LePage says mural removal timing unfortunate

AUGUSTA — Spokespeople for Gov. Paul LePage have said that the timing of the administration's decision to remove a 36-foot mural from the Maine Department of Labor was unfortunate.

Labor Mural
Joe Phelan

Jessica Graham, right, of Waterville leads a gathering in front of a mural honoring labor in the Department of Labor building's lobby in Augusta last month. The group gathered to honor the 100th anniversary of the New York Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which killed 146 garment workers. The mural was taken down over the weekend after Gov. Paul LePage ordered it removed. (AP Photo/Kennebec Journal, Joe Phelan)

This week, after absorbing criticism from his own party, the governor finally said so himself.

Although LePage told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network that he stood by his decision to remove the labor mural, he said he should have waited until the summer when the Legislature had completed its work.

"We and the people of the state of Maine need to get away from 'us and them'—we have to be 'we,' a people, we have to do it together," he told MPBN. "The Department of Labor is a department that works with business, with the employer as well as the employee, and it's got to be 'we'— it can't be 'us and them.'"

The governor's comments followed a meeting with Senate Republicans, many of whom have said that LePage’s penchant for verbally shooting from the hip was subverting the GOP’s agenda.

Last week Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party, told the Sun Journal that the mural flap was a “distraction we don’t need.”

“I'm worried about changing the state," Webster said. "I'm not worried about what pictures are hanging on the wall."

Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry, said Friday that the unusual decision by the governor to attend Thursday's caucus was a welcome one.

Raye said Senate Republicans "had some very grave concerns" about the controversy that followed the governor's public conduct.

"We had a very good discussion," Raye said. "We obviously have been very concerned with some of the sort of sideshow aspects to the media coverage, the 'little beards,' the mural. People think that this is all (Republicans) are talking about and doing. It's not."

Raye said members of the Republican caucus were spending a lot of time answering constituent questions about the governor's public remarks. Raye said he and House Speaker Rep. Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, had both expressed "very honest concerns" to LePage prior to the governor's visit Thursday.

Raye said the discussion could be a turning point in a session that's been marked by turmoil and speculated rifts between LePage and the Republican Legislature.

"I think (his visit) was very welcome," Raye said. "It spoke volumes and it showed our members that he cared. I think it was an excellent first step."

Privately, members of the GOP have been complaining about the governor's conduct for several weeks. Many have said they were worried that the governor's gravitation toward controversy would hurt their efforts this session. They’re also concerned they’ll lose their grip on the Legislature in 2012 if the governor becomes a political liability.

The governor appears to be receptive to their concerns. He described his meeting with Senate Republicans to MPBN as “about zipping my mouth up and not offending them.”

That contrasted sharply with comments he made last week amid the mural furor.

Despite national criticism and a deliberate distancing by the GOP, the governor had been defiant about the mural. 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."

LePage told MPBN on Thursday that it was time to get “back on topic.”

"I told them that it's time that both the House and the Senate and the administration focus on the task at hand, and that's pension reform, health care reform, regulatory reform, energy reform and lowering the tax on Maine people."

Raye said his caucus was anxious to see whether the governor's meeting signaled a turning point in a thus-far tumultuous session.

"Much of what the governor wants to do has support in the Legislature," Raye said. "The issues, frankly, cut his way."

smistler@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Edward Perry's picture

never knew it was there

to tell turth proably half of maine's residents if not more didn't know about this mural.

ANGELA MATTHEWS's picture

You are likely correct

Most of Maine knows very little about Augusta and what goes on there. Things have been out of control for too long, with little accountability to the majority of the taxpayers. But if you are thinking it is JUST about the murals you are wrong. I am hoping the mural issue will turn out to be a "trigger", which is a small, insignificant event that causes other major events to occur that DO turn out to be significant!! History is full of such examples. I am not an expert on history but I am positive that what I have written is true. Historical triggers occur in all phases of our lives. A social/political example would be Rosa Parks refusing to go to the back of the bus with rest of the [This comment has been edited by the administrator]. Several years later major changes occurred in the Civil Rights Movement and lots if people "woke up". One has to study history and politics a bit and look with a broader view to take into consideration the other related issues. While it is true that few people knew about these murals, what is much more important is the petty motivation behind this action, in the face of many other far more significant issues confronting this State. The removal demonstrates Gov Lepage's priorities and ignores the Taxpayer's needs and expectations. The Governor's blind supporter's have said it has only been 90 days and things take time etc. Well that is poppycock (a polite way of saying bulls**t)! FDR made enormous changes in his first 90 days; he knew the people needed change and they needed it ASAP. We have excessive Tax, Spend and Regulation style of Government, a la Great Britian. I'm hoping Gov Lepage will put aside his mean-spirited, petty vendettas and lead this State into prosperity. Gov. Lepage please stop the waste and inefficiency and put limitations on lobbying, to name a few things that need to be changed.

