Opinion – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel https://www.centralmaine.com Features news from the Kennebec Journal of Augusta, Maine and Morning Sentinel of Waterville, Maine. Wed, 23 May 2018 10:33:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 Our View: Erasing student hunger will take more than donations https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/our-view-erasing-student-hunger-will-take-more-than-donations/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/our-view-erasing-student-hunger-will-take-more-than-donations/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 08:10:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=851250 In an act of enormous generosity, an anonymous donor gave the Westbrook School Department $10,000 to pay down debt accumulated this year in student lunch accounts.

But what about next year? And what about students at schools without such a benefactor? School lunch debt is a sign that at least some families cannot afford the meals their children need — and to erase it schools must do more than rely on donations.

Westbrook is hardly alone in this predicament. The state Department of Education says there is more than $350,000 in overdrawn student accounts across the state. Nationwide, some large districts list debt in the millions of dollars. When that happens, school districts are pressed between their duty to taxpayers and their desire to help their students be full and ready to learn.

Schools typically send notes home to parents with overdrawn accounts asking them to settle up. But when those go unanswered, schools diverge on tactics. In some cases, schools were cutting off even the youngest students, forcing them to dump their lunches if they got to the head of the line and didn’t have anything in their account. At other schools, hot lunches were switched out for bread-and-cheese sandwiches when kids couldn’t pay.

These acts of “food shaming” raised alarms and led to bills banning the practice in a number of states; one such bill passed the Legislature but has not been funded.

Such legislation keeps food on schoolchildren’s plates — and that should be the ultimate goal. But it may be looking at the issue from the wrong end.

Faced with hungry students — and mounting debt — school districts in Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, and New York City, among others, chose to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students using a federal program available to schools with a high number of students in poverty. That all but guarantees that even the poorest students will have two good meals a day.

It also cuts out the administrative costs and extra paperwork that go along with a student-account system, and contribute to some of the problems. In many cases, because of paperwork problems, overwhelmed parents, and the stigma surrounding free lunch, students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch never apply, which increases the cost for those students, and leads to more debt. In Maine, according to a 2015 legislative report, only 61 percent of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch are participating.

Unfortunately, very few Maine schools have opted for the federal program, despite the many that qualify, and the success of those who have tried it.

School districts that are not taking advantage of this program should be, just as they should be establishing breakfast and summer meal programs. Taxpayers should be pushing school officials on these same matters, because it helps students achieve, and because is the right thing to do.

It is a shame that so many kids go to school hungry. But knowing that, a strong community doesn’t look the other way.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/our-view-erasing-student-hunger-will-take-more-than-donations/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/1384082_932090-SchoolLunch.jpgStaff photo by Jim Evans A student lunch at Cony High School costs $2.Tue, 22 May 2018 15:42:45 +0000
George Smith: The good thing about ALS https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/george-smith-the-good-thing-about-als/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/george-smith-the-good-thing-about-als/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=851235 I know it sounds odd, but a lot of good things are happening because I have ALS. And as the illness progresses, I am deeply grateful for the good things that are happening.

Friends hosted a “Roast and Toast George Smith” event one evening at the Senator. Lots of funny stories were told, and friends came from all over the state, some of whom I hadn’t seen in many years.

Two days later Linda and I were invited to the Maine Senate where, shortly after the morning session opened, about a dozen senators got up and said nice things about me. I joked later that it took me 40 years of lobbying there, but finally they said something nice about me. Honestly, the speeches were generous, taking me back through some great experiences.

Two weeks ago our children and grandchildren hosted a long weekend in a Lafayette Ocean Resorts oceanside cabin in Wells. Wonderful doesn’t begin to describe it. I especially loved son Josh’s story of how, just before he and our 3 year-old granddaughter headed to Maine so we could host a 4th birthday party for her in April, Ada said, “Dad, you know your dad is a real jokester! Be careful.” Boy, she got that right.

We’re trying to spend lots of time with our four grandchildren. The boys, who live in Union, are very active, especially in sports, so we mostly see them at games. I’m leaning heavily on them, however, to do some fishing this summer with Grampy.

We’re working to shore up our home. All Season Roofing of Augusta did a superb job of putting a new roof on our house, and Goodwin Well & Water of North Turner cleaned the critters out of our well that had, for a couple months, fouled our well water. We toasted them with glasses of wonderfully clean well water.

We’re also lucky to live in a very caring community where lots of help and support is available. Our church friends are also eager to help us.

I’ve been doing lots of research on adaptive equipment, vans, and other needs and issues. ALS is an expensive illness, but there is a great array of nonprofits who are helping ALS patients. The best has been the ALS Association’s Northern New England Chapter. Nell Davies, who was a huge help initially as the group’s Maine staffer, has now retired, but they’ve hired another wonderful and very experienced replacement, Laurie McFarren, who quickly stepped up to give us lots of advice, information, and help.

For example, the association maintains a storage unit in Brunswick full of things to loan ALS patients. Laurie supplied us with two wheelchairs, one of which is very light, and both of which fold up for transport as we travel. And yes, Linda and I still hope to travel — but we’ll do it right here in Maine, enjoying our favorite places, including Monhegan and Lubec.

The ALS Association is leading the fight to treat and cure ALS through global research and nationwide advocacy. I’ve been inspired by the wonderful people working for this organization and decided to help them raise money. The ALS Association’s two major fundraisers in Maine are walks in Bangor and Portland.

This year the Bangor walk is scheduled on the morning of Aug. 25 and the Portland walk on the morning of Sept. 8. My sister Edie, who works for Sen. Angus King, will chair the Bangor walk.

I am hoping you will participate in one of the walks. You can get more information and register for the Bangor walk at www.web.alsa.org/Bangor2018 and for the Portland walk at www.web.alsa.org/Portland. If you’d consider being a sponsor, let me know and I’ll send you information about that.

I was especially pleased when Martin’s Point, my insurer, agreed to be a sponsor, as did the Portland Press Herald, which will give the walks lots of publicity. Other sponsors include Moody’s Collision Center and Poland Spring, which will supply water for all walkers.

As my illness progresses, with plenty of difficulties ahead, all of these good things are especially important to both me and Linda. I hope to see you at one of the walks.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon, ME 04352, or georgesmithmaine@gmail.com. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/george-smith-the-good-thing-about-als/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/1379274_616500-20180509_GeorgeSm3.jpgGeorge Smith casts his line while fishing with his friend Ed Pineau on Webber Pond in Vassalboro last Wednesday. Smith, a longtime Kennebec Journal columnist and former director of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, was diagnosed with ALS about a year ago.Tue, 22 May 2018 15:32:17 +0000
Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/todays-editorial-cartoon-1637/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/todays-editorial-cartoon-1637/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=851233 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/todays-editorial-cartoon-1637/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/851233_846873-5-22-Justice-Departm.jpgTue, 22 May 2018 15:27:34 +0000 View from Away: Trump must fulfill pledge to put the brakes on runaway drug pricing https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/view-from-away-trump-must-fulfill-pledge-to-put-the-brakes-on-runaway-drug-pricing/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/view-from-away-trump-must-fulfill-pledge-to-put-the-brakes-on-runaway-drug-pricing/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=851232 The latest example of runaway drug pricing has pitted the industrial town of Rockford, Ill., against specialty drug manufacturer Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, which runs its U.S. business from Hazelwood. Rockford, with fewer than 150,000 residents, accuses Mallinckrodt of price gouging and another local company, Express Scripts, of failing to fairly negotiate drug prices.

No matter what justification drug companies offer for their outlandish pricing structures, there’s no escaping the higher priority they place on profits over saving lives and easing human suffering.

Rockford sued both companies last year after finding it paid nearly $500,000 in 2015 for drugs to treat two babies with infantile spasms, a rare disorder. City authorities discovered they were paying about $40,000 a dose for medication that cost $40 in 2001. Rockford pays for health care for about 1,000 employees and dependents.

Mallinckrodt says that it modestly raised the price of the drug, H.P. Acthar, since acquiring it in 2014 when it bought Questcor Pharmaceuticals for $5.6 billion. Questcor was criticized for raising the price to more than $28,000 a vial over a decade.

Like companies accused earlier of price gouging for EpiPens, anti-parasite pills and medication to treat life-threatening cases of lead poisoning, Mallinckrodt has monopoly control of Acthar. That allows the company to wildly inflate the price.

Pharmaceutical price gouging is out of control, but Congress has refused to intervene with even modest pricing regulations.

President Donald Trump has flip-flopped on the issue. He promised during his campaign to call on Congress to allow Medicare to use its substantial power in the marketplace to negotiate lower drug prices. Now he is backing off. Medicare must be granted authority to protect American taxpayers by striking deals with drugmakers.

Mallinckrodt has been in trouble over Acthar before. It agreed to pay $100 million and reduce its monopoly control of the medication to settle a Federal Trade Commission antitrust violation charge in January.

Acthar, derived from the pituitary glands of slaughtered pigs, was developed in 1952. It is classified as an “orphan drug,” for use in diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 people. Developed to treat the rare disease of infantile spasms, it was approved under looser standards for other conditions. Mallinckrodt exploited that potential, dramatically expanding the market among seniors.

Medicare spent over half a billion dollars on Acthar in 2015, although critics say cheaper alternatives exist for older adults. Express Scripts is the pharmacy benefit manager that negotiated prices for Rockford. The city contends Express Scripts didn’t negotiate downward for Rockford because it was under contract as the exclusive distributor of Acthar.

Former Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey says health care is so expensive “because the fix is in.” Congress and Trump need to find a cure for that.

Editorial by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/23/view-from-away-trump-must-fulfill-pledge-to-put-the-brakes-on-runaway-drug-pricing/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/1379263_Trump_53417-1.jpg-3139b2-1.jpgPresident Trump speaks during an event about prescription drug prices with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on Friday.Tue, 22 May 2018 15:30:08 +0000
Commentary: Mueller’s investigation isn’t going to ‘wrap up’ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/commentary-muellers-investigation-isnt-going-to-wrap-up/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/commentary-muellers-investigation-isnt-going-to-wrap-up/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850805 Last Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The milestone has emboldened White House critics of the probe to declare, as Vice President Mike Pence did on NBC News, that “it is time to wrap it up.”

Never mind that the Mueller investigation is, comparatively, in its infancy. The Whitewater probe of Bill and Hillary Clinton, for example, began in 1994 and ended more than six years later. Mueller’s 12 months of work has turned up more clear wrongdoing than Kenneth Starr ever did: There have been 20 indictments and five guilty pleas, including prominent senior members of the campaign and administration, and that doesn’t take into account the wealth of information that Mueller has yet to make public.

Some Republicans suggest that public opinion is shifting, that Trump’s refrain of “witch hunt” may be gaining purchase. As the president’s latest mouthpiece Rudolph W. Giuliani crowed, “We’ve gone from defense to offense.”

“Wrap it up” advocates can point to a slight uptick in Trump’s approval ratings, and a downtick in public support for the investigation. They seem to think that if Mueller doesn’t close up shop soon in response to political pressure, Trump’s position is strong enough that he could put an end to it, perhaps by firing the special counsel or the special counsel’s boss, Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, and weather any storm the move occasions.

They’re wrong. The probe isn’t going to end soon, simply or painlessly for this president. Trump remains in great peril.

Anyone paying attention over the last year knows Mueller will not yield to political pressure. His investigators haven’t leaked; they have ignored vicious personal attacks; they haven’t veered in the slightest from prosecutorial professionalism.

So to “wrap it up,” Trump would have to make a move, but will he?

The president and his lawyers are strategizing about whether he will agree to be interviewed by Mueller, either voluntarily or under subpoena. If he were to refuse, as the current swing of the pendulum suggests, and then try to end the probe, he would only seem more guilty and undermine his support even among Republicans. If his refusal were to lead, as expected, to a court battle, we would expect the Supreme Court to settle the issue. Any move by Trump to pre-empt it would again only undermine his credibility.

In addition, the president and his circle are well aware of how fast the midterm election is approaching and what effect an attempt to fire Mueller could have on the outcome. They want to avoid any action that would help the Democrats flip the House. Such a shift would change every calculation, not least because a Democratic majority could move to impeach the president early next year.

Of course, Trump may calculate that he could get away with firing Mueller now, if he moved quickly and the Republican leadership rallied to his side. But it is equally possible that Congress would respond with legislation to reinstate Mueller. Again, the field of battle would shift to the courts.

Most importantly, even a successful ouster of Mueller would not derail the investigation at this point. Too much evidence has been gathered, and too many prosecutors, who have surely considered and planned for the contingency, stand ready to carry on. Should Trump try to shutter the entire special counsel’s office, a much graver and politically and legally riskier act than firing Mueller or Rosenstein, other divisions in the Department of Justice, in particular the Southern District of New York, would also be ready to take up the charge.

The strength of all that evidence, the careful work done thus far, and the indictments already filed are the special counsel’s protection against “witch hunt” tweets and protestations that the investigation is already over with nothing to show for it.

In the course of the past year, we’ve learned not to underestimate what Mueller knows and what bombshell he may have prepared. It may involve the Russians and the campaign, it may involve obstruction of justice, but there are other relevant threads as well: the true motive behind the Seychelles meeting between Trump associate Erik Prince and the head of a Russian wealth fund, the hacking of Democratic Party emails and its links to Trump political advisor Roger Stone, the recent sale of Russia’s state owned oil company to Qatar.

