LePage's sudden removal of mural spurs outrage

AUGUSTA — It's not clear if Gov. Paul LePage's decision to suddenly remove a disputed worker mural from the Department of Labor was designed to pre-empt additional protests and force the Portland City Council to accept the piece.

Mural removed

Gov. Paul LePage ordered the disputed mural removed over the weekend.

Mural removal
James Imbrogno photo

The LePage administration has ordered the removal of this 36-foot long mural from the lobby of the state Department of Labor. Artists Judy Taylor says the mural was never meant to be political, just a historical depiction of Maine's labor history.

But if that was indeed the governor's plan, the effort appears to be failing on both fronts.

An artist who helped organize a protest of about 200 people last week at the department said he would still fight the governor's removal order. Meanwhile, backlash from the governor's decision to temporarily relocate the mural at Portland City Hall has prompted some Portland councilors to reconsider accepting the mural.

The City Council had originally planned to hold a public hearing on the matter on April 4.

On Monday, hours after news broke that the governor had unexpectedly ordered the mural's removal, a city spokeswoman said the hearing had not been added to the council's agenda.

Councilor David Marshall, who originally floated the relocation idea, said he could no longer support the proposal. Marshall cited hundreds of emails urging the council not to assist LePage's decision.

Marshall said he hadn't discussed the matter with other councilors, however, and added, "My guess is they're receiving the same overwhelming message that I am."

Last week, Portland Mayor Nick Mavodones said he was wary that the council would be seen as "enabling" the governor's decision to remove the display. He also acknowledged that the fight unfolding in Augusta could suddenly shift to Portland.

Rob Shetterly, a Brooksville artist who helped organize last week's protest, blasted the governor's decision.

"The response will be overwhelming," Shetterly said. "Whether it's the NAACP, women, workers or artists, the governor has systematically disrespected all of these people. He seems to be working through each group, one at a time."

He added, "This is a crucial moment for the citizens of this state. I, frankly, can't allow this to happen."

Shetterly was livid at the governor's decision to remove the mural "under the cover of darkness."

Last week, a spokesman for LePage said the mural would remain at the Labor Department until the administration found a new home. But over the weekend the administration ordered workers to remove the piece and put it in storage.

The administration declined to reveal the mural's location. Dan Demeritt, a spokesman for LePage, said the removal did not cost the state any money because workers were already present at the facility.

Judy Taylor, the artist who made the mural, said she has no idea where the mural is being kept. Taylor said the governor's office has not contacted her since the controversy began.

Taylor said she was stunned by the governor's decision.

"To put something in the dark like that is just unAmerican," she said. "I don't know how he (LePage) would feel about his work being taken away from him."

Shetterly called the governor's decision to remove the mural a "sneaky and cowardly" move.

"If he's so right about why these images should be taken down ... why not do it in the light of day?" Shetterly said.

The administration has said the mural's depiction of key moments in Maine's labor history is too one-sided and omitted contributions of corporations. It has also cited its receipt of an anonymous letter comparing the artwork to murals in "communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses."

Originally the administration said the missive was a fax, but last week said it was a letter, spurring speculation that the administration changed its story to hide the transmission phone number from Freedom of Access requests.

Adrienne Bennett, a spokeswoman for LePage, said the speculation was false. She attributed her initial statement to "a miscommunication" with another staffer.

The governor's decision to remove the mural depicting local and national labor icons like "Rosie the Riveter," Cesar Chavez and Frances Perkins has made national news.

On Monday, the issue made the editorial page of the New York Times. The editorial board said the governor "has stooped to behavior worthy of the pharaohs’ chiseling historic truth from Egyptian monuments."

LePage has remained defiant. During an interview with WCSH6 last week, he was asked how he would respond if protesters formed a human chain to protect the mural.

"I'd laugh at them," LePage responded. "I'd laugh at them, the idiots."

Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster described the furor as a distraction. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce is also wary of the fracas. Representatives have said the organization hasn't received any complaints about the mural's depiction of Maine's work history.

