Letters to the editor — The Courier-Gazette
Fails to mention
Daniel Dunkle's summary of the latest report released by the NTSB on the accident in Owls Head, Nov. 16, 2012, fails to recognize that there were four victims that night.
The driver of the ground vehicle struck by the plane would also have been a fatality had the impact occurred moments later.The fact that he survived makes him no less of a victim, yet Mr. Dunkle's reporting insinuates otherwise.
The NTSB report includes detailed information about the plane, weather conditions, pilot's experience, the airport and the extent of the wreckage. It is a factual account indicating that the sequence of events unfolded that night as a result of several important factors not the least of which involved the choices made by the pilot. His failure to follow protocol before takeoff and his actions after impacting the ground vehicle raise serious questions. Why didn't he just stop the plane?
Mr. Dunkle's version of the NTSB report makes only passing reference to facts that put the pilot's actions into question. Instead, he chooses to focus the attention of his readers on the ground vehicle, the driver's account of events as he recalled them and the absence of a rotating yellow light on the vehicle.
The facts referring to the inexperience of the pilot (48.5 total flight hours, of which 17.4 hours were solo, and 0.2 hours of night flight as pilot in command) are on page 1 of the NTSB Report. But Mr. Dunkle mentions them only toward the end of his article, noting that it was the Knox County Airport Manager's conclusion that since there was no flight plan filed for the return to Bangor, he probably was not intending to fly at night.
But in fact, the plane took off without notice at 4:45 p.m. in the dark without lights, without having filed a flight plan or having made radio contact. The pilot was not instrument rated and had 15 minutes of experience flying at night.
Mr. Dunkle also fails to mention there was a restriction on the pilot's medical certificate stating he must "wear corrective lenses" raising the question of whether or not he was wearing them.
Mr. Dunkle ends his article with quotes from the Knox county Airport's Driving Manual's instructions for driving on movement areas. He omits, however, the NTSB report's two chapters from the FAA Handbook's instructions for pilots that are specifically relevant to the accident.
"According to chapter 5, Takeoffs and Departure Climbs" Prior to take off, the pilot should have in mind a point along the runway at which the airplane should be airborne. If that point is reached and the airplane is not airborne, immediate action should be taken to discontinue the takeoff. Properly planned and executed, chances are excellent the airplane can be stopped on the remaining runway without using extraordinary measures..."
"According to Chapter 10 "Night Operation" states in part "Takeoff and Climb. Night flying is very different from day flying and demands more attention of the pilot." With the limited availability of outside visual references," flight instruments should be used to a greater degree in controlling the airplane."
A number of factors conspired to cause the Cessna 172 to impact the truck and subsequently accelerate, take off and spin out of control. Mr. Dunkle has a responsibility to his readers to present all the facts in a responsible and objective manner. He should leave his judgements for the newspaper's opinion pages.
Whisked away like a flea
Dear Planning Board members: Erik Lautsen, Kyle Swan, Peta Van Vuuren,William Bodine and Abbie Knickelbein,
There's trouble on Pleasant Street! Many of us have been following Cabot Lyman's hotel project, which is not so easy, as its been in a state of flux for four years. Now, the project has had a make over which has really changed the bulk and scope and intention of the original plan, but this change order is being whisked away like a flea. This new hotel plan is no flea and the people on Pleasant Street don't want to swallow an elephant.
There are design issues and important questions that range from:
— mass, height and scale in relation to the streetscape- Is this attractive and in the DT guidelines?
— a lack of a traffic flow impact study-What do we do with all those cars and delivery trucks?
— public watershed viewscape loss- why should we sacrifice our the Merrill Park view to a hotel?
— a building elevation exceeding 65 feet-Why don't we respect our own rules?
— no measurements on the site plan elevations-How can anybody work with no numbers?
— facade materials in conflict with surroundings- Do we want a big box look on one of our best properties?
— delivery truck access routes- don't they have deliveries to be made?
— loss of sunlight to abutting neighbors? Should this hotel take all the sunlight from it's neighbors?
— no feasibility study for the new hotel- only a failure grade on last hotel plan when reviewed in a feasibility study?
We have zoning questions we'd like to be at peace about:
The hotel is on the edge of a zone change from business to residential. Does the city have a code requirement for a transition? We quote this section of the zoning ordinance:
"The purpose of the Downtown Zone is to preserve and promote a compact, historic commercial district to serve as the retail, office, institutional, financial, governmental, and cultural center of the community. This Zone should include mixed uses that are compatible with existing uses and architectural scale."
