In order for a problem description to be complete, all factors relating to your decisions must be considered. Any solution to an incomplete problem is by definition, any incomplete solution. We have a serious problem in the decisions being made at the Department of Health and Human Services. This department is running amok, uncontrolled, unreceptive, unaccountable and reigns with the attitude that “we can do whatever we want, whenever we want and however we want”.
It comes as no surprise that there are needs of many Mainers that require our direct attention. When errors in problem identification occur, it only leads to incorrect solutions. The problems that are before us and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are those needs of low income families with children, seniors and disabled Mainers. This clearly defines the problem, and requires considerate deliberations and dedication to resolve them.
Instead of addressing all of the problems, Gov LePage and DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew have continued a shell game of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Their actions raise serious concerns for the health and welfare of Maine citizens. In a recent audit of the Maine DHHS by the state office that ensures government funds are used according to law, it was determined that DHHS has misspent $13.4 million in federal welfare money earmarked for low income families with children. The audit report also indicated that DHHS was aware of the fact that its use of the $13 million was questionable, but went ahead with the redistribution and spending of that dedicated money despite having this knowledge beforehand.
These funds originated from a single federal grant for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and accounts for $78.1 million to Maine each year to pay cash assistance, job training and placement, and child care for low-income Maine families with children. Redistribution and spending of this money occurred over a two year period. Federal law does allow for the state to transfer up to 10% of the $78.1 million each year to a smaller more flexible federal grant known as the Social Services Block Grant that states may use for a range of other social services. This is not what happened in this particular case. In 2015, DHS transferred $7.8 million to services for elderly and disabled residents. In the following year, DHHS transferred another $5.6 million TANF funds to the Social Security Block Grant for the same services. Instead of addressing the big picture and the needs of the elderly and disabled with appropriate funding, Gov LePage and the Commissioner enacted their own policies of redistribution, pitting one group of needy Mainers against another group of needy Mainers. In the end, this amounts to a lose-lose situation for those who are most vulnerable in our everyday communities.
The insulting kicker in this whole fiasco is that the DHHS response was that the fund transfers “had no net effect” because the department reversed them within the time frame allowed by the federal government. This is certainly misleading as the auditor clearly noted that there is no allowable time period where DHHS is permitted by the federal government to spend grant funds on unallowable costs. The department also had the audacity to suggest that the timing of the audit report was somehow politically motivated since it occurred outside “its normal schedule for publishing audits”. In other words, it appears that DHHS’s position is that “we knew we were cooking the books and we would have gotten away with it if the auditors had just stuck to their normal schedules”. These redistributions by DHHS are clear evidence of improper and unacceptable practices of financial administration. The auditor’s report concluded that “the decision to spend federal funds on costs un-allowed by federal regulations with the intent of returning the funds to the federal government if and when the un-allowed costs are questioned, does not represent a valid system of internal controls of federal awards.
So, back to the big picture, and that picture is a landscape of the unmet needs of Maine’s low income families with children, seniors and the disabled. Many of these unmet needs would be more easily resolvable if Maine had accepted and enacted Medicaid Expansion.
There is enough misfortune today for the citizens of Maine. It makes no sense whatsoever for our state government to continue to create new ones. This slight of hands solution to problems is entrenched in the LePage administration and is completely disengaged from how their decisions are affecting people’s lives. It seems that this administration has a unique and uncanny ability to deceive themselves, and in the process, is counting on the people to not notice or hold them accountable.
What this administration sees as a badge of honor may prove in retrospect to be a brand of dishonor, a lack of integrity and an uncaring attitude for the needs of the people of Maine. It’s time to clean house from the top down in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Issues and Aswers: “If in the end, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me”–Abraham Lincoln
Richard A. Evans, MD
Office Sought: Representative – District 120
Occupation: General Surgeon
Education: BS Degree Howard University, Washington DC; Doctor of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA
Family: Married, 1 daughter, 1 step-daughter, 1 step-son, 6 grandchildren
I have never run for any political office in the past. In fact, I do not necessarily accept the constraint that political experience is a measure of ones abilities to know or do what is right. I believe that leadership and moral character are more important. I am a veteran of the USAF serving as a Hospital Commander, receiving the Meritorious Service Medal for Outstanding Leadership and the National Defense Service Medal. As a Past President of the Maine Medical Association, I received The President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement. I was recently installed as Chair of the New England Delegation to the American Medical Association. I am no stranger to our democratic parliamentary process. These experiences have taught me not only how to be a leader, but the importance of leadership and character.
Why are you running for office?
My candidacy is about “We the People”, the people of Maine and especially those in Piscataquis County. It seems today that we are trapped in a time warp. As I have traveled around the towns in our district, my suspicions have been confirmed. Maine is not fulfilling its promise to its citizens. I am dismayed by the conditions under which many are living. I was raised in a family of 6 children. My father was a truck driver and only went to the 8th grade, my mom a homemaker who only went to the 9th grade. I saw how hard they struggled just to make ends meet. I know what it’s like to go to bed without a meal or to school without a lunch. It seems that far too many Mainers are experiencing these same calamities today. If our society continues to allow wrongs to go unchallenged, we leave the impression that those wrongs have the approval of the majority. The imperative for us is to define what is right and to do it. So I run, not for myself, but for those we have forgotten, those whose voices are not being heard, who live in poverty, who are unemployed, the elderly and for the future of our children. Instead of the way life should be, I want a Maine community as good as its promise.
