Letters to the Editor, Jan. 5

Jan 05, 2017

A rumor that should be spread

In the days ahead you will be hearing a rumor that should be spread. Someone will say to you, “Have you heard about the Heart and Soul thing that's happening in Rockland?” Frankly, you might sigh, what could be good about something with such a stupid name?

The little I know is this: It is a two-year community process that seeks to capture the complete voice of Rockland's people. The process involves maybe potluck suppers, block parties, drinking coffee and talking, definitely interviews, and definitely processing the accumulated shares into a vision that the whole community was in on. How that cake is baked is a mystery to me, but that's the beauty of it. I don't need to know. I just say OK and hope you do, too. Rockland agrees to help Heart and Soul and Rockland hears itself speak, from the harbor up to Dodge Mountain.

The Orton Family Foundation created this blueprint for organic community change and it works. There are no leaders as such, but it has, by nonprofit law, a core board of volunteers to account for any and all money. Cardinal rule is: No part of Rockland is to be left out. This means everybody, not just Main Street, not just registered voters, not just property owners. Everyone.

Heart and Soul needs everyone's opinion on what what you love, what you value, what you want for the future. This program has happened in a dozen or more cities like Rockland and has reaped for them a cohesive, broad-based direction and purpose. Don't you just know that this day could arrive that we, the people of Rockland, could speak for what we are and what we want to be ? It's free. Heart and Soul, the powerful community action with the really dumb name.

Debby Atwell

Rockland

Lost in language, mired in predecent

Lost in language and mired in precedent, the Board of Appeals in St. George struggled on Dec. 15 to articulate a motion as they returned two Planning Board denials to that board for remedial action early in 2017. The Board of Appeals basically agreed with the applicant’s attorney. It narrowly focused on a single section of the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance relating to the application for a ramp and float on a small tidal inlet of Watts Cove.

Missing from the Board of Appeals' analysis is that not all waterfront is suitable for any and all uses. A ramp and float attached to the precipice of Roaring Spout would seem to be unsuitable. Locating a fleet of trawlers in a tidal cove that goes to mudflat seems unsuitable. Just because a person owns waterfront does not mean that the Planning Board has to approve any type of water use on that owner’s specific frontage. While the Planning Board’s procedures might need improvement, the Planning Board’s logic and understanding of the inevitable impact of this particular ramp and float exceeded the narrow analysis of the Board of Appeals. The Planning Board’s careful deliberations are recorded in their minutes from July 2012 onward.

First, lost in language. After an exhaustive presentation by the applicant’s attorney, most of the members of the Board of Appeals agreed that the ramp and float impact was not defined by the Planning Board denial in language suitable to Section 16 D. 4. of the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance. That Section states that a project “will not have an adverse impact on spawning grounds, fish aquatic life, bird or other wildlife habitat.” So, contrary to ample evidence in the Planning Board Minutes, the Board of Appeals restricted itself to Section C.5. of the Ordinance concerning “length” of the ramp and float.

Two remarks by Appeals Board members were revealing. One said that when you buy waterfront, you expect to use it. The other remark characterized the Planning Board discussion as “emotional.”

Of course, language that characterizes the Planning Board consideration of current residential use and environmental analysis as “emotional” is an easy way to make that information irrelevant. However, the Planning Board decision was not “emotional,” but instead was information-based. It considered reports of environmental experts on the importance of this extremely tidal area. The project is “first mud, last mud,” which means it is the first mud for feeding for migratory birds and shorebirds, and the last mud to be covered by incoming tide.

The Planning Board considered habitat designations from the state’s Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. It considered the Comprehensive Plan required by the state and approved by vote of the people of St. George. It considered that part of the applicant’s property is in town Natural Resources Protection and that a long section of nearby shorefront is held in permanent conservation easement by the Georges River Land Trust.

Information from these sources was deemed irrelevant by the Board of Appeals because this information is not part of the specific language of the Ordinance. Really? So scientific information gathered for IFW, a voter approved Comprehensive Plan, designated Resource Protection areas, permanently conserved shoreline, and local Conservation Commission Natural Resources mapping are all irrelevant. If so, then why is time, local vote, and taxpayer funding used to make these tools available to the Planning Board, the town staff, and the residents?

Second, about mired in precedent. If “precedent” is the primary criterion for making decisions, we would still be piping sewage into the Bay and fishing and swimming in it. Blacks would still be slaves. Women would not be allowed to vote. Gone are those “precedents.” For good reasons. Gone are the good old days when owning property meant you owned the right to do whatever you wanted with it. For good reason.