On Monday, Labor Department employees seemed surprised to see the mural replaced by bare walls and spackling. Several popped into the waiting area to snap photos with their cellphones as news about the sudden removal spread.

If Portland rejects the mural, it could very well end up in the Lewiston-Auburn area. The Museum of Art at Bates College and Museum L-A in Lewiston have expressed an interest in exhibiting the work, Darrell Bulmer, spokesman for the Maine Arts Commission, said.

smistler@sunjournal.com

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Comments

DONALD FERLAND's picture

I think this state has bigger

I think this state has bigger problems to worry about. The Governor should stop wasting time on things that don't matter and start focusing on things that would help the people of this state. Maine is not a business friendly state and it's not because of a mural, it's because there is too much red tape and taxes are too high for business. To me the Department of Labor, where the mural was hung, represents the working people of Maine not the businesses. I really wish Governor LePage would start focusing more on things that would make a difference to the people of Maine and not spend so much time on things that will not make one bit of difference in people's lives. Here are some suggestions for the Governor....fix education so are children have a chance in this world, stop taking from the poor and middle classes and giving to the rich, don't hire family for jobs that should be advertised and open to the BEST qualified candidate, cut taxes for the lower and middle classes, and if need be raise the taxes for the richest, cut out the red tape that people have to go through to open a business, go to school, or get a job. I am seriously doubting whether Maine people can go through 4 more years of worrying about murals.

Steve  Dosh's picture

LePage's sudden removal of mural spurs outrage

l o l , 14:45 HST • Tuesday
So much concern for art ?  Liƒe imitates art yet once again . The medium is the massage according to Marshall McCluen . Much ado about nothing . Great play , Shakespeare . Where is the thing ( on E-ßay ¿ :) ? Be to s e e it now everyone . Take a picture when you do & Aloha from Pahoa , U S A /s, Dr. Dosh & Ohana

AL PELLETIER's picture

what a mess

I never cared too much for Buldacci and how he ran this state, but this B------t has gotten way out of control. How can Lepage do his job effectively when this situation is looming over him day after day? Who started this whole mess? Where are is the mural hidden? Where and when will it re-appear? Until we know, this will be what Maine and the country is talking about,,, now is this business friendly? Perhaps we'll attract a movie production company.
The show's name, "Blaine House Supremacy". WoW, Steven King--- jump on this one!!!

Mark Elliott's picture

Ok.....I'd really like to

Ok.....I'd really like to know why the front page is covered with mural "news" for the umpteenth day and the story below is just a little blurb hidden deep inside section A??

-->> http://www.sunjournal.com/state/story/1007168#comment-77572

anybody else care to know??

Stan Tetenman's picture

Disrespect

Mr. LePage has shown how disrespectful and uncaring he can be. He has said he would tell the President to go to hell. He has told the NAACP they could kiss his butt. And now he says he would "laugh at them, the idiots" when asked how he would react if people would have formed a chain around the mural. It is one thing for a governor or other politician to speak their mind, it is quite another to be disrespectful and to act so ignorantly towards those you are governing. Unless, of course, you are some overlord from a couple of centuries ago.

Jonathan Albrecht's picture

Do you job Govenor

Why is the Governor's removal of the labor history mural from the Department of Labor important. The Governor and his supporters claim that the mural is inconsistent with the role of the Department of Labor which is to mediate between labor and business. But that's not the DoL's legal role which is to protect labor and to enforce labor laws. If the DoL takes on a mediating role it can't enforce labor laws as enacted. Governor LePage would not be fulfilling his duty as Governor if he fails to enforce labor laws.
The Governor and his supporters say that Maine's business climate must be improved. Do they offer any evidence? No! Often they use the Tax Foundation's report on Business tax Index which was just released for 2011. Maine ranks 31st. Hardly does it have a bad rating. But I simply don't believe anything the Tax Foundation puts out. Alaska was rated 2nd. The Chamber of Commerce there objected. The Tax Foundation report ignores many costs of business - labor costs, property values, workmen's compensation, and health care costs among others. Factor some of those in and Alaska falls to dead last according to the Chamber. Maine's labor costs and property values are well below the Boston and National markets.
We need no improvement in business climate. Calls for improvement are camofluage for the Governor's drive to empoverish the middle class and transfer its wealth what little there is to his republican corporate elite.

