Opinion

How does Piscataquis County reopen when it was barely open to begin with? 

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To the Editor;

Sen. Paul Davis represents District 4, and he recently published a joint letter with Reps. Higgins, Stearns and Foster about reopening the Penquis region. In response, my mother, who is immunocompromised, wrote him about her concerns of pushing ahead too quickly against the advice of medical experts. My mother received a reply, telling her to stay safe, but that “people are hungry” and “need to get back to work.” This very typical response fails to address key issues.

 

I am a playwright in Dover-Foxcroft, and was commissioned to write a play about my town for the 80th anniversary of the Center Theatre, a play that examines some of the struggles we face as a community. The research conducted in writing the piece leads me to find fault in Davis’ answer to my mother.

 

People have been hungry here for a long, long time. 

 

Piscataquis County is the poorest county in Maine. One can visit the Maine Department of Labor website to get a broader picture. The median income in Piscataquis is $39,470 compared to the Maine median of $55,425 or the United States’s $60,293. Our problems stretch back far longer than the pandemic and shutdown. Our poverty rate is 19.2%, nearly 7% higher than the state’s. In addition, Piscataquis has an unemployment rate of 3.7%, a full .7% greater than the state average. The stats provided by Feeding America show that in my home county, there are 770 children who experience food insecurity, a staggering rate of 26%. We also have the second highest rate of seniors living below the poverty line — an unsurprising statistic as our highest age group is by far people ages 65-74, the age group that is also at high risk from the coronavirus.

 

In 2015, Mr. Davis sponsored a piece of legislation called “An Act to Prohibit Raising Cats and Dogs for Human Consumption.” On the face of it, one could hardly criticize such a bill. However, a friend of mine once asked him if he had ever considered the underlying cause that would lead a family to eat their pets. Could it be that it is desperation and hunger that leads to such an action? Mr. Davis had no answer to this query.

 

Mr. Davis wins by a landslide in District 4 and most likely will again. He is affable, someone who will share a pew with you at church and have his photo taken with a nursing home resident reaching a milestone birthday. He can talk about his love for hunting when he goes door-to-door, and can promise that he won’t let anyone take your guns away. But being an effective representative is more than just being a nice guy. It is about a plan to fight for your region.

 

It appears Mr. Davis is of the outdated mindset that poverty can only be cured by pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, that being poor is in relation to one’s character. It is politically expedient for him to blame Gov. Mills’ stay at home order for our region’s current troubles, but it is not true. Our top three jobs by industry are manufacturing, trade and utilities, and education and health services, many of which are still “essential.” This is not to suggest that people are not suffering due to the virus, but it is not a simple matter of blaming our Democratic Governor for what is a long history of poverty and joblessness. I believe Mr. Davisi s using this situation to further play partisan politics and push the narrative that the best way out of poverty and hunger is to “reopen and get back to work,” regardless of health consequences.

 

So my final question to Mr. Davis should be a simple one, but one I fear he will not address: how can we listen to you about how to reopen when Pistcataquis County was barely open to begin with?

 

Bobby Keniston

Dover-Foxcroft

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