Letters to the editor — The Courier-Gazette
Learn from our young people
Over the past few years the students and faculty of Oceanside and RSU 13 have worked hard to make the transition to a combined district. The young people in particular have demonstrated great maturity in making the change. In recent months we have witnessed the actions of adults in our community who have lacked the skills to cooperate and work out differences together, which have led to simply wanting to withdraw if they do not get their way. Perhaps the adults in our community might learn from our young people and show some maturity and graciousness. Dividing our efforts to educate might serve some local identity needs, but they do not benefit the larger needs in educating our young people. We all have to work together in the efforts to raise and educate our young people.
The Rev. Peter Jenks
A town in need
I am a Maine resident and have been all my life. I grew up in Knox County and raised three kids here, and now live in the town of Washington and have for five years or so. When I moved here I thought, "what a quaint little town." It has a town office, library, general store in the center of town and a post office nearby. I thought my two girls would be happy with these so close by, and they were for the first year. The house I bought needed a lot of work, it's an old farmhouse.
Then as I see it, the town started to deteriorate slowly; the store in town closed up for good and the other was sinking. First there was no gas in town, then the food that was sold had expired. There were no repairs going on that I see, the roads were the only thing being fixed. There have been a few people try to bring business back to this town and for some reason they have failed. I am thinking that we need a town manager to help with the town problems.
I had a problem with a piece of land that states in my deed I own and my neighbor, who has used the land as hers, wanted to bring some heavy equipment down across and do some repairs, not asking me if I would be OK with this, just telling me I had to call the police. Things started to get ugly.
The day before that I had a town selectman Wes Daniels stand in my driveway telling my husband that he has been nothing but trouble from the first day we moved in and he was going to cut some trees down and plow and sand so an ambulance could get down my drive if I needed. Of course, if that was the case, go right ahead, but this selectman did the same thing last year and no ambulance ever showed up. At that time he had a town plow truck plow down my drive and bust my fence and rip up some of my plants and then never said a word. When I called the town office and asked if he was going to replace these things, he told me to fill out an application. He denied it, so I replaced and fixed it myself without their help.
I have real concerns about how this town is being run. This is 2014 and not the 1800s and I think that some new and fresh ideas would be in its best interest of the town, before its a ghost town with no interest.
Find a compromise
I am a Rockland resident. I pay more than $4,000 each year in property taxes and feel I have a right to weigh in on the deliberations in regard to the Center for Maine Contemporary Art's proposed new building on Winter Street.
My husband and I, and many of our friends, are part of the arts economy that has been vital to Rockland's success as a city that is known internationally for its galleries, its restaurants, and its connection to the sailing waters of Penobscot Bay.
Rockland has many visitors, both summer and winter. They come here and rent B&B rooms, dine in our restaurants, and shop in the downtown district that the current design standards are meant to protect and expand.
I understand the reasons for those standards, but feel there are flaws in at least two of the basic assumptions that appear to underlie them as currently written.
First, there is the idea that the future of Rockland should, at least visually, mimic our past. Second is the idea that the industrial waterfront hampers our ability to attract the sorts of business that will take us into a sustainable future. Both these assumptions invite a vision that could turn Rockland, from a vital, self-sufficient, and energized community, into a theme park of “downtown Americana” frozen in time.
Visitors to Rockland express interest in, and approval of, our active working waterfront. They compare our city favorably to other coastal resort towns, where industry has been replaced with giftshops and the economy is primarily based on tourism dollars.
The easy connection between our nitty-gritty reality and the luxury of fine dining and comfortable lodging are part of what makes Rockland special. While this town is “not just for sailors and whores anymore,” to quote a popular bumper sticker, a vital fishing port is as essential to our character as is the growing schooner fleet.
Those of us who spend time on boats will tell you that access to affordable marine services is essential in attracting recreational sailors as well as commercial fishermen. Diners who sit down in Rockland's world-class restaurants like the idea that the fish on their plates were landed right here.
I urge the city council to work with CMCA to find a compromise that will satisfy the spirit and intent of the design standards and still allow architect Toshiko Mori to create the sort of landmark museum that she has in mind.
A regular pattern of doors and windows might invite shoppers to enter a series of stores, but drawing art patrons requires a different sort of visual impact. Perhaps the inclusion of irregular niches in the Winter Street facade, for the display of outdoor artworks, could support the visual bridge Mori's design already makes between the human commercial scale of Main Street and the necessary industrial nature of the irregular buildings on Tillson Wharf.
