A weekly roundup of the issues making news in central Maine …
BINGHAM RESIDENTS at town meeting on Monday unanimously passed an ordinance that prohibits sex offenders from living within 750 feet of certain properties frequented by children, including the town’s two schools.
That’s fine, but the vigilance should not end there.
Sex offender ordinances receive a lot of support — a few years ago, before the state passed a law limiting the restrictions, about a dozen Maine communities passed laws that stretched the no-residency zone for offenders as far as 2,500 feet for certain areas.
The rules, however, do little to prevent sexal abuse. They may keep at arm’s length convicted offenders, who are already publicized on the state’s registry and through local police departments. But they do nothing to prevent first-time offenses, or the more than 90 percent of offenses that occur between a victim and offender who already know each other.
The only real way to prevent sexual abuse is through awareness and education, so that adults can spot the signs and children feel empowered to report problems.
SPEAKING OF FEEL-GOOD measures, one was killed this week when the Maine House voted against a bill that would have docked lawmakers’ pay in the event of a state government shutdown.
Making legislators pay for failing to approve a budget on time may seem like fair play, but it’s doubtful that the threat of losing a small portion of their already meager pay — about $23,500, plus stipends, for two years of work — would push legislators to break a stalemate any sooner.
The bill also didn’t take into account that shutdowns are rare, and that the governor, whose pay would not have been cut under the proposal, typically plays a significant role in them.
Angry that legislators aren’t doing their job? Take it out at the ballot box.
TWO WATERVILLE second-graders at George J. Mitchell Elementary School were recognized Wednesday for their efforts to help the school’s first-year food pantry.
The girls, Alice Willette and Gabbie St. Peter, both 8, spearheaded a campaign that ended up raising more than $17,000 for the pantry at the school, where 68 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
The students were honored the same day that an Aroostook County resident testified in Washington at a hearing on elderly poverty. Dixie Shaw, program director for a Caribou-based hunger program, told a Senate committee about the food insecurity issues facing rural Maine seniors.
Inexcusably, hunger is an issue for Americans in all age groups. To solve this crisis, it’s going to take efforts stretching from the highest levels of government — by increasing access to programs like food stamps — all the way down to each community, such as the commendable work done by the two Waterville students.