Courier-Gazette Letters to the Editor, April 18

Apr 18, 2019

Just the facts, please

The City Council, committees, task forces, etc., should not have restrictions imposed on them because of signatures obtained based on a post card that had false information about Amendment 48. Here are the facts about that.

The post card depicted a tiny house on wheels, and the fact is it could never be a dwelling in Rockland, even if Amendment 48 had passed.

The post card has “Rockland’s green spaces will disappear.”

There were no changes to Rockland’s transitional zones, our many parks and recreational areas or allowable building coverage in zones A, AA and B, so no green spaces could disappear.

In RR1 and RR2 zones, allowable coverage was doubled to 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively, like in zones A, AA and B. There are still 40 percent or 60 percent remaining green, so green spaces can’t disappear.

The post card reads “A newly amended Zoning Ordinance doubles density by reducing lot size requirements by 50-60% ...’

Net density equals the total number of residential units divided by the total residential land area (excludes roads, open spaces and other uses). Since the denominator is a constant, to double the density, the total residential units would have to be doubled. Density is a count of houses, not a count of large lots divided by two

There would have to be about 3,300 new housing units built that meet all Rockland’s code to double the density in our residential area! Amendment 48 could not lead to doubling the density in Rockland.

The post card was Rockland’s version of the H.G. Wells "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast that caused people to panic. That panic was mentioned by a speaker at a council meeting as being a good thing -- that people desperately sought out that group’s petitions so they could sign them. The post card got to people emotionally, not logically.

Those opposing many changes always toss around the phrase "you’ll change the character of the neighborhood." So, what is the description of each neighborhood’s character? They also toss around "and the Comprehensive Plan must be followed," but never the statement or the part of the Comprehensive Plan that is not being followed.

We all have a different type and size of house and different types and sizes of lots all in the same neighborhood. Many buildings have a variety of additions. We have garages, sometimes two or more, decks, sheds sometimes two or more, fabric boathouses, fabric sheds, chicken houses, green houses, play houses, gazebos, screen houses, offices, workshops and fences in a great variety of combinations on our properties. And since many of these were built a long time before the zoning changes of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, didn’t those changes affect the character of our neighborhoods? What specific problems existed that those most recent zoning changes fixed? We need the facts, please.

Rockland doesn’t need saving and we won’t be haunted. It’s called progress.

Go, Rockland!

Jeanne Marshall

Rockland

Islanders 'hopeful' for a solution to ferry passengers' problem

Last fall the Maine State Ferry Service proposed a reduced winter schedule to Vinalhaven. The proposal met with a lot of opposition, including an ultimately fruitless petition to then Commissioner David Burnhardt, signed by virtually every one of the 535 island residents. The proposed schedule having resulted from concerns about nighttime navigation, the MSFS invited the Coast Guard to witness those perceived hazards during a ride through the islands. While underway, they noticed that the engines of several passenger vehicles on deck were running, in violation of federal law 46 CFR § 78.40-5, which states: ‘The master shall take all necessary precautions to see that automobiles or other vehicles have their motors turned off when the ferry is under way.’

Islanders had been running their vehicle engines while underway for decades, and with neither knowledge of nor concerns about prohibitions. If any among the crew had been aware of the prohibition, concerns about enforcement, way out here where less attention is often paid on many fronts, faded. But whereas many of us were simply too lazy to go into the cabin and preferred to sit in our warm (or cool) cars during the hour-plus ride back or forth or both, there were, as quickly became apparent, some whose comfort was much more critical and, in a few instances, was a life-or-death issue.

The federal law provided for no exceptions to the prohibition but, in response to an urgent request that an exception be allowed for ambulances whose patients’ lives often depend on integral components of the ambulance to run and keep them alive, the USCG Sector Commander, Capt. Brian LeFebvre, granted an exception for those vehicles identified by Maine Title 29A as emergency vehicles which, of course, included ambulances.

As it happens, however, there were and are, other than medical patients, some whose comfort while underway is critical and, in a few instances, life-threatening. That and the fact that most ferry cabins are not wheelchair accessible, the elevators to the upper level (and only) passenger cabins on the newer vessels are often inoperable and that exiting a vehicle after the ferry is loaded, to try to navigate to a passenger cabin, is impossible for some handicapped passengers, made the "no engines" policy an issue of critical importance.

On March 11, a Vinalhaven selectman alerted our congressional delegation to the urgency and asked that something be done quickly to provide for the continued safety and comfort of those whose lives were adversely and dangerously affected by the prohibition. Regional representative Chris Rector of independent Sen. Angus King’s office responded immediately that King’s office had been in conversations with representatives from Republican Sen. Susan Collins and from Democrat Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office, as well as with our local elected representatives and USCG Sector Northern New England about finding a commonsense solution to what has become a very serious problem for some island travelers.  He suggested that all concerned meet with representatives from the King, Collins and Pingree offices by mid-April.

Accordingly, the promised meeting with Rector, a representative from Pingree’s office, several USCG representatives, including LeFebvre, State Sen. Dave Miramant, D-Camden, and Democratic State Reps, Genevieve McDonald of Stonington and Ann Matlock of St. George, and Vinalhaven and North Haven town officials, was held at the Rockland terminal Friday, April 12.

At that meeting, three of those most seriously handicapped testified to the insurmountable obstacles presented by the no engines policy and there followed a productive discussion among those gathered during which all seemed interested in finding a commonsense solution. Miramant proposed that the issue be addressed on the state level by expanding the scope of emergency vehicles defined by the aforementioned Maine statue, to include vehicles identified as having to have engines running. He and Rep’s McDonald and Matlock will give it their immediate attention.

