A moment of challenge and opportunity

I begin this letter with gratitude. I celebrate the City Council and mayor's good works on issues like restorative justice, alternative energy, addressing the climate change crisis, support for access to employment and affordable housing.

I was, however, deeply saddened to watch the City Council vote 5-0 March 5 to amend its meeting rules. The resolution restricts the voice and influence of the mayor.

I support the mayor's courage and leadership. I feel it is essential to lift up the voices of people who have been marginalized in our country, including our Mayor Samantha Paradis, who is young and identifies as queer. The mayor has consistently advocated for implicit bias and diversity training for the City Council. Resistance by the City Council toward this training troubles me.

At this time in our country, tens of thousands of hospitals, police departments, corporations, city halls, nonprofits and churches are hosting diversity trainings. Friends who have been leading anti-sexism and anti-racism work for decades still feel they have more work to do. Healing from structural racism and sexism is a lifetime's work for all of us.

As a white, heteronormative male, I have been blessed to have worked on healing from racism and sexism. I have been honored to assist with trainings on these issues in many parts of the country. Nevertheless, I have more racism and sexism inside me that I hope to heal.

I feel that all of us need to be humble and admit this, or else the work simply cannot be done. This is similar to the key step in AA, where admitting you are an alcoholic is the beginning of healing. I urge the City Council and all city employees to attend diversity trainings. It would be great to have trainings offered to the general public. It is everyone's responsibility to grow and learn in these areas. It is essential work to help heal what is broken in our world, country and towns.

I also have concerns that dozens of people, especially women in this community, are afraid to speak to certain male councilors. This is problematic and unhealthy. City Hall needs to work on being an open and inviting place for all citizens of Belfast and a place where dissenting views are heard and considered.

I hope that City Council will chart a course of deeper healing. The council has done some incredible work for this town, many members for decades trying to help the community. The council and mayor have boldly instated a long-term Climate Committee. I hope they will also consider adding a racial and gender healing committee for Belfast. Like the Climate Committee, its time has come — actually, it's long overdue. I hope the council and mayor can pursue this path of healing. This is a moment of challenge, but also of great opportunity.

Ethan Hughes


Keep after-school funding

The Trump Administration recently released its proposed budget for the 2020 fiscal year. The proposal, if passed into law, means that approximately 6,470 children in Maine would lose access to after-school programs. This would affect 100+ students in RSU #20 who regularly attend after-school and summer programs as integral parts of their educational experience each year.

Specifically, the president’s budget would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs. The grants that fund these programs are the principal federal funding source for after-school and summer learning opportunities; without them, approximately 1.7 million children across the U.S. would lose the after-school programs their families rely on.

The benefits and successes of after-school programs are well-documented. Long-standing research has proven that after-school and summer learning programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help relieve working parents of worries about what their children are up to in the afternoon hours and during long summer days. Low-income families are beneficiaries of after-school programs, in particular.

To eliminate funding would be a disservice to the students and families in Searsport and Stockton Springs, and elsewhere in Maine. Among the consequences of such a disservice, children would be left without supervision. They also stand to lose unique learning opportunities, particularly in the content in which our after-school programs excel: health and wellness, STEM, mentoring, parent education, and community service, to name a few.

Our 21st Century grant in Regional School Unit 20 is indispensable. Without it, our after-school and summer programs would not continue.

Congress gets the final say as to what remains in the budget for our country. I call on the Maine delegation to advocate for the increase — not elimination — of federal funding for after-school programs.

Owen Sterrs


21st Century Community Learning Centers

Regional School Unit 20

A QuagMaine

Yesterday, just trying to get home on East Waldo Road, our Toyota SUV was nearly sucked into oblivion by a floating mass of rutted mud disguised as the roadway itself.

Normally, the road’s well maintained by the county — the grader sifting and redistributing the dust in the summer months, the plows doing their work at the first sign of snow. We’ve bragged about “our” road to friends back in Florida. We didn’t realize until yesterday that what looks like a simple country road is actually made in Waldo of materials shipped in from across the country.

You can picture how they do it: a few guys standing around a big cement mixer, all encouraging the man on a front-end loader. First, he puts in a bucket of red marl from South Georgia, then dumps in some Everglades marsh mud. While the mixer does its job, he goes to a pile of feed-lot nastiness from Greeley, Colorado, and throws that in. Then he adds some coal-mine slurry from Tennessee. (Salmon parts will contribute, eventually.) When they finish their recipe, one of the guys loads the custom mix into a truck and dumps it just south of 194 East Waldo Road. (Location warning!)

Water somehow saturates that stretch of roadway in a mysterious way. No liquid appears to the naked eye, but trust me, it’s there. Underfoot, the ground feels like a gentle trampoline. Any movement — for example, if you run in small circles, cursing — will disturb an object on the ground 10 feet away. The whole mess freezes solid and is passable from mid-December through March 16 — yesterday — when it defrosts and becomes what I call a QuagMaine. The consistency’s a cross between a Dairy Queen Blizzard and that chalky stuff you drink before you have a colonoscopy.

