Letters, Sept. 13
Whose side are you on, Ryan Harmon?
Whose side are you on, Ryan Harmon? You were elected to represent the people of House District 45 in the Maine Legislature, but a look at your voting record tells me you are more interested in helping banks than the people of Maine.
In February 2012, the Maine Legislature considered LD145, a remarkably simple measure to require banks to produce the original note as proof of ownership before they could foreclose on somebody. The Maine Credit Union League supported LD145; the Maine Bankers Association did not and lobbied to defeat it. Rep. Harmon supported the bankers and opposed the bill. Both the State House and Senate passed LD145 by wide margins. In late March Gov. LePage vetoed the bill. He stated it would be too burdensome for banks to actually have to show ownership. The House failed to override his veto and Harmon sided with the banks again.
What is the effect of the Legislature’s failure to protect homeowners from fraudulent foreclosures? On Aug. 30, Tim Cason was handcuffed and forcibly removed from his home of 19 years in Bowdoinham. Cason’s house was being foreclosed on by the Bank of Maine. Cason has repeatedly requested that an original note be produced. It never has. Cason says he has proof that Bank of Maine no longer holds the note on his house. When Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry was asked about Cason’s eviction and LD145 he said the bill “would have been a step in the right direction,” and that it was “unfortunate” that it wasn’t “the will of the Legislature to overturn.” He clearly understands that it is possible that he might be required to take possession of a home for a bank that doesn’t actually own the home. Why? Because current Maine law doesn’t require them to provide that proof.
And the bank’s representative in the state Legislature, Ryan Harmon, helped make this travesty possible. On Nov. 6, I will be voting for Brian Jones, who will truly represent the voters in House District 45.
On the tank
I am writing to speak to the proposed tank situation. My husband and I are residents of Belfast and have lived here, very happily, for two and a half years. We chose Midcoast Maine carefully as we considered the qualities we wanted for our retirement years. The beauty of the area, the exquisite bay with fabulous boating (which we understand will be curtailed when your tankers are in the bay), the availability of retailers and medical care, the safety of the environment, a sense of community, continuing education and arts — all of these and more entered into our discernment process. Although we do not live in Searsport, we have eaten at the restaurants in Searsport and have shopped in your town.
In fact, we could have just as easily landed in Searsport, but the house we found happened to be in Belfast. Like so many others who have come to this area, we then invested a substantial portion of our retirement savings in renovating our house. We hired local carpenters, cabinet makers, painters, plumbers, masons, electricians, landscapers, burner service and other tradesmen. We bought our materials locally from Viking and EBS and others. We paid taxes on the goods. We now pay property taxes on our house. And presumably, all of the workmen and merchants who were paid by us were able to continue to support themselves and their families, in part, through the money we spent on our remodel, thus enabling them to continue to shop at the local stores, pay their property taxes and hire the local services as well, such as doctors and dentists, barbers and booksellers and more.
If we were the only retired Baby Boomers to settle in Maine, it obviously wouldn’t amount to much. However, as I am sure you are aware, we are among a growing number of retiring people who are choosing to come here — for the beauty and for the lifestyle. We pay taxes and we don’t increase the school population. We add value to our whole community. When considering how to increase jobs in our area, the solution might be right under our noses.
And although it may seem obvious, I must point out that we are not against business. We, for instance, applaud the new boatyard in Belfast, which is said to be hiring, ultimately, over 100 people. There are other new businesses in our towns who have hired local people as well. We applaud this. All of these businesses, which pay taxes, hire services and buy goods, rely on customers. If people avoid our part of the coast -- because after all, none of us like heavy truck traffic -- fewer people will want to come. This will reduce the need for services, reduce the need for goods, and result in more, not less unemployment. And if you couple this with a reduction in the number of tourists, many more jobs will be lost.
In talking to many other people who have migrated here, not only to Belfast, but also to Searsport and Stockton Springs, Northport, Lincolnville and beyond, people generally agree. We would not have chosen an area with such an extreme risk as this proposed propane tank would create. And we will definitely avoid Searsport, not only because of the risk, but also for the simple distaste of getting embroiled in heavy truck traffic. The traffic through Searsport is already an issue, and we will not want to be anywhere near there with some 300 more trucks in or out in a day. Of course, as more and more people refuse to drive through that mess, fewer businesses in Searsport will survive and the problem of unemployment will continue to escalate.
The proponents of the tank present a case in which it is either the tank for jobs, or no jobs. I would propose that it is not a net gain. As the area would become less attractive, fewer people would choose to live here, reducing the demand for all of the other local businesses. After all, the tank will ultimately employ about a dozen people. To gain a dozen jobs and lose many dozens of jobs is not good math. It is not a question of installing something that detracts from the quality of life here, or having nothing at all. There are numerous other businesses which can add to a community.