Bob Woodbury's picture

Sure he's changed.

Show me.

Terry Donald's picture

There's much more to this story

Shame that the Sun Journal is lagging behind, or missing ke new points to this story. As has been reported in other media outlets LePage has also promised to "zip it" in the future, in reference to his now frequent idiotic outbursts.
LePage will also apparently be the subject of an Op/Ed piece early next week. The letter which is to be sent to several news outlets across the state has been signed by a group of state republican lawmakers and will publicly criticize LePage for his open mouth policy.
In my opinion, it's about time that the leadership in the state legislature publicly pressure LePage on his outbursts and his actions.
He has been an embarrassment both locally and on a national stage for too long.
It's time for LePage to get down to the business of the state, as I recall he promised in his campaign to work for several things.
Fix the health insurance problem in the state, haven't heard even a peep from his office on this topic, though the head of the Maine Heritage Policy Center did tell us that Dirigo would be killed. I wonder if he's the point man on the health care project?
Attract jobs to the state. Reported yesterday, the nation picked up nearly a quarter million new private sector jobs in the most recent period, over half the US states increased their number of jobs, Maine was NOT one of those states. Thanks Paul your efforts are well, horrible.
What about energy cost? I recall lots of promises about action on lowering the cost of electricity, I don't recall hearing a word about it since the inauguration.
So far it's the hiring of his daughter, angering state employees by placing the burden of the state budget on their backs, lots of work removing a piece of art work, and a bunch, a bunch of purely idiotic statements.

Mark Elliott's picture

His promise to bring jobs to

His promise to bring jobs to Maine is in full effect as we speak! He promised to bring jobs by attracting good new business and to do that we must first remove the "SCRAM" mat from our front door. Steps have been taken to remove the red tape that is stopping businesses from coming here and also scaring current business away. All this must be done through legislation and there is a process involved that takes time no matter who you are.

Let's put the national job numbers in perspective a bit, during the last two years we were losing, at times, 800,000 jobs per month, that 230,000 new jobs you speak of is merely a drop in the bucket and was already anticipated by businesses in the private sector. It is our free market at work! If we can keep Obuma's socialist programs out of the way, that number will take right off!

I suggest you watch this short cartoon that explains the process in which laws are changed in Maine -->> http://www.maine.gov/sos/kids/government/rtml/rtml2005.swf

Then I suggest you monitor the bills being posted almost daily here -->> http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_125th/billtexts/

Thank you Paul for your GREAT efforts, as promised!

ANGELA MATTHEWS's picture

Wake up everybody part 2

It seems there is a small group of people here venting on each other and calling out some names. I don't think it is very constructive other than the venting! We are just playing into the Hands of the politicians/parasites and their games. We are not talking about Daddie's politicians. Today they only represent people who have lots of disposable $$$$$! We are out of the loop. They want us to fight among ourselves, pointing the finger at each other and assigning blame. Augusta and Washington DC is flooded with lobbyists with lots of cash. Representation is a commodity that must be paid for. We are out of the loop! If our bought and paid for Representatives, will not also serve us, then we need to replace them. They play the same old political games that the Romans played and they don't need to change the rules. The reason being we are collectively apathetic and ignorant. To quote and paraphrase a Drill Instructor who will remain anonymous, "I DO NOT look down on Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Liberals, Conservatives, John Birchers, Libertarians, etc., you are all equally useless!" We are not being served. Many of our best jobs have been exported, with a tax credit thrown in as well. A Democrat signed NAFTA and deregulated the Stock Market. The Republicans like Supply Side economics, with big tax cuts for the rich, overspending with big deficits, who was served? Only the rich made out with the Trickle Down Theory. The labels and Party names mean nothing. Therefore, save your energy and frustrations for the politicians who have promished to represent us. Not one person or corporation with their foreign, tax free and legal subsidiary, who are the guilty parties, that caused the big economic mess we are in now, has been named in any of these blogs. JFK and Obama promished to close this Mother of all loopholes. Congress would not let it come to vote! The recent bill to eliminate the tax credit to job exporters did not pass, all Republicans, 5 Democrats and Joe Leiberman the Independent voted to defeat it. It did not pass!! We've been betrayed because we cannot afford representation. Names, labels and Political parties do not matter now. 400 people in America have more wealth than 150 million other Americans. I have no problem with the rich getting richer as long as the rest of us don't get left behind. Middle class America is losing their standard of living. With high rising costs of food and fuel our money is worth less. We need our jobs back. Can't we all just get along and hold the people accountable and the laws they supported that ignore the rest of America? We are a great Country and we all must share the blame for allowing the Politicians and their wealthy contributors to take most it for themselves. Everybody please wake up!!

