April 27’s BDN left me surprised, angry and sad regarding the stories about the housing complex planned for my neighboring town of Milbridge.
Angry and sad about the clearly prejudiced statements made by some about Hispanic residents who have come to Milbridge over the last decade.
Surprise, because in recent conversations with the Mano en Mano (Hand in Hand) in Milbridge I learned the planning process for the housing complex was well under way. The U.S. Department of Agriculture with whom Mano en Mano is working does not lightly consider such construction projects. It was clear that Mano en Mano was following all the required permitting procedures (such as traffic surveys) to secure the funding for needed housing.
The residents proposed for the housing are not migrants. Many of the families have lived here for a decade. Their children attend school in Milbridge and at Narraguagus High School. Some children who were in the higher grades when they first arrived have completed high school and gone on to programs at EMCC and the University of Maine. I was pleased to read news articles about their plans for further education and goals for nursing and business careers.
It is sad that some residents are using “land use” as a mask for disrupting the startup of this needed housing opportunity; sadder still to read the concerns about “the local economy.” On a purely practical level, a local million-dollar building project would not be a bad thing — economically speaking.
Marriage equality vote
On April 22, I joined the large crowd attending the Judiciary Committee hearing in Augusta on Sen. Damon’s Marriage Equality Bill. The day had many passionate statements rooted in deep conviction. Some of the speeches, however, were also full of enmity and harsh judgments against those who stood on the other side of the issue. A powerfully divisive tone was evident all too often.
As the bill comes up for consideration and a vote, there are some who urge that the issue be put to public referendum. Such a referendum would be expensive and polarizing.
In the recent campaign in California, opponents of marriage equality spent some $40 million and showered the state with ads that played upon fear, prejudice, and anti-gay stereotypes. The result was not a thoughtful dialogue but an inflamed and hurtful public discourse.
A referendum in Maine on the issue of marriage equality would likely be costly, divisive, and destructive rather than a constructive debate. I urge all Maine legislators to vote up or down on Sen. Damon’s bill and not to push the issue over to a public referendum. End the corrosive, mutually harmful public dispute with a clear majority in favor of equal rights for all Maine residents in the area of civil marriage.
LD 481, “An Act to Allow the Department of Corrections to Certify Community Intervention Programs,” means DOC would adopt rules for the certification of community intervention programs.
There is a necessity for community interventions programs to assist the only Aroostook County correctional facility in Houlton, which is overcrowded, now housing about 80 inmates. Most inmates have committed addiction-related crimes. The number of individuals who have committed addiction-related crimes in The County and are being monitored by a local nonprofit agency is equivalent to York County and Cumberland County which have more addiction-related resources.
A number of families and social service workers in The County have expressed a desire for a long-term rehabilitation-treatment facility which would be significantly advantageous for people with addictions, family members and the communities here in The County.
The County jail system is not designed, due to lack of funding and staffing, to manage individuals with addictions. When people abruptly stop their mediations, causing withdrawal and uncontrolled symptoms, their behaviors become a problem.
Aroostook County desperately needs funds from the Department of Corrections to certify community intervention programs so that low-risk and eligible inmates can have an alternative to incarceration, be connected to needed mental health and-or substance abuse services, continue their prescription regime and be supported to become productive members of society.
Ann Degenhardt Nelson
More love to go around
One of the very common rationales I hear in opposition to marriage equality for gay people (LD 1020) is that “gay marriage will destroy the institution of marriage.”
I am the oldest of five boys. As each new brother came along, I suppose I probably felt like my parents might love me less because now there was someone else around, someone who might threaten the love my parents had for me. But, as it turns out, as each new brother came along, my parents love didn’t divide among us, it multiplied. With more of us, there was just more love to go around.
Also consider our institution of democracy. When African Americans and women were finally given the right to vote, when they were finally included in our democracy, our democracy was not destroyed. Quite the contrary: by including more groups in our democracy, it grew in its strength and longevity and meaningfulness.
Including gays and lesbians in the institution of marriage does not mean the institution is damaged, just as my parents’ love for me was not damaged by including more kids into the household, and just as our democracy was not damaged by involving minority groups.
The only danger faced in this issue is letting fear and zealotry guide our actions rather than compassion and fair-mindedness.
Grim times for GOP
Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic party is further evidence that the Republican Party now is in the worst shape it has been since the 1930s.
In both 2006 and 2008, Democrats made large gains in both houses of Congress. Not since the 1930s has either party won two consecutive “wave” elections. There is not one Republican member of the House from New England. From the Canadian border to North Carolina, states that face the Atlantic send a total of three Re-publicans to the Senate. There are no Republican senators from the Pacific coast.
Identification with the Republican party is very low (21 percent according to one recent poll). In presidential elections, only one state with more than 15 electoral votes — Texas — is reliably Republican.
In the 2008, presidential nominee John McCain won the lowest percentage in a two-party race of any Republican nominee since 1964.
The old adage has it that in politics “a year is a day. But on this day, the near-term outlook for the GOP is somewhere between grim and disastrous.