Pursuing happiness on the Fourth of July
As this edition of The Courier-Gazette reaches your hands, your plans for the Fourth of July are likely set, if not already in motion.
For us, the Fourth always means watching the children (and a few grown-ups too!) hold their hands to their ears as the fire trucks in the Thomaston parade go past, sirens blaring. Often, seeing how Americans respond to Independence Day is as enjoyable as the parade itself.
Houses boast flags and bunting. Some along the route play patriotic music. People wear red, white and blue clothing — some even color their hair or their faces with makeup for the occasion.
Camden will celebrate with Music by the Sea.
Both communities will offer up the traditional fireworks (even more than we hear on an average summer night since they have been legalized!). We in the newsroom will hope as we do every year that Pete Lammert's luck holds out as he and his colleagues light all those rockets, sending booming, bursting, colors and lights and smoke trails heavenward.
For most Americans, the Fourth of July is a time for family and the simple pleasures of a backyard barbecue.
At some point during the day or evening, many take a moment to ponder the history behind the celebrations:
"In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain," History.com states. "On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson."
That documents states, in part:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
These ideals have served us well for 237 years. Like any great document, the declaration has been applied, enforced, preached, debated, reexamined and worried over. Great documents leading to great actions are wonderful because they do not change as the world around them is constantly in motion. They remain comforting in that way.
From our vantage point, it seems the quiet celebrations and family get-togethers embody the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We wish you a Happy Fourth.
Fun fact: "John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence, and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest. Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826 — the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence." — History.com
Taxes and budgets
For the past few weeks we have been watching discussions of the Rockland city budget, the RSU 13 school budget and the state budget to see the impact on local taxpayers.
With the passage of the two-year state budget, we have learned that the city will lose about $280,000 in funding it normally receives from the state and the school district has learned it will receive $343,000 it had given up for lost.
This is good news in some ways. The city could have lost much more funding and this is a win for the school district, but we hope school and city leaders will continue to make the tough budget decisions needed to reduce spending and keep the burden off local taxpayers.
City Finance Director Tom Luttrell said the tax rate will likely be $19.48 per $1,000 in assessed property value as long as the City Council does not add to the budget and the school district does not decide to restore funding that was cut as part of the school budget process.
He said the council wants to cut the budget rather than adding to the taxes.
So $19.48 is a best-case scenario, up from the present $19.42 in Rockland.
These numbers coming out of the state do not really cancel each other out. Local residents are facing rising costs in fuel, food, utilities and are not seeing increases in income to match. The comments we receive from residents is they cannot afford increases in property taxes.
As a side note, we are confused by Gov. Paul LePage's statements that he opposed the budget that the Legislature passed because he opposed any tax increases. He must know that cuts to school aid or revenue sharing in Augusta amount to property tax increases in local communities. Seems like a simple tax shift to us.
Profits and losses
We leave you this week with a question. It was clear from court documents filed in the lawsuit between the town of Warren and the company seeking to put a methadone clinic in the town that these clinics are for-profits.
If a methadone clinic is making a profit, what is its motivation to help patients stop using drugs?