Care for community

It's always nice to bring attention to litter clean-up. More than 65 years ago, I was taught to pick up Popsicle sticks and other trash in front of my grandparents' grocery across the street from one of Camden's mills. The three oldest of my siblings — to this day — know how to care for our communities

And to this day, my garden work in Belfast automatically includes litter pick-up. All family should instill in their family members this simple task. No elaborate rules should be necessary.

Pat Felton

Belfast

Excluded

My name is Kenneth Smith, and this message pertains to the article you recently wrote about the Mortland Farm. Specifically the bit about ownership, for the Mortlands sold the house to my mother and father in 1989.

My father responded to my link of your article thus: "We moved there in September of 1989. And sold the place in April of 2000. We restored the Milk House, to the north-west of the barns, that was not attached. Then the main, stone house with Sharon doing a tremendous amount of stone and mortar work. The little house, and the long "back house" shed. We re-roofed the barns and rebuilt their stone foundation piers and replaced barn walls, windows and flooring. We also did all the work for the National Register of Historic Places. It was worth it. Ray and Gay slaved away with us initially so we could move in. 21 truck loads of stuff to the dump and 24 raccoons later it was home."

My dad is minimizing the amount of love, cussedness, creativity and sheer labor that was involved. I was 6 when we moved in, and my 4-year-old brother and I stayed with our grandparents (Ray and Gay) for weeks prior, so our folks could make the place habitable. It saddens me a bit to have that entire era of our beautiful farm forgotten. I hope this message reaches you, and thank you.

Kenneth Smith

Old Orchard Beach

Reckless words

If columnist Tom Seymour really is a “naturalist,” he should pay attention to the vast majority of climate scientists throughout the world who concur that human beings are making far more impact on the planet than sunspots or unpredictable jet streams.

In last week’s column, “Sunspots and Global Cooling,” he delves into a pre-industrial age, back to 1645, so he can warn us about the hazards of global cooling — a Little Ice Age. He also warns of volcanic activity causing a sudden chill. What does this imply? That the greenhouse gases caused by increasing fossil fuel consumption are actually good for us?

Beware of global cooling! That’s his central message. His word choice is derisive and reckless. Mr. Seymour claims that “liberal talking heads would like to see so-called ‘climate deniers’ slapped with fines and jail time” or “endanger free speech rights” that could usher in “widespread anarchy.” These words are reckless, totally without merit, and designed to incite hate rather than to inform.

Seymour’s overall message seems to be that the planet is doing just fine as is and all we need to worry about are sunspots and volcanoes, which he claims are totally out of our control. He has ignored the science from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showing the primary cause of climate change, carbon dioxide, is increasing rapidly in our atmosphere. For 400 million years carbon dioxide never reached 300 parts per million, until 1950. The count now is 400 parts per million and rapidly rising.

As a naturalist, Mr. Seymour should be careful to leave politics at the door and heed the conclusions of climate scientists on every continent and in every country — otherwise what he knows about the natural world will take a nose dive.

Joan Willey

Belfast

Stop MaineCare changes

The Maine Department of Human Services is proposing changes to MaineCare that will have a negative effect on the lives of low income Mainers. These new proposals will make it harder for those on MaineCare to access health insurance.

I am a retired public school teacher. Presently I am a volunteer with Literacy Volunteers of Waldo County. Having taught and worked with students and families in Waldo County for many years I am acutely aware of the many difficulties low income people face.

Maine DHHS is proposing that MaineCare recipients pay monthly premiums, require work requirments, pay $20 for non-emergency use of hospital emergency rooms, be charged for missed appointments, and be penalized for modest savings. These proposals will only make it harder for people to manage financially.

DHHS belives that the new rules will “promote financial indepence” and “encourage individual responsibility for one's health and healthcare costs.” Adding health care costs to MaineCare recipients will do none of this! These new proposals will only make it harder for people to manage already financially stressed lives.

I find it extremely frustrating that DHHS can make these rules with no required input from our elected officials. On May 18th I testified against these proposals (called a 1115 Waiver) at a DHHS hearing in Augusta. The public hearing process will be over at the end of the day on May 25th. After that DHHS is free to apply for the changes. I am encouraging people to contact their representative and senator and ask them to do all they can to stop these proposed changes.

Sincerely,

David Smith

Belfast

It's time

Now is the time for voters to weigh in on the doings of the Maine Legislature, as its session will be ending in a few weeks until next January. What they enact now will directly affect most of our lives almost immediately.

