Last week, I picked up my dad to take him to Bangor for an endoscopy. As we were driving down I-95, he said, "I want to read you a letter we wrote." It's hard to drive with tears in your eyes.
That letter was published in the Houlton Pioneer Times today.
And this is my parents' sunshine, William.
We are both so incredibly fortunate to be their children; to have learned right and wrong, integrity and compassion, and a killer work ethic; to have been encouraged to believe in ourselves; to have had their support when we did dumb things; and to be loved, 110%, for who we are.
Know the symptoms of a pulmonary embolism so that you can get timely medical attention if you or someone you love needs it:
And tell the people you love that you love them. Every. Darn. Day.
My interest in healthcare policy started when my husband, Rob, and I owned The Vault restaurant in Houlton. Our insurance premium as a self-employed couple was $1900 a month...for a plan with a $6500 per person out-of-pocket maximum. In 2016, our total healthcare costs were over $30,000, which is unsustainable when you own a business that has small margins to start. As a result, in 2017, we made the difficult decision to close the restaurant and for me to return to a job with employer-provided healthcare benefits.
You might wonder why we didn't just pay the ACA penalty and be done with it. We didn't because our prescription medications totaled more than $3300 a month. Buying insurance was the cheaper option, believe it or not.
I've heard countless anecdotes about how unaffordable healthcare can be from people in District 144 -- and heartbreaking stories about how people struggle to manage when misfortune does strike. I know that we can do better by putting people ahead of profits in our healthcare system!
This week, my friend Dale Holden wrote an incredibly compelling letter to the Houlton Pioneer Times expressing her concerns about climate change - which seem even more relevant than ever for Mainers in this season of drought. It's heartbreaking to hear the story of a local couple whose well has gone dry, just one example of how climate change is not a question of politics, but of quality of life.
In the same edition of the paper, there's an article on the impact of the drought here in The County. Doreen Conlogue, Aroostook County executive director of the USDA, says, "Every evening on my 37-mile commute home I see well drillers in different locations on Route 1. If we don’t get some significant rain before winter, I worry that many livestock producers will run out of water for their animals.”
The article also highlights other effects of severe drought: widespread loss of crops, distressed Christmas tree farms, financial issues for dairy farmers, increase in business for water haulers and well drillers, some wildlife disease outbreaks, reduced water flow, increase in water temperatures and dry wells.
In addition, Maine has had 969 wildfires this year, compared to 356 last year. While not the size and scope of the wildfires on the West Coast that Dale mentions, this is a shot across the bow from our environment.
During the 129th Legislature, terrific bipartisan work took place to establish the Maine Climate Council. We need more of this type of cooperation, based on the input of the Council, to strike the balance between maintaining affordable energy costs and creating a greener future.
The pictures above highlight the impact of the drought on our rivers and lakes. The middle picture, taken on the morning of September 23 after an all-too-brief rain, is of the Captain Ambrose Bear Stream (formerly the B Stream). The left-most, courtesy of Paula Woodworth, is the Meduxnekeag River on September 23, 2020, while the right-most picture is one of the same section of the Meduxnekeag taken by Paula in September of 2019.
Dale's letter to the editor is here: https://thecounty.me/.../opinion/what-legacy-are-we-leaving/
The article about the drought in The County is here: https://thecounty.me/.../usda-offers-more-aid-to-county.../
Maine is in the midst of an aging crisis – by 2030, more than 25% of Mainers will be 65 or older, exacerbating the challenges already confronting our elders and communities. In speaking with local residents, I’ve repeatedly heard about the struggles and fears of our older neighbors as they face poverty, isolation, and a lack of access to much-needed services. After a lifetime of hard work and careful saving, it is unconscionable that so many of our elders in Aroostook County find themselves on the edge of crisis.
As a social work student at the University of New England, I’ve focused on issues related to aging. I’ve learned that nearly 16% of our older neighbors are food insecure. More than 9000 senior Mainers are on a waiting list for affordable rental housing, and studies show that these folks spend 74% of their income on rent while they wait. Many are isolated by the lack reliable transportation, and a shortage of home health care workers means that more than a thousand older Mainers are waiting for critical in-home services - two issues that force many seniors from their homes into congregate care and assisted living environments. And with a rapidly growing senior population, these problems will only get worse.
The families of Maine seniors are also adversely affected by the situation facing their loved ones – many leave jobs to provide care or spend personal retirement savings to care for older parents. The emotional and financial burnout that often occurs as family caregivers address the challenges of helping their loved ones carries a tremendous cost.
I believe that when you’ve worked hard all of your life, basic necessities like proper nutrition, appropriate housing, and necessary medical care ought not to be so far out of reach. As a candidate for the Maine State House, District 144, I’ll bring a steadfast commitment to addressing these challenges to Augusta, working collaboratively to ensure that we implement policies and programs that increase security for our seniors. I believe that we can do better for older Mainers, and I’m eager to get to work on their behalf
Two articles in this week’s Houlton Pioneer Times prompted me to think about innovation in education and the value of offering alternative forms of learning. Educational innovation improves learning outcomes and the quality of education provision, yet our school systems and teachers often lack the time, resources, and support to make transformational change possible.
