Letters, Nov. 8
Thank you for letting me serve Belfast
For the last four years I have served as the representative from Ward One on the Belfast City Council. It has been both a great honor and pleasure to do so. I want to thank the residents of our wonderful city, my fellow city councilors, and the staff at City Hall for making my two terms so rewarding. I am proud of the work the City Council has done in these past four years, and I am very grateful for all the support and goodwill that I have received.
Let’s unite and move on
No matter who wins the election, half the country will be very disappointed, perhaps bitter, even angry. That will make coming together difficult, but we must put those feelings aside, unite as a people and move on.
The president-elect must represent all the people and he deserves everyone’s initial support. If Obama wins, he must reach out more than ever to achieve bipartisan consensus on big problems facing this country. If Romney wins, he must become the moderate, bipartisan leader he talked like at the end of his campaign. Congress, regardless of its makeup, must do the same. The president must lead, with bold actions to squarely face our nation’s problems. We all must become once again just Americans, and move forward together.
The winners must honestly face the truth about the economy, job creation, deficit reduction, tax reform, defense spending, education, entitlement programs, energy, immigration, infrastructure, foreign policy, climate change and the corrupting influence of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. If our public officials continue to offer only shallow political rhetoric and partisan ideology on these pressing issues, our vast middle class and our country will continue to fall behind, as other countries eventually overtake us in power and influence.
Washington politicians should start with the looming so-called fiscal cliff. Both sides have a real incentive to confront it. In the lame-duck session, winning candidates will be held responsible later for their action or inaction on this crisis, and the losers will have nothing to lose by compromising now, for the good of the country. The general public and the news media should keep the pressure on all of them to do the right thing.
If we’re lucky, this election will send an unavoidable message to public officials that we do not want partisan gridlock fueled by special interests, and that we are determined to do something about it. Neither side is likely to have a huge mandate, so the ability to get along, listen to one another, compromise and actually govern will be absolutely essential for rebuilding a strong nation.
Our job, as citizens of one America, is to give the president-elect a chance, pressure all elected officials in public to do their jobs with honesty and integrity, and punish them in public and at the polls when they do not.
Storm leaves behind hard questions
The storm has passed. Thankfully, we were spared most of the furor associated with Sandy. However, much of the Eastern Seaboard, and even areas well inland, were not so fortunate. The Jersey shore, where I spent most of my formative years, was particularly hard hit, as was New York City, where I spent most of my adult life. Many of my friends, and some of my family members, suffered losses because of Sandy. We need to ask ourselves why.
Sandy is said to be the most devastating storm ever to hit the Northeast. It was only last year that we heard the same thing about another storm. Will next year bring about an even bigger catastrophe? These natural events are happening more frequently and are more damaging with each passing year. The majority of the population believes that global warming, climate change, is the cause. A majority of those believe that man is to blame, yet our leaders seem afraid to even say the words "climate change." They shrink from the task that lies ahead. Corporate money ties their hands and while they fiddle we will burn. It is inevitable.
Do the math — connect the dots. New York City, Long Island, the Jersey shore. Crippled by power outages and floods unparalleled in the history of these places. Why? Because the polar ice cap is melting, melting at a progressively increasing rate each passing year. That's global warming. That's climate change. That's a wake-up call, but our leaders are too beholden to corporate entities to act on our behalf. To act on their own behalf. To act even on the behalf of those who are mainly responsible. Down the road, and the road is getting progressively shorter each passing year, we are all going to pay.
Keep Daylight Time
The last time that I made any of my feelings public was about 40 years ago. At that time I started a "Maine, not Me" campaign in Maine Life Magazine to put an end to what I considered a stupid batch of promotional phrases, e.g., "Ski Me," "Camp Me," "Fish Me," etc. You get the idea.
That campaign met with better than fair success.
Now, 40 years later, the bug has bitten me again. I like Daylight Saving Time. I do not need daylight before it's chore time, and I really don't need darkness at 4 p.m.
So I'm joining my friends at S. Fernald's store in Lincoln County, and will not be setting our clocks back one hour. Our clocks and watches will remain as they are on DST.
Realizing that most people cannot join with us and hold onto DST year-round, we'll be enjoying daylight while your yard light will be lighting your way an hour before ours is.
Thanks for bikers for helping the hungry
On Sept. 6, 2012, at the United Bikers of Maine Annual Toy Run, Darrell Spears, president of United Bikers of Maine, presented the Good Shepherd Food Bank with a check for $10,000.
