Palesky, Question 1, Question her?
Carol Palesky is a woman on mission some say and is a woman with a very questionable past, little anyone says, or at least lately. The initiative that this woman is responsible for getting on the ballot is the constant dread of most public officials and is prediction of chaos from all cities towns and counties all across Maine. The lipmus test is just a little less than a month a way and it seems that most voters are uninformed and undecided with this issue and others. I am going to provide you with the a view of this woman taken from a an AP writing a little more than 2 weeks ago. This will hopefully allow you to see the issue from a differeent light and give you the information you need to make an informed desicion about the question 1.
TOPSHAM, Maine (AP)
Don't let Carol Palesky's grandmotherly appearance fool you. Sure, she has wispy hair pulled up in a knot, granny glasses and a cane close at hand. She wears old slippers as she hobbles on a bum foot in her home office, where she runs her accounting business. The soft-spoken Palesky hardly looks like the wide-eyed fanatic you might expect given the chaos some are predicting should Mainers approve her statewide tax cap referendum in the Nov. 2 election. But there are many sides to the 64-year-old woman whose name is synonymous with the initiative that asks Maine voters if they want to cap property taxes at 1 percent of assessed value. Besides being a mother of two, a grandmother of four and a champion of tax reform, Palesky is a convicted embezzler and forger who rankles public officials and was once charged with bank robbery. While she rails against soaring property taxes, the taxes on her house have gone down for two consecutive years, according to Topsham records. They have fallen $141, or 5.3 percent, to $2,479. She has declared bankruptcy at least four times. She has sued her hometown a half dozen times. On the witness stand, she once accused a detective who had searched her house of "probably...Going through my underwear drawer. "Still, Palesky considers herself a crusader for a noble cause against what she sees as the big-spending and out-of-touch ways of government. If the tax cap passes, it will be her crowning triumph. With all the gloom-and-doom predictions from tax cap opponents, she says its no wonder she's portrayed as a fearsome ogre.
"I don't think I'm scary at all," Palesky said in a soft voice during an interview at her home. "Twenty-three states have passed (tax caps). And guess what? None of them have fallen into the ocean. "If nothing else, Carol Palesky is determined. She began crusading for tax reform more than a decade ago following a property revaluation in Topsham, where she lives with her husband after moving from New Jersey in 1975.
She was inspired by a man big and burly with calluses on his hands while waiting in line to pay property taxes at Town Hall. She said the man, with a tear in his eye, told her that he wouldnt be able to buy medication for his disabled wife, or heating oil for the winter, because his taxes were so high.
"I said, Why doesn't somebody do something about thi?" she asked herself that night while brushing her teeth. "And I looked in the mirror and nobody was looking back but me."Shes been at it ever since.
She formed the Topsham Taxpayers Association and then the Maine Taxpayers Action Network. She recruited volunteers to collect signatures in attempts to force a statewide vote on a property tax cap. She got involved in another petition drive to impose congressional term limits. She filed lawsuit after lawsuit against the town of Topsham and its school district to the point that exasperated town officials obtained an injunction preventing her from filing any more, said Richard Hornbeck, an attorney who represented the town.
Her efforts to get the tax cap proposal before state voters led to at least three petition drives, one of which got her thrown into prison.
When Palesky turned in more than 55,000 signatures in 1996, the secretary of state said some dates on the petitions appeared to be falsified. She was later convicted of forgery and sentenced to nine months in prison. At her sentencing, she collapsed and had to be wheeled from court on a stretcher.
But seven months ago, Palesky finally enjoyed success when Secretary of State Dan Gwadosky certified 51,255 signatures, or 736 more than the minimum required to get the question on the ballot. Critics believe that Palesky is sincere and tenacious just misguided. They derisively call the tax-cap referendum the "Palesky meat-ax initiative," saying municipal and school budgets will be gutted and services and jobs will be slashed if it is enacted.
Her checkered past, detractors say, is worthy of close examination.
In 1987, a federal jury convicted her of embezzling from a Brunswick law firm where she worked as a bookkeeper. That same year, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity of robbing a Mechanic Falls bank; psychiatrists testified she suffered from mental problems caused by head injuries from a car crash.
Peter Fessenden, a Brunswick attorney, said Palesky stole about $42,000 from his firm by writing herself checks and manipulating the books. Palesky served a year in federal prison after being convicted in 1987 of embezzlement.
Even so, Fessenden doesn't go to lengths to disparage Palesky. "I see no reason to be rude, so I'm going to keep my opinions to myself," he said.
Dennis Bailey, spokesman for the anti-tax cap group Citizens United to Protect Our Public Safety, Schools and Communities, said it suits Palesky's purpose to "present that image as a regular grandmother type being hurt by property taxes." Palesky supporters, he said, act as if its unfair to bring up her past.
"Certainly if she were running for office, her background would be front and center, just like John Kerry's is and George Bush's is, because it speaks about character," Bailey said. "It's certainly worthwhile for the public to take that into consideration." Bailey thinks Palesky's baggage is causing other tax cap supporters, namely businessmen and Tax Cap Yes! leaders Phil Harriman and Eric Cianchette, to keep a healthy distance from Palesky.
Cianchette, who has met Palesky in person just once, said he and Tax Cap Yes! supporters are simply "doing our own thing." For her part, Palesky said she welcomes their involvement to take some of the pressure off her.
Palesky wont talk about her past other than to say she was a "political prisoner" but supporters are steadfast in backing her.
Arthur McDermott of Windham, who is on the board of the Maine Taxpayers Action Network, has been working with Palesky since 1994. He described her forgery trial as a "kangaroo court" and said he thinks of her as hardworking, trustworthy and in tune with people's frustrations about rising taxes.
"If she,d been elected governor five years ago, we wouldn't be in the financial mess we're in now," McDermott said.
Whether a hero or villain, Paleskys not easy to figure out.
For instance, she managed for years to avoid paying Fessenden back any of the money she stole despite a court judgment that she do so. But for the past two years, she has been paying him $500 a month as part of an agreement to pay $48,000 over eight years, Fessenden said.
On the walls of her home office, she has paintings and photos of seemingly disparate figures: former President John F. Kennedy, President George W. Bush and Elvis Presley. She says Kennedy was one of the best presidents, and she admires Bushs leadership abilities. For now, the tax reform issue has grown larger than Palesky, said William Diamond, who was secretary of state when Palesky turned in forged petitions eight years ago. If Diamond was outraged by Palesky's actions back then, he's just as amazed by the tax rebellion she has created now. "I think it's gone beyond her," he said. "I don't think she's the issue as she was before." Palesky said all she wants to do is live in Maine and take care of her family. She said the tax cap will bring about fiscal responsibility in government to allow her to do just that.
And after more than a decade of fighting for tax reform, the criticism now bounces off.
"At first I cried. I'm a sensitive person," she said. "But now I have thick skin."
Courtsey of the assicioated press written by Clarke Canfield