‘Speak-out’ generates ideas for Belfast

Posted Feb. 24, 2009, at 9:44 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — A major snowstorm was forecast, but about 40 people braved the winter weather Sunday afternoon to meet at the Troy Howard Middle School and try to problem-solve for their community.

The event, titled “Speak out for change,” was put together by a few friends who decided they wanted to capitalize on the political momentum they believe occurred during the November elections.

They advertised the afternoon as “not the usual gripe session, but an opportunity to share our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow.”

The forum was videotaped in order to be sent to the attendees’ elected officials.

“We recognized that there was a sustained level of involvement,” said organizer Kate Harris of Belfast. “We wanted to capture the positive energy, and were looking for an outlet for folks to share their ideas.”

And they found it.

From a free health clinic to better wind energy to boycotting Israeli-made goods, ideas were in abundance at the community speak-out.

“I thought this was very good,” said Jayne Crosby Giles, the state representative for Belfast, Belmont and Northport and apparently the only politician who made it to the meeting. “I came to listen, to hear what people said were their concerns. I felt there were some good ideas — and I heard a lot of ownership of solutions.”

One solution to the problem of inadequate health care was proposed by Meredith Bruskin, a nurse practitioner. She suggested that the community might create a free health clinic for those who are uninsured or underinsured.

“We have many good practitioners in this town who would be willing to donate their time,” she said. “Lots of working people don’t see the doctor until they’re really sick, and that’s not OK.”

Bruskin said Ellsworth and Rockland already have free health clinics, and that Belfast might be able to find a way to make one without “reinventing the wheel.”

“We can do it and we need to do it,” she said to applause. “It’s the right thing, and the energy’s there.”

Peter Baldwin of Brooks spoke out for the need to be smarter about how Maine makes and uses wind energy.

“We have friends who are really suffering by having windmills too close to their house,” he said.

Later, Baldwin said his goals were greater than reforming wind energy.

“You have to look at agriculture, education, health care, diet, nutrition, energy and lifestyle,” he said. “I believe we need a total makeover of our systems.”

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