Building community

How do you build community? Not by snubbing fellow citizens in the churches, supermarkets and on the streets of the towns where we live. Snubbing casual friendly greetings because you disagree with that person’s politics, religions or stance on local issues does not build community.

How do you build community? By attending and supporting locally sponsored causes such as the great variety show here in Searsport last Sunday to raise funds for less fortunate members of our community who need a helping hand with fuel bills. By raising funds for food cupboards where the under employed can receive groceries. By raising funds for neighbors facing major health issues.

How do you build community? By voting and knowing what you are voting for and not calling foul that you haven’t been informed when full information has been available. By serving as volunteer or elected officials in your town and not just when it suits your own cause, but on a day-to-day, year-after-year basis.

How do you build community? Not by continuing to fight anything that might support the commerce or industry centered around the port of Searsport.

We are hearing much about building community on the one hand. We are hearing about planned prosperity. Yet the battle cry is being raised to begin the fight against the long planned and proposed dredging of the port of Searsport. The same group that fought industrial growth at Mack Point now takes up arms to fight the maintenance and improvement of the second largest port in Maine. This facility produces a major source of income for the dock workers. It is the port of entry for fuels we all use and for materials important to industries across the state. It is often the export facility for products we sell to other areas both foreign and domestic.

If we are going to build community let’s get the elephant out from under the table and say Sears Island. The same opponents in the recent opposition to growth on Mack Point have been working to keep any possible industrial expansion off the island for many years now. How does that equate to building a peaceful, prosperous community?

Don’t misunderstand. I love Sears Island. I look at it every day from my front windows. I have hiked and biked and enjoyed skiing the beautiful trails. A picnic on the shore looking back at our beloved town is a summer treat. Preserving this part of the island has and continues to be a great contribution by many dedicated volunteers. However, an agreement was reached that not only preserves this sanctuary for all to enjoy in our leisure time, but that also allows for growth when it is necessary for the economic health of Searsport, Waldo County and beyond. That agreement needs to be honored and not subverted by lengthy delaying tactics that further break down communities and delay prosperity.

If we do not grow, we die. The port of Searsport cannot be allowed to lag behind the world in its ability to serve the ocean going commerce that so much depends on. Fighting the long planned and much needed dredging project is fighting the very life line of commerce and prosperity for our area. It is not building community!

Faith L. Garrold

Searsport

Support GMO labeling

I urge fellow Mainers and our elected representatives to join me in supporting LD 718, An Act to Protect Maine Food Consumers Right to Know. As an informed consumer who diligently reads labels before making food purchases, I believe that we all have a right to know if there are genetically modified organisms (GMO) in our food.

Most crops grown in Maine and sold as human food are not genetically modified, therefor LD 718 would not regulate or effect Maine agriculture. Adding another label to a product is relatively cheap and easy for producers. Sixty two countries, including Mexico and China, currently require labeling of GMO foods. Maine's thriving local food economy would only benefit from GMO labeling.

In 2011, over 90-percent of soybeans and cotton and more than 85-percent of field corn cultivated in the U.S. were genetically modified. As a result, nearly 75-percent of processed foods sold in grocery stores contain GMOs. Biotechnology companies allow very little independent research on these patented crops, and the Federal government does not conduct safety testing on GMOs.

Independent, peer-reviewed research has found that genetically modified foods can compromise organ functions and cause deformities, neurological and reproductive problems in laboratory animals. The potential long-term risks to public health from genetically modified foods are currently unknown. Because there is scientific uncertainty, there is an even greater need for labeling to allow consumers to make informed choices.

For more information about MOFGA’s Right to Know — GMO Labeling Campaign, please visit: http://s.coop/righttoknow.

Kate Harris

Belfast

Swanville ordinance increases rents

Swanville has just enacted an ordinance that will result in increased rent for resident renters by giving unprecedented authority to a Code Enforcement Officer to enter, inspect and demand changes viewed by him to represent problems that might affect the renter’s health and safety. Without proof or evidence of the Code Enforcement Officer’s decision, the owner’s recourse is to hire a State Licensed Professional to confirm or deny the charge. This will result in a continuing adversarial relationship between property owners and the Township and rent increases resulting from the need to accommodate a collection of truly of questionable issues — many of which are covered by existing laws.

Most concerning in the ordinance is the absence of definition for the terms used which would allow for subjective judgments to result in costly expenditures for the owner. “Nuisance” is an example. Under its definition barking dogs, messy garbage cans, evidence of rodents and junk scattered around the property could be could be described as a potential health or safety threat causing the rental owner to resolve the problem at his or her expense. Absent the ordinance, these conditions would be the normal responsibility of the renter.

Paragraph “E” is rife with poorly defined violations. For example, what constitutes “inadequately covered walls,” “excessive use of particle board,” “poorly ventilated sleeping areas” or “any debris that is unsanitary, unsafe or… a nuisance for occupants, adjacent residents or the public?” Under this ordinance, the owner becomes financially responsible to resolve the renter’s neighbor’s safety issues.

In paragraph “A” which deals with structural integrity, paragraph “B” which deals with electrical codes, and paragraph “D” which deals with fire safety, the Swanville Code Enforcement Officer may require an outside state licensed professional to be paid for by the owner. This virtually guarantees additional cost burdens on the owner while it offers the Code Enforcement Officer a way to escape responsibility for his decision.

Paragraph “G” requires that the owner pay for a costly Radon test. Failing that test in this part of Maine is virtually impossible.

I am confident that the good people in the Swanville government saw this ordinance as a way to benefit year-long renters. Unfortunately, the reverse is more likely. This is true, as mentioned before, because it gives too much authority to the Code Enforcement Officer to enforce poorly defined violations. Thus, the property owner must hire an outside state licensed professional to determine what constitutes “inadequately covered walls,” “excessive use of particle board” or “poorly ventilated sleeping areas.” The reality is that this ordinance treats minor problems as if they were major infractions of the law.

The ordinance states that the costs involved will be paid for by the owner, but it is wrong. The costs involved will be passed on to the renter and the costs may be substantial given the lack of clarity in the law. Just as any store or business determines its pricing based on its costs of operation, rental properties determine the rent based on its costs of operation. Resident renters are already burdened with high energy costs, passing an ordinance that can only increase their rent is an unnecessary burden.

Finally, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” That means that a Code Enforcement Officer shouldn’t be able to knock on your door and tell you that he wants to check out your wall coverings and make sure there is a window in your bedroom. But make no mistake, the kind of people who want this authority plan to use it.

David Huck

Swanville

Protect children and family

There is a upcoming bill sponsored by Representative Kenneth Fredette of Newport LD 209 — RepKenneth.Fredette@legislature.maine.gov — concerning Protection for Children and Grandparents. He is an attorney.

The sad reality in the State of Maine is that parents and step parents can allow a long standing relationship with grandparents — or other caring family of the children — then at any moment tell that grandparent or family member they will never see the child again. The child has no rights and can be brainwashed by his parent or step-parent. In Maine we have so little protection of children that I have observed pregnant women who have one damaged child after another while on drugs and alcohol, and their consequence is to receive extra money from Human Services with the child becoming a very expensive burden on society for life. We need to change these laws as fast as possible.

The current statute requires a grandparent or family member to demonstrate “sufficient existing relationship” when petitioning the court for visitation. The concerned family member usually loses before they get to court. This bill will define a “sufficient existing relationship” so that the child wins.

My plan is to testify and to advocate and assist in introducing new bills.

I am also very pleased that Patrick Walsh of Broadreach Family Services of Belfast has formed a group to assist children. If interested in being part of this group contact Patrick.

Alan Wood

Belfast