Kudos to Pearl

Pearl Benjamin’s speech delivered at the State House March 1 (and appearing as a Guest Editorial in the Courier’s March 8 edition) was an A+ in all regards! She is articulate, direct and to the point — and properly calls out all legislators who are hiding behind the Second Amendment and the NRA's influence, and who will not even consider a ban on automatic/semi-automatic weapons and their large magazines. Banning these weapons infringes in no way on the Second Amendment. Their only purpose is killing people.

Hooray for high school students like Pearl Benjamin; keep it up! You are the leaders of today — and definitely tomorrow. We are very proud of you.

Pen Williamson


Favors paper bag fee

The headline looks wonderful: "Rockland bans single-use plastic bags, polystyrene foam" with a unanimous council vote (VillageSoup, March 12, 2018).

The Styrofoam ban certainly is wonderful, but the ban on plastic bags, without an incentivizing paper bag fee, is not. If this fee does not get added to the ordinance, we will be greenwashing — having created a "feel-good" measure where Rockland can claim to care about the environment, while in reality perpetuating more environmental harm than we did before the plastic bag ban.

There is no doubt that banning single-use plastic bags is good for the animals who choke on them, and will create a decrease in plastic bag litter. But by simply replacing plastic with paper, and handing out these paper bags for free, our city will increase its carbon footprint and contribution to global warming. Even at 30 percent recycled content, cradle-to-grave studies show paper bags have much more global warming potential and resource use than a single-use plastic bag. And even at 100 percent recycled content, paper bags still take a tremendous amount of energy and water to produce.

Here in Maine, we have one of the highest rates of asthma in the United States, much of which is caused by being the "tailpipe of the country." We should not be contributing further to our own health issues by increasing our use of resource-heavy paper bags.

The proven way to change people's habits and best incentivize use of reusable bags, therefore truly reducing our contribution to pollution, is having a small paper bag fee. At the March 12th Rockland City Council meeting, a few Main Street business owners and those who claim to represent local business interests were outspoken about not wanting a paper bag fee. It is important to have this dialogue and hear their thoughts. However, business fears and interests do not always, nor often, coincide with environmentally sound policies.

Some good has come out of this: I feel heartened and hopeful that far more local businesses, organizations and individuals were in favor of the paper bag fee to accompany the plastic bag ban, than against it. Grassroots energy is growing in this city! Unfortunately, council took the fee off the table, for now, with a promise to revisit it later.

I encourage all of you who are concerned about our environmental impact to write the papers and the city councilors (City Clerk Stuart Sylvester can send your email to the councilors: ssylvester@rocklandmaine.gov). Tell them: the tide is changing in Rockland. We must make policies which truly benefit the earth and our own health. And after the city-wide paper bag fee eventually passes, what's next?

Becca Shaw Glaser


Time to take action on addiction

It is time for our community to get organized and to take local action on the war against drug addiction. By all measurements, this terrible problem continues to worsen and is affecting thousands of people in Midcoast Maine. While we do have some excellent leaders representing our community, it is also clear that many local, state and federal leaders are not effectively leading us out of this problem.

Some actions have been taken in Maine statewide, but Knox County is strikingly deficient in its response in almost every area of need.

The Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition is seeking partners to identify unmet needs and to begin implementing solutions in Knox County within this year. MCRC will seek to create panels representing the following areas to reduce the rates of drug addiction and its consequences in Midcoast Maine:

1. Leadership from all levels of government and public and private organizations

To create the environment for positive change, build awareness of substance use as a public health problem and to help create solutions to ongoing problems.

2. Prevention programs

Prevention research has developed effective community-based prevention programs that reduce substance use and delinquent behavior among youth. Research shows that for each dollar invested in research-based prevention programs, up to $10 is saved in treatment for alcohol or other substance misuse-related costs.

Schools represent one of the most effective channels for influencing youth substance use. Many highly effective evidence-based programs are available that provide a strong return on investment, both in the well-being of the children they reach and in reducing long-term societal costs. Interventions that target youth who have already initiated use of alcohol or drugs should also be implemented to prevent escalation of use. Our communities would benefit from the addition of strong prevention programs.

3. Treatment

Provide treatment and recovery supports.