We all want to hotel project to succeed. We all like Cabot Lyman. The bottom line is that, as homeowners and taxpayers, we want a fair and agreeable amount of time to get answers so that we can know that we are all on the same page on what this hotel really is.
I am asking that you, the Planning Board, give us all time to address our concerns. There is a great prize to be gained by us all relating to one another and not alienating anyone- government, developer or neighborhood.
We need answers to big questions, we want our democratic process, and we want to have our concerns recognized in a dignified manner. This is not an aesthetics debate.
This is a design and impact inquiry.
I am writing in support of the city's investment in the city-state partnership proposed for repairing and repaving Old County Road. This stretch of road — often wrongly dismissed as a bypass route for Thomaston or Rockport bound traffic — is a vital connection for many Rockland residents who commute to work at some of our largest regional employers. The economic value of having a safe and well-maintained route to work cannot be overstated. Additionally, with the road in such terrible condition this commuter traffic is being displaced onto other city roads (thus increasing wear-and-tear and congestion elsewhere).
As with most things in life, it would be great if someone else would step up and pay for this but I don't think standing pat on that point works as an infrastructure maintenance strategy. According to published reports we do have a $500,000 committment from Maine DOT to add to Rockland's borrowing, but I do not think taxpayers and residents are best served by crossing our fingers and hoping that the state will break with decades of bipartisan tradition by deciding that they'll step in and take over our obligations to maintain our city infrastructure.
As a city Rockland faces hard choices around its budget and expenditures, and should not burden taxpayers (like myself) unduly. However the city also owes us taxpayers the duty of investing in our infrastructure that will only aid in retaining residents and jobs as well as attracting more of both.
I hope therefore you will vote in favor of investing in Old County Road, and by extension in favor of investing in the future of our incredible city.
We need your help
The following cultural, educational, social, religious, and government organizations have helped to make Rockland the exciting, vibrant, happening city that it is: the Farnsworth Art Museum, the Island Institute, the Lighthouse Museum, the Sail Power and Steam Museum, the Strand Theatre, the Penobscot School, the Atlantic Challenge, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Wildlife Refuge Center, the Lobster Festival, the Coastal Workshop, Knox County Hospital, Pen Bay Medical Center, Bartlett Woods Retirement Community, the Methodist Conference Home, Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care & Hospice, Stella Maris House, the Talbot Home, Maine Mental Health Partners, New Hope for Women, the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, the Elks Club, the Masonic Temple, the American Legion, the Rankin Center Elder Housing, plus 12 churches, three schools, and many county, state, and federal government offices. We will soon add the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. We are glad these institutions have made Rockland the popular destination it has become.
But as non-profit organizations, these institutions do not pay property taxes. The State of Maine prohibits requiring property taxes from non-profit organizations. I would like to suggest that the boards of directors of these fine institutions each consider making a small donation to the City of Rockland to help pay for the police and fire protection and the snow removal that the city provides for everyone.
The total annual budget for the City of Rockland is almost $7 million; of that, $1.7 million goes toward police protection, and $1.2 million goes toward fire protection. During the past four or five years, the state has reduced the help it gives to municipalities as revenue sharing. And thus Rockland has had to cut several full-time positions at the public library, the hours for the public works guys who drive the snow plows and patch the potholes, capital improvements, and expenses in all departments. What will happen when we need a new police car?
In recent years the city has sent a letter to each tax-exempt organization suggesting the organization make a donation to help cover expenses for services provided by the city. In the privacy of most institutional offices, such letters are deposited in the trash. But there are some generous non-profit organizations that make donations to the City of Rockland. Adas Yoshuron Synagogue on Willow Street and the First Universalist Church on Broadway, both contribute to the city. And Bartlett Woods, the Methodist Conference Home, the Rankin Center, Stella Maris, Hill Street Terrace, and the Stevens Home, each contributed 2 percent of their annual revenue to pay for city services. Thank you, Adas Yoshuron Synagogue. Thank you, First Universalist Church. Thank you, Bartlett Woods, Methodist Conference Home, Rankin Center, Stella Maris, Hill Street Terrace, and the Stevens Home.
I would like to challenge our other great cultural and social organizations to each make a similar donation to indicate their gratitude for the services provided by their city.
We need your help, just as you need ours.
Development, design and authority
I had not understood that the City Council has no authority over Planning Board decisions. Board of Assessment, Board of Appeals, and, in some cases, the Harbor Management Commission.
