The following candidates are running for House District 15, which includes most ofSaco except for a portion of the city that extends from downtown to the shoreline and another portion of the city that is adjacent to the town of Dayton. Saco residents may vote at the Community Center at 75 Franklin St., Nov. 4, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.. To vote by absentee ballot, contact the city clerk at 284-4831. (From the Courier Newspaper)
Name: Justin Chenette (Democrat)
Address: 19 Buckthorn Circle, Saco.
Family: Haven’t been blessed yet with a family of my own, but have a very loving and devoted extended family.
Occupation: President/owner of Chenette Media LLC, director of community relations at Saco Drive-In Theater.
Prior political experience: State representative, 2012 to present, vice chairman of the Legislative Youth Caucus, 2012 to present, member of the State & Local Government Committee, 2012 to present, president of the Maine Young Democrats, 2014 to present, State Board of Education, 2008 to 2009.
Volunteer/community involvement: Founder/ president/CEO of the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement, state director of the Young Elected Officials Network, member of the Biddeford-Saco Chamber of Commerce, Thornton Academy class agent, Unite Against Bullying walk organizer, member of the Saco Area Historical Society, member of the city of Saco Vision Process Steering Committee and a notary public.
Why you are running for office?
Together we can continue the fight of reforming state government to work better for us, redefining community leadership and strengthening a long-term commitment to make Maine’s future bright. We need a state representative who is willing to challenge their own party leadership to fight for changes in how Augusta operates. I bring my experiences as a former journalist to the table, in holding both sides accountable for any inaction, political posturing, and calling out a system where the lobbyist with the largest checkbook has the greatest influence and access. We deserve better, and you deserve to know what really goes on. Using my media connections, I’ve tried my best to keep you informed and promote complete government transparency. My young age has been asset in helping build consensus and bridge partisan divides through the legislative youth caucus, especially around education reform policies.
It’s not just about passing bills in Augusta though, but about providing leadership right here at home. We need a state representative who puts our community first by actually being a part of this community through volunteer and service projects like through my nonprofit organization I founded, the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement. Someone who is a small business owner that stops and helps other small businesses succeed, like helping to save the Saco Drive-In.
I’m running because I truly believe we can move this state forward.
Top three issues in order of priority:
Education: As the first student appointed to serve as a member of the Maine State Board of Education, education reform has always been a top priority for me. I grew up and went to school here. I see how hard our teachers work, what our students are striving to become, and how our schools really do represent the heart of this community. We must fund the state’s share of education to the 55 percent level as mandated by voters in 2004. This will relieve the financial pressure on our local districts and subsequently local property taxpayers in addition to providing the resources needed to teach to the high quality of standards we expect.
My bill to enable teachers to grade community service projects as a high school graduation standard became law after unanimous support on both sides of the aisle and was supported by the administration. This will help us get closer to infusing service-learning into the curriculum and multiple pathways of learning success. Service-learning has been proven effective in teaching kids to have a strong work ethic, leadership and team-building skills, communication improvements, and more. These soft skills are what employers are looking for in the next generation. I would also like to take it one step further in rolling in some form of internship or job shadowing program into the high school level before students graduate. The more hands-on skills and real-world experience, the better opportunities students will have in succeeding in college, a trade program and with a career.
We must also address the student loan crisis by expanding the Opportunity Maine program to not just incentivize students who stay in the state to go to school and work after, but to also incentivize the students who are leaving the state to go to school to come back here and work.
Strengthening our economy: In order to ensure our state’s economic engine is at full capacity, we must incentivize new job creation. Micro businesses represent a majority of businesses in the state. Many just have one or a few employees. Getting these small businesses to employ more people is our challenge. As the owner of a small business, a multimedia company, I see the challenges other business owners face in taking that next step. By expanding programs that are already deemed successful like the employment TIF, we can help create a more business friendly environment. Right now the employment TIF encourages job creation by giving tax breaks for businesses that hire five or more employees in a given time frame. Many small businesses can’t hire that many. If we expanded the program to include businesses that hire even just one new full-time job, I believe this will be a big help. Reducing high energy costs is another way to relieve the burden on our job creators. We can do this by investing in alternative energy sources like solar power and natural gas.
Government accountability: We will never tackle the long-term systemic problems facing this state until we limit the influence of special interest and lobbyists in Augusta. I proposed a grand compromise last legislative session that brought conservative Republicans and the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections to the same table to agree on a way forward. This would have helped to end the system of completely legal bribery we have now, where donations through PACs control how public policy is moved forward. This wasn’t passed, but laid the groundwork for a future victory. We must also reform the structure of government to make it run more efficient, transparent, and effective, like a plan to save the state over $11 million a year in unnecessary process costs. I even put in a bill to cut my own legislative pay, when there was talk about cutting essential services and unnecessary tax increases. Common sense reforms can be passed when you elect representatives that actually admit that there is a problem.
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