More important than politics

I’ve never been more delighted to have lost something in my life than losing the election to Rep. Scott Cuddy in November 2018.

This isn’t to say that I did not take seriously my obligation as a candidate to present a moderate libertarian vision for our area, but as a citizen in a republic, when we default to civility and comity, we find victory in defeat.  Scott is excelling where I would not have, in the attention he is giving to the job outside of his time in Augusta.

Thus far, I’ve been so impressed by Scott’s efforts to do right by his constituency, looking for true cost savings and improvements to quality of life in this corner of Waldo County.  He’s been profoundly receptive to hearing from all voters, not just the ones that put him in office. He also takes the time to try to truly educate voters about what’s before the legislature and what’s driving his support for it, whether it’s paid sick leave or a state-owned electric utility.

Energy poverty is a reality for many residents who are customers of CMP. I am heartened that our representative is making this a personal legislative priority. We know many of our friends and neighbors are having to make hard choices between heat, light, and food, and this is a good start in lowering that cost burden on Waldo County households. Someone may revoke my libertarian credentials for saying so, but I think we should always be willing to unshackle ourselves from ideological rigidity in favor of what we believe is a good idea.

I know I’m not always going to agree with him, but Scott is evidence of what happens when a person of character takes office. I was, along with my community, shaken to the core by the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh, not just as a Jew, but as a former Pennsylvanian with some connections to the Squirrel Hill community. I was deeply moved when Scott reached out to me about releasing a joint statement decrying racism and bigotry, and advocating for civility. A political opponent was considerate enough to take the time to remind Leah and me why living in Waldo County, Maine, was the best choice we ever made for our family. We desperately need more of that in our politics today.

I am proud to be represented by Scott Cuddy. Sometimes the content of character is far more important than politics, and Scott is the model of what a public servant should be. We are very lucky in our district to have him, and I will be among the first to advocate for his re-election in 2020.

Brian Kresge, MBA

Winterport

Scrap two-year moratorium

Dear Legislators,

We are writing you about our concerns about LD 197, An Act to Convene a Working Group to Authorize a Public Trust for Maine's Groundwater and to Impose a 2-year Moratorium on Large-scale Groundwater Extraction, which will be coming before your committee soon.

We are very much aware of the importance of water and water rights and are not opposed to the idea of looking into regulating some of Maine’s water as a public trust, especially if there are areas of the state prone to drought. However, we are concerned about the part of the bill that would impose a moratorium on new large-scale water extraction, to begin, essentially, immediately.

Prior to the two-year study to identify if and how to regulate Maine’s groundwater, the bill’s authors have decided to preemptively pick winners (agriculture) and losers (everyone else). We would argue that it is exactly the purpose of the proposed working group: to make such determinations after they do their study and certainly in a more sophisticated manner.

As residents of Belfast and nearby towns, we are concerned the moratorium could potentially eliminate land-based Recirculating Aquaculture Systems from being built on the coast of Maine for at least two years. (It is possible that aquaculture could be exempted as part of the agriculture exemption, but the bill as written is unclear about that.)

Nordic Aquafarms is currently in the permitting process to build and operate such a RAS in Belfast. A great many of us in the community feel this could be a very desirable thing that would bring many good jobs to our area, while producing a needed food product in a sustainable and responsible manner. If the permitting process does not uncover currently unknown or unverified environmental issues, we will welcome the Nordic facility.

It is known that our aquifer can easily accommodate the worst-case amount of fresh water that the Nordic RAS will need. That is not in doubt, as concluded in Capacity Evaluation for Belfast Water District, Belfast, Maine (https://www.cityofbelfast.org/DocumentCenter/View/2169). We wouldn’t want the Nordic Aquafarms RAS, which is known not to over-stress our aquifer, to be subject to an arbitrary moratorium on its operation.

Belfast is not the only locality that could be affected by this moratorium. There have been many articles written about such land-based systems as a potentially groundbreaking new industry in which Maine could be a world’s leader. Technology innovation moves fast, and a two-year moratorium could pass the state by entirely with respect to an industry that would fit well with our historical seafood-based economy.

We respectfully request that you remove the two-year moratorium clause from this bill.

Trudy Miller

Northport

Form a new co-op

This week we learned that the successful and tradition-rich Belfast Co-op is changing its senior discount policy. The board of directors elected to discontinue its 10-percent senior discount, effective April 1.

This news came with great dismay to many seniors who depend on the discount to get good-quality organic food while trying to live on a limited budget. Management cited that the senior discount was causing the Co-op to suffer a loss of $94,000 in Fiscal Year 2018. It is not the purpose of this letter to speculate how and why this happened. Suffice it to say that times and demographics change and most likely the seniors' interests were not represented on the board.