Last week we discovered that Mueller was way ahead of us on the huge payments made to Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen for access to the president. We don’t yet know what he’s found out from cooperating witnesses, including Michael Flynn and Rick Gates, that might point directly at the president. And there is still the possibility that Paul Manafort or Cohen could decide to cooperate with the investigation.

None of these threads signals Trump’s removal from office. A conviction in the Senate, no matter what happens in the midterm, would require a good number of Republicans to turn against the president, which seems remote absent a smoking gun that proves grave criminal conduct. But it is more than plausible that the probe and associated investigations will result in additional indictments of Trump associates — including Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. — and will leave Trump seriously wounded, an untenable candidate in 2020. Once he leaves office, his legal exposure, both civil and criminal, would skyrocket.

The “wrap it up” crowd is indulging in wishful thinking. The first anniversary of the Mueller investigation is unlikely to be the last.

Harry Litman teaches constitutional law at the University of California San Diego. He is a former U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general.


©2018 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/commentary-muellers-investigation-isnt-going-to-wrap-up/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/02/1313586_587420-Mueller2.jpgSpecial Counsel Robert Mueller departs the Capitol after a closed-door meeting in June with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election and possible connection to the Trump campaign. (Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite)Mon, 21 May 2018 15:59:04 +0000
Golden looks out for environment https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/golden-looks-out-for-environment/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/golden-looks-out-for-environment/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850807 For the sake of my family and all Maine families, I’m supporting Jared Golden in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressinal District on Tuesday, June 12.

As a state representative, Jared worked hard on measures to reduce lead, championing a bill to fund lead abatement programs for families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them. Young children such as my great-grandson are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. Jared saw how badly this problem was affecting Lewiston-Auburn families and took action.

His record on the environment is stellar regarding other problems, too, from keeping litter off our streets to protecting firefighters from harmful chemicals, to supporting the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, to protecting Maine from damaging mining practices.

With Jared Golden, we have a chance to begin restoring essential environmental protection measures the present administration is undoing to benefit wealthy special interests. We need his vote in Congress to protect the future for our families.

William F. Reid Jr.


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/golden-looks-out-for-environment/feed/ 0 Mon, 21 May 2018 16:03:28 +0000
We must invest in early childhood https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/we-must-invest-in-early-childhood/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/we-must-invest-in-early-childhood/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850811 Your editorial of May 16 (“Our View: Help Maine’s ‘disconnected youth’ realize their potential”) and Joseph W. McDonnell’s Maine Compass of May 17 (“Maine’s workforce challenges call for bold public strategies”) point out a huge labor shortage problem. Suggested action will not make the desired change without addressing the inability of thousands of Maine’s young adults to take advantage of the opportunities suggested.

Without addressing why many young people fail to complete community college programs and other academic options, Maine will not achieve the desired result. Focusing on the end of the funnel (of education) continues ineffective long-term investment strategies in education.

We are the only industrialized country that invests more in the last four years of public education than the first four years. Improving standards (such as “Common Core”) will not address the deficits thousands of students carry beyond third grade. To be the successful student who will achieve the skills, abilities and attitudes necessary to a skilled and flexible worker, they must to be able to read; 67 percent of our fourth-graders don’t read proficiently.

As these students get passed from grade to grade without this most basic skill, it is no surprise that they leave high school without the expected skills and knowledge. What is surprising is that we continue the same practices and public policy decisions without serious reflection.

We cannot allow thousands of children to enter school with serious deficits and unprepared to learn. The best available scientific analysis suggests that ages 0 to 8 are critical to future success. Why then, do we not invest as the evidence suggests, when investment returns $7 for every dollar invested?

Remediation is not nearly as effective as prevention, has limited success and is more expensive.

Dean Crocker

Manchester, Maine and Estero, Florida

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/we-must-invest-in-early-childhood/feed/ 0 Mon, 21 May 2018 16:02:24 +0000
Scott Pruitt needs to resign https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/scott-pruitt-needs-to-resign/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/scott-pruitt-needs-to-resign/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850812 The American people and Mainers specifically deserve better than Scott Pruitt. Pruitt’s tenure as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator has been an unmitigated disaster for our people. He’s spent more than $150,000 of taxpayer dollars on luxury travel, exploited the Safe Drinking Water Act to give personal friends extraordinary raises, and secured a sweetheart deal to stay in a luxury D.C. condo co-owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist for $50 per night.

As though this isn’t bad enough, Pruitt’s been rolling back life-saving regulations to benefit his dirty energy benefactors. And while his political defenders may boast about his “effectiveness,” the reality is that our courts have handed him several embarrassing defeats and restrained his efforts to allow more pollution in our air and water.

For a party based on their belief in fiscal conservancy such as the Republicans, this cannot go unnoticed or unpunished. Pruitt’s actions are in direct contradiction with what the EPA stands for. Americans have been lied to and Scott Pruitt needs to resign so that we can have a competent EPA leader who takes a stand for Maine’s all important wilderness and eco-tourism.

Neshamah Stearns


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/scott-pruitt-needs-to-resign/feed/ 0 Mon, 21 May 2018 16:04:44 +0000
Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/todays-editorial-cartoon-1636/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/todays-editorial-cartoon-1636/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850803 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/todays-editorial-cartoon-1636/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/850803_846873-5-21-Not-Again-Again.jpgMon, 21 May 2018 15:56:02 +0000 Our View: ‘Gag rule’ would hurt poor women’s health care https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/our-view-gag-rule-would-hurt-poor-womens-health-care/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/our-view-gag-rule-would-hurt-poor-womens-health-care/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850931 There is a word that the Trump administration won’t let doctors say. It is “abortion.”

The procedure is still legal, still protected by the Constitution. The Supreme Court said that women have the right to choose to end a pregnancy and doctors are not prevented from performing abortions, which they do safely and humanely.

But the government has found ways to get between poor women and their doctors. This will be taken to a new level by a proposed rule that can be imposed without involving Congress.

It’s called the “gag rule,” and it is a backhanded attempt to deny federal reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for a range of women’s health and family planning (not including abortion). It wouldn’t just hurt the 100-year-old organization, however, but also would interfere with poor women getting the best medical advice available.

The new rule will be popular with abortion opponents, but it should outrage members of the medical community, who will see political maneuvering and religious belief take precedence over sound medical science and the doctor-patient relationship.

If the gag rule isn’t reversed, we could live in a country where abortion is legal but available only to people with money. That’s already the direction in which we are moving.

Thanks to a decades-old policy known as the Hyde Amendment, a doctor cannot be paid with federal money for terminating a pregnancy. Under the gag rule, doctors won’t be able to receive government reimbursement for any family planning services at all if they tell a patient that abortion is one of the options available to her.

Even if they don’t perform the procedure — even if they only refer a patient who wants an abortion to another clinic — all of the federal money dedicated to family planning services would be yanked. Planned Parenthood’s clinics would lose all of their family planning reimbursements because the organization also provides abortions, which are paid for with nongovernment funds.

There are people in the administration who would outlaw abortion if they had the votes needed to amend the Constitution. But since they don’t, they are using federal health care financing to weaken Planned Parenthood’s advocacy for women’s reproductive rights, and to intimidate doctors and other health care providers.

It’s no time to be silent. If we don’t want to be gagged, we should all speak up.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/our-view-gag-rule-would-hurt-poor-womens-health-care/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/01/1145003_663541_20150929_plannedpa_2-2.jpgEliza Townsend of the Maine Woman's Lobby finishes speaking at a rally for Planned Parenthood in Monument Square in September. Republicans are seeking to fold defunding Planned Parenthood into repeal of the ACA.Tue, 22 May 2018 10:45:23 +0000
View from Away: Federal sugar program is no treat https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/view-from-away-federal-sugar-program-is-no-treat/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/22/view-from-away-federal-sugar-program-is-no-treat/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850806 The federal sugar program is one of those strange Washington creations that has survived long after its gross defects became common knowledge to anyone paying attention. The complex scheme has a simple purpose: keeping American sugar prices high by restricting production and blocking imports. And it works brilliantly — in that the price of sugar in this country generally runs about double the world price.

This achievement is a boon if, say, you grow or process sugar cane or sugar beets. But if you buy, use or eat sugar, as most everyone does, it’s hard to swallow. Plenty of companies that make candy and other sweetened products have moved their operations to countries where sugar is available at a more reasonable cost.

In 2003, Chicago lost a Brach’s factory, with much of the work being moved to Mexico. Kraft closed a Life Savers plant in Holland, Mich., and shifted production to Canada.

John Brooks, president of a Los Angeles candy company that opened a factory in Tijuana, explained his options to The New York Times: “You move or you go out of business.” The Commerce Department has estimated that those high U.S. prices destroy three times more jobs than they preserve.

The Canadian Sugar Institute, whose members profit from the rigged system here, notes that its industry operates “under an open market policy, based on the principles of free trade. By aligning sugar prices closely with world market raw sugar prices, Canadian refiners have been able to market refined sugar at prices below those of almost all other industrial nations.”

Why haven’t we tried that? Plenty of agricultural commodities, after all, are grown without these elaborate government controls. But a small, well-organized special interest group has persuaded Congress to preserve a system that disables the free market in favor of letting bureaucrats and politicians determine prices and production. The government even decides how much of the supply will come from beets and how much from cane. A Soviet central planner would feel right at home.

Congress has the chance to reform or abolish the sugar program as it considers the 2018 farm bill. An attempt four years ago narrowly failed, and supporters of the status quo are gearing up to keep what they’ve got.

But if our lawmakers leave the sugar program intact, they will be punishing consumers and companies that use sugar, inflicting economic costs that greatly exceed the benefits. It’s enough to make your teeth ache.

Editorial by the Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Our View: The cost of having children is simply too high https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/our-view-the-cost-of-having-children-is-simply-too-high/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/our-view-the-cost-of-having-children-is-simply-too-high/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 08:10:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849838 The U.S. last year posted its lowest fertility rate on record and the fewest number of births in 20 years. Whether that is no more than a statistical blip depends, like so much else, on the actions of the millenial generation — and given how we treat early childhood in this country, who can blame them if they hold back on becoming parents?

There were 3.85 million births in 2017, 2 percent fewer than 2016. That’s nearly 500,000 fewer newborns than 2007, even though there were 7 percent more women in the prime child-bearing years of ages 20-39. That puts the fertility rate at a record-low 60.2 births per 1,000 women, taking the U.S. further away from the level necessary to replace one generation with the next.

It may be that the members of this generation are putting off marriage, so kids will come later. Perhaps they are waiting until they are on firmer financial footing, or until they are finished education or have established their career. Perhaps it is all just a delay that over time will work itself out.

Or maybe millenials, already saddled with student loan debt and unaffordable housing, look at the high cost of child care and the burden placed on parents of newborns, and figure they just can’t pull if off.

The U.S. is the only developed country without a statutory right of paid maternity leave. Instead, federal law guarantees only 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees of companies with more than 50 employees. (Maine law lowers the threshold to 15 employees.)

Because few low- and even middle-income Americans can afford to take three months off without pay, mothers — and fathers, since paternal leave is virtually non-existent — must hurry back to work, missing key bonding time beneficial for both baby and parents. (Studies and experience have shown that employers also benefit from leave policies.)

Then, once back at work, new parents must pay for child care, another increasingly high hurdle.

In Maine, the annual cost of child care for an infant is slightly more than in-state college tuition, and nearly 17 percent of median family income, when anything more than 10 is considered unaffordable. For single parents, child care can account for more than 30 percent of income. In many cases, these families are already paying 40 or 50 percent of their pay toward housing.

So perhaps there is just a generational shift going on, and when all is said and done we’ll have enough births to replace our aging workforce and generate revenue. Or perhaps millenials, facing financial strains like no generation before it, are simply making a practical choice.

We shouldn’t wait to find out. Even if the incredible strain on new parents isn’t causing many to forgo parenthood, better leave and child care policies will strengthen families, produce healthier children, and provide businesses with better workers.

At the federal level, the PACE Act, sponsored by Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, and Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, would expand tax credits for child care and make them refundable, helping lower-income parents.

In Maine, a bill from Democratic Rep. Erin Herbig of Belfast and Republican Sen. Amy Volk of Scarborough would study an employer-funded paid leave program.

The cost of becoming a parent has been increasing for decades, and it’s those kind of actions that would reverse a trend that is hurting families.

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Cynthia M. Allen: Graduates take note: there are good jobs without college degrees https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/cynthia-m-allen-graduates-take-note-there-are-good-jobs-without-college-degrees/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/cynthia-m-allen-graduates-take-note-there-are-good-jobs-without-college-degrees/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849837 It’s that time of year.

Hundreds of thousands of mostly young people are on the cusp of graduation. In a few weeks time, they will flip their tassels and eagerly accept that thin, and very expensive, piece of paper that declares them knowledgeable about something and hopefully hirable.

For certain young people, completing college is an unprecedented achievement. Some of today’s graduates will be the first in their families to earn four-year degrees. But for so many others, attending college is not a choice or a decision, but an expectation.