The largest and most obvious is the opportunity to capitalize on the current trend of newcomers who want to relocate here, and create attractive living situations for the “young” retirees who are attracted to this area. If you choose the tank, you are closing the door on this possibility. There will be fewer people who want to be near you and this has a spiraling effect: Fewer people paying taxes, eating at restaurants, shopping in stores, renovating houses and so forth. It would make a lot of sense if Searsport would consider ways to make the town even more attractive to newcomers, rather than less so.
We share the same highways, the same hospitals and services and the same beautiful, pristine bay. We may be separate townships, but we are all part of the same community.
Sad about the tank
So some 11 years or so ago, I began coming north from Maryland for two weeks, almost every summer, my three daughters and I and our dog, to begin the tradition of family camping vacations. We’d travel the distance first in two days, and then in one long day, willing to put up with the long car rides in order to have more camping days and fewer travel days. Fourteen days, less two travel days = 12 camping days, and the kids could do the math too! They were about 4, 11 and 12 when we started.
We timed vacations with relatives from Massachusetts and Connecticut, so my daughters looked forward to not just camp activities and camp kids, but also spending great quality time with their aunts and uncles and cousins. A tradition was born. I believe I’ve taught them that camping means being at the campground, with occasional day trips, rather than just somewhere to sleep at night and then off in the car to somewhere new each day. Relaxation, enjoying being outside, loving the water.
The older girls saw some of the same kids for four or five years, each summer. They waited till low tide to go out quite far and dive for starfish and anemones. Not something you could do just anywhere. They played cards and backgammon, and built campfires. One of the favorites was going off to Sears Island for the day, to the beach “Okay, should we go to the left or the right side today?” (It was vacation; this is about the biggest vacation decisions should be.) They’ve all learned to love lobster, and that we only eat lobster when we’re in Maine -- but then watch out, it’s pretty much an every-other-day event when we’re here now, followed by ice cream. And yes, we dearly miss Scoops in Belfast.
When my one daughter got married last year, they spent a lot of time trying to decide where in Maryland to get married, and finally decided the place that was the most special, where they really wanted to be married, was Rose’s Point, at Searsport Shores, overlooking the water. (Yes, the boyfriend had been coming on the annual vacations at that point as well!). So when they got married last year, on our vacation, we had quite a few extra family members, camping and hoteling; we had a cake from a Maine baker, we had lovely local Searsport flowers, and yes, we had lobster. (She and her husband just celebrated their first anniversary – At Young’s Lobster Pound – where the reception was the year before.)
I’ve spent countless hours with my sister, drinking coffee, enjoying the water views, the cooler weather. We all go to Jordan Pond once a year for a day trip, for lobster stew and popovers. We go to Reny’s, to the Green Store and the hardware store right next door. We debate the ice cream flavors and quality everywhere. We skip rocks, kayak, boat. In years past, when the youngest child was younger, we spent a lot of time doing crafts. Some of my fondest memories: a bagpiper at a bonfire in thick fog, shooting stars over the water at night, low tides and high tides, fog horns at night. We talk about retirement and relocating, maybe Maine?
I remember the LNG controversy. I see the tankers. When we’re on Sears Island, I wonder who would have thought to decorate the coastline we can see so vulgarly. Economically, it reminds me a bit of Baltimore, on a much smaller scale, where a great deal of waterfront property has not been valued over the years for beauty or for preserving the environment. It makes me sad that Searsport would think of making such a tragic decision, allowing, even encouraging ConocoPhillips and its LPG tank, in this day and age (after the Industrial Age, i.e. Baltimore City), when it feels that we should now have a more educated, long-term view of the potential effects of our decisions, and how they might impact not only one town, but a great deal of surrounding communities as well.
I, for one, would stop coming to Searsport. Period. I would not bring my children back. We would miss it, we would mourn it, but that feels a bit like camping in the shadow of a nuclear power plant, on a fault line, and waking to tremors on a regular basis, but staying anyway. It feels like the tragedy each time the reporters tell of a small plane that went down somewhere with the entire family traveling together, all killed together on their little plane, piloted by one of the family members. I don’t want to be that pilot.
So where would we go, should you not put a stop to this madness? Not Belfast, too close to Searsport; maybe Boothbay? We’d have to wait and see just how far away the studies show, and then add some more distance in, just in case they’re wrong.
