Thursday, May 9, 2013

Gov. LePage and the Lewiston fires

Maine Gov. Paul LePage's visit to his hometown of Lewiston this week has been receiving critical attention. Nine tenement building burned in three apparently unrelated fires in just eight days, putting some 200 residents out of their homes, two 12-year-olds in jail, and the rest of the city on edge. The governor's estranged brother and his wife are reportedly among those made homeless.

But in his visit Tuesday morning, Gov.. LePage made it clear he had no intention of finding extra resources to help those displaced by the fires, even claiming ignorance about the existence of his six-digit discretionary fund he could use to do so. Asked how it felt to be in his hometown, the governor said only: “It brings back a lot of bad memories." This struck some as callous.Why would the governor -- who was himself homeless at age 11 in the very same area -- not wish to pull out the stops to help?

But his stance isn't surprising. The governor has a complicated relationship with his hometown, his siblings, and the poor, as I revealed last year in the first part of my biography of LePage. Those trying to understand the governor's position this week may find it informative.

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