How does one contract to run a ferry service without a boat?

Help wanted ads for chefs and gardeners are popping up in Hancock County newspapers. Can spring be far behind? Only last week did ol’ man winter plant his first big, snowy kiss on the landscape, even as the sun climbed noticeably higher in the sky and the ponds struggled in vain to fully freeze over.

Bay Ferries Ltd., the company that will take over the Portland, Maine, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, ferry route this year, is looking for a boat. The previous operator failed to generate much in ridership, even after siphoning off more than $41 million in Canadian subsidies.

Perhaps this will reflect a lack of nautical expertise, but how does one win a contract to run a ferry service when one does not have a boat? Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree are urging the U.S. Navy to rummage around for a suitable vessel languishing in drydock. Their efforts are a nod to the economic development potential of ferry service for the city of Portland.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling was quoted as saying about the issue: “I don’t have an oar in the water…,” which is unfortunate because an oar in the water is just what Bay Ferries needs. And a boat to go with it.

Among other questionable causes this week was our own U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s “no soup for you!” bill. Not if you are a terrorist, anyway. When it comes to food stamps, terrorists need not apply. Mind you, we have no evidence that terrorists in the U.S are currently eating on our dime. But Poliquin says they could. He has added terrorists to the categories of people ineligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), along with perpetrators of certain violent crimes.

If someone is identified as a terrorist, shouldn’t we be doing something more than restricting their rations? Sure, there would be a mad outcry if we ended up feeding the hand that bites us. Motto of this program: “Oh, snap! No SNAP.”

A special election for the state Senate seat vacated by Sen. David Dutremble is set for March 29. The parties may nominate candidates through caucuses, and independent candidates may qualify by petition. Either way, the deadline is Feb. 16.

One news item on the upcoming election described Senate Republicans as having a “slim five-seat advantage.” Slim? Compared to many years, that’s a chasm. Of the 10 previous legislatures (20 years), only three times has there been a majority of five or six seats.

Another three sessions saw a one-vote majority, and in the fabulously thrilling 120th Legislature there was no majority at all. There was one independent seated, and each party had 17 seats. The parties took turns at electing the presiding officer, and committee chairmanships were shared, half to the R’s and half to the D’s.

Regardless of the outcome, the March election won’t dent Republicans’ hold on the majority. All eyes are on the fall, when Democrats will be going to the wall to take back the Senate and hold onto the House. Likewise, Republicans will be hoping to hold the Senate and creep up on, if not overtake, the Democratic majority in the House.

Presidential politics could play a role. A batch of Republican legislators already has endorsed U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for president. Advance reports said “dozens” or “40-50” legislators were anticipated to attend the press conference. When it got under way, the presence was described as “several,” “eighteen,” “nearly 20,” or “two dozen.” Whatever.

House Republican leader Ken Fredette was on the Marco Rubio bandwagon. Last July he was named Maine chairman of the Rubio campaign. He says there will be more Maine legislators signing on to the campaign. Stay tuned.

By the way, there is a delightful Wikipedia site listing the endorsements for Republican candidates for president. Here we learn that such notables as Zoltan Bathory, guitarist of “Five Finger Death Punch,” is endorsing The Donald. Also mixed martial artist Tito Ortiz and “reality television show personality” Omarosa Manigault, not to mention renowned politicians Jesse Ventura (who also endorsed Bernie Sanders) and Sarah Palin.

Maine Sen. Eric Brakey endorsed Rand Paul, former Rep. David Emery endorsed Carly Fiorina, and Governor Paul LePage endorsed Governor Chris Christie. Sen. Susan Collins endorsed Jeb Bush.

Life on the Democrats’ side is simpler, with only two candidates left in the race. Maine’s Karen Mills, former administrator of the Small Business Administration and spouse of former Bowdoin president Barry Mills, endorsed Hillary Clinton, as did Rep. Pingree and her predecessor, Tom Allen. So did former Governor John Baldacci, and 16 legislators including Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, House Speaker Mark Eves and Rep. John Martin.

Clinton’s endorsers also include former House Speaker Libby Mitchell, Maine law firm Preti Flaherty (though Preti bigfoot Severin Beliveau endorsed Bernie Sanders), congressional candidate Emily Cain and the Moonlite BunnyRanch brothel.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign earned endorsements from 36 legislators (MDI’s Rep. Brian Hubbell was among them) as well as Secretary of State Matt Dunlap and a selection of other Maine luminaries.

How and how much these public endorsements will impact Maine election contests has yet to be seen. Stay close; let’s watch.

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait worked for 25 years as a registered nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital. She has served as a Bar Harbor town councilor and as an independent state senator from Hancock County.

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