Bill Whitman's picture

more duct tape

Doreen - you forgot to put duct tape over his nose too.

its not us and them - it's him and us and the prospects for us don't look good.

ANGELA MATTHEWS's picture

Gov Lepage out of focus & off topic!

Yes it has to be "We". Gov LePage's promishes do not match his actions. Where are the jobs, cutting waste, attracting industry and tax cuts? How does the removal of the mural paintings of the labor history of Maine, and attacking the middle class through The Right to Work law, help the State? The Right to Work law is neither a Right or a benefit. It is a fraud that lowers the workers standard of living. How does making the woopie pie the State snack or dessert tie in? Gov Lepage has been criticized by his own party!! His actions and comments have been mean spirited and not well thought out. Gov Lepage you are amazing and incredible! Regrettably, Maine remains a peculiar and poorly managed State! Gov Paul Lepage and his allies are a big part of the problem. We need to move beyond Tax, Spend, and Regulate and "us and them". Wake up everybody please!! We have to manage some change much better. We need to hold our elected officials and our Government accountable to all of the taxpayers.

Joan Braun's picture

Dear Andrienne Bennett

I feel really bad for you. I have seen you on TV as spokesperson for Gov.Le Page and you seem like a lovely, intelligent young person. To have to cover for the actions of such a wild card is definitely not good for any person's health. I hope you resign and find a job worthy of your talents.

The press is just reporting what the Governor has put front and center'; they have not "chosen to report" the mural controversy over any of the other controversies he stirs up daily. Even his own party (Charlie Webster) has asked him no to behave in this distracting manner.

I do not know what the perks of the spokesperson job are but surely they cannot be worth it in the short and long run....

Cris Johnson's picture

Attracting the Unattractive

Somehow the notion that the way to entice business to Maine is to rip apart the agencies and regulations that protect Mainers from bad business practices is not sitting well with me.

"All the better to eat you with, my dear."

Doreen Sheive's picture

What????

No one in the administration ever stated that the taking down of the mural was poorly timed. All they ever said was that people should stop talking about it instead of the business of the state. And, there is no "we" in LePage's dictionary unless you are talking about businesses. And, yes the Department of Labor works with businesses, however, it works "for" the workers of Maine. If LePage is so concerned about the legislative session, why is he on vacation in Jamaica? LePage could put duct tape over his mouth, and it would not make any difference because we know what is in heart and mind.

MARYMARGARET NEY's picture

Hoping....

Here's hoping that this latest incident will hit home and make Gov. LePage more thoughtful. I have received many emails from friends across the country asking what's going on with Maine. All this negative publicity will not do much for bringing jobs to Maine if that really is his goal.

Mark Wrenn's picture

okay

"I told them that it's time that both the House and the Senate and the administration focus on the task at hand, and that's pension reform, health care reform, regulatory reform, energy reform and lowering the tax on Maine people." Uh, what's missing? Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

Mark Elliott's picture

Much of that will come from

Much of that will come from the regulatory reform..........gotta fix the regulations before business will want to come to Maine. Business will bring the jobs we need.

RONALD RIML's picture

Regarding the 'Regulations"' Who'se given us firm committments

that they are coming to Maine once certain Regulations are modified? Got the list??

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