I would also like to suggest that the city help CMCA and Mori work with the project's neighbors to create a pathway, possibly through the proposed courtyard, to bring pedestrians to Buoy Park and the waterfront.
One can easily imagine that, in the late 1950s, the Fifth Avenue neighbors of the then-proposed Guggenheim Museum were uncertain about how Frank Lloyd Wright's unusual building would fit in among their upscale brick and limestone apartments, with their pillars and wrought iron balconies.
In the current issue of Architectural Digest, Mori is quoted as saying her firm pays “... close attention to site, environment, and program.” I hope CMCA will recognized the value of being part of this community, through programs, exhibitions, and services that make art accessible to our citizens, and that the city of Rockland will work with this innovative designer, one of Architectural Digest's top 100 architects for 2013, to invite CMCA to build a visual and cultural bridge that will enhance the vitality of Rockland's industrial underpinnings as well as its retail commercial future.
Watch for it
Recently I attended a small event at the State House marking the fourth anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission case. This was the decision that has allowed unlimited corporate and union so-called “independent/outside money” to be spent in our elections on behalf of or in opposition to candidates or ballot issues. The source of such funds is often untraceable, and the amount can surpass the amount of money candidates are able to raise and spend conducting their own campaigns. Indeed, in Maine in 2012 for the first time, independent expenditures exceeded the spending by political parties and candidates’ own campaigns, according to the nonpartisan Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, which organized the event.
In Maine and elsewhere, people are working to undo the harms of the Citizens United ruling with a U.S. Constitutional Amendment and other means. Meanwhile, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is working on another path to reform, which is to strengthen Maine’s pioneering Clean Elections Act. The 1996 Clean Election Act made fixed, modest amounts of public money available for Maine legislative candidates who choose to use only those funds for their campaigns in lieu of private money raised from supporters.
The group announced that it will be the lead organization working in 2014 to put citizen-initiated legislation on the ballot to make sure the Clean Election Fund always has the money it needs for the program, to close some campaign-funding loopholes, to tighten reporting timelines and to allow Clean Election candidates to have more funds, if needed, by securing additional $5 contributions beyond the threshold level needed to qualify. This last provision will help restore funding balance in a close race where a privately funded opponent is outspending a Clean Election candidate, who is currently limited to the allotment of public campaign money.
The advantages of the Clean Election option are that it allows people without personal wealth or wealthy supporters to run for office, it permits them to spend less time raising money and more time talking to voters and, once elected, to not be beholden to supporters.
This last objective is, of course, critical if we are to have a government that is in fact “of the people.” Emma Halas-O’Connor, representing the Environmental Health Policy Center, one of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections coalition partners in the ballot referendum effort, put a fine point on it:
“I am here today because our work to protect the health of Maine families often meets the opposition of the big chemical industry – the fifth largest spender nationally in the 2012 election.
“…we have seen influxes of money from the big chemical industry funneled into state politics to prevent the most modest efforts to protect children from harmful toxic chemicals.”
Petition papers will be ready in the spring for registered voters. Please watch for your chance to sign for reform. And if you are not a registered voter, please register now. This is not the time to drop out in despair. This is the time to come together and make government more responsive to citizens.
Here we go again
Another school shooting and more children maimed by another student and this time he left behind a journal. Again, the news is all over it like a swarm of mosquitoes going in for blood. Now for the record, I am not against the news doing a story, but they seem to dig until they get all the dirt they can dig up and put it out there for all to either read about or talk about.
The sad part about this whole picture is since the age of technology has come into our lives, along with computers, iPods, cellphones, iPads, etc., the people who have these items get into the websites such as Google or Yahoo or whatever else is on the computers. I have been told its called the cyber world, the age of the information highway and the information you can access on these systems is endless. At the same time, the items you can purchase on the Internet are as endless as the information on the system. As long as you have a major credit you can purchase a major weapon or pick it up at your local gun shop.
The question I ask again is, when will this end or better yet, when will we as the human race wake up to the fact that we are allowing our children to vent their frustration and anger through the use of weapons that we have in our homes? I also have to ask, where are the parents of these kids?
This is only going to end when we as humans say enough is enough to the ownership of more than one weapon, be it a pistol or rifle. At the same time, make sure that any weapon we have is properly secured by means of a trigger guard and the weapon is secured by no less than three locks and the storage container is made of heavy duty steel and, if needed, is fire proof with an access alarm so that only an adult has access to it. But I know that is never going to happen because we have become a nation that is hellbent on having in our possession any weapon on the market and if they could they would buy a tank or any weapon that is for sale.
Robert J. Robinson