What and who have we become? Have we lost all sense of decency and mutual respect? It seems that it has become a part of standard parlance to resort to “throw them in jail”. This pattern is especially alarming coming from Governor Paul LePage and his idol GOP Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. This behavior is not what is to be expected of those who cast themselves as leaders, not our governor or Mr. Trump. Most of us can withstand adversity, but if you want to see a person’s true character, put him in a position of power.
Governor LePage has once again decided to cast himself in a negative spotlight, providing a discordant and disparaging view to the rest of the nation on the good people of Maine. His latest “un-leader like” endeavor occurred this past week when he went “ full metal jacket” against two of his fellow citizens, Ben Chin and Mike Tipping, both representing The Maine People’s Alliance, a progressive advocacy group standing for and promoting the passage of the Maine ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage. Because of their efforts and beliefs, Governor LePage chose to deal with their press conference by once again over reacting and stating that “they should be thrown in jail for what they’re doing to the elderly”. Mind you, the governor never mentioned what he is doing to Maine’s elderly population by his refusal to release a $15 million senior housing bond approved by 70% of Maine voters.
The governor went on to admit that his sometimes coarse vocabulary “needs improvement, and that he sometimes says things he shouldn’t. “If my grandmother were here, she’d have a bar of soap and make me chew it”. It’s too bad that grandma isn’t around today. Now in all fairness, we all have our core beliefs and the governor is no different in this regard. The problem for the governor is that he has no filter for what comes out of his mouth. He keeps forgetting Rule #1: if you don’t want anyone to know, don’t say it.
The idea of throwing people in jail simply because their beliefs do not mesh with your beliefs prompted me to take another look at the Constitution of The State of Maine, and in particular, Article 1, Section 4. This section of the Constitution explicitly refers to Freedom of speech and publication, libel, truth given in evidence and jury determination of law and fact. “Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish sentiments on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of this liberty; no laws shall be passed regulating or restraining the freedom of the press; and in prosecutions for any publication respecting the official conduct of people in public capacity, or the qualifications of those who are candidates for the suffrages of the people, or where the matter published is proper for public information, the truth thereof may be given in evidence, and in all indictments for libels, the jury, after having received the direction of the court, shall have a right to determine, at their discretion, the law and the fact.” There does not appear to be a clause stating that people should be automatically “thrown in jail”.
Governor LePage, to this day, has not learned the difference between management and leadership. You manage things, you lead people. Injustice never reigns forever. Hitting people over the head is not leadership, its assault. A guiding principle that the governor might want to remember is that if he showed a little respect, a little humility, a little more honesty and a little more integrity, he might be amazed at what could be accomplished for the common good of Maine citizens.
“The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me,” read the statement, which was released by the campaign. “This does not represent the man that I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”—Melania Trump
Sorry, but I don’t think it’s that simple. What we have here is a man, a Presidential candidate, who doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of character. Character building begins in infancy and is a life-long process. It is the creation of self in pursuit of one’s full potential, affected by those who bear us and reinforced by how we are raised. If you were to civilize a man, begin with his grandmother.
Sexual assault is a crime of power and control. Let’s be perfectly clear. It is never the fault of the person who is assaulted. Trump has taken on a way of life rooted in his own illusionary vision of power and control. He is a hack whose actions depend to a great extent upon fear, ego and a lack of self-confidence and self-control. It is this spur of his ignorance, an innate consciousness of willful intent, no matter how disdainful or distasteful, of not wanting to understand because he expects to get away with it. In this sense, Donald Trump is a man who will do anything, fully with the understanding that he will suffer no consequences. He is incapable of climbing beyond the limitations of his own character. Character does not rely on success. It is more fundamental, preceding and outlasting all rewards. It is what your name stands for, and when it is lost, it is rarely ever recovered. His behavior to date has been nothing less than vulgar, vile, narcissistic and paternalistic.
So how does he handle these situations? His fallback is pivoting and transference. In his world, he is never responsible for anything he says or anything he does. His latest lewd comments are denounced as “locker room talk”, “boys will be boys” and “all men do the same thing”. Well, not exactly. First, his heart is not in the right place. Second, self-praise provides no credible recommendation and is not the same as self-confidence. He has found himself in a rat race and even if he thinks he has won, he is still a rat. His reckless pursuit of success has overtaken any sense of decency and respect for his fellow citizens, especially women and the “others”. His so-called fame has turned out to be a double edged sword and he has no one to blame but himself.
I will always remember the admonishments my parents gave me and my brothers whenever we left the house, whether heading to school, visiting friends or just interacting with our neighbors or the local neighborhood kids. “When you walk out that door, you are representing this family and its name. Act accordingly”. Donald Trump has made his choices. It is time for him to be held accountable for those choices. He is completely unfit to be President of The United States.