Al Morris’ editorial about the Carleton Project shows the clear impact of innovative thinking on student outcomes - particularly for those students that don’t thrive in a traditional academic setting. Recognizing that the measures of achievement for college-bound kids are different than the benchmarks for those that don’t immediately continue their education, Al, the founder of the Carleton Project, set to work on building a program that teaches students to perform complex tasks necessary for success a modern world - problem-solving, group dynamics, and inquiry - within a personalized curriculum that addresses the needs of each student. As a result of this innovative thinking, Al and the team at the Carleton Project have helped lots of young folks graduate from school with the skills necessary to build successful futures here in our community.
My husband and I had the opportunity to participate in Al’s approach to innovation when we owned The Vault restaurant. Al approached us about the idea of providing school lunches to the students at the Carleton Project, and we embarked on a collaboration with the students to plan menus, learn restaurant skills, and serve other members of the community. It was a terrific project, and we really valued our interaction with the bright, engaged students we saw each day.
Another example of innovative practice in the classroom comes from East Grand School, which implemented an outdoors-based developmental program in the wake of COVID-19. How I wish my school experience would have included fort-building, campfires, and other ways of stimulating curiosity, creativity, and engagement! And that the superintendent reports that in-classroom participation has increased since implementing this program? Even better.
As I run for the Maine House, I’m eager to work with teachers and administrators to understand how the state legislature can help to enable more of the sort of innovation that's happening at the Carleton Project and the East Grand School. With the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, there’s no better time to think creatively about new learning modalities and a path to better for today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders.
Onward and upward!
Recently, a member of the local community reached out to me, asking about the solutions I see to the priorities that I’ve outlined. I’m going to spend some time in future posts digging into details of solutions that will effectively address our challenges, but I wanted to begin the conversation with this thought: none of the solutions to the challenges we face are obscure, and none should be “hard” to implement.
What’s difficult – and what I see as our biggest impediment to “better” – is creating the political will necessary to make meaningful change. I am unabashedly progressive, yet I value the marketplace of ideas and the process of listening, learning, and co-creating a better future. Today’s partisanship, coupled with the influence of special interests, unfortunately stymies this kind of thoughtful debate in too many cases.
As an aspiring social worker, I’ll bring the core values of my soon-to-be-profession to the legislature with a focus on how the work that I do enhances the well-being of all Maine’s people, especially in rural areas like ours. I would hope that this would not be a controversial position among my colleagues in Augusta, Democrat and Republican alike – after all, this is the primary purpose of government. But unfortunately, that’s not the perspective of the incumbent in District 144 based on his voting record in Augusta during the last session (see Vote Smart if you're curious about how you've been represented).
In my work in software product management, I learned early on to welcome ideas for new products and product improvements, even when those ideas didn’t necessarily align with my thinking at the time. I found the value in taking my time to consider these ideas, listening carefully to the people whose needs I was working to meet, and mixing and matching, blending and balancing the best ideas into a better solution for my clients. What I propose to do in the legislature is no different.
I believe that District 144 deserves a representative who will share a commitment to the well-being of the people for whom she works. Who believes in productive conversation, across party lines, about how we can achieve “better” for our constituents. Who will foster collaboration and consensus, listening and learning, rather than pure partisanship. Who understands that this is hard work, but is ready and willing to roll up her sleeves and get it done.
I hope to earn your vote with this commitment.
HOULTON, ME, July 2020 — Kathryn Harnish, a Democrat from Houlton, has launched her 2020 campaign for Maine’s House District 144, bringing her experience as a small business owner and strategic problem-solver to a campaign focused on the prosperity of the people of northern Maine.
“I’m honored to represent the Democratic party in District 144 this November and excited to bring a vision for ‘better’ to my neighbors ,” said Harnish. “I’m running to amplify the voices of the hard-working folks who want to build a better future for their families and communities and to bring forward innovative ideas for sustainability and prosperity in rural areas of Maine like ours.”
Harnish laid out three areas of critical focus for her campaign:
“Kathryn cares deeply about the communities in District 144, and I know that she will bring passion, commitment, and uncompromising focus on results to her work in Augusta,” said Ginette Rivard, Aroostook County Chair of the Maine Democratic Party. “I look forward to working with her on a dynamic and successful campaign.”
Harnish and her husband, Robert Lawless, own and operate Took a Leap Farm, where they raise Nigerian dwarf goats and produce artisan cheese in their statelicensed creamery. In addition, the candidate has served in several senior-level leadership roles in the library software industry in a career that has spanned 20+ years. In April 2020, she began the pursuit of her Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of New England.
Maine House District 144 comprises the municipalities of Amity, bancroft, Benedicta Township, Cary, Glenwood, Haynesville, Hodgdon, Houlton, Macwahoc, Molunkus Township, Orient, Reed, Silver Ridge Township, South Aroostook, and Weston.