On Wednesday, October 25, Lewiston mayoral candidate Mark Cayer visited campus to share his platform with Bates students. Cayer’s visit was part of a larger local election series at Bates, and was followed by a similar presentation by fellow mayoral candidate Ben Chin on Thursday, October 26.
Cayer began his presentation by sharing some contextual information regarding his background; mentioning his upbringing as a native of Lewiston as well as his six year career as Lewiston’s Ward 6 Councilor, where he was then elected Council President. “This year,” started Cayer, “I decided it was important for me to run for mayor because I think there are party politics trying to take control of our local government, and I just think that’s bad for our community.”
Moving on to his platform, Cayer lamented on Lewiston’s local economic stagnation, including a statistic about the city’s average poverty rate of 30 percent and the general lack of desire for young entrepreneurs to open businesses in the city. To this end, Cayer stressed the importance of an educated, marketable workforce. “Lewiston’s workforce is undereducated. We’re well below statistics when it comes to degrees,” said Cayer. “We really need to start at our local educational level and focus on the jobs of today and tomorrow; like technology and manufacturing.” To achieve this practically, Cayer suggested more involvement and engagement with local secondary schools and community colleges.
Ultimately, solving Lewiston’s poverty crisis was the core of Cayer’s mayoral goals. “Kids in Lewiston, every night, go to bed hungry. They go to school hungry. At home, they face domestic violence. They face severe substance abuse in their families, and they face sexual assault.” Cayer views these issues, however, as symptomatic of poverty; and attempting to fix them rather than the institutional causes of poverty itself is nothing more than a superficial approach. “I don’t have a clear understanding of what the root causes of poverty are,” admitted Cayer. “But within our community we have the experts that do, like Community Concepts and Project Tipping Point, that really create an understanding of poverty.” Thus, Cayer advocates for relying more heavily on these community resources to generate a more robust awareness of poverty so that the city may address its symptoms more effectively.
The conversation then moved to our own immediate community when Cayer was asked about what policy initiatives he would use to communicate with Bates students specifically. Cayer reflected on the stark divide between Bates students and the greater Lewiston area, remarking that “back when I was a teenager, there used to be this fence around Bates College. That got torn down, but the fence is still there, and it goes both ways.” One of the largest issues, according to Cayer, separating the college from its environment is the prevalent off-campus party scene, which has galvanized tensions (and police ordinances) with local residents. Meetings have occurred in the past at the college to help discuss the issues surrounding off campus housing with residents, but Cayer was thoroughly disappointed with the lack of administrative presence from Bates.
“We need the Bates administration involved [in helping bridge the Lewiston/Bates gap], and I’m going to make that happen as mayor. And if the President doesn’t want to do that purposely, we’ll start calling the trustees.”
Regarding ballot initiatives, Cayer stated he “saw value” in the merger, but believed too much money was spent in 2015 on studies regarding its theoretical effects. As councilman, Cayer advocated for putting the question on the ballot so that the people could have the final say.
“This could put Lewiston-Auburn on the map and be a springboard for our community,” said Cayer. As for Question 2 (which regards Medicaid expansions), Cayer expressed relative ambivalence about his feelings on the vote, but was ultimately in support of it due to the wide scale tangible effects it could have on the everyday lives of Lewiston residents, many of whom are without healthcare. “I’m voting for it not because I want to, but because it’s life and death for some people. Still, I don’t think that’s where government should be. We need a healthcare system that’s self-sufficient.”
Students will have a chance to vote for mayor on the November 7 Municipal Election, and may get registered on campus or on the day of the election at the Lewiston Armory.