Quick takes on the issues making news this week in central Maine …
THUMBS DOWN to the U.S. Senate for failing to extend long-term unemployment benefits. The proposal submitted by Democrats would have reinstated for the next 11 months jobless benefits for people out of work for more than six months. The plan, however, did not garner enough Republican support to pass. GOP senators countered unsuccessfully with a proposal to extend the benefits for three months.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins was among those voting against the extension; Sen. Angus King voted in favor.
The economy does not figure to improve enough in three months to avoid this debate again, so a short extension does not make sense.
About 1.3 million Americans, and more than 3,200 Mainers, lost benefits late last year, and another 3.6 million Americans, including 10,000 Mainers, will lose them this year if a deal isn’t reached. Congress needs to find a way to extend the benefits through this year. The economy is slowing improving — now is not the time to abandon Americans who have in good faith continued to search for work despite mounting frustration.
THUMBS DOWN to the failure to notify Gardiner Fire and Rescue during a fire last month that destroyed a two-story home on Northern Avenue.
According to the fire chiefs of both towns, Farmingdale firefighters were dispatched to the Gardiner fire after a 911 caller mistakenly reported that the blaze was at a Farmingdale address. Gardiner was never notified, even after firefighters on the scene realized the mistake.
Gardiner chief Mike Minkowsky said last week his firefighters may have been able to get there sooner and save the house if they had been called in time. It is unclear if that is the case — requests for the fire report and 911 transcript by the newspaper have gone unanswered as of Thursday.
In an interview last week, Dana Mealy, Farmingdale’s fire chief, admitted his department had made a mistake, and the two departments have taken the correct steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. They met last week to iron out an agreement so that dispatchers will automatically call both departments to any fire on sections of the street where both towns have residents.
THUMBS UP to two central Maine teenagers receiving wide recognition for their talents.
Charlie Weinstein of Readfield is one of the top archers in the country. The 17-year-old is ranked as the fifth outdoor shooter in the 16-21 age group as well as the first-ranked indoor archer. On the strength of his performance last month at a national competition, Weinstein will compete with the U.S. Archery Junior Compound Team next month in Nimes, France.
Cole Smith, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Messalonskee Middle School in Oakland, is one of the top middle-school students in the world.
The superlative is based on a test given to 35,000 students in 69 countries by the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University. Smith scored in the 99th percentile on the test, earning him an invitation to the center’s main recognition event.