My wife and I learned it is possible to rescue a vehicle when it’s stuck in mud down to the frame and the wheels are spinning uselessly. Shoveling and plenty of sand don’t help much. Neighbors walking by making jokes just slow things down, especially if the shoveler gets too angry to work.

We were lucky enough to have a retired saint come out of his house with a shovel. He offered lots of advice and didn’t bring Trump into it once. A good guy. After shoveling proved ineffective, he went back home for some loose boards to stick under the wheels.

It took more shoveling from him and my wife to get the boards placed according to plan. Only once did my wife incorrectly position herself behind the rear wheel as I was powering up the V-8. She assures me that a day at a spa and an appointment at her hair stylist will fix her up nicely. (Her clothes went straight into the dumpster.)

It’s amazing how life returns to rosy out here in the country when you feel your vehicle lurch back onto relatively hard ground, just before sunset. I think our SUV got tired of all the bad language, shovels and boards. It decided to take us back home.

David B. Putnam Jr.


No discount? No problem.

The Belfast Co-op has stopped its senior discount program and, as senior members, we support this move, and here's why.

Years ago, the senior discount was, in fact, a huge promotion for the Co-op. Bringing shoppers from miles away, and at the time it helped pull the Co-op out of the red.

Times have changed and there are more co-ops in the region. Other commercial stores, with more buying power, are beginning to provide more pure, organic and local foods. And farmers have their own markets — all of which is fine.

But the senior discount is no longer supporting the Belfast Co-op and it needs to go.

We purchase 100 percent of our groceries at the Co-op and received a $15+/- weekly discount. This does not rock our world one way or the other.

As retired folks, on Social Security and working part-time, we have more freedom to cook all our meals ourselves from scratch, keeping our food budget low, while eating completely organic.

But as Americans, we have grown up with a subsidized, industrialized food system. We have been trained to expect and even demand unreasonably cheap food.

This system of cheap food has led to the enslavement of a population of farm workers with low wages and poor working conditions, not to mention planet degradation, and the enslavement of other species against their will, who are most often treated cruelly in the extreme. We don't want to be part of that.

Eating organic became necessary for me because of an autoimmune thyroid disease which is linked to the heavy metals in commercial fertilizer. I no longer have Grave’s disease and I take no medications at all.

For me, organic seems so much cheaper than medical issues that plague my generation. Through the co-op community, I have learned how to eat to prevent disease. I feel 1000 percent better and am more fit at 65 than I was at 40, when I moved to Belfast.

But pure, sustainable and humanely raised food is not cheap; why should we expect it to be so? Farm workers deserve adequate wages, animals deserve to be treated humanely, the Earth should not be gobbled up for profit. Who disputes this? Who is unwilling to pay a bit more so that others can have a better existence?

The Co-op buys our food at the lowest prices possible, adds a reasonable overhead to sustain the organization and pay fair wages. There is no international corporation exacting profit from this system.

And instead of high-paid management, we have volunteer board members donating hundreds of hours overseeing the operations — very hard work from which the rest of us reap many benefits.

We love and support our management, our employees and our board. We believe they all do what is best for our mutual benefit in continuing to provide members with the best, purest and most local food and goods possible, at the lowest prices possible.

Susan and Larason Guthrie


Pollution of political discourse

I am in favor of the Nordic Aquafarms proposal because I really like the idea of Belfast getting more good jobs while helping to sustainably feed the planet. I am hopeful that the state and federal permitting process will confirm that the facility will not damage our local environment, as that is essential to my support.

However, I do not feel hopeful at all about the local controversy around Nordic. At first, though I didn’t agree with the opponents, I respected their right to express their opinions. It even seemed possible that there might be some reasoned scientific discussion to be had about Nordic’s strategy on balance. This has not happened. Instead there has been a constant drumbeat of pseudoscience and bad faith arguments being used against the Nordic effort. These arguments are repeated over and over.

In reality, the Nordic facility will not be a CAFO (by definition), aquaculture is not an extractive industry (by definition), the claim that the facility will have "an enormous carbon footprint" is both unsubstantiated and basically meaningless (compared to what?), it is totally false that Belfast gave Nordic Aquafarms hundreds of thousands of dollars to come here.

The oft repeated numbers about the volume of effluent and its components are meaningless without the context of the amount of water flowing into the bay, how this compares to other sources of wastewater, how soon dilution occurs and so on. These are corrections of just a few of the misleading assertions.

This combination of false or unsubstantiated characterizations and context-less factoids is unnerving because, as we know all too well, if falsehoods are repeated enough times, people begin to believe them. That is not information; rather, it is propaganda.

The Nordic Aquafarms proposal may or may not damage Penobscot Bay with pollution. We don’t know for sure yet, though I have seen no credible evidence that it will.

However, we do know that another kind of pollution, the pollution of our local political discourse, is ongoing and increasingly destructive of our community. This letter is an attempt to dilute a bit of the latter pollution with some reality.

Trudy Miller