All Maine Matters

June 2006



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Editorial: Squelching the 1st Amendment: The UnAmerican Political Trend

There is a disturbing trend in this state these days. Actually, I am told that it is a nationwide trend, but I will stick to the state of Maine, since that is what I am familiar with. The trend is for local elected officials to deny First Amendment rights to citizens who disagree with them politically or dare to speak out in dissent about local policies.

As vocal citizens of northern Maine, my husband and I have been given a taste of this treatment for quite some time now. We have been targets of whisper campaigns, vandalism, and death threats. We have had the town council officially declare that our cameras must film from the back of the chamber (where there was no electrical outlet and still is no sound) because one councilor claimed he was being photographed “more than the other councilors.”

But what happened in May was disturbing, unAmerican, and just plain scary.

Along with All Maine Matters, my husband, Ken, and I run an online news site, the Magic City Morning Star. We have run it since before the Great Northern went bankrupt, but it became popular right after the bankruptcy, since Millinocket has only a weekly newspaper, and quite understandably, people in the area were starving for local news.

The Magic City Morning Star has a policy of publishing articles and columns from pretty much anyone who wishes to write, whatever their political leanings. But we have, much to some councilors’ chagrin, been instrumental in exposing illegal meetings and other unethical practices. Needless to say, this did not endear the Morning Star to those councilors who participated in such actions.

On Monday, May 1, 2006, the Millinocket Town Council held what they called an “Economic Development Workshop.” And at that meeting, they listed what they perceived as the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to the town. Councilor Matthew Polstein, whom I sought to recall from his office a couple of years ago, listed the Magic City Morning Star as a threat to the community.

Polstein has long objected to the Magic City Morning Star, complaining that by printing the local news and opinion, MCMS has caused businesses to refuse to move to Millinocket.
Taking advantage of what can only be described as a lynch mob mentality, the Council and public took several minutes to discuss the Magic City Morning Star and how to “drive it out of town.”

Below are my comments to the Millinocket Town Council at their May 11, 2006, meeting:

I understand that last week, at an official town council “economic development workshop”, our online newspaper, the Magic City Morning Star, was declared by members of this council to be a “threat to the community.”

The Magic City Morning Star is our business. It puts bread on our table and pays our mortgage and taxes.

The fact that an alleged economic development workshop is now looking into ways to “shut down” our business, coupled with our local government officially attempting to abridge the right not only to free speech, but the right to freedom of the press is almost too ironic to mention.

And it should scare the citizens of this town as much as it scares me.

I understand that our newspaper has taken unpopular stands, and that my family has taken positions which were counter to those of the sitting council.

But that is our right as Americans.

Our country was built on the very freedoms that some members this council seek, using their official offices, to squelch.

The First Amendment -- the very first of the Bill of Rights -- says that the government cannot make laws about the establishment of religion or abridge the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. So far, 80% of that Amendment has been systematically abolished in this town.
And the fact that members of this council have publicly stated, while seated in their official government seats, that the Magic City News is a threat and needs to be shut down is distinctly unAmerican and should frighten everyone in this town.

As I said at the beginning of this column, this trend is becoming more and more common of late.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” And we need to take him literally.

If you have a similar violation of civil rights in your town, please let us know. Send your email to, or call us at 723-4456, or send us mail at PO Box 788, Kingman, ME 04451.

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