Letters, Nov. 16, 2017

Nov 16, 2017

Abiding love

On a cold December night in 1986, we drove to Belfast in a borrowed pickup truck, moving the first load of our furniture to a new apartment. The truck wouldn’t start after a stop at Mullen’s Country Store (now Jerry’s Hardware), and so my wife Gail and I and our 18-month-old daughter were stranded.

A couple of women took pity on us, and drove us to our new apartment, and gave us unsolicited but appreciated advice: Get the truck fixed at East Side Garage. Walter Ash, and his then partner and brother-in-law, Gene Webber, were honest and would take care of us, they said.

For the next 30 years, we’ve been patronizing the shop, now run by Walter’s son.

Being honest in business and personal dealings is more rare and valuable than you might think. But Walter’s integrity and the contributions he’s made to our community go deeper.

Another story: In the summer 1990, a progressive City Council was considering selling the city-owned railroad. At a Monday night meeting on July 3, things got heated, and Walter, who was president of the railroad board, uncharacteristically rose from his seat in a heated exchange with Councilor Steve Swayze. The crescendo came with Walter telling Steve he ought to consider resigning.

The next day, the Fourth of July, Steve was at the city pier, trying to get a balky boat engine started. Who climbed onto the deck to help? Walter Ash.

As councilor and mayor, Walter has joked that he’s the “last of the Mohicans,” the lone Belfast native. But he’s never been bitter about the changes the city has seen with the influx of folks like me. In fact, he’s been able to listen to both his conservative East Side neighbors and folks like me, and his votes have followed sense, not ideology.

Walter’s integrity carried him three times to the State House as a legislator. During one campaign, his challenger, the late Jerry Savitz, wrote a letter to this paper urging voters to choose him over Walter. Win or lose, though, Jerry said he would continue have his fleet of Audis serviced at Walter’s shop.

Samantha Paradis will do a great job as our mayor. I like that she sees our community through young eyes, because the changes we need must appeal to her generation. But she would do well to remember Walter’s fine example of an honest, open mind, and easy, thoughtful manner with people, and an abiding love of his town.

Tom Groening


Steadfast service

Thank you, Mayor Walter Ash, for your work and dedication to the citizens of Belfast. In the true sense of a servant-leader, you focused primarily on the growth and well-being of people and our community. You served our city and state with distinction and with love for decades, always judging issues based on what was best for us and our community.

Too often these days, our elected representatives allow their political party or self-interests to shade their views. Whether at the State House in Augusta or the City Hall in Belfast, you put principles above politics; your interest was always what was best for the people you served. As mayor, you were able to remember the past, improve the present and see the future.

We will miss your thoughtful approach to city government and your servant leadership. Thank you for your steadfast service to us all.

David Dancy


Not first

Being a fourth-generation Belfast person going back to about 1840, shall we say I consider myself an amateur historian? Although I'm now from "Away," living in Northport, I feel compelled, if nothing else, to correct an article on the front page of last week’s Journal. Not to discredit the newly elected mayor, but she is not the first non-heterosexual mayor of Belfast to be elected.

The article mentioned that Foster Small was the second-youngest mayor of Belfast. Dr. Foster Small probably was the first non-heterosexual mayor, the difference perhaps being that it was not publicized at the time of his tenure.

Peter Clifford


New equipment

Belfast Area Children’s Center and Starrett Children's Center were desperately in need of new playground equipment as it was 27 years old and in need of replacement. A capital campaign was launched in the spring to raise a total of $35,000, which includes a $15,000 match from the Unity Foundation, to purchase new equipment for the centers. The community pulled together with donations and met the challenge as of Sept. 30.

With the outdoor learning centers being such a crucial part of the curriculum and the children at the centers having limited playground choices, this was no small undertaking as BACCS is a nonprofit organization. The old structures have been disassembled, new equipment ordered and installed at the beginning of November.

We would like to offer our thanks to the community and Unity Foundation for the support.

Gina Madden, Director, Belfast Area Children’s Center

Linda Stec, Director, Starrett Children’s Center Director

Auction thanks

We wish to thank the supporters who made it possible for use to hold our annual auction, including the Tarratine Club, donors of auction items and the people who attended the auction.

Waldo County Triad

Window Dressers

Over 110 community and customer volunteers worked from Oct. 18 to Nov. 2 at the Belfast Boathouse to make Window Dressers interior storm windows for residents of Waldo County.

