We were sorry this week to see Belfast City Councilor Mike Hurley not only breaking the city's fireworks ordinance and using mild profanity in a video posted to a public Facebook page (Our Town Belfast Maine), but compounding his terrible example by holding live fireworks in his hands.

When we talked to him about the video, he acknowledged that people complaining about his disregard for the ordinance, which he said he thought he had voted against, had a "very small" point, but downplayed their accusations. He added that many people in town break the fireworks ordinance. And when a resident of the city contacted him about the video, she told us, he dismissed her. However, Hurley said he had not received complaints about his lighting fireworks, except on Facebook.

In any case, the fact that others have broken the law does not make it OK for a city official to do so. Nor does the fact that the official opposed the law at the time it was passed. Hurley knows this, and admitted as much to us in an interview. It is hypocritical for councilors to make laws for others to follow and then break the ones they don't like.

Although Hurley said the police did not come to his house about a noise complaint after the Jan. 20 fireworks event, Belfast police told us that he was summoned for breaking the city's fireworks ordinance when he came into the station Jan. 31. We give Hurley credit for voluntarily going to the police, but wish he had done so right after the violation, or, better still, that he had not broken the law in the first place.

In addition, Mayor Eric Sanders, when contacted for comment on the fireworks incident and video, put the problem down to the city's lack of a policy for the behavior of city officials and employees on social media. The city might be well advised to create such a policy, but the mayor's comment seems like an attempt to sweep a colleague's illegal behavior under the rug.

Not long ago former RSU 71 Board of Directors Chairwoman Caitlin Hills resigned under pressure because of a Facebook post in which she used profanity and vilified supporters of former President Trump. We think the present case warrants censure of Hurley by the City Council.


Action on climate cannot wait

The year 2020 will go down in history as one of the warmest years on record in Maine and elsewhere around the country. It is part of a larger warming trend that has taken place over the last 10 years with record-breaking conditions giving way to extreme weather.

From droughts and wildfires in the western part of the country to extreme precipitation and the propensity for hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, the consequences of a changing climate are already here and foreshadow more to come.

Caribou since 2000 has experienced seven of its 10 warmest years on record. In November, the northern Maine city reached 75 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that not only shattered the previous daily high for November, but also rivaled normal July temperatures. Similarly, Portland also broke its own record 18 times last summer for daily high temperatures.

On Aug. 14, the Gulf of Maine recorded its single hottest day of the 2020 summer. At 69.85 degrees Fahrenheit, it was a full degree warmer than the previous record set in 2012, posing problems for marine life and water quality. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute found that marine heatwaves, defined as five or more consecutive days where temperatures are higher than 90% of the same calendar days during a 30-year baseline period, have been present at least 81 days a year since 2010.

On top of all that, Maine had a dry summer. Grass turned brown as scant amounts of rain could not replenish underlying aquifers. Farmers struggled to water their crops. And there has been plenty of brown grass this winter, too, with no snow to cover it.

A lack of sustained cold has obvious implications for outdoor activities as fewer lakes freeze and snow falls less often. Many Mainers are likely to have noticed that winter ice conditions have been less and less favorable over the past few years, resulting in the cancellation of ice fishing derbies and a reduction of safe ice days overall.

One warm year can happen, but sustained warming is cause for alarm.

Even though greenhouse gas emissions have dropped globally during the pandemic, long-term solutions are imperative. Maine has set ambitious climate goals and it will be challenging, although not impossible, to meet them. Amid an emergency, it may seem easier to kick the can down the road. But global warming is an emergency that predates the current one and our children will inherit the burden. We owe them bold action and innovation. In this, we cannot afford a return to normal. We must do more.

Reprinted from The Ellsworth American.