“Go to college. Get a bachelor’s degree,” that’s the refrain that rings in the heads of high school students all over the country. And just over a third do. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 33.4 percent of Americans 25 or older said they had completed at least a bachelor’s degree — the highest percentage ever reported.

For many reasons, that may be viewed as a good thing.

Plenty of people who attend college reap its benefits over the years, enjoying higher salaries and increased job opportunities. Higher education can open doors, especially for those with limited resources.

But getting a degree isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Graduates frequently labor under crippling student debt that they’ll spend decades repaying. And some — particularly more recent college graduates — struggle to find employment that matches their skill-sets.

A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute found that while the underemployment rate for young college graduates has recovered from it recession-level peak, 11 percent still find themselves either without work or working less than they’d like to be. And while wages for college grads have been steadily increasingly for several years, they’re still well below wages during the last economic boom.

Part of the problem is that for many young people college is something they’re simply supposed to do, and they make the decision — and a sizable financial investment — to attend college without considering what other stable, lucrative and plentiful opportunities await them.

Indeed, there are some 30 million jobs in the U.S. that pay an average of $55,000 per year and don’t require a bachelor’s degree, says the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. That includes more than 2.5 million such jobs in the state of Texas.

Texas has not only avoided the loss of many blue-collar jobs but has enjoyed a significant increase in good jobs in skilled-services industries, including manufacturing, construction, health services and financial activities. These types of high-paying skilled jobs — that don’t require a B.A. — pay a median income of $57,000 in 2015 and have grown by 124 percent between 1991 and 2015.

That should help dispel the myth that the only path to financial stability is through a college campus and encourage more ambitious high school students to consider options other than the typical four-year college track.

In Texas, that doesn’t seem to be. Skilled positions and trades professions are suffering from a dearth of available labor. “We are 20,000 construction workers short in DFW despite wages rising 35 percent for most needed trades,” Phil Crone, head of the Dallas Builders Association, told the Dallas Morning News in January. The average construction workers are in their 40s, and recruiting young people to join the industry has been a challenge.

The middle-skills jobs gap bleeds into the healthcare and information technology industries, as well, where well-paying jobs critical to the local economy often sit vacant.

Of course, finding a job in the trades does not mean that education ends with high school. Most workers need additional training, certification, even an associate’s degree to pursue a skilled profession. But community colleges and vocational schools come at a fraction of the cost of four-year universities and often offer grants and financial assistance as incentives.

And the return in good wages is often swifter than for those who pursue undergraduate degrees.

For a lot of young people there’s a stigma to working as a skilled laborer and the misconception that it doesn’t pay very well. That’s unfortunate and also wrong.

High school students take note: right now, there may not be a better opportunity than a trade for a young person to get ahead early in life.

Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Readers may send her email at: cmallen@star-telegram.com


©2018 Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Visit Fort Worth Star-Telegram at www.star-telegram.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/cynthia-m-allen-graduates-take-note-there-are-good-jobs-without-college-degrees/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/05/723135_738826-20170521-colby-7.jpgColby College graduates toss their mortarboard caps into the air at the conclusion of the 196th commencement in Waterville on Sunday. Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden Jr. gave the commencement address and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.Fri, 18 May 2018 16:00:42 +0000
Remember sacrifice of officers, families https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/remember-sacrifice-of-officers-families/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/remember-sacrifice-of-officers-families/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849841 The Maine Chiefs of Police Association hosted the annual service at the Maine Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in Augusta on May 17 (“Hundreds come to Augusta to honor fallen officers, including 2 who died in last year”). The memorial recognizes officers who have fallen in the line of duty in Maine.

In our country, an average of more than one officer dies while serving their communities each week. This is a reality that has become all too real in our state, as we have lost two brave officers in the line of duty in the last 11 months.

At the service, my friend Nathan Desjardins became the 85th name to be etched into the memorial. At only 20 years of age, he passed away on June 6, 2017, as a result of injuries he sustained while working on a search-and-rescue operation for the Fryeburg Police Department.

Next year, Cpl. Eugene Cole, who was killed last month, will become the 86th name to be added to the memorial.

As our state mourns these losses, we must always remember not only the officers but also the loving and supportive families who were left behind, and forever be grateful for the sacrifices these families have made to ensure our safety.

Sen. Scott Cyrway


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Fix what is wrong, bolster what is right https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/fix-what-is-wrong-bolster-what-is-right/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/fix-what-is-wrong-bolster-what-is-right/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849842 Republicans hold majorities and have shown that they choose not to lead us but only to get their way, or whatever the Heritage Foundation tells them is best. Conservative values are commendable, yet they would rather line their pockets and kick the can down the road instead of paying down our debt and distributing benefits fairly. Democrats have not performed much better. We need strong centrist philosophy that draws upon both sides of the canyon. Fix what is wrong and bolster what is right.

I cannot vote for politicians who side with a self-righteous party that does not represent people but prefers to represent corporations, wealthy donors and whatever protects their wealth and control. The Grand Old Party has become a greedy, sanctimonious organization that perpetuates the divisiveness that envelopes our country today. Isolationism, protectionism and self-serving nationalism will divide us further. Attitudes like “I know better than you,” “I have more money” and “might versus right” just don’t work.

Everyone should vote. Say no to career millionaire politicians who do not care about their constituents. Voting for good character may be a smarter way to go. President Donald Trump’s gutter language, vile narcissism and autocratic idealism may lead us to the cliff, with no other plan but to jump into chaos. The military industrial complex would be quite gleeful.

Hopeful America will not be conned again and we can regain a sense of decency and core values, and a much better code of conduct. Trump gets an “F” thus far, with 3,000-plus lies told, a tax plan for the wealthy, healthcare inequality, unnecessary trade wars and allowing unregulated corporations to destroy our planet. Most concerning is the degradation of our national security because too many voted for an unstable egomaniac.

We are in dire need of qualified leadership before our country is ripped apart.

Dennis St. Jean


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/fix-what-is-wrong-bolster-what-is-right/feed/ 0 Fri, 18 May 2018 15:53:09 +0000
Mills should be next governor https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/mills-should-be-next-governor/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/mills-should-be-next-governor/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849843 Janet Mills is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known — and absolutely the best person to be Maine’s next governor.

As one of her former assistant district attorneys, I witnessed firsthand her great abilities. This included being responsible for three budgets, working with three sets of county commissioners, organizing and presenting cases on behalf of the victims of domestic violence, and supervising a multi-jurisdictional staff of professionals. Throughout she always had time for others.

She knows how to get things done. She has always cared passionately about the people of Maine. Let’s make Janet Mills our next governor.

Mary Flint

Sun City West, Arizona

(formerly of Farmington)

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Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/todays-editorial-cartoon-1635/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/todays-editorial-cartoon-1635/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849771 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/todays-editorial-cartoon-1635/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/849771_846873-5-18-Sports-Gambling.jpgFri, 18 May 2018 15:09:20 +0000 Chamber CEO: Portland mayor’s divisive politics bode ill for businesses https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/chamber-chamber-ceo-portland-mayors-divisive-politics-bode-ill-for-businesses/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/chamber-chamber-ceo-portland-mayors-divisive-politics-bode-ill-for-businesses/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850538 Portland’s small businesses are the backbone of this community, yet Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling has been waging a war of division that will hurt these businesses and their employees.

From restaurants to retail shops to tradespeople, our city’s unique and growing local businesses have made Portland a destination city that keeps getting better. Our businesses are integral to all facets of our community. Members sit on school boards, volunteer, engage in city government and are always on the front lines helping our neighbors in need. And, above all else, Portland’s small businesses provide economic advancement and employment opportunities. That’s why recent efforts by Mayor Strimling to draw division between the business community and the rest of our city is so disconcerting.

Several weeks ago, the mayor proposed a far-reaching mandate on all Portland businesses that would put them at a distinct competitive disadvantage. Without any evidence of a problem unique to Portland, Mayor Strimling is attempting to force Portland’s small businesses – uniquely in the state of Maine – to provide paid time off to all workers. The proposal would apply to both for-profit and not-for-profit businesses and would require such businesses to provide paid time off to workers the moment they are hired – in many cases, without the need for a doctor’s note. The proposal covers not only full-time workers, but also part-time and seasonal employees.

This proposal represents a substantial increase in labor cost to our small businesses, and it will create a web of unintended consequences that will ultimately hurt both employers and employees. From the cost of revamped payroll systems to the difficulty of managing scheduling when workers ask for time off with little notice or without a doctor’s note, this proposal would force many businesses – including businesses within our burgeoning restaurant and hospitality industry – to raise their prices or reduce their staff, according to a 2016 Employment Policies Institute study of the impact of Connecticut’s first-in-the-nation paid sick leave mandate. Some companies may even have to close altogether.

The mayor’s divisive approach was on full display at the first hearing on his proposal. He and his allies held a rally on the sick leave policy in front of City Hall where speakers used intimidation tactics to suppress public input by threatening boycotts against any business owner who spoke out against the mayor’s harmful mandate.

All of this occurred before the first public hearing on this issue – before anyone had the chance to ask questions, share concerns or propose alternatives.

This is not the type of leadership Portland needs from our mayor, and it’s not the way to make good policy.

Unfortunately, the sick leave policy was not the only recent example of divisive politics by the mayor. More recently, Mayor Strimling created division by proposing more than $1 million in fees targeted at Portland businesses, further dividing the community. After the City Council’s Finance Committee spent weeks deliberating the proposed city budget, the mayor – on his own – brought forward a number of amendments that would increase fees on Portland businesses, including increases in fees on rental units, increases in property taxes for businesses and increases in permitting and licensing fees.

Through his actions, Mayor Strimling has shown little respect for the critical role our businesses play in the growth and prosperity of our city. His proposals would leave Portland less prosperous and more divided.

The mayor himself made a great point recently, when he declared, “Our diversity is our strength, and our people stand strongly together as one community. It’s why we’re the envy of so many and a destination city for more and more families. We’re both the economic driver of our state and a beacon of hope for all Mainers – new and old.”

We agree wholeheartedly. But we’re afraid the mayor’s divisive approach fails to fulfill the spirit of his statement.

Portland is an amazing place to live and to work. And our future is bright. But we can’t prosper if our businesses are burdened to the point of collapse or relocation. And we can’t stand strong together as one community when the mayor himself is provoking division.

Portland deserves strong, unifying leadership. We urge Mayor Strimling to step into the arena of productive discourse and help us move this city forward – united, not divided.


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/chamber-chamber-ceo-portland-mayors-divisive-politics-bode-ill-for-businesses/feed/ 0 Mon, 21 May 2018 08:06:19 +0000
View from Away: The Kansas chemist and the shooting suspect highlight what’s wrong with immigration policy https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/view-from-away-the-kansas-chemist-and-the-shooting-suspect-highlight-whats-wrong-with-immigration-policy/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/view-from-away-the-kansas-chemist-and-the-shooting-suspect-highlight-whats-wrong-with-immigration-policy/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849840 This is the undocumented immigrant our nation should welcome: the Lawrence chemist whom immigration officials attempted to deport this year, much to the dismay of his family, neighbors and even strangers who came to know the story of Syed Jamal.

This immigrant’s presence should be questioned: a man who was deported multiple times and who kept reentering the country. He now stands accused of randomly shooting two people in Kansas City’s Northland, and he has emerged as the possible culprit in the shooting death of tattoo artist Russell Fisk.

Understanding the difference is key to improving immigration policy and enforcement of immigration laws. But our current immigration debate is muddied by offensive words such as those used by President Donald Trump on Wednesday, when he spoke of some undocumented immigrants saying, “these aren’t people, they are animals.”

Arnoldo Pompa-Rascon, charged with the shootings last Friday, is most certainly a person. He also may be mentally ill, telling police that voices told him to shoot people. He expressed a belief that the gun, which he admitted stealing, could magically know the difference between good and bad people.

Juxtaposed, the immigration histories of Jamal and Pompa-Rascon illustrate one of the major problems with current immigration policies. Priorities are wrongheaded.

Ratcheting up the numbers of immigrants being deported is now the goal. That’s how people like Jamal are ensnared. The previous administration’s order to optimize immigration officials’ effectiveness with a tighter focus on undocumented immigrants who are a danger to society has been cast aside.

A fair question to ask concerns the money spent on jailing Jamal for two months, flying him partway to Hawaii en route to his native Bangladesh and then back to Kansas City. What if those funds had instead been spent focusing on immigrants such as Pompa-Rascon? There are fewer like him.

Some context: Our five-county area was home to 135,000 foreign-born people in 2015, according to the Migration Policy Institute. That’s 7 percent of the population. More than 70 percent are naturalized U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents or legally present by other visa status. And among those who are not, a far smaller share have violent criminal histories, for which they’d serve time and then face deportation. Those offenders ought to be the priority.

The president used rather pedestrian language, but he wasn’t completely wrong this week to assert that the nation has some of “the dumbest laws on immigration in the world.”

Problem is, he’s the architect of the present policies.

Editorial by The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/21/view-from-away-the-kansas-chemist-and-the-shooting-suspect-highlight-whats-wrong-with-immigration-policy/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/1382215_nkorea-1stld-writethru-8d6dce90-5a25-11e8-8836-a4a123c359ab.jpgPresident Trump is scheduled to hold a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Jabin BotsfordFri, 18 May 2018 15:59:42 +0000
Our View: Congress should start over with a better Farm Bill https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/our-view-congress-should-start-over-with-a-better-farm-bill/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/our-view-congress-should-start-over-with-a-better-farm-bill/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:10:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850125 You might expect that government policy on food production would reflect how much we have learned about the relationship between food and health.

