THUMBS DOWN to reports of vandalism in downtown Waterville.

Security camera footage from inside the Holy Cannoli bakery and restaurant showed an unknown person nonchalantly kicking out a plate glass window at the Main Street restaurant early Sunday morning.

Holy Cannoli owner Candace Savinelli brought the issue to the City Council on Tuesday, telling councilors that she knows about 32 smashed windows at 15 downtown businesses in recent years. She is asking the city to provide more police coverage in the area by hiring another officer.

At the meeting, police Chief Joseph Massey said it is hard to say how many acts of vandalism the police have prevented through patrols, and that officers catch “about three out of five” perpetrators of vandalism, using what he called “innovative strategies.”

That may not be enough. The city is in the process of building its downtown, and acts of vandalism are discouraging to the people trying to grow businesses there. They also present a poor image to visitors and others who come through downtown.

The city’s resources are limited, however, so city officials, law enforcement and downtown business owners have to work together to find a solution. Perhaps an additional officer is needed, or a different approach to patrolling is required, in order to handle what Massey says is the problem: bar patrons leaving downtown drinking establishments late at night. Perhaps security cameras are a low-cost solution. In any case, the city has to make clear that keeping downtown clean and safe is a priority.

THUMBS UP to an innovative program being used in San Francisco to increase parental involvement in school work and activities.

The authors of a recent paper sent text messages to parents of preschoolers containing parenting tips, facts and reminders, as a way to spur interaction and engagement at home.

The parents receiving the texts spent more time taking part in learning-oriented activities, and the kids themselves scored higher on literacy tests.

Kids often arrive at Maine schools behind where they should be educationally. The problem gets more acute the poorer and more inexperienced the parents are. And study upon study have shown the impact of parental involvement and home learning on literacy.

Parenting classes, however, can be expensive and time-consuming. A text-based system could be a cheap and easy way to provide that help — the program reportedly costs about $1 per family for the year.

The program is in early development, but it may hold some answers for Maine.

THUMBS DOWN to the U.S. Senate for failing to move forward with the USA Freedom Act this week.

The Senate on Tuesday voted 58-42 to advance the bill to an up-or-down vote. The bill needed to 60 votes to move forward.

The bill would have at least reduced the collection of bulk telephone records, and it would have created a panel to advocate for privacy rights in front of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

More is needed to curtail the surveillance of law-abiding Americans. But the USA Freedom Act was a good start, and the Senate missed an opportunity.


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