Maine mayor pushing bill to post welfare recipients’ addresses online

25 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

GOP mayor wants to build a website to publicly shame welfare recipients in his town.

In announcing his intention to introduce legislation that would make publicly available the name, address, the length of time they’ve been receiving benefits and what those benefits are, MacDonald declared, “the public has a right to know how its money is being spent.” Writing in the Lewiston Twin City Times, the Mayor announced his intent in the title: Enough is Enough: Mainers have a right to know how their money is spent. When a politician says its a time for “a major overhaul of the many laws and policies dealing with confidentiality,” it sounds like the kind of revolution privacy advocates have been waiting for—especially in light of recent public data snags.Upset by the fact that Maine’s government maintains a website that lists the amount of money received by pensioners in the state, and angered by the existence of welfare recipients, or the “victimized, protected class,” Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald devised a plan. Kansas lawmakers received both national criticism and praise this summer after approving a law limiting how people in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program can use their benefits. Macdonald, a local Republican mayor who is up for reelection in November, can’t submit a state bill himself, so he would need a state lawmaker to back the plan in the legislature.

It’s not the first time he’s faced backlash — in 2012, residents called for his resignation after his xenophobic remarks advising Somali immigrants to “accept our culture and you leave your culture at the door.” But the Lewiston mayoral election is coming up in November, and a young progressive challenger has already broken the state record for mayoral campaign fundraising. Just shut up and pay!” The mayor, first elected in 2011, has been a vocal critic of government assistance programs in the past, and his tendency to not mince words has earned him the spotlight. Macdonald later attempted to clarify his remarks, saying that they were taken out of context and that he never said anything disparaging about the Somali community. I hope this makes people think twice about applying for welfare.” Asked if that might hurt people who he thinks are justified in receiving benefits, Mr. In 2013, he launched a citywide effort aimed at “welfare cheats” and kicked 80 people off assistance; criminal charges were pressed against a handful for fraud. “We’re not going to be known as a welfare town anymore,” Macdonald said in March 2013. “If you want to come here, don’t come here for welfare because if we catch you, you will be prosecuted.” Asked about Thursday’s column, Macdonald told the Portland Press Herald that he’s “not sorry.

Along with this bill, we will be resubmitting HR 368, which will bring local General Assistance into compliance with federal laws that limit General Assistance to a 60-month total lifetime benefit. They flaunt it.” Publicly posting personal information, he said, could encourage people to go after those “gaming the system.” He added he doesn’t care whether some people who rightly receive benefits could be hurt, saying: “Some people are going to get harmed but if it’s for the good of everybody, that’s the way it is.” “Mayor Macdonald has been in office for four years and he’s done nothing to lower our poverty rate and make our city better,” Chin told the paper. “Instead, he likes to scapegoat and publicly embarrass people.” Resident and welfare recipient Sheena Dingledine said, “Unfortunately, with today’s economy, it’s hard to get off the program because your money is going to rent and everything else that you need, and that little bit of food stamps we get is what keeps us alive.” Another resident, James Wiggle, feared taxpayers might be emboldened by the information. “They’re going to feel like, ‘Oh, I have the right to go up to this person’s house, ring their doorbell and complain,’ which they don’t,” Wiggle told ABC.

After a Democratic representative questioned the legality of Macdonald’s proposal, Macdonald said to Bangor Daily News that the website wouldn’t intend to embarrass people, because welfare recipients already “flaunt it in public.” Lewiston, with about 36,000 residents, has been the center of controversy before. Macdonald also promised to introduce a measure cutting off public assistance to low-income Mainers for any child born while the mother is already receiving welfare as well as a 60-month lifetime limit on benefits.

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