A chance to explain

I agree wholeheartedly with Michael Cunningham's op-ed column "Control – alt right – delete" (Feb. 8).

In particular, I thought that the author made an important point about labeling people, in that "it dismisses and marginalizes people before they can admit fault or mistake.  People are simply not being given time to explain their mistakes, which is absolutely key to growing from those mistakes."

He gave an excellent example of how the process should work, when he spoke about giving time and space to explain his words to the committee member who had spoken about free speech and the town manager of Jackman.

A serious, non-rhetorical question for readers: Have you seen a similar positive example of someone in the public eye who has been given a chance to explain himself or herself?  Maybe we can all advocate that it serve as a model.

David Grinstein


The sharing of ideas

It is not often that I agree with Tom Seymour but he is absolutely correct to criticize today's college students who oppose allowing certain speakers to appear on campus. In the early 1960s I was vice president of Students for Liberal Action at Ohio State U.

We invited Norman Thomas, head of the American Socialist Party and several times candidate for president of the United States, to present his views. We reserved the Law School library for the event. The president of OSU ordered the doors of the Law School chained to prevent us from holding the event. Instead, Thomas spoke on the main street fronting the campus, drawing more people than if we had held the event indoors.

Our colleges must be open to all ideas, all views, and to anyone who wishes to express them. Tom, I may not physically embrace you, but I do embrace your demand that no institute of of higher education should permit a few misguided students from preventing the sharing of ideas.

Ron Jarvella


Aquafarm questions

A public meeting is planned at the Hutchinson Center on Feb. 21. I am in favor of safe, clean environmentally-sensitive industries that will increase local employment and  enhance the economic security of Belfast and its contiguous communities. But this is such a big project which will have a major impact and so much already seems to have been done without general public awareness that I cannot help but have some concerns and many questions. The following are what I would hope would be addressed at the meeting:

First, the reservoirs and surrounding land are important recreational areas and wildlife habitats, both of which need to be preserved especially in the face of the increasing industrial and residential land use in the Belfast area. The trails on the northern side of the reservoirs which will be owned by the city of Belfast and on the southern side which are controlled by the Coastal Mountain Land Trust are in frequent use for exercise, enjoying nature and respite from day-to-day business. The waters are used for swimming, fishing and canoeing. Beaver, eagles, heron and a multitude of other animals and birds call this area home and add to human appreciation. In the winter cross-country skiers, ice fishermen (and women), and skaters enjoy the frozen surfaces.

So, what will be the land buffer between the new development and the trails? What will be the sight and sound impacts, both during and following construction? Will the height of the aquaculture buildings be so high as to be visible from the bluffs of the southern trail? Will there be odors emitted or potential pollutants discharged? Will pipes be constructed from the reservoirs or the Little River to or from the new facility; if so, where will they be located?

Who will own the dam and be responsible for its maintenance and preservation?

Who will be responsible for and protect the Little River and its reservoirs? Will the important ban on motorized water craft continue?

How and by what route will salt water be harvested and returned to Belfast Bay?

What guarantees will be made in writing and enforceable by law regarding the various protections necessary for our environment and population?

Second, I think it is important that all direct and indirect financial and logistical arrangements between Nordic Aquaculture Inc., the City of Belfast and the BWD be made available to the public promptly and with clarity and transparency.

To begin with, it would be helpful to see a map of the properties acquired by NAI.

Even with the understanding that initially some financial transactions might have warranted some quiet discretion (for example, to obtain the best sale prices), still I am disturbed that so much has already happened for such a major project without any public awareness or input. Is this project now a "done deal" for which the public, despite its vested interest, has little or no say?

Some years ago when the Northport Village Corporation contracted to purchase water from the Belfast Water District, it was with the stipulation that if ever the water supply became too limited to serve both Belfast and the NVC that the water supply to NVC would be the first to be limited. Will the new contract with NAI stipulate that Belfast comes first, NVC second, and NAI third in such a circumstance?

What will be the impact from the increase in traffic, including noise and safety, upon Atlantic Highway? Will a traffic signal on U.S. Route 1 be necessary?

What new residential development or change in current residential housing might be necessary?

What will be the impact on property values and taxation?

I am sure others will raise additional questions.

Sidney R. Block


Get priorities right

Bruce Gagnon, a long time peace activist from Bath, will start an open-ended hunger strike today, Feb. 12, in opposition to LD 1781, currently under debate in the Maine Legislature. This bill, titled deceptively "An Act to Encourage New Major Investments in Shipbuilding Facilities and the Preservation of Jobs," is a bill that will give our much-needed tax money, to the tune of $60 million, as a tax break to General Dynamics, the parent company of Bath Iron Works.

GD's top CEO made $21 million dollars last year, and they are so profitable as a corporation that GD was able to buy back $12.9 billion of their own stock between 2009 and 2016.