Fred Stone's picture

Mardens

Keep your eyes on the ads from Mardens it will probably show up for sale there.

AL PELLETIER's picture

damaged goods

Fred, I don't think they'll show up in a Marden's ad as they are now such damaged goods they can't be repaired and sold, much like Lepage.

Licia Kuenning's picture

He got what he was after - Publicity!

With all the speculation about LePage's motives the obvious is mostly being overlooked. What is his goal?--to bring businesses to Maine that will hire Maine workers. He did something that was sure to generate huge amounts of publicity--that most of it is hostile publicity makes no difference for this particular purpose. He made national news where the executives of every corporation will read it and be made aware that the governor of Maine is sympathetic to management. It is, after all, management that makes the decision where a business will locate. Whether the strategy will work remains to be seen, but people who predict that it will fail because the executives will be scared off by the contempt expressed by liberal commenters are just engaging in wishful thinking, it seems to me. And those who predict that it will lead to 15 hour work days are being silly: really drastic changes in the labor laws are unlikely, and LePage hasn't proposed any.

Bill Whitman's picture

state workers

where's the proof it was state workers. the gov won't say who removed it. not him - he's never seen it. probably not state workers - they would have been on overtime and the gov never would pay that. Maybe they did it as their patriotic duty for free but we'll never no as Mr. Transparency won't tell us. and, as he said yesterday, if he wanted to attend to more serious matters, why did he screw with this in the first place. its like a kid writing on the wall and then denying it saying he was out taking a dump. well, this guy is taking a dump on all of us.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

The good thing about

Gov Lepage is he tells you what he's thinking, not what the politicly crowd wants to hear. More politicians at all levels should learn to speak their mind. This man must have something going for him. He rose above his childhood and made something of himself instead of living off the state the rest of his life. I personally think he is a perfect role model for any child.

Ed Enos's picture

Mural

So, "force the Portland City Council to accept the piece."? Seems they wanted it, but had a change of heart when the politics came into play. So much for support of workers from the Socialist State of Portland.
As far a removing it on the wkend when no one was around. Does anyone think 200 protesters will stand by and not do anything if it was removed while they were there? Seems like a smart move to protect it.
And Bill, not very supportive of State employees who did the removal: "(my guess is they destroyed it when they took it off the wall)". After all, these as State Union laborers.
This mural should be in the State Museum or some other museum, as it is a piece of art. Seems several museums already want to display it.

Dave Bussey's picture

the Socialist State of Portland

yeah. We don need no stinkin art outside the museums. Except maybe in the Socialist State of Portland. But I disagree with you where you say "After all, these as State Union laborers."

Ed Enos's picture

What don't you agree with?

What don't you agree with? That Bill implied it was destroyed by State employees or what?

Dave Bussey's picture

these as State Union laborers

I don't agree with any strings of words that don't make any sense. This string of words -- After all, these as State Union laborers -- doesn't make any sense.

Cris Johnson's picture

Performance as Art

Often, actions speak far louder than words and reveal truths that are hidden by carefully planned rhetoric.

Paul LePage speaks in phrases designed to lull the people of Maine into a sense of prudent concern. He uses stock lines like "business friendly" to suggest the antithesis of his agenda which is really "people angry."

To unilaterally declare a treasured emblem of the power of working people to improve their lives in Maine from the Department of Labor is to lift the curtain and reveal the Wizard for what he really is: a great pretender, a charlatan, a spiteful terrified child afraid of that which he cannot comprehend.

The hard working men and women of Maine aren't the enemies of business, you foolish man. They are the engines of business.

If anyone on this stage is playing the "Idiot," it is our Governor.

 's picture

Anybody else notice the

Anybody else notice the similarity of what lepage did and when the Taliban of Afghanistan destroyed the Buddha statues? Almost exactly the same thing, except the Taliban had the guts to do their destruction in the light of day, instead of the dead of night.