We would like to express our huge gratitude to these generous folks who assembled frames, wrapped inserts, worked in the kitchen, and cleaned up the Boathouse. Their volunteer labor keeps costs down for everyone.

2017 is our sixth year making window inserts for residents of Belfast and Waldo County. This year we made 416 new inserts and rewrapped 37 older inserts. This brings our total since 2012 to well over 2,700 new inserts helping our neighbors to stay warmer, save money on fuel, and reduce carbon emissions.

Forty-eight households received new inserts this fall. About 19 percent of our customers (who would not have been able to purchase inserts otherwise) were only asked to make a small voluntary donation for up to 10. Thirteen local businesses and organizations donated meals, gift cards, supplies or work crews to support our efforts.

Special thanks go to the city of Belfast for allowing us to use the Belfast Boathouse and to the following for their generous support: Bank of America, The Belfast Co-op, Delvino’s Grill and Pasta House, The Dockside Family Restaurant, Dunkin’ Donuts Belfast, Eat More Cheese, Hannaford Supermarkets, Harbor Walk Restaurant, Midcoast Regional Re-entry Center, Moonbat City Baking Co., Sweet Henry’s, Viking Lumber, Waldo County Technical Center.

Waiting lists are being created for 2018, so if you think you may be interested or you have questions, please go to windowdressers.org or call 596-3073.

Corliss Davis, Local Coordinator

Steering Committee members: Neva Allen, Dean Anderson, Judy and David Beebe, Jerry and Mary Brand, Bill Colcord, Ernie Cooper, Mike Funke, Bruce Morehouse, John Terry, Liza Wheeler and Chris Wright

An open letter to Sen. Michael Thibodeau

Now that the people of Maine have once again confirmed their support for Medicaid expansion with an overwhelming vote, it’s time to make it happen. I am wondering what your plan is to implement this voter mandate.

As I understand it, we need two things — sources for the state’s 10-percent match and the willingness of the Legislature to overcome any vetoes by the governor. I have a suggestion for possible revenue: Raise the cigarette tax by $1 a pack and comparable amounts on other tobacco products. Raising the cigarette tax (or user fee) is a winner on multiple fronts.

One of the beauties of this plan is that it uses “like” to combat “like.” In other words, a public health danger is being used to fund public health care. An extra advantage is that by making the cost of smoking higher, it may discourage young people from starting and encourage smoking adults to quit. In 2011, the number of packs of cigarette use per capita in the state was 51.1! The percentage of Mainers who smoke is 19.5 percent compared to 17.5 percent nationally.

With Medicaid expansion, more smokers will be able to access medical cessation care, which will save us all money in the long run. A 2013 study showed that smoking-related diseases were responsible for $45 billion of Medicare spending nationally the decade before. Data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey show that 27.9 percent of uninsured adults and 29.1 percent of Medicaid recipients currently smoke.

As for the Legislature overcoming the inevitable governor’s veto: I notice that you voted against Medicaid expansion multiple times. With over 59 percent of Mainers voting in favor of it, I hope you will support the majority rule. I imagine implementation of Medicaid will be one of the issues in the next gubernatorial election.

Thank you for your time, energy, and service to the people of Maine.

Linda Buckmaster


America last

Surprisingly, Mr. Trump has just allowed the National Climate Assessment Report to be made public — a tactical decision perhaps, based on the hunch that a wonky 477-page report about the risks of climate change would soon go unnoticed (whereas its suppression might be considered a big deal since its conclusions are dire).

Expect little if any mention of it by this administration — especially since Mr. Trump has disbanded the Federal Advisory Committee that had overseen the work since President George H. W. Bush signed it into law in 1990. Every four years since then, the American public and policy makers have had access to the latest research on risk assessments from climate change. Whether or not future climate assessment reports will be conducted may be in doubt.

Meanwhile, Bonn, Germany, has been hosting climate representatives from member nations that are part of the Paris Climate Agreement. Syria has just joined on as a member nation, bringing to 169 the number of countries now being represented.

There’s only one nation in the world that is not a member of the Paris Climate Agreement. That nation, thanks to Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw, is ours. One of this president’s pet slogans is “America First.” In this case though, it’s America last.

Beverly Roxby



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