This is a very significant event because that amount of money can, in my estimation, buy about three and a half tons of food, which will impact every food pantry, soup kitchen and homeless shelter in Maine.
Those of us charged with feeding the hungry are grateful to President Spears and his organization for stepping up to the plate and making a difference in hundreds of people's lives. His timing could not have been better. Because of UBM, many will not go to bed hungry this winter.
The board of directors and staff of the Belfast Soup Kitchen express our gratitude to UBM and wish the president and all the members sunny weather, smooth roads, and a safe and enjoyable ride.
Alex Allmayer-Beck MSW, CSW
CEO Belfast Soup Kitchen
Tank gives pause to potential new residents
After our recent trip to Searsport, Stockton Springs and Belfast to look at real estate, we felt compelled to write to you about our experience. We currently live right on Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vt., with scenery (aside from lake versus ocean) very much like that of the Penobscot Bay area — broad and pristine (10-15-mile) water views, islands, distant mountains and forests. We are both professionals, and our desire for retirement was to find a similar setting, but on the ocean. Some months ago we spent time in your area while returning home from Canada, and were taken by the landscape, way of life and feeling of the communities — so we decided to return, which we did last week, to look in more detail.
We spent three days in Belfast, and looked at a variety of waterfront and waterview properties in Searsport, Stockton Springs and Belfast and were charmed by all the area has to offer. On our second day, we became aware of the controversy surrounding the possible LPG tank and terminal project in Searsport. Although we are not experts in the economic or safety issues surrounding the project, we can certainly share the effect it had on our willingness to consider real estate and relocation in the area.
While in Belfast we stopped unannounced at the offices of one of the area's larger real estate companies. After discussing the real estate market with the broker — a longtime resident of the area — we asked about the impact of the proposed tank project. To our surprise, it literally brought tears to her eyes. Needless to say, as we then investigated further ourselves, we realized that from an aesthetic point alone, we could no longer consider the area if the project proceeded. To us, the impact on the quality of life for someone looking for an unencumbered oceanfront or ocean view, would be severe and negative. In some ways we're the lucky ones, since we do not currently own such a property.
Lake Champlain, being over 100 miles long, went through a similar progression. It was originally a primary transportation corridor, then in the past 100 years fostered significant waterfront industrial activities, including both lumber and huge waterfront oil tanks serviced by fleets of oil barges. Over the past decades, the lake and lake frontage are returning to primarily recreational uses, with all but one set of oil tanks now gone from the Burlington area waterfronts. This change was not by accident, but by choice and careful planning designed to support a current and maintain a future lifestyle for this region.
With Penobscot Bay communities already providing such a way of life, we are sorry to see the LPG project gaining traction, and hope that a final decision will site it elsewhere. If not, we — and probably many others in situations like ours — will also be looking elsewhere. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Dr. Lainie Andrew
Tank opponents think short-term, long-term
When President Jimmy Carter and President Omar Torrijos of Panama signed the Carter-Torrijos Treaty of 1977, Torrijos insisted on including language stipulating that anyone born in Panama is a Panamanian citizen. Suddenly John McCain became a citizen of Panama, as did I and some 28 of my cousins. It often felt to me that I had become two people, the one for whom Panama is home, and the other for whom Waldo County, Maine, is home. But recently this dual heritage has come together in one narrative: The consequences in Maine of the new Panama Canal capable of handling super-sized ships and the development in Maine of ports capable of receiving these super post-Panamax megaships.
It is projected that post-Panamax ships will account for 62 percent of the world’s total container capacity. These ships require deepwater ports, of which there are only five active on the East Coast of the U.S. Other ports, like Miami, are busy dredging and the Port Authority of New York is raising the Bayonne Bridge to accommodate post-Panamax traffic. Ironically, there are two such deepwater ports in a part of the United States that is rural and where the citizens want no part of such industrial development. One such port is Eastport and the other is Searsport.
The local resistance to accommodating post-Panamax tankers is called Thanks But No Tank (http://tbnt.org/). The reference is to the foot-in-the-door proposal by DCP Midstream, a Denver-based company that wants to build a 22.7-million-gallon, 14-story liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) mega-tank and terminal on Mack Point in Searsport. Resistance to this development is strong and growing among local people and adjacent towns and islands. I speculate that DCP Midstream has chosen Searsport because it will soon be bringing liquefied petroleum gas in post-Panamax tankers requiring that rarity, a deepwater port.