Bill Whitman's picture

RECALL RECALL RECALL RECALL

THE funniest part of this whole debacle is that the Gov never saw the mural except in pictures.
the disturbing part is its just one more example of his "bull in a china shop" approach to the people of Maine. I'm sure that works great for all the suckers at Mardens but his sneaky, underhanded way is wearing pretty thin and he's only been in business for 3 MONTHS. This combined with the outright lies e.g. "many people complained about the mural" but they won't say who and they move the mural over the weekend when noone is around and won't tell us who moved it or where it is or who is interested in having it (my guess is they destroyed it when they took it off the wall) or the gov had seen many reports BPA wasn't harmful but he wouldn't tell us what reports or committees meeting in secrecy - all this sounds a lot like a certain European country from a few years back. They didn't like black people either.
I'm guessing he wants all these workers rights laws lifted so businesses that don't have unions can come here and we can go back to the way things were when the governors ancestors were shipped down here from Canada and made to work from the age of 9 for 15 hours a day - 7 days a week - you know - businesses like LLBEAN - oops they're already here.
I'd say it's time to end this before it's too late but it's already too late. Recall - no, impeach this clown before he makes Maine the laughing stock of the USA. All the business he wants to attract won't be so hot to come to a state that's become a public joke.

Mike True's picture

LePage's Bias

It appears that LePage is in over his head. Some questioned his gravitas before the election and now it appears painfully clear that he can not govern effectively. He is governor for all the people - this includes the middle class and working people - as well as corporations. To those of you whe criticize the LSJ for writing about the Mural debacle - the LSJ wrote an editorial supporting this move!! It is time for the editorial staff to reconsider and to join us working stiffs to rehang these murals in our government building of Labor.

This mural

belongs to the State of Maine. It was funded by the federal government. It is our property, not the Governor's, not the Legislature's, not just any one group of people. It is state property and for Mr. LePage to remove it because it disturbs his political view does not justify his actions or his attitude.
He is contemptuous of anyone who thinks differently, who does not share his views or his political outlook. Every thing he has done so far has underscored his attitude.
This quote is all I need to know what he thinks of those who didn't vote for him:
"I'd laugh at them," LePage responded. "I'd laugh at them, the idiots." For those who think the comment is taken out of context, I'd say this is what he thinks of everyone who doesn't agree with him.
So now the people who didn't vote for him are idiots? Who protest his actions? Thanks a lot-that was one huge base of voters who you just infuriated and made into your opponents for the remainder of your term.
I hope the Legislature is watching this. They're the ones who will be working on anything he proposes.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Kudos LSJ

The only people who want to see this out of the news ASAP are the governor's supporters who are a little embarrassed at the mess he has made and want to see it swept under the rug as soon as possible. Personally I would like to see it reconfigured into a traveling exhibit and paraded through all the mill towns particularly around election time. By then workers in this state will need a boost after getting the short end of the stick from this administration. Remembering the sacrifices made by workers in our past will help us find the courage to defend our rights now.

Mark Elliott's picture

You liberals have been saying

You liberals have been saying for a week now that Paul Lepage is making a big deal out of this. I said it was the liberal media and liberals like you that are making a big deal out of it.....now you are saying you want to ramp it up Claire?? You are indeed dragging it on!

Mark Elliott's picture

What I'd like to know is why

What I'd like to know is why does the media put this story on the front page for a week straight but this story --> http://www.sunjournal.com/state/story/1007168#comment-77572 is just a little blurb deep inside section A?????

RONALD RIML's picture

I expect you'll start your own Newspaper now, Mark

as you expected I'd run for Office....

Bwa-hhaa-haaa-HA!!

Mark Elliott's picture

Please hold off running for

Please hold off running for office until I get my paper going! After all, you'd want an accurate telling of your time in office correct?

Mark Elliott's picture

Starting a conservative rag

Starting a conservative rag is something I would do....if I had the money.........wanna loan me a couple bux?? I'll let you have your own column. We can call the column "Beat the Liberal!"