The Planning Board in St. George denied the ramp and float project based on full information and a full understanding that not all shorefront is suitable for all water uses. Private rights have been adjusted throughout human history to set new and better precedents. The decision by the St. George Planning Board is one of those decisions that sets a better precedent. Let us hope that this better precedent is affirmed and reinforced by their deliberations in the new year.

Anita Siegenthaler

St. George

Inmates need human contact

I have been reading a lot lately about video visits replacing contact visits at several county jails throughout the state. As a former corrections officer, I have seen firsthand how important the touch of a loved one is to someone who is incarcerated.

Humans are social by our very nature, and living in a space devoid of any human contact can be detrimental to the psyche. When I started in corrections, from my first day, I stated that I wanted inmates leaving the facility I was working in to be better going out than when they came in, thus reducing the rate of recidivism.

On the inside, mail, phone calls and visits are the most important things in any inmate’s life. I have witnessed this firsthand, watching inmates holding the hands of their loved ones, giving brief hugs to their children. It brings the human element back to the inmate, reminding them there are people who love them and are waiting for them to be released, who are promising them a future.

Hearing the voice of a loved one on the phone, holding the hand of your spouse, or holding your child in the visit room is all you have to connect you to the outside world. There is a bond formed between child and parent by making eye contact in person; the same bond is not formed by eye contact on a computer screen during a video visit. Keeping families strong and intact should be a goal of the Department of Corrections, and contact visits help that happen.

People who transgress the law and are caught are punished by being incarcerated. That is their punishment, their lack of freedom. It should not be the intent of the Department of Corrections, or any of its facilities, to further inflict more punishments by taking away the only contact a person has with their loved one.

I understand completely the need for security measures with metal detectors, pat searches, recording devices, and K-9 searches in conjunction with contact visits, and feel those measures are certainly necessary to help safeguard contraband entering secure facilities. If someone is found to be trafficking, or attempting to traffic, contraband into a jail or prison, take away their contact visits for an allotted period of time, as they do at Maine State Prison, but don’t take away all contact visits for all incarcerated people.

Heightening security leads to less contraband being trafficked into secure facilities, and that is safer for all staff and inmates alike, but removing all human contact from prisoners only brings about more antisocial behaviors, not healthy prosocial ones. People who are incarcerated are humans and should be treated as such.

They are serving their time, repaying their debt to society by being incarcerated, should we really be taking them completely away from humanity and just hoping they will miraculously fix themselves?

A.J. Scheurer

Union

Need help finding lost dog

Our family is looking for help in Knox, Waldo and Lincoln counties to find our missing four-legged family member, Duncan. He went missing Dec. 25 from Route 90 in Warren, when he got loose through our invisible fence. He is a 4-year-old, tan, 110-pound bullmastiff/Rottweiler mix, wearing a collar and an invisible fence device. He was seen Dec. 25 on Carroll Road in Warren between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. (near stop sign at Tolman Road intersection); and on Dec. 27 around 8:30 p.m. on Route 131 near the Warren Community School. There had been no further sightings as of Jan. 1. He may have now traveled several miles from these earlier sightings, no doubt looking for food and shelter, so we are looking for the community’s help in expanding our search area.

I want to thank everyone who has been helping us try and find Duncan. Our five children and Glenn and I miss him very much, as it is not the same without him. He is a big part of our family. I feel so blessed to live in the community that I do, because everyone has been trying so hard to help us find Duncan, whether it be posting his picture, putting up fliers, hiking the local trails, aerial search (thank you, Penobscot Island Air) or giving us ideas on where to find him or ways to get him home. The folks at Maine Lost Dog Recovery have been so incredibly supportive and encouraging. Hundreds of posters have been put up throughout the roads and businesses in Warren and Union.

We appreciate all the positive feedback on our post on the Midcoast Message Board and we have had so many people sharing Duncan’s picture and doing everything they can to help get him home to us. I would like to send out an extra special thank-you to April Berry, who has gone above and beyond to help bring Duncan home. Thank you to Shari Closter as well for all of her help to find Duncan. We have his Lost Dog flyer posted on the Maine Lost Dog Recovery Facebook page and the Midcoast Message Board Facebook page.

We need your help. If you can share his Lost Dog flyer on your Facebook page and with your friends; put up flyers (in plastic sleeves) on poles at major intersections in all of the local towns surrounding Warren; check your sheds, chicken coops, wells and buildings; place flyers at entrances to all local snowmobile and hiking trails; and listen/watch for any unusual barking or activity in the areas in which you live.

If you have any information or sightings, please do not call out or chase/attempt to catch Duncan – call Renee immediately with any sightings at 691-3943 or 542-0827.

Thanks again, everyone, for your support and help in finding our beautiful boy. Tomorrow is another day and I am hoping it's the day Duncan finds his way home! We love and miss you Duncan, please come home safe!

Renee Wiley

Warren

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