But a look at the Farm Bill that was debated last week in the U.S. House of Representatives will set you straight.

Instead of putting billions of dollars worth of scientific research to work to make Americans healthier and farms more productive, the latest version of the once-every-five-years spending plan would have doubled down on subsidizing big business while cutting back on nutrition assistance for people in need.

If the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill were to become law, a handful of industry giants would get help from the government to produce food that’s bad for consumers and the environment while the most vulnerable members of our society would go hungry. And small farmers, like most of those in Maine, would continue to struggle, navigating a system that’s rigged against them.

“Young kids need good food to eat,” said Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree, a critic of the Farm Bill drafted by Republicans. “How can we be a humane nation if we don’t recognize that?”

The evidence for aligning agriculture policy with public health goals gets stronger every year.

High blood pressure, heart disease, some cancers and diabetes are all killers that can be prevented or controlled by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. A national epidemic of obesity, especially among children, has been attributed to cheap and plentiful junk food, high in saturated fats and carbohydrates, like those found in sugary soft drinks.

Children who do not get enough of the right foods to eat before the age of 3 are more likely to repeat a grade in school, experience learning disabilities or get in trouble.

So what does the Farm Bill subsidize? Commodity crops like soy and corn, used mostly for sweeteners, animal feed and ethanol.

Only a small slice of the $280 billion budget goes to help produce “specialty crops,” which are most fruits and vegetables — exactly the kinds of foods that government scientists advise us to eat more of.

The bill is most wrongheaded when it comes to its biggest-ticket item, which is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

The drafters of the bill propose extending work requirements now imposed on childless adults under age 50 to parents and older recipients. The Congressional Budget Office predicts that it would require the government to set up a complex bureaucracy to enforce the new rules and would cut millions of eligible recipients from the program because adding red tape predictably puts help out of reach for some who need it.

The requirements are unnecessary because most people who get help through SNAP are in families with at least one member who has a job. Thousands of SNAP recipients are active-duty members of the U.S. military, whose pay is so low they can’t afford to buy food.

SNAP is not a disincentive to work — it’s a vital support for people who can’t get enough hours to make ends meet. In Maine, it’s most used by people in rural areas, like Washington County, where nearly a quarter of residents are eligible, and there is not the range of employment options that exists in metropolitan areas. Depriving people of nutritious food won’t make them more employable, but it very well could make them sick.

Fortunately, the House bill collapsed on Friday. Congress has a chance to start over.

A Farm Bill that feeds the hungry, cuts subsidies for unhealthy products, increases support for healthy foods and helps family farmers work their land would go a long way to make us a healthier nation.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/our-view-congress-should-start-over-with-a-better-farm-bill/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/850125_616553_20140826_mill_park_2.jpgIt's a good thing the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill collapsed Friday. Only a small slice of its $280 billion budget was earmarked to help produce "specialty crops" – which are most fruits and vegetables.Sat, 19 May 2018 08:00:22 +0000
Jim Fossel: Maine again unable to seize opportunity https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/maine-again-unable-to-seize-opportunity/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/maine-again-unable-to-seize-opportunity/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850124 The U.S. Supreme Court threw open a door last week for a brand-new industry in Maine – and every other state – by overturning the federal law that confined sports betting to the state of Nevada.

Now any state can legalize it, and many are already in the process of doing so: New Jersey, the plaintiff in the successful lawsuit, hopes to allow sports betting within a few weeks. Sadly, Maine is not in that position: we’re well behind the eight ball on moving forward with any kind of law to allow sports betting. Indeed, Maine isn’t even at the pool table as far as this issue goes.

If you’ve followed the saga in the Legislature as they tried to pass laws to implement voter referendums on everything from legalizing marijuana to ranked-choice voting, that should come as no surprise. These days in Augusta, every single issue seems to become enmeshed in gridlock. That’s a result not just of a stubborn minority party in the House, or of the governor’s recalcitrance, but of leadership in both chambers in the majority that are unable to overcome those obstacles.

This follows a pattern that we’ve seen with this particular issue as well in this state. Again and again, legislators have failed to enact comprehensive legislation governing the establishment of casino gaming. Maine has only two licensed casinos, one in Oxford and one in Bangor, and both were ushered in by referendums, not by the Legislature.

In case you’ve forgotten, the casino in Bangor was only able to open after voters approved the referendum allowing slot machines at certain race tracks. Then, voters narrowly approved the casino in Oxford, and since then … nothing.

After the York County casino referendum fortunately failed, it would have been nice to see the Legislature come together to establish a process to issue permits for future casinos. Passing those laws and having a process in place would have been the best way to keep a future sketchy casino mogul from attempting to take advantage of Maine again, but Augusta has been too preoccupied with bickering of late to accomplish anything so useful. Given that, it’s hardly a shock that our leadership couldn’t be forward-thinking enough to anticipate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling and pass legislation or at least put rules in place to govern sports betting.

It will likely be up to the next governor and the next Legislature to enact legislation governing sports betting in Maine. Of course, there’s one simple option on the table: Don’t allow it. Given the narrowness of the victories and defeats for the various referendums on casinos, there’s likely to be a large contingent of Mainers advocating for that option. They’ve long opposed gambling, and are unlikely to get on board for any expansion to it, no matter what possible benefits it may bring to the state. The open question will be how vocal and effective an argument that becomes, and whether there is a sharp partisan divide on the issue.

One would expect that socially conservative Republicans would oppose legalized betting, and that’s probably mostly still the case. There are a wide variety of Republicans who are likely to keep an open mind, though, from the more libertarian-minded ones to traditional moderate Republicans. This has been most recently evident in the debate over legalized marijuana, which attracted quite a bit of Republican support.

It would be easy to presume that the Democrats would generally support legalizing sports betting, and that might be true for the most part. There is a strong tradition amongst Maine Democrats of social conservatism as well, however, especially in rural areas, and they may well be hesitant to embrace the concept. Of late, those Democrats are probably feeling abandoned by the party’s overall movement to the left, and this may well be another issue that leaves them alienated from their own party.

Regardless of the precise partisan breakdown on the issue, the Legislature should move forward with legislation to legalize and regulate sports betting as quickly as possible next session.

We can implement a reasonable system to govern the sports betting in Maine, creating a consistent licensing process that allows for the industry to flourish and create taxable revenue. We shouldn’t make it too difficult to be a bookie, but they shouldn’t be popping up on every street corner, either.

Hopefully our future leaders can find common ground on this issue before it’s entirely taken over by special-interest-fueled citizen initiatives once again.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/maine-again-unable-to-seize-opportunity/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/11/1289649_255368_20170620_statehous_7.jpgHouse Minority Leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, speaks in June at the State House in Augusta. Fredette, who is running for governor as a privately financed candidate, says the Legislature should set aside enough money to cover all six clean elections candidates.Sat, 19 May 2018 08:00:51 +0000
Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/todays-editorial-cartoon-1634/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/todays-editorial-cartoon-1634/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849724 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/todays-editorial-cartoon-1634/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/849724_846873-5-18-Kim-Jong-Un-Bom.jpgFri, 18 May 2018 14:05:27 +0000 Don’t roll back emission standards https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/dont-roll-back-emission-standards/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/dont-roll-back-emission-standards/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849711 Rolling back auto emission standards would double pollution nationwide by 2025 when compared to the safety standards now in effect.

Worse, if the federal standard is lowered, Maine and more than a dozen other states which now have a better safety standard than the current federal standard would be forced to live under a dirtier federal standard.

This is not acceptable. We cannot go backward, because adding more pollution to our one and only world is killing us and the planet. Why is this even being considered?

Marla Bottesch


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/dont-roll-back-emission-standards/feed/ 0 Fri, 18 May 2018 14:01:03 +0000
Greg Kesich: As nation divides, so does Maine https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/as-nation-divides-so-does-maine/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/as-nation-divides-so-does-maine/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850337 There may still be one thing on which Republicans and Democrats can agree: This is a divided nation.

Issues that don’t break down on party lines are as hard to find as a pro-choice Republican, or a Democrat who thinks climate change is a hoax. They’re out there, but you really need to look hard.

The divide even goes beyond politics. According to a study last year by the Pew Research Center, it even shows up when you ask people about real estate. “Most Republicans (65 percent) say they would rather live in a community where houses are larger and farther apart and where schools and shopping are not nearby,” the researchers found. “A majority of Democrats (61 percent) prefer smaller houses within walking distance of schools and shopping.”

The power of partisanship is something to think of as Maine Democrats close up their convention, two weeks after the Republicans held theirs. In a little more than three weeks, voters who belong to a party, or who are willing to join one temporarily, will get to nominate candidates for the November general election. If history is a guide, only about 10 percent of eligible voters will participate in one contest or the other. But one of the winners in June and not an independent will likely be Maine’s next governor.

That’s how it works in 2018: People disdain political parties, but when it’s time to vote, they are as partisan as hell. This is true, even in Maine, where people pride themselves on their independence.

About 40 percent of registered voters are not enrolled in a party and they outnumber both Democrats and Republicans. We have a history of electing independents like Angus King (for both governor and senator) as well as moderate Republicans like Bill Cohen, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. But Maine is not so different as we like to believe.

But nationally, 42 percent of voters identify themselves as independents, according to a Gallup poll. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story. They may call themselves independents, but on Election Day, most of them vote for party candidates and they do it as consistently as full-fledged party members.

Look at the Republican presidential results in 2012 and 2016. You couldn’t have had two more different candidates than Donald Trump and Mitt Romney, but the number of votes they got and the places the votes came from are almost identical. This was not a case of people changing their minds. The reason that Trump won in 2016 and Romney lost in 2012 is that more Democrats showed up to vote for Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton.

There are a lot of explanations for our divide. One is that people move around the country and settle where there are other people like them, sort of a self-gerrymander. Republicans flee to their big houses and remote shopping centers, while Democrats rub shoulders in the walkable neighborhoods. It makes it less likely that we will even meet people with different political views.

There is also the way that we get our information. We not only get to choose how we get our news, we can pick what news we want to hear.

Friendly news outlets and social media feeds reinforce what we already believe and sow distrust of people who think otherwise. Anyone who tells us something we don’t like is probably pushing “fake news.”

Partisanship is really easy to see when someone else is engaging in it, but harder to notice when it’s you or one of your friends.

It’s kind of like riding a bike in the wind: When it’s in your face, you feel it, but when you’re cruising with it at your back – what wind?

Remember when Republican members of Congress said they cared about the deficit? It tends to be a big deal only when a Democrat is president.

Or remember when most liberals thought that Mitt Romney was a selfish plutocrat, “Mr. 47-percent,” who told a bunch of fat cats that almost half the country refuses to “take responsibility for their lives” because they don’t earn enough to owe federal income tax? But once he started calling Trump names, he became a man of principle.

I don’t mean to say that there are not real differences between the parties, or that every disagreement is just a mindless reflex.

Society is changing in ways that some people like and others don’t and it’s natural that those kind of disputes will end up in the political arena. There is no “win-win” answer to the question of whether a pregnant woman should have the right to choose an abortion. A little partisanship is necessary to organize the opposing forces and it’s probably healthy.

But polarization is not. You don’t have to like the other side, but once you can’t tolerate its existence, democracy won’t survive.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at:


Twitter: gregkesich

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/as-nation-divides-so-does-maine/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/1383072_Republican_Convention_Mai6-1.jpgMaine State Rep. Stacey K. Guerin, R-Glenburn, applauds U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin during the Republican Convention on May 5 in Augusta. Associated Press/Robert F. BukatySun, 20 May 2018 08:44:49 +0000
Farm Bill would hurt hungry Mainers https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/farm-bill-would-hurt-hungry-mainers/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/farm-bill-would-hurt-hungry-mainers/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849712 I recently visited Bruce Poliquin’s Washington, D.C., office to voice my objection to cuts that will drastically reduce the number of people who can access help putting food on their tables through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. I’m pretty certain he was there last Tuesday, but he certainly wasn’t open to seeing a Mainer. I also left a written statement, but I have not heard a word from him or his office since visiting.

If the bill passes the way it is written, working-age people with no children under the age of 6 who are not deemed disabled will be required to work at least 20 hours a week and report their income monthly in order to maintain benefits. Failure to produce employment paperwork because of a cut in hours or being in between jobs would result in the loss of benefits of up to three years.

This bill will cause working people who make less than optimal wages for the hours they work to lose more benefits, as if they are receiving too much in food assistance already. There are some seniors and working disabled folks who already receive such nominal amounts in food assistance that it is not worth keeping up on the paperwork to do so.

You may be totally unaware that your neighbor is receiving SNAP benefits, but over 75,000 of Maine’s 501,000 households receive food assistance.

Please contact Rep. Poliquin and Sen. Susan Collins, and tell them you object to these proposed cuts to the SNAP program through the Farm Bill. It is morally reprehensible that Poliquin’s rich supporters line their pockets with tax breaks while our children go to bed hungry at night. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen.

