‘Hope this will do something’: 83-year-old citizen lobbyist pushes for gradual change in Maine
Jim Lysen has a nickname for Ed Fallon.
Over the years, the volunteer duo of the Maine People’s Alliance (including tag is a project) have teamed up on a myriad of issues, from lobbying the state legislature to participating in protests in the offices of Senator Susan Collins and Representative Jared Golden.
Through it all, Lysen said Fallon has always been ready to take on any challenge in the service of advancing gradual change in Maine.
“Every time I offer him something, to do some action, canvassing or whatever, it’s always ‘why not’,” Lysen said of Fallon. “So I call him Ed ‘why not’ Fallon.”
Lysen, a longtime MPA member and former Lewiston city councilor, added that Fallon – who is 83 – has also developed a nickname for him.
“At the end of our actions and steps or whatever, he often says, ‘We had fun, eh kid?’ So he calls me kid even though he’s only ten years older than me, ”Lysen said.
In an interview, Fallon, a Lewiston resident who has lived in Maine for about four years after leaving the Boston area, said he joined the MPA about three years ago.
This involvement began when he met MPA organizer Gen Lysen (Jim Lysen’s daughter) outside the Togus VA facility. He said he and Lysen talked for about five minutes. She then asked for his contact details and said she would follow up with him about their conversation and MPA soon.
Fallon gave Lysen his number. But he didn’t expect her to actually contact him.
“I just thought she was trying to kill time. When she called me, it changed my mind, ”said Fallon, who had never been in political advocacy work before volunteering with MPA.
“We had success”
Since that phone call, Fallon has been an active member of the organization. In particular, he is constantly present during MPA Lobby Days, where volunteers from Maine come to State House in Augusta to urge lawmakers to take action on various bills.
Fallon estimated he was at State House twice a week for about six months during the last legislative session, or nearly 50 days.
“Lobbying is a lot of fun, it really is,” Fallon said of the experience.
Fallon recalled a day near the end of this year’s legislative session when the team spent 12 hours at State House awaiting a response from lawmakers on a bill being considered to address the housing crisis in Maine in building more affordable units, only leaving the building well after midnight. The financing of part of this bill was finally included in the state’s plan to spend federal COVID-19 relief money.
“We’ve had some success there,” Fallon said of lobbying the legislature.
“I am quite aggressive with lawmakers,” he added.
Along the way, however, Fallon said he had been successful in forging relationships with some GOP lawmakers, such as Representative Rick Mason, who represents the city of Lisbon, where Fallon lived. He also said that during the 2021 session he and a few others were able to engage Senate Minority Leader Jeff Timberlake (R-Androscoggin) in a conversation about the need for a bill to decriminalize drug possession.
Jim Lysen praised Fallon’s ability to build relationships with a variety of different lawmakers.
“They will always take his call or answer his question because they respect him,” Lysen said.
In his lobbying work, Fallon has said he tries to get lawmakers to see what’s really going on statewide. Too often, lawmakers don’t fully understand the challenges many Mainers face, he explained.
“We’re just trying to get these lawmakers to do the right thing, to follow the line and try to fix what’s wrong,” he said. “And they just don’t know what’s going on, they give me that impression.”
Move the needle
Most recently, Fallon was part of efforts to urge the Maine congressional delegation to support the Build Back Better bill, legislation proposed by President Joe Biden to strengthen the social safety net and address issues such as climate change. . In Maine, advocacy around Build Back Better has largely focused on Representative Jared Golden, who was the only Democrat in vote against the bill when it passed the House in November.
The MPA and other local organizations have staged a myriad of events to lobby Golden, including a Veterans Day rally that Fallon spoke to. Fallon was stationed as a parachutist in Germany in the 1960s.
“These days I live on my own, in a community of elderly and disabled people. We know home health care is a necessity, and the programs this bill supports will help me and many of my neighbors, ”Fallon said. noted at this event.
Fallon also wrote a editorial published in the Sun Diary in early November, urging state congressional officials to vote for Build Back Better.
Social safety net policies – such as those included in Build Back Better – are among the issues facing ordinary people that Fallon says most motivates his advocacy. Specifically, he mentioned housing, health care, dental care and education as issues that desperately need to be addressed in Maine and across the country.
Sometimes, however, he wonders if all the protests and actions in which he and others have been involved moves the needle.
“You wonder what kind of impact what you’re doing has – I’m doing it anyway,” he said.
But he continues to work for the possibility that it could help inspire those in power to support the needed change.
“I hope that will do something,” he said. “I hope it’ll lose their ass for doing something right.”
Top photo: Ed Fallon at an event | Courtesy of Jim Lysen