Many individuals in our community lack regular access to the health care system. For many with substance use problems, schools and health care providers can provide an entry into treatment and support for ongoing recovery. Local medical practices and emergency departments can make referrals to community and school counselors for screening, brief counseling and referral to more comprehensive treatment services. Schools and our communities can also help create a supportive environment that fosters recovery, something that is lacking currently.

Enhance training of health care professionals.

There is currently an unmet need to integrate substance use treatment with the local health care delivery system, addressing needs for education and training for providers in all health care roles and disciplines, including primary care doctors, nurses, specialty treatment providers, and prevention and recovery specialists.

4. Recovery Support

There remains a huge need to create supportive environments and many pathways to enhance recovery for individuals and communities to meet the recovery needs of many people in Midcoast Maine.

5. Housing

Supportive, safe and affordable housing, critically important for those entering recovery and sustaining long-term recovery, is lacking in Midcoast Maine.

6. Employment

Stable and gainful employment needed to support those in recovery is relatively lacking in Midcoast Maine. Job-readiness training for those in recovery and job opportunities are needed in our communities.

7. Judicial and Law Enforcement

Best practices to enable people with addiction to receive treatment rather than punishment are lacking in Midcoast Maine. Programs like problem-solving courts, law-enforcement-assisted diversion, jail-based treatment and oversight are needed to help foster sustained recovery.

MCRC will reach out to organizations and individuals involved in, and responsible for, these unmet needs in our community to join in working panels to implement solutions as soon as feasible.To learn more, or to join one or more panels, contact info@midcoastrecovery.org or call 701-1182.

Ira Mandel

Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition

How to stop school shootings

My suggestions to stop school shootings and save our children and others: Arrest the ones who want to be shooters, put in jail or prison cell. Each day, feed them only stale bread and water (nothing else), and confine in a cell day-in and day-out.

Notarize this in all national newspapers and see that it works. This should make others think twice before making any remarks or threats.

Esther Novicka


Tax cuts: Giving more money to the people, by the people

Four million people. Roughly three times the entire population of Maine. That is the number of hard-working Americans who have received a well deserved financial bonus from the passage of the federal tax cuts.

More than 370 companies — both large and small — across America have proudly announced pay raises, substantial bonuses, enhanced retirement benefits and increased health insurance coverage since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act late last year. And Mainers are already reaping the benefits.

Lowes hardware stores, with 11 locations in Maine, employing hundreds of Mainers, gave more than 260,000 employees a $1,000 bonus. Additionally, Lowes is expanding its benefits packages for full-time employees with paid maternity leave for 10 weeks and adoption assistance up to $5,000. This is just one great example of the hundreds of job creators that have taken their tax savings and reinvested in their employees and business.

While many large companies have received media attention for their distribution of bonuses, raises and other incentives, small businesses — the backbone of our great state — deserve some recognition, too. Greenhead Lobster and Pemaquid Mussel Farms owners are both using their tax savings to expand their operations. Hugh Reynolds, owner of Greenhead Lobster, said that his new facility would hire an additional 30 to 45 employees by the end of 2019; creating jobs that would definitely not have been created if it weren’t for small-business tax savings.

Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed last December, many small businesses were taxed at nearly 50 percent once state and local taxes were added in. Today, the top federal rate has dropped to 37 percent. This reduction will provide financial flexibility to the more than 144,000 small businesses in the Pine Tree State.

And in addition to bonuses and raises, many Mainers will have more to be thankful for when they open their paychecks this month. The Internal Revenue Service updated its withholding rates to reflect the lower tax rates from the Republican tax cuts. To put this into perspective, the average single filer who makes a $50,000 salary will see a 2.24 percent increase in their take-home pay. This amounts to roughly $1,121 per year, or $93 per month. Unless you're Nancy Pelosi, whose net worth is $30 million, an additional $93 per month is more than just "crumbs."

Every dollar given to employees as a result of tax cuts is another dollar for people to spend on groceries, daycare, savings for college, or even a vacation. But more importantly, tax cuts mean less money for the federal government to use ineffectively.

While some legislators advocate for steep rises in the minimum wage and government-mandated paid leave for families, they should keep in mind that job creators are implementing these changes on their own because of tax incentives. Tax cuts work on their own.

Paula G. Sutton