Marie Pineo

South Portland

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/farm-bill-would-hurt-hungry-mainers/feed/ 0 Fri, 18 May 2018 14:00:08 +0000
Mayhew best choice for Republicans https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/mayhew-best-choice-for-republicans/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/mayhew-best-choice-for-republicans/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849713 Mary Mayhew was appointed to be commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services by Gov. Paul LePage in 2011. Alongside the governor, Mayhew implemented welfare reform that cut waste, fraud, and abuse, got Mainers back to work, and lifted people up from poverty to prosperity.

Those reforms ensured that our resources could go towards helping our elderly and disabled, not able-bodied, childless adults. She knows how to fight and how to win because she has been through the fire, weathered the storm, and come out on top before.

Republicans, if you’re looking for a candidate who will protect the Second Amendment, lower your taxes, bring more jobs to Maine, and continue the LePage legacy, there is no better candidate than Mary Mayhew. Please join me in voting for Mary in the Republican primary on June 12.

Alex Knight

South China

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/mayhew-best-choice-for-republicans/feed/ 0 Fri, 18 May 2018 13:59:09 +0000
Celebrate Maine running https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/celebrate-maine-running/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/celebrate-maine-running/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849714 In the wake of the recent scandals, controversy and elitism that have plagued so many team sports, it is refreshing to recognize a pastime that unites communities, and is accessible to virtually all backgrounds and abilities: running.

In Maine, running on roads, track and trail has become arguably the state’s most popular sport, with literally thousands taking part in scores of events, many of which support non-profit fundraising initiatives. Three running events in Maine sell out in just one day — the Beach to Beacon 10K, the Mid-Winter Classic 10 miler and the women’s Tri for a Cure. Many others fill to capacity within weeks.

This year marks the 20th induction ceremony of the Maine Running Hall of Fame, an organization dedicated to supporting and honoring Maine running. Founded in 1988 by Bob Payne, the organization’s inaugural induction ceremony honored Maine running legends and Olympians Joan Benoit Samuelson and Bruce Bickford, and has grown to nearly 100 honorees.

Among national and world-class athletes, the hall of fame honors athletes and coaches who are highly accomplished but otherwise might not be recognized. For example, the 1956 Waterville High School cross-country team that won the New England championships. Beginning in 2006, the hall of fame began recognizing legendary road races in Maine, such as the L.L. Bean 10K, Tour du Lac 10 miler in Bucksport, and the Thanksgiving Day 4-Miler in Portland.

In a world where there is so much divisiveness around politics, religion, and even our professional sports teams, it is fitting to celebrate the individual athletes who run to support inclusive competition, personal health and fitness, and fundraising throughout nearly every city and town of our great state.

The hall of fame welcomes nominations for runners and races to be honored at this year’s indication ceremony. For more information, visit mainerunninghof.wordpress.com.

Todd Coffin


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/celebrate-maine-running/feed/ 0 Fri, 18 May 2018 13:58:21 +0000
Withdrawal from Iran deal must not lead to war https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/withdrawal-from-iran-deal-must-not-lead-to-war/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/withdrawal-from-iran-deal-must-not-lead-to-war/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849715 Jim Fossel reminds us, in his column on Trump’s withdrawel from the Iran nuclear deal, of the limitations of presidential power not acknowledged by the Senate (“Trump puts Iran, North Korea on notice,” May 13). One government leaves and a new government arrives to manage the nation’s affairs as they see best. It would be wise for the reader of his column to look deeper into the reasons why this “new government” wishes to so aggressively re-engage in the Middle East.

The last time we did so we were informed by the then-existing government that we had to remove a regime that possessed weapons of mass destruction before a “mushroom cloud” appeared before us. In the case of Iran, this same specter is being presented even though the International Atomic Energy Agency stated that Iran, most recently in November of last year, was in compliance with the agreement.

Setting aside for a moment the compliance issue, we see that the president’s reinstatement of sanctions will make it almost impossible for Iran to sell its oil, as the commodity is denominated in dollars and we control access to dollar settlements against contracts. This single act reduces the global supply, hence placing upward pressure on the price. Who then does it leave in control of the supply/price bargain? The enforcement of the sanctions will be totally in our hands, both diplomatically and militarily, without the help of any of the allied nations that are part of the 2015 bargain.

It should come then as no surprise that the same actors that trumpeted the second Gulf War are now close to the seat of power. Unraveling the positive aspects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and prior multilateral diplomacy began almost immediately with Trump’s first campaign speeches. And, now that he has done so, the president is obliged to demonstrate the value of his actions to the American people by diplomacy and not ever by another military action.

David Jacobs


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/withdrawal-from-iran-deal-must-not-lead-to-war/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/1379369_Iran_Nuclear_US_59118.jpg-3.jpgIranian protesters chant slogans during an anti-U.S. gathering after their Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran. Thousands of Iranians took to the streets in cities across the country to protest President Trump's decision to pull out of the nuclear deal with world powers.Fri, 18 May 2018 15:52:02 +0000
‘Age-friendly’ means low taxes https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/age-friendly-means-low-taxes/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/age-friendly-means-low-taxes/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849716 Is Readfield an age-friendly community? In a survey done by the newly formed Age Friendly Committee, most people said the best way to help seniors was to lower their taxes. In light of this, the Union Meeting House supporters, after asking for $5,000 in a one-time-only request last year to help secure grant money, are asking for another $5,000 this year, and the Select Board supports it. This is for a privately owned building that pays no taxes, and previous denials of assistance for other properties generating major tax revenues. In fact, this year the amount requested for the Union Meeting House, Trails, and Heritage Days is more than twice what’s requested for General Assistance and Heat Assistance combined.

High taxes hurt seniors more than just in their wallet; it adds to the closure of businesses. Now they can’t buy gas in town or building supplies and hardware. As businesses close, it dramatically reduces the ability of fire department volunteers to quickly respond to emergencies as they are forced to work more hours at jobs further away.

Again this year, the Select Board supports every item on the warrant and the school budget, with its automatic annual increase, while statewide other towns and cities make the difficult but necessary cuts to keep taxes down.

In Readfield, roughly 25 percent of all the potential voters are getting these things passed, oftentimes by slim margins. If we want to be a truly age-friendly community more people need to vote down all nonessential items on the warrant and the school budget, thereby helping both the elderly and younger residents trying to start families and stay in Readfield.

David Hepfner


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/age-friendly-means-low-taxes/feed/ 0 Fri, 18 May 2018 13:57:17 +0000
LePage: Put blame for failed leadership where it belongs – with the majority https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/lepage-put-blame-for-failed-leadership-where-it-belongs-with-the-majority/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/lepage-put-blame-for-failed-leadership-where-it-belongs-with-the-majority/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849775 The Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel has singled out me and House Republicans as the reason the Legislature went home early and failed to do the right thing for the Maine people (“Our View: Republican hardball puts key services at risk,” May 17).

This couldn’t be further from the truth — I have been working every day to implement good public policy for the people of Maine while the Legislature has been playing silly political games for months. And the House Republicans are limited in what they can do because they are in the minority.


So the Editorial Board should put the blame squarely where it belongs: on the speaker of the House and the Democrats who hold the majority. The failure to complete the people’s work is not because of a minority in the House; it’s because of the vacuum of leadership in the majority.

Speaker of the House Sara Gideon presides over the Democratic majority. Rather than sit down with Republicans and negotiate, Speaker Gideon accused us of being terrorists. Then she killed Republican bills — bills that proposed good public policies — for no reason. Republicans put in bills to provide funding for workers for the elderly and disabled, opioid treatment, county jails, people on waiting lists and nursing homes. Speaker Gideon killed them.

She wouldn’t address tax conformity, which would give tax relief to hardworking Mainers and small businesses. She even tabled a bill that would help the elderly stay in their homes — or at least keep their equity if they were facing tax-lien foreclosures.

Speaker Gideon would rather throw the elderly on the street and hike taxes on hardworking Mainers than give a Republican-backed bill a win.

She and the Democrats refuse to slow down the increase in the minimum wage, which will have a devastating effect on Maine’s economy in 2020.

She and the Democrats are content to leave Mainers with intellectual and physical disabilities, as well as the elderly, on waiting lists for services. I have been fighting for years to provide funding for these services, but Democrats stripped funding from the budget.


Speaker Gideon sets the agenda for the legislative session, but she kept the schedule light. Sometimes she had the Legislature in session for less than two hours a day. Then, after wasting months of time, she tried to extend the session, but not by negotiating. An email from an advocate for addiction and mental health services revealed that the speaker met with advocates and lobbyists and urged them not to work with Republicans.

The email stated that if the advocates can convince the Republicans to extend the session, Gideon promised to help pass key bills sponsored by the advocates. This is political payola at its worst.

It is not good governance. It does not help the Maine people. Gideon does not work across the aisle or reach out to the Governor’s Office. Her failure to lead resulted in a state shutdown last summer, and it has led to a stalemate this session. She has left hundreds of bills to die — bills the Legislature has been avoiding for months.

Now, after arbitrarily killing their bills and calling them terrorists, Gideon expects House Republicans to come back with smiles on their faces and agree to extend the session. Speaker Gideon and Senate Democratic Leader Troy Jackson met with me last week, hoping I would call the Legislature back into session.


But they only want to deal with Democrats’ bills, and they want to pass Medicaid expansion without any funding to pay for it by tying it to other legislation, rather than letting it stand on its own merits. These are the partisan games that turn people off to politics — and the Editorial Board is perpetuating the problem.

Instead of blaming me and a minority of Republicans, the Editorial Board should be demanding that Speaker Gideon — and Senate President Mike Thibodeau — call the Legislature back into session and make sure legislators complete the work the people of Maine elected them to do. The elderly, the disabled and the hardworking taxpayers are depending on it, and they deserve it. Don’t let Gideon and the Democrats off the hook.

Paul R. LePage, a Republican, is the governor of Maine.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/lepage-put-blame-for-failed-leadership-where-it-belongs-with-the-majority/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/AP18125605990513-2.jpgGov. Paul LePage speaks at the Republican Convention, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Augusta, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)Fri, 18 May 2018 15:15:24 +0000
Ranked-choice voting empowers voters https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/ranked-choice-voting-empowers-voters/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/ranked-choice-voting-empowers-voters/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849718 Ranked-choice voting restores majority rule and puts more power in the hands of Maine voters. It is like having a run-off election but without having the expense and time of having to return to the polls.

There are those who say that people will be confused by ranked-choice voting, but clearly they are underestimating Maine voters. We are certainly capable of understanding how it works and indeed to see a sample ballot we only need to go to the secretary of state’s website.

The question that will be on the ballot can be, however, a little confusing because the language that must be used is loaded with legalese. If you vote yes, as we will, it will simply mean that ranked-choice voting can be used in future Maine elections.

Sandra and Ole Jaeger


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/ranked-choice-voting-empowers-voters/feed/ 0 Fri, 18 May 2018 13:54:39 +0000
Commentary: Protecting young women from ‘caring physicians’ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/commentary-protecting-young-women-from-caring-physicians/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/commentary-protecting-young-women-from-caring-physicians/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849777 You take off your clothes, and put on a thin cotton gown. You sit on a padded table covered with a crisp white piece of paper that crackles every time you move. Your bare feet dangle. You stare at the walls and wait. And wait.

Then the doctor walks in. If the doctor is a man, he comes in with a female chaperone. The doctor tells you to lie back, put your legs in the metal stirrups on either side of the table and scoot down. Toward him.

“A little more, a little more,” the doctor will say, until it feels like your bottom is sliding off the table.

Rarely does a woman feel more vulnerable than when visiting a gynecologist. She steels herself, knowing she will be penetrated. If she is in for a PAP smear, she knows it’s going to hurt, maybe a lot.

But she expects to be treated gently and with respect. She trusts the doctor will be professional and not make jokes about how “tight” her vagina is, or how attractive she is or how smooth her skin is.

When a woman is young, the experience can be slightly terrifying. When she is older, she is perhaps no longer terrified, but still mortified that someone who is not an intimate partner is touching her in a deeply private place. She grits her teeth and hopes the exam ends quickly.

I think this is why revelations about the alleged bad behavior of a longtime male gynecologist at USC’s student health clinic hit me so hard. They come on the heels of the terrible news out of Michigan State University about Larry Nassar, the cruelly abusive osteopathic physician who sexually brutalized hundreds of women, including America’s top female gymnasts, and will probably end up dying in prison.

In an investigation published this week, my colleagues Harriet Ryan, Paul Pringle and Matt Hamilton reported that, for years, students and chaperones lodged complaints about USC physician George Tyndall, the clinic’s only full-time gynecologist. They said he made sexually charged remarks about his patients’ bodies, touched them inappropriately during pelvic exams and photographed their genitals. Some of his colleagues feared that he singled out Chinese students with limited English, who may not have known what was proper and what was not.

I will tell you this, though: If a doctor did to my daughter what Tyndall did to his patients, I would urge her to file a sexual assault complaint. With police. Not with USC, which allowed Tyndall’s misconduct to go on for decades.

As The Times discovered, Tyndall had been the subject of numerous complaints from nurses and medical assistants who served as chaperones in his exam room.

