Sunday’s Portland Press Herald editorial appeared to be a careful consideration of state policy, but a look behind the rhetoric reveals a clumsy rush to shore up a political ally.
The editorial, titled ‘Don’t politicize state housing agency’, walks through a calm argument for the autonomy of a state agency that handles billions of public dollars. Autonomy, in this case, can be more accurately described as a deliberate lack of accountability. The Press Herald advocates against the passage of a bill – LD 1778 – that would make the Maine Housing director accountable to a board of directors, as is the case with every other quasi-state agency in Maine, and most housing authorities in other states.
The Press Herald uses the same argument MSHA Director Dale McCormick has been making lately – that lack of accountability somehow insulates the agency from ‘politics’. McCormick’s status as a life-long political operative notwithstanding, advocates of this position claim that an agency so critical to the well-being of Maine should be above the fray of changing political tides. Unfortunately, the Press Herald editorial board betrays its own ignorance of the subject matter in its description of the bill, claiming it would “…give the governor the ability to fire McCormick before the end of her term.”
In fact, this is not true.
The bill allows the Maine Housing Board of Commissioners the ability to fire Ms. McCormick before the end of her term. It does not change the standing authority of the Governor to fire McCormick with cause. The Press Herald apparently failed to read the bill before offering an opinion on it. Here is the bill summary:
SUMMARY of LD 1778: This bill removes the provision of law that provides that the Director of the Maine State Housing Authority serves a 4-year term of office. The bill provides that the director does not have a term of office and that the director serves at the pleasure of the commissioners of the Maine State Housing Authority. It also removes the provision of law that states that the powers and duties of the Maine State Housing Authority, with certain exceptions, are vested solely in the Director of the Maine State Housing Authority. (Sponsored by Senator Jon Courtney. R-York)
The Press Herald’s false claims are nothing shocking – Maine’s print press has devolved into such an embarrassing morass of left-wing political advocacy that stark factual errors in defense of one of their own have become commonplace. Most likely, this editorial was written without review of the bill after a plea for help from McCormick or her allies, the same motivation likely behind the Bangor Daily News’ editorial calling for us to ‘tread lightly’ when reviewing Maine Housing expenditures. The notion that a state agency is somehow too important to receive public scrutiny is ludicrous coming from anyone, but especially so coming from the newspapers that are supposed to be acting as watchdogs on behalf of the citizenry.
Instead, the Press Herald and Bangor Daily News have rushed to the defense of a clearly capsizing democrat doyenne, casting aside reality and any pretension of responsible journalism. They have joined in the political crossfire to try to take down McCormick’s accusers, they have repeatedly twisted facts, and in this case, they have printed outright falsehoods in attempt to delay accountability and transparency in a major state agency.
We have already caught Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz making things up to defend Maine Housing, and the falsehoods contained in Sunday’s editorial simply bolster the argument that the Maine Today Media newspaper chain is more concerned with its far-left political agenda than it is surviving as a viable business.
Fortunately for the people of this state, the power of Maine’s daily newspapers is at an all-time low, and this means the spending and governance of the Maine State Housing Authority will likely meet the light of day in the near future. And as the final chapter in this sad saga is written, the people of Maine will be given yet another stark example of the wool that these papers have been pulling over their eyes for years.