End of an era

The recent departure of Dagney Ernest from Courier Publications marks the end of a wonderful era of news reporting. She has been an amazing gift to our community and she will be greatly missed.

Her stories have been cut out innumerable times and put in scrapbooks across our region. She has covered the arts with great dignity, a keen understanding, and a wonderful appreciation of the gallant efforts people have made to make our community better and more entertaining.

She has been a constant face of the Courier out and about in the community; her arrival at a show was always marked by a smile and she brought a contagious enthusiasm for the arts. God bless her for all she has given us and for the next chapter of her life.

The Rev. Peter Jenks


Save the science teachers

This week Regional School Unit 71 is discussing a decision to reduce the number of science teachers at Troy Howard Middle School to four by not filling the position left vacant by one science teacher's retirement in June. Reducing the number of science teachers means each core subject at THMS will have six teachers, except science, which would have four teachers. Given Maine's 2016-2026 projected jobs outlook, it makes no sense to undermine science learning for THMS students.

Seventeen of the top 25 jobs projected to grow the fastest in Maine from 2016 to 2026 are STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering, and math), including health care technicians and professionals, data and information analysts, biochemists and biophysicists and others. These are well-paying, secure jobs. 2026 is when today's seventh-graders will graduate from college and look for work. Will they be prepared for Maine’s job market?

A few years ago, Hutchinson Center science faculty were having lunch in Chase's, when Angus King walked in, on a tour campaigning for U.S. Senate. He approached our booth, and we told him we were science instructors at the UMaine Hutchinson Center, meeting over lunch to figure out how to attract more students into STEM courses.

"Get 'em early, in middle school!" he said. Angus is right. Research shows that middle school is where students often lose interest in science. If they are not engaged by science in middle school, they don't engage in science later. It's a critical time for giving students the best we have if they are to build interest in pursuing STEM careers.

Cutting a science position at THMS is a decision that will, in the long run, be more costly to students and to our community than a single science teacher's salary.

Molly Schauffler


Fighting for scraps

Earned paid sick leave is a current bill that is near and dear to my heart. When I caught wind that a few Senate Democrats, including my own Erin Herbig, are leaning toward voting "no" on the earned paid sick leave bill, I was fairly concerned. She has not written back to me.

If a business cannot afford to humanely treat its employees, it cannot afford to be in business. Maine can lead the way in a nation that is otherwise the laughing stock of the modern world when it comes to caring for its workers, their rights, and their health.

Meaningful change for the working class has been locked out of Augusta for years, please do not be an obstruction to one of the first glimmers of hope. We do not need two classes of workers, one in Portland where EPSL will be enacted on a municipal level, and then everyone else in the state continuing to fight for scraps.

Corey J. Butler


When will we come to our senses?

It is heartening that polls are showing that a greater majority of Americans, including Republicans, believe in global warming. There is, however, precious little consensus on what to do and even less political will to do it. Notions range from us all living simpler lives to a techno-fix that will save us, and from planting trees to planting gardens. The answer probably includes all of the above and much more.

You would think that curbing the greatest carbon polluting entity on earth, the U.S. military, might be on the list, but no, we go on increasing its budget and christening another monster warship built at BIW on the 27th of this month. When are we going to come to our senses?

The overly conservative IPCC gives us 11 years to take aggressive actions to have any chance at all of climate conditions not going beyond survivability and most non-politically constrained scientists following the actual accelerating conditions give us half that. Yet we merrily christen yet another death ship, when, instead, we clearly and desperately need to be working to achieve global cooperation in de-carbonizing our world in some sort of green new deal on steroids.

Come down to Bath Saturday morning, April 27, and join us in advocating for converting BIW into crafting more life-affirming and helpful products like non-carbon cargo ships and underwater turbines. Please ask your state and federal delegations to advocate for conversion as well. Also, please sign the “BIW Conversion” petition by emailing globalnet@.mindspring.com.

Peter Baldwin


Which way forward?

It’s been a bit over a year since Nordic Aquafarms first proposed to build one of the largest land-based salmon facilities in the world here in Belfast. Since then, much has happened:

– A lawsuit against the Belfast City Council is still wending its way through the courts. It might be heard in June or July.

– Several waterfront property owners in Belfast and Northport have decided not to allow Nordic’s discharge pipe to cross their properties. NAF has had to revise its proposed route for its discharge pipe.

– The Sierra Club Maine executive committee voted unanimously to oppose the NAF project. “As currently proposed it poses a significant and unreasonable risk to the environment and economy of Penobscot Bay and the Midcoast Maine communities.” (Quote from their March 25 press release.)