So why are you doing this, I have to ask? What made it seem like a good idea? The promise of jobs, which are now fading fast? Wouldn’t it be better to back this train up, agree that mistakes were made, promises were broken, and back-step a bit? Better than holding the course, regardless of the consequences. How this could possibly be explained to your children and your grandchildren I have no idea. Whereas admitting mistakes were made and rectifying the situation before it’s too late would be a wonderful example for your descendants.
And assuming this was a financial decision, because, sure, this economy has been tough, and particularly so in Maine, how about doing something marvelous with your town? Boating, wind power, green industry, there must be some truly wonderful opportunities for Searsport. Perhaps all these people who have come together, all concerned with Searsport’s future no matter which side of this controversy they’re on, could instead work together to create new green, sustaining opportunities for Searsport. Amazing things happen when so many concerned people work together.
I believe you don’t have the right to make this appalling choice for so many in the surrounding communities, even the State. No one does. Stop the madness.
I have just got hold of a legislative scorecard that scores our legislators on how they voted on items of concern to workers. I was shocked to see that our L.D. 41 rep., (Searsport, Stockton Springs, Prospect, Frankfort, Verona and Orland) scored zero. He voted for bills making it illegal for childcare workers or workers at egg factories to form unions. He voted for a large, unfunded tax cut, benefiting chiefly the wealthy. Because the tax cut is unfunded, meaning that no corresponding cuts have been made in spending, the state will probably be forced to push more costs onto municipalities. But what-the-hey! The rich spend a far lower portion of their income on property taxes than the poor.
In the last session, he voted against raising the minimum wage, and for an expansion of child labor. That bill allows children to work six hours a day on school days, instead of four. No studying those days!
By contrast, Meredith Ares is a breath of fresh air. Her sympathies are with workers, rather than the rich, and she herself is hard-working, friendly and fun.
Just one woman's opinion
With the recent RSU 20 School Board decision to close Frankfort Elementary School at the end of June 2013, a firestorm of discussion has erupted on the Frankfort Elementary School Facebook page. There were many passionate comments regarding the RSU 20 Board's decision and people's opinions of which school district is better (MSAD 22 or RSU 20). When the townspeople of Frankfort take to the polls in November to vote on the referendum of whether to withdraw from RSU 20 and join MSAD 22 (Hampden/Winterport), those voters need to be as well informed as possible when casting their votes. There are a number of Withdrawal Committee and public forums on the subject of Frankfort's withdrawal from RSU 20 coming up this month (for a list, please visit the FES page on Facebook), and I encourage people to attend these meetings so they can be educated about their voting decision.
In my opinion, I believe a student can succeed no matter where they attend school, so long as they have encouragement from friends, family, teachers and/or peers and a desire to want to learn and be successful. There is a wonderful article outlining my case in point, of encouraging students and teachers to be successful, at www.success.com/articles/761-encouragement-changes-everything. Families/guardians should get involved in their student's education, both at home with homework and at school volunteering or keeping in regular contact with that student's teachers/principal. Our children are our future, and we need to ensure they receive the encouragement to be the best they can and to want to succeed. Whether they attend a highly prestigious school or just an average school shouldn't matter. Too often our country takes education for granted. We need to take a step back and look at how fortunate we really are and get involved in helping our children to succeed. Just sayin'.
Going to Wall Street Sept. 15-17
I am going to New York City to gather with people from Maine and all over the country to mark the one year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street.
It has been one year since Liberty Plaza, near Wall Street, was occupied by folks who were ready to make a strong, nonviolent statement concerning income inequality, moral decay, military and corporate control, and environmental degradation. This encampment near Wall Street touched a nerve in our country. It opened people's eyes to the fact that as more and more money rises to the top for the system, we are losing our democracy.
Occupy Wall Street said two things that still ring true for me as they demonstrated and set up occupations all over the country. They said, "We are the 99 percent," which represents the terrible income inequality that exists in our country. The top 0.01 percent make an average of about $23 million, while 90 percent of us make an average of $30,000.
The second statement, the one I like the best, offers hope and guidance. "Another world is possible!" We have an obligation to each other to create a world that makes us proud, a world where our wealth is shared and our environment is protected. As a retired public school teacher, I have recited the Pledge of Allegiance with my students for the past 25 years. The last line of the pledge always gets my attention, "liberty and justice for all!"
In New York, three days of gatherings are planned. The firs two days involve educating ourselves as we talk about the issues and look at solutions. On Monday, Sept. 17, nonviolent civil disobedience will take place in lower Manhattan.
I have reached a point in my life where I must say to myself, "Get involved. Don't be afraid to talk about important issues and don't be afraid to join others to take action.' When I return from NYC I'll report back, but meanwhile I'll keep in mind, "another world is possible!"