Enacted in the 1950s, the original prohibition against running engines was surely conceived with safety in mind, but the danger imagined has never been realized on a Maine State Ferry, and weighing that safety concern against the equally important concerns of folks like those I’ve cited is not unreasonable.  Islanders are hopeful.

Phil Crossman

Vinalhaven

Vaccination requirement is 'heavy-handed'

I write you today as an educator, a lobster fisherman, and most of all, a parent. There’s a real bad bill up in Augusta. No, it’s not more taxes you might detest. It’s about denying specific students access to education because of their religious or philosophical beliefs.

I’d rather not be involved in politics, but LD 798 could deny about 9,000 students reasonable access to their right to a free public education, as codified in the Maine constitution and elsewhere. Listed in Article Eight of the U.S. Constitution, written by Pres. Thomas Jefferson, are specifics for the funding of our system. He wanted the money for the kids in place because he recognized the need for communities and the greater good.

This is worth the time to protest, it’s why I’m writing. More than 800, or 25 percent of students at the University of Maine Augusta alone use an exemption, often filing the day of enrollment. If these students couldn’t produce the proper medical papers at that time, they’d be turned away. Let’s not forget what we’re talking about here, though. This isn’t about vaccine awareness. This is about an agenda. This isn’t democratic. This is Orwellian. This isn’t about helping raise awareness. This is about imposing on people’s will. This is about big business profit.

What’s left for our kids? Why do we get up, and go to work? Where do we meet other parents, smile and feel like we’re part of something, folks? Schools. Jefferson recognized this. So do all of us in education. I’ve worked with innumerable students over the years, and never once have I ever thought about seeing their vaccination records. This bill somehow made it past the committee along a party-line vote. This isn’t party politics.

There was a 13-hour hearing on this bill, with thousands of heartfelt written testimonies, and tremendous statements. Opponents to this, they don’t deserve to be made fun of by ignorant memes on Facebook, chuckled at, or dismissed. What are we really doing? These are families. Single moms and dads alike, working together. These are parents, and these are kids. This is the greater good.

Since we now live in a society where we can’t simply ask one question; “Do you support coercive inoculation?” If that were the question, which it should be, the answer would be “no,” and the lobbyists could all go home. The question has become convoluted by a sickening fear and smear campaign, fueled in the guise of a false notion of “greater good.” So, let’s back off and look at this again.

If we support kicking thousands of kids out of school because of their religious and philosophical beliefs, are we still honoring that “greater good”? No, we aren’t. We’ve started trampling down human rights. What would happen to the kids, the classrooms, the schools, after? What have we become, anyway? Our state senator, Dave Miramant, saw the flaws in this bill. So, he stood up and said so. He just did his job. Now, he’s taking a beating from within his caucus. It is not easy to think outside of the box, and this is a time where he should be applauded, not demeaned. We all agree on education. Some may differ on the way it’s delivered, but it is vital to our society being remarkable.

Folks, for me it’s simple, Maine can’t segregate out a group of kids and coerce them into getting imperfect shots using educational access as the threat. It’s just not the Maine way, This is heavy-handed, slippery slope governing, this is the stuff that divides more than political parties. As Celtic Red Auerbach said, “There’s a right way, a wrong way, and no way.” This bill is the “wrong” and “no” way to treat our fellow citizens and children of tomorrow. Please call your representatives at 287-1400, and ask them to stand up in opposition of this potentially disastrous legislation before it’s too late.

Josiah R. Wilson

Port Clyde

National Telecommunicators Week prompts thanks

We wish to thank Public Safety dispatchers for the very important role they play in ensuring that we all get the right help in the most expeditious manner. When it comes to first responders, our call-takers and dispatchers are the tip of the spear for more than 99 percent of all emergencies. These men and women must be the voice of reassurance and calm to get accurate information to relay to police, fire and medical services personnel so they can respond quickly, safely and with the most appropriate resources.

The personnel who work at the Knox County Regional Communications Center are too often left out of the news story when praise is being heaped on responders who took care of the incident. Those of us who work in public safety know how valuable accurate information is to our action plans, and it all starts with the person who answers the call to 911 and broadcasts that information to us.

Our communications personnel are tucked away in a secure building, devoid of much outside human interaction during their shift. The information at their fingertips is protected for privacy, and the work requires outside distractions be minimized as much as possible. This means that most shifts they will only have face-to-face interactions with a handful of people. While they may talk to hundreds on the phone, most often the caller is experiencing a stressful situation, making these conversations far from positive.

Dispatchers work very hard to gain control of the situation, to glean the requisite information. Make no mistake, these personnel handle the most difficult calls a person can take. The agony of waiting for help to arrive is shared between the caller who needs help and the dispatcher who has passed on that information to the responders and then waits to hear someone has arrived to help the caller. Seconds seem like minutes, minutes like hours to someone who knows help is needed, but hasn’t yet arrived.  

Those of us who rely on these folks want to thank them for telling us where to go, what we need to bring, what we can expect to find and what difficulties may impede our mission. The dedicated staff at the Knox County Regional Communications Center deserve our praise for making sure we get where we’re needed and home again, 24/7/365. If you have ever been thankful for great EMS service, a fire that was quickly controlled or a situation where law enforcement made the difference, you most likely have a dispatcher to thank as well!

Police, Fire and EMS Executive Board representatives

to the KRCC Users Group.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Christopher Allen | Apr 18, 2019 18:52

Thomas Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention, serving as US Ambassador.  He neither wrote nor signed the US Constitution. There are seven Articles in the US Constitution.  Mr Wilson's "Article Eight" doesn't exist.



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