I wonder, are 100 or fewer jobs worth taking a serious environmental risk, one which might negatively impact other fisheries and aquaculture businesses? Is it not foolhardy to cut 30 acres of woodland when there is increasing pressure to save forested land due to accelerating climate change?

We must make a choice. We can either take our stewardship of the environment seriously or not. Prioritizing small diversified aquaculture and forests over food agribusiness requires a change in perspective and a reorientation of our daily lives.

If smaller aquaculture businesses are negatively impacted, might we actually end up with fewer jobs? Are we willing to take personal responsibility for mitigating climate change and make sure that 30 acres stay wooded?

Also, is the Little River’s nourishment of the spirit really important to us? Or are we willing to sell it off, because a vibrant ecosystem doesn’t matter enough to save it?

We need to examine our consciences and be honest about our motives. Only in this way will we be able to make a wise plan which supports what most matters to us as human beings, and which avoids unintended negative consequences.

Deborah Capwell


Naron's demands

Is anyone paying attention to the demands of developer Paul Naron as he negotiates with the City Council? While I certainly appreciate Mr. Naron's Farmer's Market, I am very concerned by the nature of his demands.

Reading The Republican Journal online, I see that he refuses to grant a permanent easement across his land for the Harbor Walk, while he has secured from the city rights to a larger-than-normal marina and fewer parking spaces than are normally required.

Mr. Naron's tentative plans include a hotel, as well as two restaurants on the waterfront. For this reason, he explains the location of the Harbor Walk should be “fluid as development proceeds.” What does this statement suggest? Such an open-ended plan is very concerning.

Many people have been diligent in their opposition to the fish farm, while development on the harbor seems to be getting little notice. I wonder why? Many of the same issues raised about the fish farm proposal would also affect the waterfront and surrounding area under Mr. Naron's plan.

Certainly there would be more noise and traffic from two restaurants and a hotel in a concentrated space. Threats to the ecology of the bay could come from the increased boat traffic of the proposed marina. Most of the visiting yachts would no doubt be diesel-powered, increasing emissions in the air and contamination from oily bilge water seeping into the harbor. Surely this matters?

As to quality of life, Belfast has so far retained its own distinctive quality and small-town atmosphere in large part because it has resisted major tourist development along its waterfront. How might Mr. Naron's development change that? To that end, I am glad that the City Council has persisted in its claim to the Harbor Walk right of way. Maine water frontage held in public trust is today almost non-existent; why give up control of what little we have left?

The Harbor Walk is very democratic with a wonderful mix of people and dogs enjoying its benefits. Would a hotel, marina complex discourage local usage? I am especially concerned about that.

Over the last six months or more, public debate over important issues has at times been very negative and has moved us away from our earlier practice of viewing proposed changes from a “whole community” perspective. I sincerely hope we get back there, and that we find ways to offer informed and positive support to the City Council, who are as Mary Mortier remarked, “the stewards of city property and lands for future generations.”

Their negotiation position will be stronger if we the community are present in a constructive way, and they will be better able to hear our comments as well. My own bias tends to compromise: I do not support the common mentality of developers that they “do us a favor” by taking over control.

Belfast has a long history of hard work, a lot of wisdom, and now expertise to meaningfully participate in any kind of discussion. Please, good people, this proposal is a serious matter that deserves our best effort.

Joanne Boynton


Smart growth

It has been bothering me that a small group in Belfast decided a year ago that they needed to spearhead a movement to lead Belfast in the right direction and that they know best what that smart growth looks like. They are tenacious and frequently mean-spirited in their quest to convince the greater majority of citizens that they are right and any who feel differently are misinformed and being duped by evil corporations, especially Nordic Aquafarms.

I don’t begrudge anyone their right to their opinion, but I do take issue with that opinion steamrolling over everyone in our city. Belfast is a wonderful eclectic place to live, composed of people whose vision of what smart growth looks like is as varied as our population.

I was curious to see what the response to a query on Facebook would be and I was blown away by the response of almost 100 comments! My query: Info gathering. All the many wonderful accomplishments that have happened in Belfast in the last 20 or so years…GO!

The responses reflected the diversity of what Belfast offers its citizens, from art venues to recreational choices, small local business and corporations. All contribute to the vitality that Belfast is known and loved for.

Many, if not most, of these positive additions to our city have come about due to the diligence and vision of our city government. Not everyone has been in agreement with everything, but most people understand that just because it is not something they support, it doesn’t mean they should demean it and try to stop it.