The bond issue on the November ballot (Question 4) includes money to dredge the ports of Eastport and Searsport. In the Bangor Daily (10/25), David Farmer noted that dredging in Searsport is important as it "should be understood as the port for Bangor and Millinocket, not only for the coastal area."
A group of concerned citizens met recently in the library of Belfast, a town adjacent to Searsport, to become informed about the legal issues involved in their struggle. What we found out is that legally there is not a lot we can do to prevent this development.
In light of their better understanding of the legal basis on which they can contend against DCP Midstream, local resistance has begun to think about short-term strategy and long-term strategy. Short-term is to get people to understand how DCP Midstream post-Panamax super tankers filled with highly explosive LPG will forever alter the quality of life here on Penobscot Bay. Long-term will be to learn how to prevent the transformation of rural, scenic Waldo County into an industrialized wasteland that resembles Newark, N.J.
The stakes are high. Very high.
Don't sabotage our economic foundation
As you know, I've been a member of this community for 37 years and hope to continue as a resident and small-business owner for the rest of my life. My late husband, Robert, and I started Pumpkin Patch Antiques with very little money and no prospects. But with an abundance of energy and love for the town, the coast of Maine and antiques, we faced the typical challenges of the self-employed and charged ahead. We wore many hats, took on a variety of other jobs to keep our business growing; had our children here, volunteered at the school, on school committees and town committees, too. A life story paralleled by so many others, it is the quintessential narrative of small town life, unexceptional... except for the very few businesses that have lasted this long and for the number and type of potential threats to this existence that have cropped up over this time frame, such as a nuclear power plant, coal and smelting operations, LNG and now DCP Midstream's (or DCP Searsport LLC's) LPG tank proposal.
The Planning Board frequently refers to the performance standards, with which I'm totally familiar, and which must be applied to every applicant. Yet we all agree that there are still ranges, subjective interpretations and approximations within these standards that require the Planning Board to exercise judgment about the suitability of a proposal for the town. The guiding principle is to protect the health, safety and welfare of Searsport's residents. We focus a lot on health and safety, but “welfare” refers to the well-being of the economic life of the community, and for now the balance between the residential, commercial and industrial interests is stable. We need new compatible businesses as well as jobs, and for that to happen we must be able to attract and maintain the three parts of our economic foundation (residential, commercial and industrial) to keep revenues and municipal services flowing. If we fail to recognize that the environment of Midcoast Maine and tourism are the economic engines we need to build on, then we sabotage the very foundation we need for survival.
While the Planning Board has been weighing DCP against our performance standards, the fact that the permitting processes of state agencies are seriously flawed has not seemed to enter into the decision-making on the completeness of their application. If the permits are incomplete, it begs the question as to how the Planning Board could accept them and make a ruling; I don't know if any liability can be ascribed to the board or the town for this error, but I'm concerned that the whole process is viewed as highly suspect.
We await the findings of the Fannon economic report and the Good Harbor risk assessment and even though the latter was not commissioned by the Planning Board, I hope they will give it equal weight in their deliberations and allow the public to comment freely, as this has been our tradition and our right. The potential scope and impact of this proposed development dictates that any further information and clarification is imperative. To base a decision on faulty data or opinions is unacceptable at best and totally irresponsible at worst.
I can only guess at how difficult a job this is for the Planning Board members and thank them for their efforts. I hope they will keep the door of communication open and their minds as well, for all our sakes.
Phyllis W. Sommer
Food-service workers deserve minimum wage
Most Americans think that $7.25 an hour is pretty low for a minimum wage. Certainly, it is virtually impossible to live on that. But what most Americans do not know is that there is an even worse wage than that. It is the usual wage of the food-service worker, such as a waiter or waitress, for whom the wage is often only $2.15 an hour, with the expectation that tips from the customers will make up the rest of the wage. But tips are very unpredictable. Sometimes they are good, sometimes not, depending on the economy and the location of the restaurant.
Belfast, because it is a popular tourist destination, has a lot of food-service workers. Some of them are here just for the tourism season, which runs roughly from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Anyone who has ever worked in food service knows that the compensation can often be pretty dismal. Very few restaurant owners actually pay the federally-required minimum wage. We won’t mention any names, because we have to eat here too, and Belfast has a fine and interesting collection of restaurants.