I would like to propose that a new cooperative buying club form to provide an alternative to the Belfast Co-op for those who so desire. If you are of like mind, please contact me to brainstorm and plan. For me, the purpose of a co-op is to save the member/owners money. There is no reason to belong and pay dues to a co-op if there isn't a significant payback. I propose that we go back to the original spirit of the Belfast Co-op when it first started — zero to low mark-up, pre-orders, the spirit of community, sweat equity requirement, and a bare bones, efficiently run organization with full input from all member/owners.

Dr. Ben Eversage

Northport

Preserve harbor access

Perhaps not everyone welcomed the spirited debate between developer Paul Naron and Belfast City Council members. I appreciated the vigorous discussion over public access to the harbor, this city’s most significant attribute.

Years ago, renowned architect Daniel Burnham recognized the critical importance of open space fronting on, and access to, Lake Michigan for the city of Chicago. It remains the most significant geographic feature of the city. (Disclosure: I am a native Chicagoan.) The paramount importance of harbor frontage to Belfast is similarly significant to its future.

I am appreciative of Mr. Naron’s actions in Belfast and am a regular patron of his Farmers' Market. There is room for developers in Belfast, but public accessibility to the harbor must be preserved.

Irwin Brown

Belfast

Volunteerism: A family tradition

Since its founding in 1942, United Midcoast Charities has relied on dedicated volunteers to help raise money and distribute funds to local nonprofit agencies.

In some cases, serving UMC has been a family affair! The recent retirement of Elinor Klivans from UMC’s board of directors prompts us to express how thankful we are for her family’s efforts on our behalf for close to 50 of our 77 years.

Elinor’s father-in-law, Howard Klivans, joined the board shortly after moving here in the 1970s. Howard's son Jeff — Elinor’s husband — became a board member when Howard moved away about 20 years ago, and Elinor began serving on the board after Jeff’s passing in 2007. Since then, she has served on our nominating committee, executive director search committee and grants committee. And although she has left the board due to newly instituted term limits, Elinor will continue to serve on UMC’s grants committee, helping us review applications and guide the board in awarding grants each year.

A high level of commitment among our volunteers has built UMC into a regional organization energizing nonprofit agencies in Knox and Waldo counties through finance and guidance, supporting a network of resources stronger than any single organization.

We’ve come a long way in 77 years, thanks to the efforts of people like Howard, Jeff, Elinor and many other caring neighbors who have served UMC. We couldn’t be more grateful.

Board of Directors

United Midcoast Charities

Camden

Curious about tax benefits

In New York, local citizens objected to the massive corporate welfare offered to Amazon to locate there. That made me curious about the tax benefits that Nordic Aquafarms, Tractor Supply, and other out-of-state corporations wanting to locate in Maine may be eligible for at taxpayer expense. A quick trip to maine.gov revealed the following.

Employment Tax Increment Financing is available to businesses that hire five or more employees within a two-year period. The company will be rewarded with refunds of 30 percent to 80 percent of their state withholding taxes for up to 10 (!) years.

Pine Tree Development Zones are for targeted industries such as biotechnology, marine technology, and advanced technologies for forestry and agriculture (agribusiness). It gives corporate tax credits, sales and use tax exemptions for both personal and real property, and the same withholding tax reimbursements as above.

Here’s the killer — they also get reduced electricity rates. For a high electricity use project like Nordic’s, this means we taxpayers are subsidizing increased carbon use. Is this the direction we want to go? How does that fit in with the city of Belfast’s carbon reduction goals?

The Business Equipment Tax Relief Program gives a 100-percent property tax exemption on personal property taxes on eligible business equipment. For Nordic, the Belfast Water District is also giving it a break on its water rates.

All this raises several questions for me. Why are we taxpayers providing corporate welfare to a business like Nordic that has the means to simultaneously pursue an additional multimillion-dollar project in California? Or to the Wall Street stockholders for a publicly traded company like Tractor Supply? Why aren’t we as generous to existing Maine businesses, some of which have served our communities for decades? If the Water District is so flush with cash that it can give Nordic a break, why don’t they lower the rates of homeowners and existing businesses?

In the case of Nordic, reports say the company will pay the California Humboldt Bay Harbor District $20,000 a year during the three-year permitting process. By comparison, the city of Belfast is giving Nordic money for four years! Nordic is expected to pay a one-time fee to the Humboldt District’s electric substation of $500,000 and rent of $159,128 a year to the district once they are operational. Compare that to the lowball purchase price of $1.5 million Nordic is paying for 40 pristine acres on the coast of Maine. Are we in Belfast being played?

Linda Buckmaster

Belfast