Imagine that: A clinic puts a chaperone in a room for protection and when the chaperone reports questionable behavior by the doctor, the clinic ignores it. What, then, is the actual point of having chaperones in the exam room? And who, actually, is being protected? (Cynical answer: doctors.)

A number of chaperones reported that they were bothered by the way Tyndall would insert his fingers into women’s vaginas before inserting a speculum to check their cervixes.

Despite numerous complaints, university and clinic administrators allowed Tyndall to keep practicing until a frustrated nurse reported his behavior to the campus rape crisis center in 2016, my colleagues reported.

I’d like to single her out as a hero of this tale. Her name is Cindy Gilbert. She had reported Tyndall’s behavior on multiple occasions, but no one seemed interested until she found an ally in Ekta Kumar, executive director of the rape crisis center.

This time, USC officials concluded that the doctor’s behavior was outside the scope of current medical practice and amounted to sexual harassment. And yet, none of Tyndall’s patients over nearly three decades at the university was notified; he was allowed to quietly resign in 2017.

This is yet another black eye for USC, which allowed substance-abusing retina surgeon Carmen Puliafito to remain on its medical school faculty and continue to accept new patients after he resigned as dean of the medical school. His resignation followed the drug overdose of a young woman in his hotel room.

Perhaps Tyndall did not brutalize young women the way that Nassar did. And maybe, unlike Nassar, Tyndall won’t be prosecuted.

That’s too bad. If what he is accused of is true, then he routinely violated the bodies, and the trust, of the vulnerable young women who were his patients. No one in a position powerful enough to stop him wanted to believe it.

Now, generations of his patients are reading the news stories, reliving his touch and wondering what they should have done.

“I felt ashamed that I let that happen to me,” one of his former patients told The Times. “More than anything, I was mad at USC for allowing that to happen.”

Robin Abcarian wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/commentary-protecting-young-women-from-caring-physicians/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/01/1325239_Gym_Doctor_Sexual_Assault_4.jpgFormer gymnast Annie Labrie regains her composure Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, while giving her victim impact statement during the first day of statements in Eaton County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Mich., where Nassar is expected to be sentenced on three counts of sexual assault some time next week. Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in a similar hearing in another county last week. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP)Fri, 18 May 2018 15:12:59 +0000
Compassion comes through in store line https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/compassion-comes-through-in-store-line/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/compassion-comes-through-in-store-line/#respond Sun, 20 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849719 A couple of weeks ago, I was in line at Hannaford on Whitten Road in Augusta and was having a great deal of difficulty with my credit card company approving my more than $165 grocery bill.

I believe the lady that was checking out behind me felt such great compassion for me that she paid for the groceries. I tried to get information from the grocery store associate to find out who she was and how I could contact her, but the clerk was unable to provide any. The clerk said the woman just paid my bill and left.

To the very generous and kind lady, thank you.

Even though I do not know you or how I could personally thank you, God knows you and He will bless you for your beautiful act of kindness as you paid it forward.

My four grandchildrem, ages 16, 14, 11 and 9, thank you most of all — they’ll get more of grandma’s home cooking. Blessings to you.

Nira O’Connor


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/20/compassion-comes-through-in-store-line/feed/ 0 Fri, 18 May 2018 13:55:34 +0000
View from Away: Trump opts to punish migrant parents by seizing their kids https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/view-from-away-trump-opts-to-punish-migrant-parents-by-seizing-their-kids/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/view-from-away-trump-opts-to-punish-migrant-parents-by-seizing-their-kids/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 08:10:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849658 The Trump administration, having been unable to get Congress to fund its border wall, has adopted vengeful meanness as its next-best substitute. Speaking at an Arizona law enforcement conference, Attorney General Jeff Sessions erased any doubt about the motives behind his excessive new crackdown on parents crossing the border with their children.

He pledged in no uncertain terms to prosecute anyone who crosses without proper documentation, including asylum seekers who are supposed to be protected under America’s international treaty obligations. Sessions warned that children will be yanked from their parents’ arms if they’re caught.

Gone is any pretense that some children need to be separated for their own protection as potential victims of human traffickers. Sessions threw that notion out the window in his speech. He made clear he wants to terrorize immigrant parents by threatening to confiscate their children.

His and President Donald Trump’s harsh new policies are so overboard they received pushback last week from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who publicly distanced himself from some of Trump’s harsher anti-immigrant positions.

Sessions stated in his speech that the southern border was facing a “massive influx of illegal aliens. … We are not going to let this country be invaded. We will not be stampeded. We will not capitulate to lawlessness.”

He warned: “If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. … If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.” In other words, the policy of child separation is being used solely as a punitive measure.

The administration already has separated parents from children more than 700 times, including one case involving an 18-month-old child, according to a New York Times report last month. More than 100 seized children were under age 4.

Is this really serving any useful purpose? U.S. immigration authorities absolutely should be working night and day to keep dangerous criminals from crossing the border. But neither toddlers nor their parents even remotely fit that bill.

This policy is simply cruel, motivated solely by mean-spirited politics, not security. If Sessions was so serious about monitoring undocumented children, then how is it that federal authorities lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children who had been transferred to the custody of adult sponsors last year? If they can’t even manage the existing caseloads of migrant children, how does Sessions propose to handle more?

American streets are made no safer by this new policy. Murderers, rapists and drug traffickers might even have better chances of slipping through the net while immigration officers are devoting their energies to this fruitless, excessively punitive effort.

Editorial by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/view-from-away-trump-opts-to-punish-migrant-parents-by-seizing-their-kids/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/01/RTSN2DZ-1.jpgFri, 18 May 2018 12:09:13 +0000
Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/todays-editorial-cartoon-1633/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/todays-editorial-cartoon-1633/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849655 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/todays-editorial-cartoon-1633/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/849655_846873-5-17-Royal-Distracti.jpgFri, 18 May 2018 13:52:07 +0000 The Maine Millennial: As Sen. McCain’s presence intersects with my life, I see our similarities https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/the-maine-millennial-presence-of-john-mccain-has-intersected-with-my-life/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/the-maine-millennial-presence-of-john-mccain-has-intersected-with-my-life/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=850091 When I was 7, my father took me to a John McCain presidential campaign rally. I don’t have any memories of this – I found out about it recently from an old home video.

The quality of the videotape has deteriorated over time (it spent 10 years in a barn, after all), but some parts of the audio are clear. McCain saying, at one point, that “there are a lot of crazy people in Maine – but they’re usually gone by Labor Day!” And you can very clearly hear 7-year-old Victoria shout: “This is boring! With a capital B!”

The camera pans down to my face. I am pouting, in a very dramatic way. (I was a dramatic kid.) And of course, I am right. What sort of crazy person brings a 7-year-old to a campaign rally being held in an airplane hangar? There weren’t even fireworks!

My dad, of course, was that type of crazy person – and he didn’t leave after Labor Day. He believed it was very important for his children to have Experiences that would Build Character. (We also got taken to a lot of museums and war memorials.)

In the past year, the presence of John McCain has intersected with my life on several occasions, although I have never met the senator. On the night he revealed his glioblastoma diagnosis, I saw the breaking news alert flash across the television screen in a waiting room at Maine Medical Center while my father underwent an MRI to see if his own cancer had spread to his brain. (It had spread to a lot of places, as it turned out.) I wondered who would succumb first – the 81-year-old with a brain tumor, or the 59-year-old with a gut full of melanoma. Thank goodness I’m not a betting person, because I would have bet on the 59-year-old and I would have lost, miserably.

Sen. McCain’s vote against partially repealing the Affordable Care Act has been important to my life as well. After my father died, my family lost our insurance, because it came through his job. I was able to get on my employer’s health insurance plan, but my mother is self-employed. She and my teenage sister have had to purchase insurance through the ACA exchanges – exchanges that are still viable thanks in part to McCain’s vote.

In fact, I have a short video that I now treasure, taken about a month before my dad died. In it, my dad – always the politics nerd – is slightly stoned off medical marijuana. Behind the camera, I am slightly tipsy off non-medical wine.

Dad is re-enacting the vote against the “skinny repeal,” first drawing a diagram of the Senate chamber floor on my mom’s most recent issue of House Beautiful magazine and then playing the parts of both Mitch McConnell and John McCain casting his “no” vote, making sure to raise his arm no higher than shoulder height. “And why can’t he raise his arms above his head?” Dad asks me. “BECAUSE OF THE VIETNAM WAR!” I reply, way too loudly. (I am still a dramatic kid.)

My boyfriend asked me this week why I was obsessing over John McCain when I disagreed with roughly 85 percent of the votes he has taken. Part of it is the still very fresh grief over my father and my uncle Tim (also a Vietnam veteran) dying of cancer this year. But I think it is mostly because I get the sense that though we might disagree on policy issues– tax rates, immigration procedures, health care policy – Sen. McCain would look me in the eye, shake my hand and listen carefully to what I have to say. I suspect that he would understand that while I might have different ideas, I love the United States of America just as much as he does.

When he passes, after a long and fruitful life, there will be many tributes to and think pieces about John McCain. A lot of them will herald his death as “the end of an era.” I respectfully and strongly disagree. The American values that John McCain embodies – dignity, humility, integrity, respect – were born long before he was and will persist long into the future. When his watch has ended, he will lay down that torch. And it will be up to the rest of us to pick it up.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:


Twitter: @mainemillennial

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/the-maine-millennial-presence-of-john-mccain-has-intersected-with-my-life/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/1275747_Books_John_McCain_64560.jpg.jpgFILE - In this Oct. 16, 2017 file photo Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., receives the Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. An upcoming memoir from McCain has taken on new meaning since he first decided to write it. "The Restless Wave" is scheduled to come out in April, 2018, Simon & Schuster told The Associated Press on Friday, Oct. 20. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)Sat, 19 May 2018 11:02:57 +0000
View from Away: Sports betting ruling a loser https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/view-from-away-sports-betting-ruling-a-loser/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/view-from-away-sports-betting-ruling-a-loser/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849664 The Supreme Court ruling allowing New Jersey (and any other state) to legalize sports gambling may make legal sense, but the 6-3 decision opens a Pandora’s box of thorny issues that could undermine the integrity of sports and lead to increased gambling losses and addiction — especially among people who can least afford it.

Of course, the ruling will also increase the overreliance on gambling revenues by state lawmakers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere who have become addicted to funding budgets by enticing residents to lose money playing casino games.

Lawmakers take an oath to protect citizens, not to enact regressive measures that prey on individuals. Yet, through the rapid expansion of casinos, lotteries — and now sports gambling — states have enacted public policies that systematically strip wealth from people and lead to increased social costs, including bankruptcies, suicides, and divorce.

Supporters argue that legalized sports betting will remove it from the shadowy underworld and allows for better regulation and oversight. But the legalization of casinos and lotteries has not stopped illegal wagering on numbers and other games of chance.

The bigger problem of legalizing sports gambling is that it will open the industry to a bigger, more mainstream audience that will be bombarded by sophisticated marketing schemes designed to attract and keep individuals gambling.

Young people, especially males, who have grown up playing video games are particularly vulnerable to sports betting as it becomes easier to place bets via mobile phones. Indeed, the National Council on Problem Gambling says a large majority of kids have gambled before their 18th birthday.

Legalized betting also will impact the integrity of athletics as the flood of money has the potential to influence the outcome of games.

In the NCAA, 26 percent of male student-athletes already bet on sports, according to a 2012 study. The study found one in 20 Division I men’s basketball student-athletes reported having been contacted by gamblers seeking “inside” betting information.

Supporters argue that legalized sports gambling in Europe has not impacted the games there. But a 2013 European police intelligence investigation found widespread fixing of some 380 soccer matches involving hundreds of players and officials in 15 countries. Meanwhile, a 2016 BBC report found widespread match-fixing in professional tennis.

Legalized sports gambling will lead to more financial losses and addiction for individuals, and more pressure on players to fix games. This court ruling is a very bad bet.

Editorial by The Philadelphia Inquirer

Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/view-from-away-sports-betting-ruling-a-loser/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/1380268_Supreme_Court_Sports_Bett2.jpgSigns for Monmouth Park are displayed in a bar at the racetrack in Oceanport, N.J., on Monday. The Supreme Court on Monday gave its go-ahead for states to allow gambling on sports across the nation, striking down a federal law that barred betting on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states.Fri, 18 May 2018 12:06:30 +0000
Commentary: Let the uncertain majority lead https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/commentary-let-the-uncertain-majority-lead/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/commentary-let-the-uncertain-majority-lead/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849654 The majority of Americans are not extremists when it comes to politics. They are neither very blue nor very red. They are somewhere in between. Before we call them purple, it’s best to recognize the state of mind many of them have about policy issues ranging from education to gun control to tax policy and entitlement reform, namely: uncertainty.

That’s right, uncertainty. The majority of Americans do not believe that they know with certainty how to address the problem of gun violence, whether charter schools are a good idea, what to do about Syria and North Korea or how to reform Social Security. They do not have the cognitive state of mind of certainty. Nor do they feel comfortable in their beliefs. They see some value in both progressive and conservative perspectives.

The key to formulating a political point of view that will address the dysfunction in Washington and the angry polarization that infects our country is to harness the uncertainty of those in the middle.

This does not mean we should have politicians who will propose that we accept uncertainty as a state of being and do nothing to address it. Of course not.

