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Mary Adams: Mainers must become tireless Freedom Fighters

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Mary Adams presents an award to Grover Norquist Americans for Tax Reform in April, 2012. (Photo by Tori Britton)

“Obama’s Failing Agenda,” a nationwide bus tour by Americans for Prosperity to protest the health care takeover, out-of-control federal spending and and ideological “green energy” policies, will host rallies on Monday in Augusta, Freedom and Portland.

Speakers include Joel Allumbaugh, director of health care policy for The Maine Heritage Policy Center, and State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin. Mary Adams of Garland, a one-woman dynamo and Maine’s most passionate tax activist, was scheduled to speak this morning at the rally in Freedom, but she will be out of state and cannot attend.

“People don’t hear about local control any more, and yet the lack of it is the root of so many of our civic and social problems,” Mary told the Wire. “I saw local control overturn a tax, which no one thought would ever be eliminated once it was enacted. It is powerful when people take their own destinies legally into their own hands.

“I don’t want to see the concept disappear just because most people don’t live in small town meeting towns, or because they aren’t taught it in civic classes,” she said. “When and if the present system collapses because the money runs out and people find themselves on their own to solve their own problems, they need to have the confidence that they can, and once did, run their own towns, schools, neighborhoods, and families.”

Here are the remarks that Mary planned to deliver today:

You’re on hallowed ground. This is the town where the Freedom Fighter movement got its name almost four decades ago.

While meeting in the Freedom Grange Hall, someone in a meeting of protesting Waldo County selectmen asked, “What shall we call ourselves?” Someone answered, “We’re in the Freedom Grange Hall; let’s call ourselves Freedom Fighters.”

The Waldo County selectmen were joined by the Washington County municipal officers and those from Hancock County and Knox and Lincoln County. They melded into the more formal organization called Towns for Fair Taxation headed by Superintendent Richard McFalls of Mt. Desert. Its treasurer was Carlo Ninfi, who also served as Treasurer of the Town of Mt. Desert.

By the time the revolt had become established, the Freedom Fighters could be found in small towns (and some medium-sized towns) in every Maine county from York to Aroostook.

What had upset them?

The issue was local control. The state legislature had passed a state property tax for education in 1973 and a tax assessment law to go with it. Both laws took away control over taxation and assessment procedures and put the bulk of that power in hands of the state legislature. The locally elected and locally accountable selectmen could no longer protect their taxpayers from unreasonable levels of taxation.

Under the new laws (LD 1994 and LD 1997), Augusta set the tax rate for education; the market valuations in the towns were to be decided annually by tenured assessors in tax regions. The effect of the state property tax rate on small Maine towns was devastating.

Taxes skyrocketed with nothing the selectmen could do about it: now it was a state, not local, tax on property. Many communities were forced to pay in hundreds of thousands —and for some, like Wiscasset, millions—of dollars more than it cost to operate their schools.

Reaction was swift

The Town of Castine’s municipal officers swore they would go to jail before they would collect more than it cost to educate Castine’s children. This drew the attention of the television program “60 Minutes,” which came up to Maine and filmed a segment called “Revolt Downeast.” The Freedom Fighter story went nationwide, and telegrams of support from all over the country poured into the Castine Town Office.

I organized the petition drive for a referendum and worked with the municipal officers to gather signatures to place repeal of the state property tax on the ballot. All else had failed for them to get relief. Their lobbying of the legislature and a lawsuit had failed to get the state out of the local property tax.

The people of Maine and the ballot box was our last hope. Would voters who weren’t from “hurt” towns vote to repeal the state property tax? Would they do an end run around the Maine legislature? We set about telling voters how the state had taken control and what the effects were on their fellow Mainers.

We marshaled our resources and using the brilliantly conceived ideas of Ken Carlson of Camden, who is a Freedom Fighter to his core and still alive today at 92. We told the story in TV ads and newspaper and radio ads of the effect on people when the state takes away local control of the property tax.

The townspeople of the devastated towns voted the dollars we needed to fund our limited budget. The entire Freedom Fighter-driven effort was run by unpaid volunteers. On December 5, 1977, four years after the state property tax was enacted, the tax was thrown out by the Maine voters by a ratio of 3 to 2. The people had done what the legislature and the courts would not do.

Local Control: Maine’s most valuable asset

While the Governor has been on a trade mission to China to generate foreign interest in Maine products, let’s remember that Maine’s most valuable “product” is local control. Because of Town Meeting, we have been exposed to the real exercise of running our own lives at the local community level. We know that when an issue leaves town, we can no longer watch over it.

Education and welfare were once local responsibilities. Look what has happened to them now that they are under state and federal control.

The Freedom Fighters were elected local municipal officials who, joined with citizens like myself, stood their ground and stood up to the state. It has been almost 40 years and most of us who worked so hard together have died. I was about the youngest of the group, which is why I’m still here to tell the story.

If that spirit of freedom and faith in local people to run their own lives is to be carried on, it will have to be through you.

Let Freedom, Maine be your inspiration to become a tireless Freedom Fighter, along with the words of an old Freedom Fighter from the American Revolution named Captain Preston. He was asked by a young reporter why the farmers fought at Lexington and Concord. “What we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we had always governed ourselves and we always meant to,” Preston said. “They didn’t mean we should.”

Freedom Rallies scheduled Monday in Maine

Carol Weston, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Maine, will be joined by local speakers to discuss specific policies by President Obama that are failing Maine.

“Mainers are struggling, and Obama’s policies aren’t helping,” said Weston. “This bus tour is an opportunity to urge President Obama to stop spending away our prosperity and instead advocate for the free-market, limited government policies that can make us strong again,” said Carol Weston, state director of AFP-ME. “Whether it’s the health care takeover, the out-of-control federal spending and debt, or the ideological “green energy” policies, Mainers have had enough.”

Freedom Rally with Dan Remian to stop disastrous “Green Energy” policies

When: 9 a.m., Monday, September 17

Where: Freedom Village on Belfast Road, Freedom, Maine

Who: Carol Weston, state director of AFP-ME and activist Dan Remian

Augusta Rally with Bruce Poliquin to address wasteful spending and federal debt

When: 12:30 p.m., Monday, September 17

Where: West side of State House, 210 State Street, Augusta, Maine

Who: Carol Weston, state director of AFP-ME, and State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin

Portland Rally with Joel Allumbaugh to Fight the Heathcare Takeover

When: 5 p.m., Monday, September 17

Where: Monument Square in Portland, Maine

Who: Carol Weston, state director of AFP-ME, and Joel Allumbaugh, director of Health Care Policy for The Maine Heritage Policy Center

The Obama’s Failing Agenda tour features three buses making nearly 400 stops in cities throughout the nation. Visit www.failingagenda.com to learn more.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a nationwide organization of citizen-leaders committed to advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity. AFP believes reducing the size and intrusiveness of government is the best way to promote individual productivity and prosperity for all Americans. For more information, visit www.americansforprosperity.org/maine/.

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the former editor of The Maine Wire and currently producer for the Howie Carr Show. Follow him on Twitter @Stevie_Rob or send him an email at Steve@HowieCarrShow.com.

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