You can make a difference by contacting legislators or cornering them at the grocery store. The biggie is the two-year state budget, which is in the Appropriations Committee. You can send your comments to either the committee clerk or the chairmen (James.Hamper@legislature.maine.gov, Andrew.Gattine@legislature.maine.gov, Marianne.MacMaster@legislature.maine.gov). All comments will be entered into the public record.

The two ends of the spectrum being considered are the governor's budget, which reduces or eliminates vital services for low-income and disabled Mainers while giving a tax break to the wealthy. It will not fully fund our schools to the state-mandated 55 percent and will not fully fund our towns through revenue sharing.

The immediate effect of these moves is to force our property taxes to be raised. On the other end is the Democrats' Opportunity Agenda. It will provide increased reimbursement rates for such things as home health and nursing homes in order to raise the low wages of those workers and would add money for opiate epidemic funding and for veterans' mental health care as well as training for workers and help for small businesses. Most importantly, the Democrats' plan will result in property tax relief for all Mainers by fully funding our schools, increasing the Homestead Exemption, and expanding the property tax credit for lower-income folks. To help pay for this, their plan would add a 3-percent surcharge to family income over $200,000. This surcharge was already approved by Maine voters through referendum in November, but some factions want to ignore the voters' will.

Don't worry if you don't feel like you have a firm grasp on all the details, which tend to change daily. Write what you know and believe. Here are some writing tips: Identify one issue per letter and your one to three major concerns on that issue. In your first sentence, make a clear statement of what you want them to do. For example: "I'm writing to ask you to include in the state budget the priorities of the Democrat's Opportunity Agenda, especially fully funding our public schools at 55 percent as required by law and increasing spending on opiate addiction."

You may want to add more information and other priorities but keep it short, one-half to one page. Real-life examples are important if you've got one.

In closing, re-state your original statement. Be sure to include your full name and town.

Linda Buckmaster

Belfast

Move forward, not back

Congressman Poliquin’s vote for the GOP's American Healthcare Act (AHCA) that repeals much of the Affordable Care Act (the ACA or Obamacare) gravely threatens the health of thousands of his constituents, some of whom are my patients. I have practiced family medicine in Belfast for 35 years and see patients every day who are worried about the future of their health care.

The GOP bill would take $880 billion out of Medicaid, and another $312 billion out of subsidies that help working families buy private coverage through the ACA exchanges, and give $800 billion in tax breaks to people with incomes over $200,000.

Over the past four years, the ACA has greatly expanded many of my patients’ opportunities to feel financially secure by obtaining health insurance. Although the ACA has flaws, the GOP plan would make things much worse. Instead of moving backward, we should move forward from the ACA to a Medicare for All plan like the one proposed Rep. John Conyers (H.R. 676).

You can’t buy fire insurance just when your house is burning down, and you shouldn’t be able to buy health insurance only when you get sick. Health care should be available to all, regardless of one’s ability to pay.

Tim Hughes, M.D.

Belfast

Fine print behind headlines

Uncertainty, condemnation and potential shakeups over the Trump administration’s possible involvement in illegal activities are keeping us completely distracted, but the show must go on in Washington and Congress is taking speedy action despite the absence of its lead performer. He’s still accomplishing plenty, even as he’s busy railing against mounting disapproval — an example of the success he’s creating can be found out in Wyoming, where Devon Energy Corp. is breathing a sigh of relief.

This gas plant, the headquarters of which are in Oklahoma (EPA head Scott Pruitt’s home state), has been all ready to install a sophisticated system for detecting and reducing leaks of hazardous gases such as benzene and methane in order to comply with Obama’s power plant emissions regulations. But now those regulations will likely be overturned, and Devon will be fined far less for its yearly illegal emissions of 80 tons of these gases. The CEO is of course thrilled and so are those nearby who work there.

Fracking regulations are also being “reformed” thanks to Trump’s Congress, and those drilling processes will be streamlined as well. Except for some of the people who live nearby who may find their groundwater unusable, everyone wins. Well, maybe Mainers will be slightly less elated, since we are the tailpipe for the American Midwest. (We experienced two dangerously high ozone pollution days this past week.) Still, progress is progress.

Other energy corporations celebrate the trend. Devon is likely to be setting a new standard that they, too, will be able to follow — less pollution regulations will make America stronger.

Meanwhile, the greater than 90 percent of Americans who aren’t directly associated with these industries may not breathe easier. Budget talks begin soon, and unless we send a different message to our representatives, especially the mysterious Bruce Poliquin, the EPA could be cut by at least 30 percent. Wouldn’t that be an “accomplishment” — to get rid of those pesky regulations the way we attack black flies?

Mr. Trump’s Congress has gotten his orders. Our president, though beleaguered, still manages to look out for us, sort of.

Beverly Roxby

Belfast