What it means is that we should mobilize citizens and thinkers around the honest doubts tens of millions of Americans have and leverage this uncertainty so that it binds people together and leads to creative policy solutions to our national problems.

Uncertainty begets bipartisanship because those who have it are inclined to reach out to others and find ways to work with them. Leveraging uncertainty involves rejecting rigidity, rejecting intellectual arrogance and rejecting narrow-mindedness. Leveraging uncertainty, moreover, has an honored history in our country.

Abraham Lincoln, as the late Harvard scholar David Donald argued over 50 years ago in his essay “Abraham Lincoln and the American Pragmatic Tradition,” was a leader who rejected doctrinaire solutions and rigid thinking. Lincoln said, “My policy is to have no policy.” He was tenacious, but he was not narrow-minded. He applied fundamental moral principles rooted in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to each situation as it arose, and he respected context and timing.

For example, Lincoln only issued the Emancipation Proclamation when the pragmatic moment called for it — namely when he needed to dissuade England and France from siding with the South.

If our greatest president put uncertainty on a pedestal, so did our greatest philosopher, John Dewey. One of his most important books was titled “The Quest for Certainty,” and throughout this book Dewey sharply criticized those philosophers — ancient and modern — who claimed to have certainty about what we could know about reality and what economic and political institutions were just.

Where the voices of certainty saw dualisms everywhere — knowledge and action, mind and body, individual and society — Dewey saw complexity, continuity and historical evolution. Democracy itself flourished, in his view, when armies of scientists worked together to understand natural and social reality and create public policies that would solve the “the problems of men” rather than the abstract, artificial, irrelevant “problems of philosophers.”

Likewise, the greatest economist of the 20th century, John Maynard Keynes — as Paul Davidson and Robert Skidelsky have argued in four recent books — put the concept of uncertainty at the center of his explanatory theory of what animates advanced capitalist societies. Economic theories that revolve around the “rational economic man” are fundamentally misguided from a Keynesian point of view. Once we understand the actual psychology behind the thinking of our citizens and our companies, then we will develop the best fiscal and monetary policies.

Lincoln, Dewey, and Keynes all valued uncertainty. They all hated simplistic dualisms and overly idealized conceptions of decision-making. They respected the reality of uncertainty and were not afraid of it. Instead, they embraced it.

Today, our politics are controlled by individuals, organizations and politicians who are certain about what we should do and who feel confident in their beliefs. And look where it’s gotten us.

The question is: Can future leaders craft a new politics for our country that moves away from the divisive attitude of certainty?

Dave Anderson is editor of “Leveraging: A Political, Economic and Societal Framework” and was a candidate in the 2016 Democratic Primary in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District. He taught ethics and politics at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management for 12 years. He wrote this for the Baltimore Sun.


©2018 The Baltimore Sun

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https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/19/commentary-let-the-uncertain-majority-lead/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2013/11/932519-1-Gettysburg+Address+Anniversary.jpgTourists walk out of the Tomb of Abraham Lincoln and past a Lincoln statue. Lincoln only issued the Emancipation Proclamation when the pragmatic moment called for it, Anderson writes, an example of how to use power to sway uncertainty. Fri, 18 May 2018 12:16:08 +0000
Our View: Parents who don’t vaccinate put others in peril https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/our-view-parents-who-dont-vaccinate-put-others-in-peril/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/our-view-parents-who-dont-vaccinate-put-others-in-peril/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 08:10:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849210 A bunch of sick kids. More placed in danger. All of their lives disrupted for weeks, along with the lives of their parents and other caretakers. That’s what an outbreak looks like — and all of it is entirely preventable.

When parents decide not to vaccinate their children, they not only put their child’s health in peril, but also the health and well-being of those around them. One sick child can spread not only an illness, but also disruption and anxiety that extends far beyond that one family.

Maine is in more danger of this sort of outbreak than most states. State law allows parents to opt out of vaccinations for philosophical or religious reasons, and in 2016-17, the opt-out rate for children entering kindergarten was 4.8 percent, seventh-highest in the nation, and more than double the national average.

Some kids with compromised immune systems cannot receive vaccinations, and in any gathering of children — playground, grocery store, day care — there are bound to be children too young to have yet received their shots. So when other parents refuse to vaccinate — usually out of unfounded fears that vaccines are harmful — it makes it more likely that an outbreak will occur.

A recent case at a Westbrook day care center shows what can happen. Five children came down with the chicken pox, a potentially dangerous illness that is easily preventable by vaccine. All unvaccinated children at the center — both those who have not been vaccinated by parental choice and those who are too young — must now be quarantined at home for 21 days, an incredible burden on working parents in addition to a fitful time.

A similar case in Yarmouth two years ago sent five children home, causing young students at the very least to miss valuable school days.

The school in Yarmouth that year had a low opt-out rate — 2 percent, the superintendent said — so there was a cap on the amount of disruption an illness could cause.

But what if it had happened in one of the Maine schools where the rate is 10 percent or more?

It would likely look like what occurred in Minnesota last year, when a measles outbreak slammed the Somali community. Opt-out rates there had soared in the previous year after a visit from a notorious anti-vaccination activist, who spread lies about vaccines based on falsified and debunked studies.

Or it would look like California in 2010, when a whooping cough outbreak fueled by low vaccination rates led to 9,000 sick children and 10 infant deaths.

Not coincidentally, Maine has a high rate of whooping cough cases — 21.1 per 100,000 people in 2015, compared to 10.3 per 100,000 nationwide.

Maine is in danger of such outbreaks large and small as long as its opt-out rate stays so high, particularly in the pockets where it far exceeds the national average. A bill that would have forced parents opting out for philosophical reasons to first consult with a medical professional failed to overcome Gov. Paul LePage’s veto in 2015.

Lawmakers should revisit that idea when LePage is no longer in office next year.

And parents who refuse to vaccinate their children should consider what they are doing to other young kids in their communities.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/our-view-parents-who-dont-vaccinate-put-others-in-peril/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/728389_shutterstock_145834898.jpgThe only state notification of the 2014-15 Maine chickenpox outbreaks came in the form of letters sent home to parents of students at the schools where children were infected. But that doesn’t help people without school-age children, some of whom could be among those most vulnerable to an illness.Thu, 17 May 2018 16:17:25 +0000
Today’s editorial cartoon https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/todays-editorial-cartoon-1632/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/todays-editorial-cartoon-1632/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849207 https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/todays-editorial-cartoon-1632/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/849207_846873-5-16-MAGA-Fine-Print.jpgThu, 17 May 2018 16:24:06 +0000 Maine Voices: State’s failure to fund jails threatens an already barebones system https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/cumberland-county-sheriff-sheriff-states-failure-to-fund-jails-a-severe-threat-to-already-barebones-system/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/cumberland-county-sheriff-sheriff-states-failure-to-fund-jails-a-severe-threat-to-already-barebones-system/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849403 In 2008, the state of Maine consolidated county jail operations under a statewide Board of Corrections. The law stipulated that county spending on jails be capped at the amount approved in 2008; the state, via the Board of Corrections, was to fund any other costs needed to keep the jail system functional.

Although, under this system, a few efficiencies were found, the funding of the jails was never properly considered and no realistic budget planning ever took place. With this system, by the time the jails were allowed to submit yearly budgets, funding had already been allocated without consideration of needs. The jails had to operate with less funding than was required, and many had to utilize capital improvement funds saved prior to 2008 for general operations.

The Board of Corrections system was dismantled in 2015. The complete operation of each jail was given back to the counties. A new law provided legislative funding for the jails as well as the authority to lift the original cap. Sheriffs could request a 3 percent increase in county tax expenditures on jails. This was increased to 4 percent in 2016.

Unfortunately, the partisan infighting during this last session of the 128th Legislature has allowed the session to end without 2019 funding appropriated for the jails. Although the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee unanimously approved $17.2 million for jail funding, it was never voted on by the full legislative body.

If the Legislature and the governor decide not to fund the county jails in 2019, this will create a huge impact on all of the jails and on Maine communities. Fiscally, it means the state will be allowing county tax appropriations for jails to grow by 4 percent, while the state’s lack of funding will cause a 17 percent decrease in resources.

Some of the jails may close, as they will not be able to raise enough funding through property taxes to sustain a complete year, causing law enforcement to spend significant time taking inmates to jails in other counties instead of patrolling their own counties. Larger jails would be unable to take boarders from counties that could not fund them, ultimately shifting that burden onto their taxpayers.

Most jails are already understaffed and would have to eliminate even more staff, causing an unsafe environment. Sheriffs could be faced with the prospect of releasing prisoners early in order to close inmate housing units. Programs implemented to provide education and training to inmates, with the goal of reducing recidivism, would be slashed or eliminated.

It is important to remember that we work with people in jails. We are mandated to supply inmates with safety, health care and a humane environment. Where is the logic behind partisan initiatives that are potentially jeopardizing the safety of Maine citizens?

On Feb. 28, U.S. News & World Report rated Maine the safest state in the U.S., concluding that our rate of violent crime was the nation’s lowest and that we have the fifth-lowest rate of property crime in the country. Also, our state’s handling of overall crimes and corrections was rated the best in the nation. This is a testament to the men and women working in Maine’s law enforcement agencies and county jails. Working with critically low funding, we have learned to make do with what we have. This is also a testament to the quality of life that Mainers expect to be provided by their law enforcement officials and jails.

I think you will agree that jails are a necessity of our society. It is important to remember that jails house human beings, not widgets. We must provide a safe and humane environment to all who pass through our doors. I believe this is what we want as a community and a state. It has earned us the distinction of best in the United States.

Many people who are remanded into our care are suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. This limits how much we can lower our budget and still be able to provide a safe and humane environment – with no funding, which is where we currently stand, this is next to impossible.

It is time for the state of Maine to address funding of the jails much like any other necessity of a community’s infrastructure. By planning and commitment to excellence instead of hoping the jails will just go away, we can lay a foundation and a pathway for this state’s jails that is both humane and affordable.

I ask all of our legislators to please return to Augusta as soon as is practical and address this and the other critical issues that have been left unresolved. We are counting on you!

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/cumberland-county-sheriff-sheriff-states-failure-to-fund-jails-a-severe-threat-to-already-barebones-system/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/jail_bars_cell.jpgFri, 18 May 2018 08:07:58 +0000
White will act on your behalf https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/white-will-act-on-your-behalf/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/white-will-act-on-your-behalf/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849212 I have known Bruce White, who is running for state representative in District 109, for almost 20 years now. He is a loyal friend, and a most impressive community member. I have witnessed his volunteerism.

I would never have been able to my do my work in education without his generous assistance. He taught me the value of a well-written thank-you letter.

Today, in his office at school, I see reminders of how important family and friends are — pictures of his wonderful family, art work from students, thank-you notes from staff, and positive inspirational quotes that inspire all to be at their best. One of the posters reads, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

We need Bruce in Augusta. He is fair, responsible, and a great listener, one to hear your story and your opinion, and act on your behalf.

Dwight Gagnon


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/white-will-act-on-your-behalf/feed/ 0 Thu, 17 May 2018 16:21:13 +0000
Johnson uniquely qualified for Senate https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/johnson-uniquely-qualified-for-senate/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/johnson-uniquely-qualified-for-senate/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849213 Maine has someone new to consider for election this November: Jeff Johnson is running for the seat in Senate District 3, which includes almost all of Somerset County. Johnson’s contributions as a job creator, businessman and expander of social services in the area uniquely qualify him to serve us well in Augusta.

Johnson has been a business and community leader in the Skowhegan area for more than 30 years as a business owner and the CEO of three different companies. All expanded under his leadership, creating new jobs and services for the community. Presently, he is the CEO of the Children’s Center, which provides early intervention for disabled and autistic children up to the age of 5. Since he has taken the CEO position, the Children’s Center has expanded from one location in Augusta to four locations throughout central Maine, including a site in Skowhegan.

As a longtime businessman, Johnson understands how difficult it is to start, grow and maintain a successful business in a poor rural community. He says that government waste and over-regulation continue to create barriers. Johnson knows how to make changes in Augusta to promote successful businesses and new jobs. He is just who we need from Somerset County to work for us in the Senate.

Judith Fowles


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/johnson-uniquely-qualified-for-senate/feed/ 0 Thu, 17 May 2018 16:23:33 +0000
Isgro has failed as leader https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/isgro-has-failed-as-leader/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/isgro-has-failed-as-leader/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849214 The purpose of this narrative is to bring into sharp focus an issue very important to everyone living in Waterville, Maine. Leaders in the highest offices of our nation, our state and now our city routinely engage in disrespectful and uncivil discourse. We must and should demand that our leaders are civil to and respectful of everyone.

Every parent knows that children mimic their parents. If parents use disrespectful words, children assume that it is appropriate language and then use it on others. Until there is understanding that everyone deserves respect, despite differing opinions, an uncivil society will continue.

The most radical users of the internet, identified by some as trolls, are able to cowardly hide their online identity and spew hatred. The mayor is known to participate in threads on Twitter and Facebook. His participation is called “free speech” by his supporters. But, as we all know, speech isn’t really free. There are consequences for inappropriate speech, especially by our political leaders.

Some wildly untrue statements are being spread about recalling the mayor, for example, “The fascist hypocrites and their hell bent scorched earth mentality needs to stop!”

