Highway Bandits Strike Maine’s Loony Governor

In a move worthy of Abbie Hoffman, someone stole an “Open for Business” sign that Maine’s controversial right-wing Governor Paul LePage had placed on the Maine Turnpike near the primary highway entrance to the state, and days later another unknown soul offered to trade the sign for a mural depicting Maine’s labor history that LePage had previously removed from the state Department of Labor in an act that drew national attention.

The much-ballyhooed Open for Business highway sign went missing before Memorial Day and has yet to be found. But on June 2 an ad appeared on Craigslist offering to sell a “right-wing political sign” for $1,000 or trade it for “a multi-panel mural depicting the labor movement,” a clear reference to the Labor Department mural removed by LePage.

A “ransom note” for the highway sign was also found taped to the door of WKIT/WZON, two Bangor radio stations owned by Stephen King, an erstwhile Bangor resident. In classic ransom note style the message was written with letters from newspapers and magazines that had been cut out and glued to a sheet of paper.

Maine state police say they are investigating the missing Open for Business sign, and they claim to have several leads. But they’re not buying the Craigslist ad or the ransom note. “We suspect that the note left at the radio station and the listing on Craigslist are bogus,” state police spokesman Stephen McCausland said.

Maine’s rock and gravel industry has raised $1,500 to replace the Open for Business sign, perhaps because it’s so grateful to the state for showing such incessant elasticity with its gravel pit laws, which allow the industry to forever expand its earth gouging at the expense of roads, homes and neighborhoods.

Maybe this time LePage’s supporters will buy a sign made in the same state that is so Open for Business. The last sign, paid for with funds raised by a state Tea Party activist, was made down south. When asked about that the Tea Party activist said she had unsuccessfully scoured the state looking for a company that could produce, in time, a sign that met Department of Transportation specs. But four months passed between LePage’s election and placement of the sign, and a Maine sign maker contacted by this reporter said his company could turn around a sign to DOT specs in two weeks, and for less than what was paid for the sign made down south. The sign maker went on to say there were many companies in the state that could make such a sign to DOT specs. So much for Open for Business.

In another mural story development a fund established by Republicans in economically ravaged Aroostook County to pay off federal government demands for the $38,000 it ponied up for the Labor Department mural appears to have fizzled. After Governor LePage removed the now famous mural the feds demanded their mural money back, and the Aroostook County fund was intended to allow LePage to keep the mural in deep storage while appeasing the feds. But after raising less than $2,000, the fund has quietly faded from view.

Meanwhile a Bangor judge is pondering his ruling on a lawsuit demanding return of the mural to the walls of the state Department of Labor. Stay tuned.

Lawrence Reichard can be reached at lreichard@gmail.com






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Lawrence Reichard lives in Belfast, Maine, and can be reached at lreichard@gmail.com.

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