Incoming Auburn mayor questions exclusion of city officials from jobs forum

AUBURN — The newly elected mayor of Auburn is calling out the LePage administration for excluding him and other city officials from Thursday's job creation forum at Central Maine Community College.

Jonathan LaBonte, elected Nov. 8, originally believed that LePage shut him out of the forum because LaBonte, a Republican, last year publicly supported independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler.

LaBonte wrote in an email to the Sun Journal, "Since my support for Mr. Cutler in the last election, the Republican leadership has not been willing to communicate with me at all. In fact, even as mayor-elect of Auburn, I've been refused a seat at the job creation forum this Thursday in my own city."

The administration, however, said LaBonte's exclusion had nothing to do with politics.

"These workshops are not about Democrats, Republicans or independents," said LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett. "It is about inviting job creators to have a seat at the table so they can help this administration understand what it can do to improve the business climate in our state."

LaBonte said Wednesday that he supports the governor's job-creation initiative and understands that LePage may want a captive audience with business owners.

However, LaBonte said, if local regulations are hindering job creation, city officials should know about it.

"Local elected officials will be needed to drive local changes," he said.

LaBonte also highlighted comments the governor made during a jobs forum in Bangor in which LePage said he planned to submit legislation that would allow the state to reduce municipal revenue-sharing if a community's regulations were stricter than the state's.

"If you will not cooperate with the state, (if you are) stricter on regulations, then you lose revenue-sharing," LePage told the Bangor Daily News last month.

On Wednesday, LaBonte said that initiative — yet to appear in the form of legislation — was all the more reason that some city officials should be invited to Thursday's forum.

"Shouldn't the local officials, who need to look at how we might change our regulations, be at the table?" LaBonte said.

He added, "This is an opportunity to identify who is responsible for cleaning up which regulations. If it's a local ordinance, the governor can't change that; only we can. How else will we get that information directly?"

LaBonte acknowledged that the administration has invited Auburn officials to meet sometime after the forum. However, he learned Wednesday that several city officials had been told they were off the forum invitation list after originally being told by the administration that they were welcome.

"Augusta is coming to see what challenges local businesses have to creating jobs and there will be no Auburn government representation," LaBonte said.

Peter Rogers, LePage's communications director, said a few legislators have attended the forums. However, Rogers said, the lawmakers were allowed either because of "their status as a business owner or they represented a major employer in the area."

That appears to be the case for Auburn's current mayor, Dick Gleason, who owns Gleason Media Services and is on the list to attend Thursday's event. LaBonte will be sworn in as Auburn's mayor Dec. 21.

The administration's stance on making the forums for the private sector has been consistent, although not wholly embraced by those he has excluded. LePage came under fire last month from the Maine Association of Nonprofits, which complained that the administration shut out a sector that employs 82,000 people in Maine.

Chip Morrison, president of the Greater Androscoggin Chamber of Commerce, said close to 100 attendees will be at Kirk Hall Gymnasium at CMCC on Thursday. The event begins at 8:15 a.m.

smistler@sunjournal.com

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Comments

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Labonte is right

Give me break, Chris. Labonte being unopposed in the election has no relevance whatsoever. As mayor-elect, he's part of the future of Auburn. To exclude him in this "job-creating" roundtable is petty. And Lepage has consistently shown that he is indeed a petty man, more interested in high-school bullying than civic-minded solutions.

I hope he fulfills his desire to make the state look like the ragged interior and exterior of Marden's on Main St., Lewiston. Sure, it looks like [feces], but it's making a buck and everyone's getting a deal. (And admittedly, they do have some good deals. And a ton of crap.)

Chris Blake's picture

clarification

I don't disagree that excluding him was petty. However I disagree with his standing to complain and call the people he will have to work with after he is sworn in, out on the carpet. It's pointless antagonism, especially since the current mayor of Auburn will be there. When it's the new guy's job, he can go and do it. Until then he should be preparing to be excellent at it, not settling scores before the game even begins.

Terry Donald's picture

new day, same old C&$P

LePage is the worst kind of politician in that he has not learned a lesson, and and not the basics of being an elected official.
He still thinks he's the boss, and that we are all his cashiers and stock boys stacking and selling expired food and cheap misprinted t-shirts.
He works for us,,,, somehow he needs to get this message till then his administration will be what it has been all year, an ineffective mess doing nothing but sticking it's collective foot in it's mouth, and angering the citizens.

Chris Blake's picture

A bit early

He's mayor-ELECT, not mayor. He ran unopposed. He's not really in a position to call out people for slights, real or imagined, until he's in office. He's well within his rights to voice his personal opinions on why he wasn't invited, but it's not his city.

To be fair, he has a point about local regulations driving business growth or flight. He didn't need to muddy it with specious allegations of mistreatment at the hands of the administration.

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