The truth is this — the recall is about uncivil and unprofessional behavior of the mayor.

The mayor exhibited unprofessional behavior as a leader by tweeting a vulgar personal attack on a young high school student who had just survived a school shooting in Florida. Students across the country fear being killed in school shootings and are protesting the root cause, laws that don’t prevent mentally unstable persons from obtaining guns.

The recall initiators are Waterville residents, not outsiders. They spent their own money to conduct the recall. Those signing recall petitions agree the recall is not about freedom of speech but about a failure of professional leadership.

Jim Chiddix


(The letter writer is one of the leaders of the effort to recall Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro.)

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/isgro-has-failed-as-leader/feed/ 0 Thu, 17 May 2018 16:20:29 +0000
Mayor shows dignity in face of dark forces https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/mayor-shows-dignity-in-face-of-dark-forces/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/mayor-shows-dignity-in-face-of-dark-forces/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849215 Actions say a lot about who we are, and this has been proven over the past few months by our mayor, Nick Isgro, and his family. They have shown a character of high moral standing and carried themselves with dignity after being attacked by dark forces that surround Waterville. The tweet about David Hogg, who is a very disturbed child, was just an excuse to try and get rid of Mayor Isgro. Hogg stopped being a student who could have been a victim of a shooting to become an activist supported by outside forces — that changes the scene completely. The question that has not been asked is, what was the discussion that had my mayor send the comment about Hogg? A very fair question that many do not want to answer, or really care what the answer is.

If Waterville is such an awful place to live perhaps those creating the forces of darkness should be the people to move on. I think the longtime residents who have always lived here agree. Think about it — it is not the life-long residents creating the circus.

We need to support our mayor during this time. If any recall should have happened, it was with a previous mayor that refused to perform the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of council meetings.

The people who started this recall should pay for it, not the taxpayers of Waterville. Waterville residents, we need to support our mayor and keep him in office.

Catherine Weeks


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/mayor-shows-dignity-in-face-of-dark-forces/feed/ 0 Thu, 17 May 2018 16:22:28 +0000
View from Away: A Trump family project in China https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/view-from-away-a-trump-family-project-in-china/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/view-from-away-a-trump-family-project-in-china/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849211 In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North Korea. The U.S. military regards ZTE’s products as a security threat.

The possible reasons for Trump’s about-face are many. They include international trade and security considerations; China’s government owns a third of ZTE. That same Chinese government just guaranteed a $500 million loan that will greatly benefit a project in Indonesia in which Trump’s real estate company has a huge interest. To say this overlap of Trump’s business interests with his official duties is “troubling” doesn’t quite do it justice.

The Commerce Department last month banned U.S. firms from doing business with ZTE for seven years. The firm makes inexpensive cell phones that contain a lot of U.S. materials and components. ZTE fell under sanctions for breaking a promise to stop doing business with Iran and North Korea. Trump tweeted last week that he was worried about the possible loss of “too many jobs” in China and ordered the Commerce Department to back off.

He could be currying favor with Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of next month’s summit meeting with North Korean President Kim Jong Un. He could be trying to prevent Chinese tariff retaliation against U.S. agricultural products. It could be that Trump finally woke up to the fact that a trade war with China would be disastrous.

But the timing points elsewhere. Trump continues to personally profit from business deals done by the Trump Organization, now being run by his sons. The president claims to have no involvement in the firm’s day-to-day operations.

Even before Trump was elected, his firm had a deal with the Indonesian development company MNC to build hotels and a golf course in Lido City. Marketing materials for “MNC Lido” describe the Trump properties as “flagship” elements of the project and show Trump’s sons were directly involved.

But MNC had trouble finalizing financing until last Thursday, when the Chinese government extended a loan to the state-owned Metallurgical Corp. of China, which has partnered with MNC.

Seventy-two hours later, Trump was ordering sanctions lifted from ZTE.

The good part of all of this is that Trump has dropped his bluster about a trade war with China, which was always a bad idea. The bad part is that China seems to have figured out that the way to this president’s heart is through another unconstitutional emolument.

Editorial by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/view-from-away-a-trump-family-project-in-china/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/1378663_China_US_Trade_87938.jpg-2.jpgA salesperson stands at counters selling mobile phones produced by ZTE Corp. at an appliance store in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. The Chinese tech company ZTE has been brought to its knees by the trade dispute.Thu, 17 May 2018 16:19:36 +0000
House GOP leader: Maine Republicans ready to work as always https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/house-gop-leader-maine-republicans-ready-to-work-as-always/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/house-gop-leader-maine-republicans-ready-to-work-as-always/#respond Fri, 18 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=849206 A recent editorial in this newspaper (Our View, May 17) suggested that Gov. Paul LePage and House Republicans, led by House Republican Leader Ken Fredette, should come “back into session so that it can finish its work — all of it.” With all due respect, the editorial simply misses the mark, which should come as no shock considering that the Editorial Board is nothing more than an extension of the Maine Democratic Party.

“Sustainability” — now, there’s a word that doesn’t miss the mark. In the environmental science world, it means “supporting long-term ecological balance.” In Augusta, “long-term balance” has become an oxymoron.

In 2010, Maine was in a financial free fall. No money was in the rainy day fund; state revenues were crashing; Medicaid enrollment was 350,000 strong with a continuing string of supplemental budgets to fund over-utilizations and costs; we owed the hospitals $750 million; and the statewide unemployment rate was nearly 9 percent, with much higher rates of unemployment in the rim counties of Washington, Piscataquis and Aroostook.

The editorial conveniently doesn’t seem to mention any of that. No mention that today Maine people have nearly $200 million in their rainy day fund. No mention that Republicans paid the hospitals in full the $750 million owed to them by the last expansion of Medicaid. No mention that the Legislature, in a bipartisan fashion, reduced eligibility for Medicaid, thereby reducing the current number of Mainers on Medicaid by 20 percent, with no supplemental budgets cannibalizing funding of other departments like the Department of Marine Resources or the Department of Agriculture and Conservation.

No mention that three income tax cuts later, revenues continue to grow while Maine was still recently ranked third highest in the nation in overall tax burden by the personal finance website WalletHub. Finally, no mention that Maine is at near full employment with historically low unemployment; what’s more, wages and salaries are finally growing, because of the market and not government-forced minimum-wage hikes that will further slow our economic growth in the future.

So, yes, House Republicans are ready to get back to work. But not under the pretenses set by Democrats of expanding Medicaid with no funding source to pay for it, needlessly spending more taxpayer dollars, and, yes, even trying to further erode gun-owner rights with a late-session attempt to allow judges to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.

Simply show us the bills. Let’s run them one at a time. They can live or die on their own merits. House Republicans have repeatedly and very publicly stated our support of funding wage increases for direct-care workers, nursing homes, jails and tax reform.

The newspaper fails to call out or even mention House Speaker Sara Gideon’s public statements admitting her game-playing and use of intentional delay tactics to force an extension rather than run these bills, which have universal agreement. The editorial also neglects to mention the speaker warning organizations not to work with Republicans on an extension to get these priorities taken care of.

Remember: Democrats don’t have a majority in the House, only a plurality; they don’t control the Republican-led Senate, and we have a Republican governor.

Elections have consequences. Over the past eight years, Republicans have changed the course of Maine history by righting the ship of financial sustainability. We aren’t giving up just yet. House Republicans have stood strong and proud with Gov. LePage in writing Maine’s miracle turnaround story. So, Speaker Gideon, let’s get back to work. The time for your silly games is over. It’s past time we finish the people’s business.

Ken Fredette is a Republican state representative from Newport, House minority leader in the Maine Legislature and a candidate for his party’s nomination for governor.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/18/house-gop-leader-maine-republicans-ready-to-work-as-always/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2017/06/734506_199067_impeach0004.jpgHouse minority leader Ken Fredette, R-Newport, arrives in the House chamber on Jan. 14, 2016, at the State House in Augusta. The board of directors for RSU 19, the school district in the area Fredette represents, unanimously passed a resolution to urge the state and specifically his Republican caucus to fund education at 55 percent across the state.Thu, 17 May 2018 16:18:54 +0000
Our View: Republican hardball puts key services at risk https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/17/our-view-republican-hardball-puts-key-services-at-risk/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/17/our-view-republican-hardball-puts-key-services-at-risk/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 08:10:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=848888 Mainers with intellectual disabilities can wait for years to be placed in a group home or sheltered workshop because the state has not lived up to its promises.

As bad as that is, it could be about to get a lot worse.

An acute labor shortage is threatening the viability of existing programs that serve more than 4,000 people. Increasing the pay for direct-care workers to attract more job applicants was part of last year’s budget deal, but the state can’t spend the money in the budget year that begins July 1 until the Legislature authorizes it, and that can’t happen because Gov. Paul LePage’s allies in the House Republican caucus forced an early end to this year’s session.

They refused to support a routine bill last month that would have extended the legislative session for five days. As a result, lawmakers were forced to go home without completing work on a variety of the most important bills of the session.

The no-compromise strategy was explained by House Republican Leader Ken Fredette:

“If you want to elect Republicans who are going to act like Republicans, they need to come vote like Republicans,” Fredette said. “That means we are not just going to say, ‘You know, we got what we can get and we are going to go home and call it a nice day.’ We are not going to do that because we are trying to change the model. These things do matter.”

Their goal is to block Medicaid expansion, which was passed in a referendum last fall after it had been vetoed five times by LePage. Fredette wants to to force Democrats to give up on Medicaid by putting other programs at risk.

That makes programs for disabled adults collateral damage, along with transportation bonds, school funding and other popular issues.

If the stalemate continues, “changing the model” is more than strong rhetoric. Unless the direct-care worker money is released, providers will be reimbursed less per hour than the minimum wage they are required to pay, which could force some out of business. That would add to waiting lists that are already 1,400 names long and increase suffering for families who deserve better.

These services were cut during the recession (by a Democratic administration), and they have not been restored during the recovery. Neither party should play harball with them now. The governor should call the Legislature back into session so that it can finish its work — all of it.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/17/our-view-republican-hardball-puts-key-services-at-risk/feed/ 0 https://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/2/2018/05/1379808_927136-20180509_Spindlework.jpgLidia Woofenden, 21, right, joined by art mentor Julianne Carle, works on a needlepoint design at Spindleworks, a Brunswick arts and crafts studio for adults with intellectual disabilities. A cut in reimbursement rates for MaineCare, effective July 1, has created a looming crisis for group homes as well as day programs like these.Fri, 18 May 2018 09:11:37 +0000
Focus recall energy on helping city https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/17/focus-recall-energy-on-helping-city/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/17/focus-recall-energy-on-helping-city/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=848812 I have lived in Waterville my entire life. I have family members who dedicated years of their life in service to this city and others who have owned and operated businesses here for years. This is my hometown.

I find it insulting so many who do not live in Waterville see fit to comment on and interfere with my city, how it is run and what should happen here. If these outside sources have so much interest in Waterville, why don’t they live here, open businesses here and contribute to our tax base?

The time and energy being spent arguing over three words posted on social media could best be used to build up our city. If this city is to rebuild itself and prosper, our attention and efforts should be focused on fiscal responsibility and business development and growth, not dissecting social media post.

I will not be voting to recall Mayor Nick Isgro. As a member of the Planning Board, my time and effort remain focused on expanding the tax base.

It is time to get back to the policy issues to move Waterville forward.

Jessica L. Laliberte


https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/17/focus-recall-energy-on-helping-city/feed/ 0 Wed, 16 May 2018 15:43:01 +0000
Mayor Isgro is being bullied https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/17/mayor-isgro-is-being-bullied/ https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/17/mayor-isgro-is-being-bullied/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.centralmaine.com/?p=848813 I have been following the uproar regarding Mayor Nick Isgro’s comments and have developed an overwhelming need to speak up.

As a former Winslow resident, I have just completed my master’s of social work degree in Boston, where the animosity between the “left” and “right” is a very real thing. Although a registered Republican with moderately conservative views, I embarked on this degree of social service known to be primarily left to improve the lives of underprivileged and disadvantaged children. I felt an overwhelming need to speak up on behalf of Mayor Isgro because of my own personal experiences.

Having spent my first year of social work school silent, trapped, and scared to share my personal views out of fear of rejection, renunciation, or even retaliation from my peers and professors, I was directly giving power to the narrow-minded, tunnel-vision bullies that believe a differing opinion is flat-out wrong and in some extreme cases considered racist or sexist.

I learned through my education that speaking up, speaking out, and listening is invaluable. But how can this be when we persecute, harass and threaten those who speak up and speak out differently than what we may believe? Many on the left preach tolerance and equity but refuse to agree to disagree and thus attack one’s character and career. Tolerance and open dialogue is imperative to create change, voice beliefs, and spread knowledge. We are harming and failing ourselves if those who do so are criticized and ridiculed.

Mayor Isgro is being bullied and I’m disappointed in many of the Waterville residents that are suggesting those who don’t believe what they believe are wrong. I propose we all encourage dialogue, listen intently, and learn.

Chelsea Carrier

Brookline, Mass.

https://www.centralmaine.com/2018/05/17/mayor-isgro-is-being-bullied/feed/ 0 Wed, 16 May 2018 15:52:44 +0000