Cold air and warm hearts

By The Courier-Gazette Editorial Board | Jan 04, 2018

Happy New Year to all of our readers.

This bright new year starts off on a mixed note with bitter cold temperatures leading to dead car batteries, frozen pipes, higher fuel bills and frostbitten ears. We urge all to stay warm, seek help if you find yourself without proper shelter and wear that hat and gloves as you go outside. It can take only a few minutes to damage skin!

Hardest-hit have been the homeless who live in our midst. We often do not see those who live in tents in the woods or in their cars, but they are out there, and we do not have the shelters to take care of them. This can be a tough economy, and those who are fortunate can afford a little compassion.

Rockland Mayor Valli Geiger and the team of city employees working with her deserve credit for opening up city buildings as warming shelters for those in need during this cold snap. Residents can go to Rockland City Hall, the library or the rec center.

This is an example of public servants doing what they can to help people in their communities. This is our local government at its best.

For a little historical perspective, you may find it interesting to know that the Midcoast was gripped by a similar cold snap a century ago, around Jan. 1, 1918. Temperatures dropped to lows of nearly 30 below zero and stayed below freezing for eight days. At the time, The Courier-Gazette reported it was the coldest spell in history.

"There has been no peace for the plumber and no rest for the janitor," the paper reported.

The North Haven thoroughfare was frozen solid and closed to navigation.

"Outdoor work in the ship yards and quarries has been out of the question and frostbitten ears, noses, hands and toes are the order of the day."

Making matters worse, there was a coal shortage. Residents were also concerned as some locals were fighting in Europe in World War I.

"Great suffering has prevailed," the report concluded.

Strong words, and we feel that for the most part, our present struggles are not so grim. If you can, remember to check on your elderly neighbors and help anyone you see in need.

In support of the minimum wage increase

The new year also brought with it a dollar increase in the minimum wage, up to $10 per hour for workers in Maine.

This increase is long overdue. It was brought about by citizens gathering signatures who managed to get it on the November 2016 ballot, and it has met with opposition from some who argue the minimum wage was not intended to be a "living wage," and that it will force businesses to either raise prices or eliminate jobs.

It seems to us, if we are going to preach that people should "lift themselves up by their bootstraps," we should at least pay them enough for their hard work to afford shoelaces.

Wages in the Midcoast for those just starting out in the workforce have been too low for too long, and to opponents of the minimum wage, there was never a good time to adjust it to the skyrocketing increases in the cost of living.

Affordable housing is in short supply in Rockland. Many minimum-wage jobs have schedules that change constantly, making it hard or impossible for employees to take on second jobs. Many are also held to part-time status so companies can avoid having to provide benefits.

We have heard much about employees in the restaurant business opposing the minimum wage increases, but we wonder how often it was really business owners making those statements or pushing their employees to do so.

The community as a whole will thrive when those who go to work every day are rewarded and given incentives. It declines when the system is rigged against the working class.

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