Political Profile Roger Albert
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) - We continue our political profile segment tonight. WAGM, with the Aroostook Partnership interviewed each candate in the local house and senate races. They each had 5 minutes to answer the same three questions. The interviews were all done through Zoom. Tonight we look at Maine State House District 2 between Republican Roger Albert and Democrat Bernard “Ben” Paradis. We begin with Republican Roger Albert.
Jason Parent, Aroostook Partnership: What are your top three priorities if elected, in the coming legislative session?
Roger Albert, Candidate State House District 2: My top three among many are, the first one are seniors. Inflation is an international event, not just for us Americans. Needless spending by our federal and state government needs to come under some manner of control. When the Biden administration came into being in January of 2021 our inflation rate was at 1.4. In August of this year, we were at an astounding 8.3 and climbing. This inflation is seriously affecting the living standard of our elderly of which the majority are on really low fixed incomes. Some of our elderly are going to have to make a choice of eat or heat in this coming winter season. We need to, in this upcoming legislative session, increase our funding to organizations such as ACAP and others to help our elderly with the impossible decision our senior citizens will have to make to eat or heat. Secondly, inflation, this is not just a state of Maine issue, it’s a national issue, but here in Maine we have felt the effects of this increasing inflation, again, for the past two years. By the increase of food prices, heating fuel, gasoline prices. So far, I fear that we are heading into a recession. We need to prepare ourselves for this with correct policies in place. Our Republican candidates from Paul Lepage, Sue Bernard, Bruce Poliquin, your local house candidates, such as myself and others, need to be voted in to help you and our state in the upcoming years, contain this tiger called the recession. My third one, industry in Aroostook County. This has been rough topic for us that live north of Bangor. We’re fortunate to live in the best part of the state, Northern Maine. Our job opportunities are limited due to a few factors, forestry and agriculture. These two are established in Northern Maine without a question. Then came I95. This highway started in the mid 1950s in Kittery and started moving north throughout the years until it reached Bangor. The original I95 design was to bring I95 to the St. John Valley. There was money in the budget allocated for it. I suspect that due to political infighting at the time as to where this highway was going to end in the St. John Valley, a political decision was made to stop the highway in Houlton and declare that due to sparse populations in Aroostook County, we were made sacrificial lambs and we were told that the highway would continue to cross over to the TransCanada highway. Thus providing, supposedly a total highway experience up to Edmondston, New Brunswick. We were also told that due to a low population north of Bangor, a lack of industry and being too far north, for any industrial entity to come and establish itself. The highway was not feasible. Good God! We have a country north of us and they seem to be doing well. Again, no highway, no development. Industry and business need to move their products and cheaply. Rails and trucking do this in the US. Poor highways do not help. Transportation of products gets costly. We need to resurrect this project of finishing I95 to the Valley. This is 50 years later. We came close to accomplishing this in the past, but now is the time we need to do it.
Kelly, NewsSource 8: You have about a minute left for your next questions. What are your thoughts on population growth, or perhaps other strategies, to address our qualified employee shortages in the region?
Roger Albert, Candidate State House District 2: We have a handicap when it comes to retaining our youth anywhere north of Bangor. With the kind of education they have, opportunities north of Bangor are rare. See what’s happening? I just made comments about the lack of a highway system in Northern Maine, which I believe does not help this section of Maine to have opportunities for a diversity of businesses to come in and provide meaningful working opportunities for our educated youth. They are leaving this part of the state due to lack of job opportunities and we are not moving to keep them. We educate them and with that education and whatever college degree they may have received, they are leaving.
Jason Parent, Aroostook Partnership: We are just going to allocate 30 seconds for you to answer this question, we’re about over time and it’s about Aroostook County’s workforce participation rate continues to decline and is currently at 54% for residents 16 and older. What do you feel the barriers are to increasing this important metric and what are your ideas to reverse this trend? And again, 30 seconds.
Roger Albert, Candidate State House District 2: The economic health of local sections of states, whether northern Maine is for businesses to be profitable with whatever they produce and the availability of a highly qualified workforce. This means a workforce that is, again, educated. The University of Maine Fort Kent is known for it’s highly qualified nursing program. It is one of the best in the state. We need to retain these people when they graduate with quality job qualifications. You just heard me comment on why we are not retaining our highly qualified people. In my mind, there is no other place in the continental US that can offer the quality of living conditions that we can in Northern Maine. We just need to make it happen.
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