Nordic Aquafarms is the latest in a long list of additions to our city that have allowed Belfast to grow and prosper in many ways. I, along with many others, am excited about Nordic Aquafarms and how it will add yet another dimension to Belfast. For those so vehemently opposed, that’s your right, but don’t rain on my or anyone else’s parade.

Curious to see that list? It’s pretty amazing! In no particular order: Museum in the Streets, Belfast Historical Society, Belfast public parks, theater and art groups, repurposed spaces in our historic buildings, Senior College, Ecovillage, Armistice Footbridge, events for all season, Belfast Community TV, Belfast Community Radio, city government “Go Green” initiative, Harborwalk, Rail Trail, a thriving downtown and waterfront, Our Town Belfast, Belfast Co-op, Restorative Justice Project, New Hope for Women, The Game Loft, seven women with department head positions in city government, The Back and Forth, YMCA, new Public Works Yard in progress, renovated wastewater treatment facility in progress, two weekly farmers' markets, Front Street Shipyard with public access via the Harborwalk, MBNA, Bank of America, athenahealth,  dog park, sports fields, thriving local businesses, Waldo County General Hospital, Belfast Free Library, UMaine Hutchinson Center, solar panels (fire station, old landfill, Public Works), ban on plastic bags and styrofoam, Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, Maine Farmland Trust, GOLogic, Belfast is Beautiful clean-up day, The Daffodil Project, beautiful statuary and stones in Grove Cemetery, public working waterfront.

And that’s just a start!

Also I thought these three quotes helped tell the story: “Many (most) of these involved council votes,” “The city is currently in the process of buying all the streetlights from CMP and will be installing smart lights,” and “The corporations have definitely helped the local economy.”

No doubt about it. Belfast is, and has been, on the right track for Smart Growth for quite some time.

Nordic Aquafarms will become a part of the big picture of Smart Growth for Belfast and along with the leadership of our city government we will continue to shine!

No need to worry about the future of Belfast!

Diane Braybrook


Collins a wily politician

Sen. Susan Collins has long benefited from a reputation as a maverick, something that sits well with Mainers. Our state motto Dirigo, “I lead,” says it all. An independent-minded people, we expect that kind of thoughtful leadership from our senators.

From 1997-2016 Collins walked the walk, joining only 59 percent of party-line votes. In the Trump era that figure has jumped to 72 percent, and almost all the nays have been carefully placed on votes that would easily pass, so she can talk the talk with no consequences.

Her lone Republican nay against Andrew Wheeler as EPA chief, only the third cabinet choice she has voted against, is another in a long list of posturing votes designed to reassure moderates. Let’s remember she voted for him as an undersecretary. When things are truly close, as with the Kavanaugh nomination and the hurried and poorly thought-out tax bill, she sticks with the good old boys.

Added to this is the recent news that her rating on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard has dropped from a solid 76 percent to 21 percent. Here in this state? You're kidding!

The Senate is a hugely powerful institution and the votes they take really matter. Too often, she follows a poorly cast vote with a public statement about how disappointed she is that congressional leadership did not follow through on the promise made to get her vote. How about a few apologies as well?

“I'm so disappointed that (appointee) turned out to be (a crook) (totally incompetent) (far more radical than he claimed) (acting like the coal lobbyist he used to be)." Take your pick. There are plenty to choose from.

It’s not that every progressive idea or appointee is great and every conservative one bad. We just need a thoughtful leader, not a wily politician who tries to dupe us into thinking she has some backbone.

Either Sen. Collins is being bullied into submission by a president and party that tolerate no dissension or she has truly bought into her current role as a lapdog. Neither is right for the state of Maine.

Geoff Bird


The Delaware loophole

Nordic Aquafarms incorporated in Delaware, not in Maine. As Eric Heim stated at the recent public meeting, that's what the tax lawyers advised him to do. According to a Republican Journal article reporting on that meeting, an unnamed representative from Maine Revenue Service backed up Heim's claim that Maine would not be shorted on taxes.

From The New York Times, July 1, 2012 (“How Delaware Thrives as a Corporate Tax Haven”): “Officials in other states complain that Delaware's cozy corporate setup robs their states of billions of tax dollars.”

The Times article adds that the Delaware incorporation law “allows companies to lower their taxes in another state — for instance, the state in which they actually do business or have their headquarters — by shifting royalties and similar revenues to holding companies in Delaware, where they are not taxed. In tax circles, this arrangement is known as 'the Delaware loophole.'”

Delaware corporate law also permits stockholders to limit the liability of directors and includes provisions authorizing corporations to indemnify directors, officers and employees. The Court of Chancery, which functions without a jury, is designed to be particularly friendly to corporations. Why wouldn't it be designed this way, since the Delaware loophole is a huge source of revenue for that small state?