The Rockland Planning Board has approved both the CMCA design and plans, and has found no difficulty with the proposed hotel at 250 Main St. This, despite Development Standards and Minimum Architectural Design Standards which specify such things as windows, and prohibits blank walls, and that insist on compatibility with surrounding architecture and usage.
Once the Planning Board gives its approval, the only mechanism for appeal is for an entity of standing takes the case to Superior Court. Having the status of “standing,” includes adjacent owners of buildings and homes upon which a project will have an significant impact, yet it may be that a majority of residents could prove significant impact regardless of where they are situated. The City Council has standing, but that the Council would have to appeal the Planning Board’s decisions in Superior Court is remarkable.
It is very difficult to grasp that non-elected appointees of the City hold such power to mold the community. They were not elected. You may respond that they are governed by existing ordinances and appointed by the Mayor on the basis of their experience, wisdom, and interest. But we have seen that despite the clarity of development and design standards, the Planning Board has the power of interpretation, something usually, and rightly, left to legislators.
In matters of design renditions, the architects of Scattergood designs deserve full marks for their renditions of 250 Main St. in context, whereas supportive materials for CMCA are often unrelated to the setting of the Rockland proposal. For example, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn., is included, yet this structure is very much site-specific, as opposed to the insertion proposed on Winter Street in Rockland. Too, the photographs of the corrugated metal to be utilized in CMCA show a dark metal, but the renditions show a white structure. Which is it going to be?
These buildings will be permanent fixtures. Their size and design is such that they will have enormous impact. They could be buildings of deeply creative design that are compliant, aesthetically sound, and inviting. But, are they? Moreover, do they meet with existing design and use ordinances.
In the past, it has taken a public referendum to have resident concerns taken seriously.
There will be a public hearing at Rockland City Hall on the Lyman hotel on Tuesday, May 20.
In 2011 the Republican controlled 125th Maine State Legislature, passed LD 83, An Act to Legalize the Sale, Possession and Use of Fireworks, that was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage. Previously fireworks had been banned in Maine for over 60 years specifically for reasons of safety and liability.
Maine people should try to become familiar with this law because it is likely at some point to adversely affect everyone. It is perhaps one of the worst laws ever crafted in any Maine Legislature. It is full of ambiguity, makes absolutely no reference to noise or safety concerns (it appears that noise and safety were not even considered) and its description of what constitutes Consumer Fireworks makes little sense. We can only assume from the law that the term Consumer Fireworks means any and all fireworks that are available in Maine for using. It does make reference to what constitutes a fire safety official and it also makes reference to the fact that in a civil action a person could be found liable for bodily injury or property damage.
There are two places in the law that should be of specific interest to those communities in Maine that will continue to allow their use.
The first one is (A) under Number eight section 3. 8 MRSA 221-A, which states that fireworks may be used between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., except that on the following dates they may be used between the hours of 9 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. the following day. These days would be; July 4, Dec. 31, and the weekends immediately before and after July 4th and Dec. 31. This basically means that anyone in town and anyone from out of town, should they happen to be invited in by friends, have a window of 13 hours a day, seven days a week, and 52 weeks a year to legally set off any kind of fireworks at a place on their property which could be right next to your property line.
The second one is Number 2 under section 5. 8 223-A, which states, that the legislative body of a municipality may adopt an ordinance to prohibit or restrict the sale and use of Consumer Fireworks within the municipality. This has a proprietary legal significance in regards to any possible circumstances arising whereby the municipality could be found liable should they not prohibit the use of fireworks. Town leaders need to pay particular attention to this provision because in a serious case of civil litigation it could be construed to mean that the state has transferred the onus or ownership of liability from the state to the cities and towns.
The fireworks that were banned some 65 years ago (I remember) consisted of two different types, firecrackers and aerials. The aerials were Roman Candles and Bottle Rockets. Roman Candles were noiseless and harmless and would only shoot about 30 feet in the air. Bottle Rockets were not used that much because they would go over other people’s houses. (Incidentally, Bottle Rockets are the only piece of fireworks singled out as being illegal in the new Fireworks Law). The fireworks of yesteryear were pretty tame compared with the fireworks available today. They could be purchased at the local 5 and 10 and in the 1940s a few dollars would buy a lot of fireworks. Stores only sold them around the 4th.
