Political Profile: Danielle Fienberg
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -<Jason Parent, Aroostook Partnership: What are your top three priorities if elected, in the coming legislative session?
Danielle Fienberg, Democrat, Maine State Senate District 2 Candidate: Childcare, housing and public education form the pillars of a functional society and without them, communities really struggle. So many people in our district have felt the pain of a shrinking population, it’s effects ripple into every aspect of our lives. From labor, police and fire department and health care shortages to lower access to food and supplies and literally higher costs for everything. Unless we step up and address the root causes, we’re going to continue to see our neighborhoods and communities slipping away. Here’s a sad truth, Aroostook County has lost more people than any other Maine county in the last decade and Penobscot county has also been losing people every year straight since 2010. We’re all feeling the effects. By addressing the big three, child care, housing and public education, we can create an environment where people want to live here, work here and stay here. Young families today need to have dual incomes in order to afford basic housing, but in order to do that, they need child care. Unfortunately the number of child care providers in our district has dropped by over 40% since 2008. That’s forcing young families like mine out, along with a big chunk of our workforce and economy. It’s not just young families that are hurting either. Seniors that have worked their whole lives and planned carefully are threatened by these rising costs. Especially seniors who rent. And our lack of workers means that seniors are facing difficulties finding help and resources when they need it. By attacking the problem from both angles, affordable housing and childcare, we can bring faster relief to our families that are hurting. Public schools are also a big part of the solution. By making sure that our teachers are paid fairly and that local schools have the resources they need, they’ll be in a better position to support our growing communities. The children of Aroostook and Penobscot are our future and by preparing them for careers within our counties through programs such as targeted skill training, we have a better chance of keeping them here. We also need to take a closer look at teacher retention and give teachers the support they need to do their jobs effectively. And when it comes to school infrastructure I am deeply concerned about the lead in the school drinking water. Our legislature has mandated testing, but they did not mandate or fund remediation when lead is found. Many of our schools do not have the funds needed to make these repairs on their own, putting our children at risk and threatening higher property taxes for already over burdened communities. As your senator, I will be a strong voice about these particular issues in Augusta ensuring that we have the resources that we need to keep our communities healthy, safe and affordable for everyone.
Kelly O’Mara, NewsSource 8: Ok, you have about two more minutes to answer the next two questions. The next one is what are your thoughts on population growth, or perhaps other strategies, to address our qualified employee shortages here in the region?
Danielle Fienberg, Democrat, Maine State Senate District 2 Candidate: I touched on this a bit in my last answer. Out migration is a symptom of a much larger problem. People can not stay or move to places that do not meet their needs. As our population shrinks the problem compounds itself into a negative feedback loop. It used to be that one adult could work a single full time job and support their family and afford a modest home. Parents who wished to work used to be able to find childcare and seniors used to be able to count on support from larger groups of families and friends who had enough time and resources to help out when needed. In addition to making our communities friendlier for families we need to do more to attract health care workers, first responders, entrepreneurs and digital nomads. As we grow our pool of skilled workers and community investors, we can turn our negative feedback loop into a positive one with more opportunities and more resources for everyone that lives and works here.
Jason Parent, Aroostook Partnership: Ok, we have about a minute for this last question and it’s about Aroostook County’s workforce participation rate which 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?
Danielle Fienberg, Democrat, Maine State Senate District 2 Candidate: It comes back to the negative feedback loop I mentioned earlier. Those who have more work related expenses like travel and childcare are finding that it actually costs more to go to work than to stay at home and some even if they are willing to take the financial hit, don’t have access to childcare at all. In addition, untreated mental health issues, like depression and addiction, further threaten our communities workforce and safety. Add to that the generational factor, many of our older adults who have worked hard their lives are moving toward retirement adding even more urgency to addressing our districts dwindling workforce. With all of this in mind, the answer to boosting our workforce participation rate can be found in making our district a more comfortable and affordable place to live and work. As your senator, I’ll work to find and implement solutions to attract and retain skilled workers, boost our local economy and support the wellbeing of all who live in our district.>
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