Let us say the outset that we have nothing against politics. In fact, we find it the best way to translate the will of the people into policy. Some aspects of government, however, work best outside the election cycle free-for-all.

One of them is the courts. Maine’s system of appointing judges to seven-year terms gets the balance of politics and independence about right.

Succeeding governors can make a mark on the system with their appointments and reappointments, but the system doesn’t get remade with every new administration.

That’s also should be true of the outside agencies such as the Maine State Housing Authority, which sets long-term goals and should move forward on a trajectory that is predictable to the businesses that want to use its services. Election results should have an effect on that trajectory, but they shouldn’t turn things upside down every four years.

Republicans swept into power in 2010 and are understandably frustrated that they can’t do everything they want with the agency that, among other things, finances development of affordable housing projects.

Republican critics dislike some of the policies of the last administration that still are part of the Maine State Housing Authority operation. That includes rules that give preference to downtown projects that fight sprawl, or ones that invest in energy efficiency. They also don’t like the rules that benefit nonprofit developers over for-profit ones. And they don’t like Executive Director Dale McCormick, who was appointed by the last governor and can’t be fired except for cause.

Critics of the agency are looking for a cause and have asked the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability to look into charges of excessive spending and misuse of funds at the agency. And, without waiting for the results of the audit, they also are pushing a bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader John Courtney, R-Springvale, that would give the governor the ability to fire McCormick before the end of her term.

This is supposed to make the agency more “accountable,” but it would just make it more political. This year we might get affordable housing developments in rural areas, built by for-profit developers. And then the next governor might decide we want downtown developments and nonprofit partners. The policy would lurch with each change in administration and Maine’s housing needs would not be well-served.

Republican lawmakers still have the ability to use their majorities to shape policy and change the direction of the agency, even if they can’t change everything they don’t like about it all at once. The same will be true of their successors in future administrations.

The Legislature should resist temptation to hyper-politicize the housing authority and should reject this bill.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.