Reflections: Looking at Maine’s Recurring Issues
The summer 2019 issue of Maine Policy Review once again brings insightful articles about Maine’s pressing policy concerns. Within its pages readers learn about
- Tourism in “Reshaping Maine Woods Destinations for Twenty-First Century Tourists“
- Postsecondary Language Education in “Twenty-First Century Language Education at the University of Maine: A Road Map“
- Elementary education weather policies in “What is ‘Too Cold?’ Recess and Physical Education Weather Policies in Maine Elementary Schools“
The authors of these pieces highlight recurring issues in Maine that continue to call for research and solutions.
One strength of Maine Policy Review is that it creates an ongoing discussion. Articles and commentaries examine key issues from Maine’s past, describe what is happening in the present, and consider changes that policymakers, business leaders, educators, and citizens can enact to improve life within their municipality, the state, and even the nation. To better guide readers in discovering the changes and continuities over time in MPR, we have created a series of topic-specific reading lists on our website that bring together articles on specific subjects. Recently, we developed the Maine Policy Minute, which distills the most recent and most popular MPR articles into two-minute reads. This allows researchers and readers to discover the resources they find most important.
Health policy provides an excellent example of a topic that continues to be featured in MPR. In the most recent issue, Zachariah Croll and Erika Ziller authored “Health Status and Access to Care among Maine’s Low-Income Childless Adults.” This article and other articles on health care in MPR analyze
- What sort of healthcare is most needed?
- Who needs which types of healthcare?
- What are the health concerns of people across age, gender, and socioeconomic demographics?
- How do we pay for healthcare?
- “A Public Health View of Environmental Regulation” (1992)
- “Chronic Disease: The Epidemic of the Twentieth Century” (2000)
- “Top 10 Health Issues Faced by Maine People” (2003)
- “Solving Maine’s Health Care Crisis Requires ‘Tough Choices’” (2005)
- “Economic Assessment of Children’s Health and the Environment in Maine” (2010)
- “Lessons from Health Reform” (2013)
- “Patterns of Drug-induced Mortality in Maine” (2015)
- “How Well is Maine Doing?: Comparing Well-Being across Maine Counties” (2018)
Issues of workforce development remain a common thread over time in MPR as well. In the summer 2019 issue, Joseph McDonnell writes about impending changes to Maine’s workforce due to increased automation and artificial intelligence: “Maine’s Workforce Challenges in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.“ Over 25 other articles in MPR addressed the issue of Maine’s workforce over the past 28 years. A small sample of topics include:
- “Workers and Jobs: The Balance is Shifting” (1998)
- “Learning and Earning in Vacationland: Promoting Education and Economic Opportunity in Maine (2002)
- “Workforce Investment in Maine’s New Energy Economy” (2008)
- “Maine’s Food-Related Workforce: Characteristics and Challenges” (2011)
- “Do We Have the Workforce Skills for Maine’s Innovation Economy?” (2014)
- “What Are You Going to Do with That Major?: The Humanities, Jobs, and a Career” (2015)
- “Impacts of Recent Mills Closures and Potential Biofuels Development on Maine’s Forest Product Industry” (2017)
A concentration of topics concerning healthcare policy and workforce issues in Maine are not entirely surprising, however, subjects we often do not think about become recurring themes in MPR. For example, in the summer 2019 issue an interdisciplinary research team at the University of Maine reported on the complex and difficult-to-solve issue of food waste management in “Circular Food Systems in Maine: Finding from an Interdisciplinary Study of Food Waste Management.” Once again, since its very first volume, MPR has published articles concerning the topic of waste management. Over time, these articles raise several questions:
- Who is responsible for dealing with waste?
- Is waste management a municipal, state, regional, or mixed issue?
- What is being lost in what we throw away?
- How do we address the problem of dealing with and minimizing solid waste?
A brief sampling of articles include
- “Solid Waste Management in Local Municipalities” (1991)
- “Solid Waste Management Options for Maine: The Economics of Pay-by-the-Bag Systems” (1995)
- “Landfill: Gas to Energy” (2008)
- “Impacts of Pay-As-You-Throw and Other Residential Solid Waste Policy Options: Southern Maine 2007-2013” (2014)
- “Moving up the Waste Hierarchy in Maine: Learning from “Best Practice” State-Level Policy for Waste Reduction and Recovery” (2016)
- “Maine’s Culture of Reuse and Its Potential to Advance Environmental and Economic Policy Objectives” (2017)
As the examples of health care, workforce, and solid waste indicate, readers and researchers gain a great benefit by looking at these policy issues across time to see how they have been approached and analyzed. Doing so makes the gaps in policy debates and policy research clear. Further, by surveying Maine policy across time, it becomes clear just how interlinked the topics continue to be. For example, waste issues are inextricably linked to food issues as well as ways to produce the energy Mainers need. Our workforce challenges remain entwined with education, retraining, and demographics. By analyzing the complexities of how these issues continue to be enmeshed over time, policymakers, business leaders, researchers, educators, and citizens have a much better chance of discovering innovative ways to tackle these perennial challenges.
Maine Policy Minute developed from “Reflections: Looking at Maine’s Recurring Issues” by MPR‘s executive editor, Linda Silka.