When your primary objective is to make money, it makes sense to use the Delaware loophole. But what benefit does it offer the people of Maine? Haven't we had enough of out-of-state corporate interests bleeding our natural resources?

Jamila Levasseur


Terrible impacts

The CMP Corridor project has terrible impacts of forest fragmentation and on survival of wildlife populations in the area. This region is of national significance because of the many rare and endangered species surviving there. The project does not help to prevent climate change as the company likes to claim.

A Maine Mountain Collaborative research study describes the impacts I am most concerned about:

“There are significant potential negative  impacts of forest fragmentation on the flora, fauna and ecosystems of the Western Maine Mountains. That occurs when permanent features such as roads, utility corridors, buildings or clearings create breaks that disturb the natural ecological balance of populations that exist here."

“Impacts such as direct habitat loss, habitat degradation through increased insolation of plant and animal populations, greater exposure to edge effects, and invasion by disturbance-adapted species are cumulative, leading to degraded ecosystems and, eventually, reduced wildlife survival rates.”

“The resiliency of the Western Maine Mountains in the face of climate change is largely due to the extent and connectivity of the region’s forests. These forests provide far greater benefits to climate stabilization than the alternative of land development.  Because heavily forested areas sequester more carbon than they emit and the wood they produce can be used to substitute for more energy- and emissions-intensive building materials, keeping forested lands intact will help mitigate climate change regionally.”

In conclusion, The Western Maine Mountains region is an ecological treasure that faces unprecedented threats from forest fragmentation. New land uses and policies that fragment the region’s forests — such as the proposed New England Clean Corridor, would — have the potential to profoundly change the ecology of the region by bringing extensive new human infrastructure into remote areas.

Deb Avalone-King


School changes could save money

As county treasurer of Waldo County, I am committed to doing all I can to reduce our property taxes. A recent article reveals that Maine has one of the most regressive property taxes in the nation. This must stop! The largest portion of our property taxes goes to fund our public schools and that is where we must begin.

I am suggesting that we consider going to a four-day schedule in our schools which has been shown to save anywhere between 37 percent and 20 percent. Teachers love a four-day schedule and so do students. For those that believe there are some students who depend on the school system for their breakfast and lunch, those meals could be prepared and sent home with the students on Thursday. This schedule has been shown by the more than 500 school districts that currently have converted to it to have very positive results. Teacher retention and pay is better, and the students are not impacted academically at all.

The second thing we should consider is more virtual teaching. The student can stay home, and the teachers remain available via the computer. Again, a substantial savings is realized, and the students have been shown to not be impacted academically. This is not for every student but consider the students that might really benefit from such an approach. There are currently at least two virtual schools in Maine that are showing this approach has several positive benefits.

The third thing that we could consider is to realize that not every student will be best suited for college but may well be very talented to work in some other field. Why not allow such students to complete the academic requirements by the ninth grade and then let them secure a hands-on job so that by the time they are 18 or, so they have a well-paying job?

These things will never happen so long as the school boards are controlled by individuals that are stuck in the mud of things past that are no longer working, and at the same time are holding more and more home owner’s hostage to the ever-rising property taxes.

The final remedy may be to put a cap on how much those homeowners on fix income pay on that portion of their property taxes that funds the public schools. This will require a fix at the state level and I urge the citizens of Waldo County to contact their representatives and encourage them to have the courage to make changes that are necessary.

Stop the ever-rising property taxes now!

Peter M. Sheff

Waldo County Treasurer

Legal suicide?

Another slip further down to the dark side, for our country and our world!

The proposed bill that would legalize assisted suicide termed “Death with Dignity” should be called what it is, legalized murder, committed by those who take an oath to “do no harm.”

So what’s new! Doctors have been killing the unborn for years. Now some states are supporting the killing of a viable live baby, after birth. What has happened to us? The people who support this bill are seriously flawed. We as a society continue to degrade the value of life. We are descending further into a hedonistic existence.

Recently I spoke with a friend who lost someone very close to him. His takeaway was interesting. He told me that he had been opposed to medical marijuana until he witnessed the positive effects it had on his dying friend. He said his friend was lucid and pain-free. Death is the last great adventure. By taking one’s own life or assisting someone who makes that choice we rob them of that adventure.

I don’t know much about pain medications but it seems to me that we have tools available that can help our dying brethren through their final journey without cutting it short by killing them. I hope and pray that when my time comes I will still feel as I do now. Thousands of years ago wise men wrote down guidelines for future generations. The one that applies here is ”Thou Shalt Not Kill.”

Leo H. Mazerall Jr.

Stockton Springs