The big difference in the fireworks of the past and today is mostly in the power of the aerials and the constant promotion to use them year-round. There is nothing in the law that deals with limiting the size and power of fireworks. Present aerials being used appear to be about 2- to 3-inches in diameter, able to be mortar launched over 150 feet in the air, and capable of erupting into multiple colored displays, followed by very loud booms. They are often, but not always, mounted on a flat 5-inch square base that the directions on the box suggests that you weight down with rocks so they won’t tip over when fired. And, oh yes, you should be at least 30 feet from the neighbor’s property when firing. However, that’s a suggestion, not the law.
The law also states that only anyone over 21 years old can legally purchase and use fireworks. That would of course include people from towns that ban their use. However, they could still shoot them off because people in towns that don’t ban can invite friends from other towns that do. They could even pool their fireworks and have a big party, complete with all the party fixings, including, of course, alcohol. The images of possible disastrous scenarios are limitless.
Young boys blowing up their hands with Firecrackers precipitated the first fireworks statewide ban. Because these injuries were serious and expensive, parents began to wonder about the free use of fireworks and who should actually be responsible for them, especially if the accident happened on someone else’s property. And thus it was for these reasons, safety and liability, that the relatively tame fireworks of that time were banned.
Because Maine’s new fireworks law allows any and all types of fireworks to be used, serious accidents will eventually happen. These accidents will be followed by big time property damage, serious bodily injury and possibly death. Lawsuits will be forthcoming and aggrieved parties will be looking for money, and possibly big money, like millions. The question now arises as to who will be sued? Will it be the person shooting off the fireworks or the community that does not ban them? Who knows? We do know that high powered law firms will be looking to go where the money is. The solution to all of these serious possibilities for communities everywhere is a simple one. Ban them.
Recent guest columnist Gene Graves told us America is a Christian nation because the original colonists came to America for "Religious Freedom...the Christian Religion!" Not so. None of the colonies established religious freedom. Only one of the colonies, Rhode Island, allowed different Christian denominations to practice as they wished. Virigina and Massachusetts established Anglican churches, levied taxes to support the clergy, banned competing Christian religious services, had religious tests for public office and whipped, branded, hung, burned at the stake and banished members for infractions of Anglican religious laws. Maryland, founded in 1634, was the only colony that allowed Catholics to worship, but only until the mid-1640s when Protestant colonists seized Catholic leaders and sent them back to England in chains. Quakers were forbidden from coming to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. If banished Quakers returned, they were hanged.
Mr. Graves asks, "What religion did they want freedom to worship?" and answers, "Christian Religion!" Not so. In 1654, Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Catholic Brazil arrived in New Amsterdam. There were also Jewish communities in Savannah, Charleston, Philadelphia and Newport.
In support of his opinion that America is a Christian nation Mr. Graves quotes from Alexis de Tocqueville's book "Democracy in America," but cuts the author off mid-paragraph. De Tocqueville is amazed that the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom were not opposed to each other in America as they were in France. " My desire to discover the causes of this phenomenon increased from day to day. In order to satisfy it I questioned members of the different sects; I sought especially the society of the clergy, who are the depositaries of the different creeds and are especially interested in their duration. As a member of the Roman Catholic Church, I was more particularly brought into contact with several of its priests, with whom I became intimately acquainted. To each of these men I expressed my astonishment and explained my doubts. I found that they differed upon details alone, and that they all attributed the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the separation of church and state. I do not hesitate to affirm that during my stay in America I did not meet a single individual, of the clergy or the laity, who was not of the same opinion on this point."
I found it interesting that Mr. Graves did not advice us to read the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. If we wished to know if America is a Christian nation. Here is what they say about religion: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof." There it is, in one sentence, our legal separation of church and state. We are not a theocracy. We do not have a state religion. Our laws are not written in British colonial charters or in chapters of Deuteronomy. We do not hang dissenters, stone our children to death (Deut 21:21) or force our virgin daughters to marry their rapists (Deut 22:29). We write our laws. We worship in our temples, synagogues, mosques, churches and meeting houses. We are many. We are one. We are a Democratic nation.
Public Service Recognition Week is May 4–10, and thanks are due to all government employees and retirees, federal, state and local, for essential services. They work side by side with our military to defend our country and care for our veterans; conduct cutting-edge research to improve public health and regulate the safety of food and medicines; and air traffic controllers ensure the safety of thousands of passengers daily. They also provide storm weather warnings, snow removal, fire and police protection, mail delivery, processing Social Security checks, and many other services.
As you encounter these public servants in our community, I encourage you to let them know you appreciate the work they do on your behalf.
President, Maine Federation of NARFE Chapters
National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association