t the answer.

The Council would be wise to re-think their decision in this case.  In the interim, be sure to let the Council know that their band-aid approach is not acceptable.

Tough Guy

From time to time, less is more. So we'll post a tidbit or a link that we feel simply needs no further explaination (hint: it likely exceeds the absurd).
Here's one for you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Practical Progressivism

George W. Bush and political sorcerer Karl Rove gave us the “compassionate conservative” during the 2000 presidential campaign. It was brilliant. After 8 years of Bill Clinton’s “big government” we were told that America needed to pull back on the reins of that government, and let individuals grow and prosper unfettered by the shackles of big brother and red tape. But, as Clinton “felt our pain” George W. Bush would compassionately cut our government, allowing for freedoms but ensuring that citizens in real need would not be left to slip through the cracks. We’d have faith-based institutions take a larger role in government. We’d simply empower individuals who were hard-up, because obviously the only thing holding them back was our big, repressive government. Lend a hand up, not a hand out. After all, we’re America! Like I said, as a strategy, it was brilliant.

Now we can discuss the merits of Clinton’s policies and the extent of Bush’s compassion, and we may very well do so at a later date if the mood strikes us. But the point of highlighting this dynamic is that for ideology to resonate with the populace, it needs to be digestible. It needs to be tangible. It needs to be preceded by logical education. It needs to be…practical.

Now I’m not talking about the Obama-style “let’s take what we can get, you should be happy with anything at all” treatment he’s consistently given to progressives, a.k.a. the “professional left” as his spokesman Robert Gibbs so tactfully put it. I’m also not talking about what Dr. Martin Luther King described as the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Practical Progressivism doesn’t have to mean compromising one’s principles, settling for less that what is right and just, or helplessly inching towards an ever-moving goal line.

Practical Progressivism is more than just results. It’s more than a catch phrase. It is obtaining results in a way that focuses on the open dialogue, the exchange of ideas, the collaborative process, and the gaining of a level of understanding of issues that is conducive to productive outcomes. It is the “selling” of ideas in a digestible and collaborative way by helping people understand the merits and benefits of collective progress, gain buy-in through education, and then fight for those shared principles. The process is important, and the means must justify the end, not the other way around.

Practical Progressivism must be focused on the journey as well as the destination, for the sustainability of a movement depends on the ability of it’s ambassadors to engage the community and articulate the shared benefit of the action. It can be accomplished, and the fruits of the movement will prove much more “compassionate” than the alternative.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Why Maine Progressive?


For too long, is seems the progressive movement has leaned heavily on the notion that if one would just put a broader perspective before self, the answers would become clear and the path to solution be not only logical, but paved with righteousness. It’s easy to figure. You can feel good about your ideology and simply cast aside those of others as ham-handed attempts to fill the pockets of the rich, or punish the protester, out the “unpatriotic” (a topic that we’ll surely discuss at length in the future), or silence those struggling to find their voice among the din of Washington-style left/right policies.

There is a need to delve into the issues and explain how we enact the “progress” of progressivism. Facilitating forward movement for the benefit of our community by asking questions, spurring dialogue, and sharing acquired knowledge is what the Maine Progressive is about.

The political arena is one where information is power, and the ability to share it, capital. Surely it is an individual’s responsibility to make informed decisions when it comes to the direction and operations of their government. The point is not merely a prescribing of responsibility. It is empowerment. It is providing the tools to individuals so we can gain the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions based on how oft-overbroad polices effect us as individuals as well as parts of our larger community. Our neighbors and our communities deserve more.

So, simply provide information and that will translate into government making decisions based on the individual’s needs with an eye focused squarely on equality and our collective progress? Right, if it were that easy. But I’ve heard quoted a proverb, “To know and not to do is not to know.” If set out in a way that strips the issues of smug belittlement and placating pandering, we can digest information and make decisions based on real-life effects of the action, rather than on presumptions fueled by empty rhetoric. It’s past time to work together on gaining the knowledge necessary so we can ask the tough questions and hold our public officials accountable in an informed way.

The Maine Progressive will take a critical look at how our government, be it in Washington, Augusta, Portland, or your neighborhood, acts and the effects of their actions on us as Mainers and participants in our communities. We’ll look at how we can build upon that information and speak with a clear voice to those we elect to represent us in government. Hopefully it’ll be fun. Surely it will be frustrating. But definitely it is necessary.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Welcome to!

We have launched this website with the intent of building and organizing progressives in Maine. In the next few weeks, we will have some articles and resources about progressive people, policies, and politics. We will also take a critical look at the Governor's plan to privatize prisons.

Drop us an email or comment to share your thoughts as we move forward!