Dave Bussey's picture

bux for a printing press

As has so often been said - Freedom of the press is a great thing for those who have the money to buy a printing press.

Dave Bussey's picture

why does the media put this story on the front page

It's on the front pages locally for the same reason that the NY Times picked it up and the late night comics are making fun of it. Don't you get it? It is behavior by an elected public official that is as uninformed and ridiculous as anything you're likely to find anywhere. People love it because it confirms the low opinion they have of politicians. If the editors believe people are going to love it, the papers will print it.

Mark Elliott's picture

The national news agencies

The national news agencies are "picking it up" from the local news agencies. They are not sending reporters over here for the story! The Daily Show joked about it and showed a screenshot of the Sun Journal story! I understand crap like this sells! But there are other stories to tell as well and as long as we don't call out the news agencies to tell the truth, they will keep on lying! (or "massaging the truth")

http://www.mrcaction.org/558/petition.asp

Dave Bussey's picture

the news agencies . . . will keep on lying!

You're saying the story was false? He didn't propose to remove a mural celebrating labor progress history in a Department of Labor building, and then sneak it out of the building under cover of darkness? He didn't really propose to promote openness in government actions and decision making when he ran for office?

Mark Elliott's picture

Well.....Ron you are no

Well.....Ron you are no longer the "King of Spin" on this blog! Dave's got you by a long shot!............He's not as subtle though. Blatantly obvious spin!

Jack Jalbert's picture

I love it

This guy is my new hero!

Geraldine Thompson's picture

It wasn't sudden. It was in

It wasn't sudden. It was in the news all last week that it would be moved. It makes perfect sense to move it when the office is closed as well.

Terry Donald's picture

What are you thinking Mr Governor?

Once again LePage has opened his mouth, his mind, and stuck his foot in. Not one action taken thus far in his tenure has helped addressed anything he campaigned on. Jobs Mr LePage? Health Care insurance Mr LePage. I don't recall your campaign promise to rid state offices of thought provoking art, I don't recall you promise to anger citizens and groups with your words and actions. Those people who voted for you should feel pretty mislead by now. Please Mr LePage, let your well paid daughter/assistant read the newspaper to you some day. Time to quit playing games and get to the business of the state!

GARY SAVARD's picture

The President of the United

The President of the United States spoke to the World last night about our involvement in Libya, and the SJ headline this morning is about a mural that has been used to cause dissention between liberals and conservatives for over a week, over and over...and over, again. Nice bit of prioritizing, I would say.

RONALD RIML's picture

The SJ is a venue for 'National News' like Paul LePage

is a serious Governor.

Tom Rodrigue's picture

LePage The Bully

I'm glad this story continues to be printed in the LSJ. It's nice to have a daily reminder of what a bully LePage really is. "I'd laugh at them, the idiots." It's nice to know how he really feels about Mainers who oppose his views.

Tony Morin's picture

Most concerning

To me the quote is the most concerning thing about this whole affair. I'm angered about the removal of the mural, but it would seem to me to be Politics 101/Civility 101 to never refer to any of the citizens you are governing as idiots. After a few months of making multiple embarassing comments, he does not appear to have learned that he needs to filter and use big boy words. Instead he is weekly fodder for local and national news outlets, now including the New York Times. It amazes me that there are still people out there supporting him as Governor.

Mark Elliott's picture

Now before the comments

Now before the comments start, I want to point out something. Today's story does not give any NEW information about the situation. It's just a re-shuffle of yesterdays story! Why do you suppose the LSJ published it today? Does the LSJ like to see everyone argue and debate over it? Does the LSJ feed off the anger and hatred coming from BOTH sides of the issue?? Why does the LSJ, like much of the rest of the media keep feeding the fire? I said the other day that it wasn't LePage dragging this through the mud, it was the media (and certain liberals). This just helps to prove that!

Karla Good's picture

Maybe it has something to do

Maybe it has something to do with our governors remark about daily news in Maine? "Buying a Maine daily newspaper is like paying someone to lie to you."

Mark Elliott's picture

I'd never heard that remark,

I'd never heard that remark, but I like it!

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