The only way this can be changed is with the passage of a bill by Congress which would require that food-service workers be paid the tipped minimum wage, and that they be paid for any sick days. The National Restaurant Association has fought this idea for many years with the millions of dollars it spends to shape federal and state legislation on this issue. The only way that can be changed is through a public groundswell of support for such a bill. How do you help with that? Write to your congressman or congresswoman, asking them to introduce or support such a bill.
Keep drugs out of public spaces
After watching the City Council meeting of Oct. 16, I have a few comments about the proposal to ban drug dealing within 1,000 feet of parks in the city. I agree that this will be a very difficult law to enforce. Drug dealers and buyers are everywhere, and it feels very unsafe to witness it. However, citizens have the right to at least tell dealers and users that it won't be tolerated in public spaces.
In the past, our town and county have been overrun with both dealers and buyers, and the blood of many has been spilled over the secrecy and money involved. I've seen the results personally, so this isn't a new issue for me, as it seems to be for Mr. Hurley.
While I sympathize with the angst that Mr. Hurley felt as he sat in the courtroom attending the trials of his beloved nephews, I don't think that the police and court system should be held responsible. If Mr. Hurley views this event as a “train wreck,” he should see the child of a parent who was maimed or killed by irresponsible drugging or drinking and driving. He should talk with the parent of a child who is hooked on ever-more-potent drugs sold by the dealers, or the parent whose child dies of an overdose by drugs sold on the street. That, Mr. Hurley, is a train wreck.
Laws have been passed for a reason. These laws may not be the solution to the problems of drug and alcohol abuse or dealing, but they can't be seen as promoting the problem. I don't begrudge the cost of the police officers who arrest the perpetrators or buyers, as I feel that they are, at the very least, trying to protect those of us who live in Belfast. They are carrying out their oath to enforce the laws. They are doing what they are paid to do for the taxpayers who enjoy their protection.
Apparently, the War on Drugs is not accomplishing what it was designed to do. I don't pretend to know the solution to the drug and alcohol problems in Belfast, Waldo County, Maine or the United States, and I don't think Mr. Hurley has a solution, either. I'm hoping his comments at the Council meeting were those of an uncle who is sick at heart over the disposition of his dear family members, and not those of a man who would challenge the duty of law enforcement officers. Their job is to protect the people they serve.
Safe Zones a 'no-brainer'
Can someone please tell me why there is so much opposition to creating “Safe Zones” in the city of Belfast? I am watching the City Council meeting from Oct. 16, 2012, and my jaw is literally on the floor as I listen to these elected city officials question and at times berate Chief McFadden about the area and proximity this measure would encompass. This should be a no-brainer, people. The question is simply this: do you want stiffer penalties for people who deal drugs within 1,000 feet of a school or park, or not? Drug dealers do this, you know, prey on places such as schools, city parks and skate parks where kids congregate, as a means of growing their “business” and creating repeat customers.
Unfortunately, in the world we live in, this is going to happen, regardless of whether you believe the war on drugs is working or not. Establishing “safe zones” ensures that when the dealers are caught they will face harsher penalties. Personally, I am fine with that. In fact, I am fine with someone caught dealing anywhere facing a stiff penalty. For Councilor Roger Lee to say he is unable to vote on this measure until he sees a map to ensure it's fair for people is an absolute travesty. There is no easy answer to the drug problem in our community, but refusing to put up a sign to establish boundaries for our children's safety is definitely not the way to start.
Too many tanker trucks already — don't add more
We oppose DCP’s LPG megatank proposed for Mack Point for numerous reasons, including a personal one.
Our narrow one-way street is already overburdened with a procession of heavily loaded 80,000-pound tanker trucks that cruise by 24/7 on their way to Route 137 and beyond. There is no sidewalk on our side of the street — Irving, GAC, Dead River and others pass dangerously close to our home as they rumble by, jeopardizing the safety of those of us who live within their shadow.
We oppose more tanker trucks on our street where the 25 mph speed limit is often violated; where drivers frequently pass one another on the right (wrong) side as they head uphill; where we fear a serious accident is only a matter of time, as motorists too often drive in the wrong direction down our one-way road.
Regarding the increased LPG tanker traffic, proponents use the argument that, “You’ll get used to it.” Frankly, we do not want to “get used to it”; we do not want increased tanker trucks from the industrial site in Searsport, and particularly from DCP’s hazardous cargo should their 23-million-gallon LPG tank project proceed.
We urge citizens of Belfast and neighboring towns that will also see increased, hazardous truck traffic to speak out now and oppose this project.