Bruce Gagnon is beginning his hunger strike to stand in solidarity with Maine people who need this tax money much more than BIW/GD. As he writes, there are "43,000 kids living in poverty in Maine right now. There is no money to fix pot hole filled roads, and our bridges are deemed deficient by DOT. Thousands in Maine have no health care. In rural Maine hospitals, schools and factories are closing. What could Maine do with $60 million that GD does not really need?"

I call on all Maine residents to do whatever you can to oppose LD 1781 in Augusta, and to stand in solidarity with Bruce Gagnon, and those in need across Maine. Contact your local legislators to oppose LD 1781. We must insist that our representatives get our priorities right and put Maine people's welfare before corporate profits.

Meredith Bruskin


The value in a vote

Not uncommon for the middle of a Maine winter, it was cold and icy outside. Yet the energy inside the Maine State House was enough to make a politically intrigued high school senior such as myself forget about the gloomy weather. On this day, Rep. Erin Herbig, who recently announced her run for state Senate, welcomed me to experience a day with her on the job.

I saw firsthand what Rep. Herbig does daily to support our communities. She arrived, quickly switching from her Bean boots to her heels before we raced off for a brief TV interview. She told me this interview was special because she could finally talk about a topic she had been trying to focus on since she ran for her first term House seat eight years previous — providing jobs in Maine for young people. “There’s still this perception that there are too many hurdles to overcome to live here.” Rep. Herbig noted that this is crucial for building the state’s economy workforce. “It’s all about priorities, and in my opinion this needs to be a top priority.”

In the midst of the Power to the Polls movement, I asked Rep. Herbig what her advice was for young women aspiring to leadership positions in their chosen field. She revealed that being afraid of taking on such roles was natural — despite her practiced manner, she still occasionally gets nervous before public speaking. However, she noted, the key is not to be fearless because fears are inevitable. “It’s being willing to put yourself out there and continuing to challenge yourself and take risks…You just have to keep going for it, because it’s worth it.” And, it is important to open any doors that become available: “(Doing) whatever you can to give yourself the most opportunities possible…just needs to be a priority in all young people’s lives.”

Toward the end of my day at the State House, Rep. Herbig shared a message that is simple but often forgotten: “It matters whom you elect and their priorities.” I believe the Rep. Herbig’s priorities — further utilizing Maine’s resources, building up small towns, and increasing job opportunities for young and returning Mainers — are well-placed and serve to better Maine’s communities, including Waldo County. This is her home, filled with family, friends and neighbors. Rep. Herbig’s support and care for this beautiful state is genuine, effective and reliable. And if others, as I do, want a promising future for Maine, then they will surely see the value in a vote for Erin Herbig for state Senate in 2018.

Olivia deFrees LaRoche


RSU 71 update

As chairwoman of the Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors, it’s my pleasure to share a sampling of the efforts and events taking place at our district schools.

The Captain Albert Stevens School fifth grade experienced a cozy restaurant-styled library (complete with virtual fireplace, snacks and music) filled with the Maine Student Book Award winners and nominees. These classes also visited the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland to learn about becoming scientists and about the Gulf of Maine ecosystem.

Seventh-grade students at Troy Howard Middle School in social studies and the Garden Program are interviewing local people about the history of agriculture, finding out what they do, why they do it and how agriculture is changing. Podcasts of interviews will soon be released, streamed, and broadcast live on Belfast Community Radio. Social studies classes are also studying the U.N. Sustainable Goals and getting out into the community to promote the Global Goals, part of THMS’s effort to become globally competent (investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate with diverse audiences, and take action).

In collaboration with the Belfast Soup Kitchen and the Technical Ed program, the sixth grade general music class is making and playing diddley-bows, single-stringed instruments that originated in the rural South. The THMS Academic Audit has been completed; it examines classroom experiences of students and teachers through data gathering, focus groups, and analysis. The audit has resulted in recommendations to address the findings and to guide implementation of action plans in many areas.

Belfast Area High School is in the final phases of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Accreditation process (occurs every 10 years), which requires review of school performance and culminates with a March accreditation team site visit. The preliminary construction schedule has been set for Phase 2 of high school building improvements which include a new two-story addition in place of the old energy-wasting “math-wing,” update of sports locker rooms and corridor space, and replacement of the entry canopy.

On Feb. 27, senior members of the BAHS Modern Band will be performing five musical pieces at a Maine Arts Commission statewide luncheon focused on the economic impact of Maine’s arts and cultural sectors. Seven THMS and six BAHS students auditioned and were selected to perform at the Kennebec Valley Music Education Association Festival in February. Four BAHS students auditioned and were selected to perform at the All-State Music Festival May 17-19 at UMaine.

For community service efforts, students at Belfast Community Outreach Program in Education (BCOPE) have recently pitched in to move and stack wood at the Searsmont Waldo County Woodshed, a nonprofit program providing wood to those needing heating assistance.

For more information, please go to the district website (www.rsu71.org) and/or the websites of the individual schools.

Caitlin Hills, Chairwoman

RSU 71 Board of Directors