The Center Lane: How to make friends, foes at the same time

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As a moderate centrist and part-time libertarian, I can get most people upset at me at one time or another.

Then they also discover something that we have in common.

As a freedom-loving person, I tend to be fairly liberal on social questions and conservative on fiscal issues. But as a human, sometimes I realize that things are more complicated than that, especially when practical considerations get in the way of philosophy.

Mainers have six referenda on the ballot this November. That’s plenty to disagree about. I hope you are enjoying healthy, informed, political discussions with your friends and family before the talk inevitably turns to football.

Question 1 (marijuana): Support. I think private, adult recreation is not the place for government. This proposal gives both the state and local municipalities authority to develop regulations. It introduces a 10 percent tax. It still will be illegal in public or when it may affect others, such as driving under the influence and exposure to children. I believe that adults deserve the freedom to make their own decisions, even though I think getting stoned is a pretty dumb use of time and brain cells.

Question 2 (education tax): Oppose. This measure would add a 3 percent surtax on high incomes to help fund K-12 education. I think a good education (together with a good attitude) is the key to economic prosperity for both individuals and the state. I also think that the funding burden needs to be shared broadly, at both the state and local level. However, past efforts at adding new ways to fund education (like the lottery) never seem to make it to the schools. I believe this measure is unfair on its face and just avoids the hard decisions on finding the money and methods to improve our education system.

Question 3 (gun laws): Oppose. This law would require someone who wants to lend or sell a gun privately to pay a dealer to perform a federal background check, which takes up to three days. I have no problem with the idea of background checks, and right now you can do this voluntarily. My difficulty is with its implementation. The process using federal Form 4473 requires a description and serial number of the firearm being transferred, which essentially results in a federal registry of guns. To me, that is already an abridgement of our constitutional rights and I cannot support an expansion of such federal intrusion. If the law only required the background check, I would be more supportive.

Question 4 (minimum wage): Difficult choice. Leaning in favor. At some point, very low wages become an unfair abuse of workers who have probably not made the best school and career choices and may soon become burdens on the state. At the same time, people of all ages should be encouraged to become skilled and ambitious enough to improve their value to employers. This law will phase in higher minimum wages over the next four years. It remains to be seen whether this will reduce or increase the number of people able to obtain a living wage.

Question 5 (ranked-choice voting): Support strongly. This measure will allow voters the option to declare not only their first choice for an office, but their second, and so on. Like a run-off election, it is easy to understand. (Even children can tell you their second-favorite ice cream flavor.) Like a run-off, if your favorite person gets the least number of votes and loses, you can still participate in the next round of voting. Like a run-off, everyone still has only one vote in any given round. Like a run-off, the candidates will be nicer to people because they are also looking for those “second favorite” votes. This is a measure for more democracy, more choice, and more voice. Question 5 is a win for Mainers and will show the rest of the nation how to move away from nasty, extreme politics.

Question 6 (transportation bond): Oppose. We certainly need roads, bridges and ports. But borrowing money is the least fiscally responsible method. We should build up savings in reserve accounts and then pay as we go.

So, are you mad at me yet? Looking at it the other way around, have you found something in common with me? I am hopeful that I have made your dinnertime conversation more interesting tonight. Above all, please vote on Nov. 8.

Mark D. Grover is a resident of Gray. Comments can be sent to feedback@markdgrover.com