The candidates for Maine House District 89 discuss Maine’s need for affordable housing and the state’s reopening plan in a forum set to air on Lincoln County Television at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 30.
State Rep. Holly Stover, D-Boothbay, and Stephanie Hawke, R-Boothbay Harbor, are running to represent Boothbay, Boothbay Harbor, Edgecomb, Southport, Westport Island, and part of South Bristol.
The forum will be the third of nine to air. The Lincoln County News is hosting the forums in partnership with LCTV. J.W. Oliver, editor of the LCN, is moderating the forums.
“Working with people with substance abuse disorders is very complex, and you really can’t separate that from mental health,” said Stover, a program director for an addiction outreach program. She believes affordable housing and job opportunities are crucial to help people in recovery.
“I think that jobs are incredibly important for people in recovery, to give meaning and purpose and also money to move on.”
She advocates for widespread availability of Narcan in addition to other resources. “It’s one way you can save someone’s life. Unfortunately, if you’re alone, and oftentimes people die alone, that wouldn’t be accessible,” Stover said.
Hawke, owner of Hawke Motors Inc. in Boothbay Harbor, talked about the need to relax restrictions on businesses.
“We have a motel across the street from us and it’s empty. There’s not a lot of traffic,” Hawke said. “You need to allow these businesses to open up and let people be accountable. I believe there’s enough information where people are being cautious and they’re doing the right thing, but you’re going around fining businesses that are just trying to stay afloat.”
She said people are struggling due to delays in unemployment compensation during the pandemic. “If we don’t encourage and help the businesses stay open, we’re going to have a lot more problems than we did at the beginning,” Hawke said.
“People need jobs, and they’re going to feel good if they’re working. An idle mind is the devil’s playground, and if they don’t have something to do, they’re going to get in trouble,” Hawke said.
The candidates discussed what it will take to keep young Mainers in Maine and attract young people from out of state to move here. Hawke cited Maine taxes as an obstacle, saying they prevent businesses from hiring more employees and force landlords to raise rents.
“Someone just getting out of college can’t pay $1,500 for rent, so we’re going to have to help. The housing owners, with their taxes and insurance, they’re not going to have a rental house and take a loss,” Hawke said.
“Maine is very safe and it’s a beautiful place, but if you can’t afford to live here, people are going to Florida or other states six months and a day,” Hawke said. “We need to make Maine a little more affordable and a little more business-friendly.”
Stover agreed that, for many people, Maine is not affordable. “Housing is a significant problem. When you look at the Boothbay region, the median price of a home right now, if you ever were to purchase a home, is $350,000. That’s the median, and there’s not a lot of options below the median.”
Stover also highlighted the importance of student loan and debt forgiveness.
The forum will air on LCTV — Channel 7 — and at lctv.org.