The Words of the Simonds Family
Camelot in Maine
July 30, 1999
Lest anyone think I am naive "to the dark side". Whatever progress we're making up here had a price tag attached to it. And I will take some personal credit for this. The situation in Maine is that the people are basically good, Headwing type people. We were the first state to have an independent governor, and his moral standards are way above Ventura's. Ours has a model family. He adopted two children, and refuses to live in the governor's mansion, preferring to live where his kids have been going to elementary school. His name is Angus King. His campaign slogan was, elect a king for governor. (Is Camelot alive up here or what!)
The Maine legislature, however, is dominated by liberal democrats and liberal republicans. Our senior senator, Olympia Snowe is tight with the New York republicans, and they are really the ones who call the shots for the Republican Party. There is a strong, moral conservative element led by the Christian Civic League and no-nonsense base of independents - who are real independents, not affiliated with any party. The independents are small business people - fishermen, loggers, trades people and mom & pop business owners. These are the Headwing people Father calls the true Americans.
To lay a foundation up here, I didn't want to associate with either party. I wanted to create a Headwing base by focusing on Headwing issues politically, and the self employed. So I signed on as a benefits specialist with the National Association for the Self Employed - which got me active with their issues, eventually becoming a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business in 1995. And I co-founded the Maine Taxpayer A ction Network - a coalition of local taxpayer organizations throughout the state. MTAN launched two referendums which drew tremendous support, statewide. We were part of the Congressional Term Limits Coalition which sought to limit the terms of our senators and congressmen. I was the chairman of that coalition and became engaged in a battle with the Maine AFL-CIO in the media and political process. George Mitchell, who was the Senate Majority Leader at the time, is tight with labor. The point man that led our opposition was involved in a ballot tampering scandal a few years earlier.
The year we got the referendum on the ballot, it won 65% of the vote. It was the biggest margin of any issue or race on the ballot. Whether or not states have the right to limit the terms of their own congressmen was taken to the Supreme Court and was found to be unconstitutional by a margin of 5 to 4. The constitutionality was tested based on referendums passed in Maine (George Mitchell's state), Washington State (Tom Foley), and Arkansas. Despite the defeat, our grass-roots coalition became a serious political force, and I got recognized as a spokesman for a broad-based coalition that could not be identified with a particular party.
Our next state wide referendum was to limit property taxes - like California did under Proposition 13. The local taxpayer groups were getting pretty discouraged. They couldn't control taxes at the local level, and many reported incidents of election tampering. So we decided to go for a tax cap. Our opposition this time came from the Maine Municipal Association and the Maine Business Alliance. We expected opposition from the MMA - they also opposed term limits. The labor movement has shifted from mills and factories to federal, municipal and federal employee unions. We had the school administrators and town managers totally panicked. But the opposition from the Maine Business Alliance was unexpected.
These two groups commissioned an independent study on Maine's tax structure. The study showed that our taxes are higher than the national average. More importantly, it showed that our property taxes are 18% higher, and our corporate taxes are 40% lower than the national average. That means, that big business has been getting tax breaks to attract them into the state and the tax burden has been shifted to property owners.
Another media battle ensued. This time, the campaign got derailed because the president of MTAN went off the deep end. The pressure was too much after a two year battle, and her judgement became cloudy. She forged some signatures on petitions - lots of them, in fact. After looking at the evidence, it was clear to me what she had done. I volunteered to cooperate with a state investigation. My testimony ended up landing her in jail. The political base we worked so hard to build simply collapsed.
I explained what happened through media outlets, and said that at least the problem has been recognized and the governor has promised to shift his economic development policies towards support of small businesses instead of trying to attract big ones by shifting the tax burden.
Around the time things were looking pretty hopeless, Father called the ACC guys to East Garden to participate in a leadership conference. He introduced the Chung Pyung Lake providence and directed us all to go. He also picked a few of us out and spoke to us personally. He asked me how many people I had under me. I told him I had nobody. He gave me one of those scowls of his. I went to CPL that summer.
When I got back, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. In addition to the other activities, I had been involved with the WFWP bridge ceremonies. I gave the welcoming talk to the Japanese sisters in Boston on a few occasions. After each event, I felt heavier spiritually. By the time the meeting in East Garden took place, I felt like I was suffocating. Everything cleared up after CPL. I had the best week I'd had in a long time in the business. I felt like I could breathe again, spiritually.
The next year, 98, Father explained that the spirits who had been liberated at CPL would be coming back to help us. He initiated the American Leadership Conferences focusing on family issues. I brought influential legislators and one minister. From that time, we've been recreating a new foundation with completely different people - this time it's all Christian based. One of my key legislators even attended the blessing at MSG.
I got invited by the Christian Coalition to participate in the convention in DC last year. At the concluding banquet, all the delegates were lined up outside the door waiting to go in. Maine was in front. We struck up a chorus of "When Saints Go Marching In" and led representatives from around the nation into the ballroom. Randy Tate, CC president, acknowledged a prayer group who had been praying for the conference all weekend called "the Weeping Willows". I sought them out and joined them to pray on a couple of occasions. They are from Massachusetts. They blend Celtic music with prayer led by a woman who looks like she just stepped off the Mayflower. The atmosphere was absolutely charged and heavenly. I had an opportunity to pray with them there and I felt as if I was talking to our Christian ancestors. Then Randy came in and assumed a position to say a closing prayer. Just then, one of the prayer ladies started speaking in tongues. She went on and on, until eventually Randy and his wife left. So I said the last prayer with the official CC prayer group.
Since then, it seems everything we do brings tremendous results. I know it's only going to get better.
Years ago, when Father came to Maine, he said our state was like a handle on the rest of the country. He was going to grab it and turn the country around from here. It seems like Maine may have a special role. It was recently rated the best place to raise kids in the country, followed by the other New England states. Maine is a place that people stream into every weekend from the urban areas south of us. The freeway is packed going north on Friday and south on Sunday. People find they get spiritually rejuvenated in the beautiful environment and wholesome atmosphere up here. We have a motto up here: Welcome to Maine ---- Now Go Home. I think this place will increasingly become a place for spiritual renewal. Then people can go back to the pits and bring a piece of Camelot with them. I have a vision that the whole state will become like a huge workshop for families to get cleaned up and reborn. A Field of Dreams (rhymes with Field and Streams - a popular outdoor sports magazine)
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