Poll: 74 percent of Mainers want LePage to release conservation bonds

Good morning, folks. I hope your cars started this morning. As my dad used to say, all of your vehicle’s minor problems show themselves during the first real cold snap. Thanks, Dad. I keep jumper cables on board year round.

Let’s dedicate today’s soundtrack to Pops with one of his favorite songs. I wish he were still here so we could argue about whether the bass, baritone sax or drum track is best on this one (and then there’s that tenor sax solo).

Anyway, it looks like a quiet week of politics coming to Augusta, judging but what we know at this moment. As we’ve learned, though, what’s planned and what will actually happen have nothing to do with each other.

There’s the potential for some developments Wednesday when Gov. Paul LePage hosts another town hall meeting at Central Maine Community College’s Kirk Hall in Auburn. The event begins at 6 p.m. if you’re interested in attending. — Christopher Cousins

Poll says 74% of Mainers want LePage to release conservation bonds

The Land for Maine’s Future Coalition released a poll last week that showed strong support among Mainers for Gov. Paul LePage to stop holding up $11.5 million in conservation bonds to fund the Land for Maine’s Future program. According to a press release from the coalition, the polling was conducted by two firms: The Republican-leaning Public Opinion Strategies and the Democratic-leaning firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Mertz & Associates.

In total, the poll showed that 74 percent of Mainers want the bonds, some of which LePage has been blocking now for a period measured in years, sold. That tally included 91 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents and 54 percent of Republicans, according to the release.

An even higher percentage of respondents — 79 percent — said the bonds shouldn’t be held up by an unrelated issue. LePage is using the $11.5 million voter-approved conservation bonds as a bargaining chip he wants to trade for approval of his proposal to use revenue from timber harvesting on public lands for a heating system upgrade program for low-income Mainers.

“We have heard months of debate and suggestions that [the Land for Maine’s Future program] only benefits the wealthy or that voter-approved bond funds can be used as political leverage,” said Tom Abello of The Nature Conservancy of Maine, in a written statement. “What this poll tells us is that voters know better and are not buying any of it. We hope legislators are listening.”

The poll, conducted in early October, involved 500 telephone interviews with registered voters. Click here to see more summaries of the data. — Christopher Cousins

Liberals are strong — in Canada

Canada’s national elections are today and among the seats up for grabs is the prime minister’s. If you didn’t realize that — despite Canada being RIGHT OVER THERE — it’s because most Americans care little about the politics of our neighbors to the north.

Not true here at State & Capitol.

According to this detailed report on political polling by Eric Grenier at CBC News, Liberals have been polling ahead of conservatives for more than three months. That means Justin Trudeau is favored to be the next prime minister, though the balance of power in the rest of the Canadian Parliament is more uncertain. Grenier comes close to predicting that Conservatives will remain strong, causing a continued political rift and some gridlock.

Sound familiar? — Christopher Cousins

Ranked-choice voting proponents to deliver signatures for ballot petition

As the venerable Scott Thistle from the Sun Journal reported last week, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting appears poised to force a question onto the November 2016 ballot that would change how votes are counted in multi-candidate races in Maine.

The group says it has collected more than 70,000 signatures — which beats the legal threshold by some 10,000 — but it’s not official until all those signatures are certified by the Secretary of State. That process begins today when the committee submits the petition.

Ranked-choice voting has voters at the ballot box rank candidates in descending order of preference. If their first choice does not win, their lower-tier votes kick in with the intention of the ultimate winner garnering at least 50 percent of the vote. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this. After all it’s more than a year until the vote. — Christopher Cousins

Angus King invokes Shackleton at Arctic Circle Assembly

NOTE: Will Neilson, a small business owner in Bath who I have known for years and who is well respected in the area, was among the dozens of Mainers who traveled to Iceland in recent days for the Arctic Circle Assembly. He sent a quick summary of the event, so I’m giving him guest author status in today’s Daily Brief. — Christopher Cousins

Sen. Angus King significantly raised the international profile of Maine by his participation in the third annual Arctic Circle Assembly.

After opening the conference session in Reykjavik, Iceland, with Icelandic President Olafar Grimsson, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Premier Philippe Couillard of Quebec, and Wang Yi, foreign minister of China, King spoke again in the presentation on the U.S. chairmanship of the 8-nation Arctic Council.

In that speech, King departed from the standard script about international collaboration in the face of climate change, and talked about leadership lessons learned from Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, in the process transforming the mood among the scientists, diplomats and business people in the audience from polite but skeptical attention to enthusiasm for U.S. leadership.

Sustained applause followed his speech, and President Grimsson came on stage to declare “I think it is high time Maine came to the Arctic!” and then added “Judging from the senator’s speech, it was worth the wait!”

The Arctic Circle Assembly is the largest conference in the world on Arctic matters, and brings together people from heads of state to reindeer herders and Inuit activists, to discuss topics of scientific, economic, security and cultural importance to the Arctic and the world. Maine sent a large delegation of nearly 50 people organized by the Maine North Atlantic Development Office Director Dana Eidsness, reflecting the growing significance of the North Atlantic region to Maine economy. — Will Neilson

Reading list

To rake or not to rake?

I have a pretty staunch rule about raking leaves: I don’t touch a single one until they’re ALL down. I don’t mind raking but I prefer to do it only once a year. My stubborn stance on this causes problems when the snow comes early

The leaves are suddenly inches deep on portions of my lawn, and I saw some flurries on Sunday. I also noticed that my wife seemed to be pondering something when she looked at the leaves, then at me, then quickly away. Not sure whether she was wondering if I’ll get to leaf removal this year or next. I didn’t ask.

There will be better prices on leaf bags in April, right? — Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.