Songs to Revolt By (in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont)

I got a notice this week from Jeff Pascoe over in Vermont that the Act 60 website has added an “Act 60 Song.” Act 60 is the new school funding law with a state property tax that Vermont finds revolting, just as Maine did over 20 years ago.

A good revolt needs a song. Remember Yankee Doodle? Well, in Maine in 1976 we produced a song during our state property tax battle too. We had it recorded at Noel Paul Stookey’s studio in Blue Hill (Paul of Peter, Paul and Mary), and he provided the music mix. In fact, we had written two songs, because we produced a two-sided, 45 rpm record with a dust jacket that explained what all the fuss was about. Those words, written by a talented wordsmith in the cause, stir my blood still. Here’s an excerpt, and I think they will find sympathy today in the hearts of Yankees in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont:

“We’re tired of lawmakers who compromise principle for the sake of expediency; whose favorite phrase is: “let’s be realistic. This is the best you can expect”; who think we elected them to do their will rather than ours; who plead for our votes and our trust, only to become our adversaries and force our constant vigilance; who set one group against another for political gain; whose only answer to managing the business of government is to raise taxes; and who allow the State House peddlers to write their bills and determine their votes.

“We’re tired of faceless scheming bureaucrats, to whom neatness and order, size and efficiency, are more important than freedom; whose ignorance of the real world is exceeded only by the magnitude of their egos; who often don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing and seldom have the management ability to do whatever it is anyway; who long for the day when the “professionals” will run it all, but who hide behind the nearest elected skirt when the heat’s on; and who have nothing but contempt for what the People have told them in a public vote.

“Yes, we’re all tired of it. But someone once said that wars are won, not by the strongest or bravest, but by those with the stamina and conviction to last until the other side has quit.

“All of which is by way of explaining what the songs on the enclosed recording are trying to say. Neither may replace Yankee Doodle or Over There as American folk music, but they tell the world what many ordinary Mainers are thinking these days.”

About 250 records were mailed from the Castine Town Office to every Maine legislator, the Governor, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Education, and every radio and television station. But I only heard it played once on the radio. The teacher’s union couldn’t stand it. They knew they were major beneficiaries of the tax, so they were hanging on to it for dear life. Immediately their attorney sent a notice to every radio station that if they dared to play either song, they would have to read the union’s dry, lengthy statement each time it was played.

The teachers’ union response killed the songs dead. What station wants to get into that kind of cat fight? Only one, and it was out of my range of hearing. A radio station way down east in Washington County played the song first thing in the morning and at sign-off at night just before the national anthem, and several times in between. Each time they read the whining, prepared statement from the union.

New Hampshire is facing a state property tax as a possible response to a court decision. If the NH legislature ever enacts one, I wonder what their Granite State song of revolution will sound like? If it would help, I could send over one of our records from 1976. After all, the issue is still fresh so the words don’t need to be changed, and thanks to the internet, no teacher’s union will be able to drive it off the air!

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