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Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011: Graffiti, civility and mercury

Bangor at risk

I was amused to see a recent visitor from New York City look on in shock at a new work of “urban folk art” defacing a building on Main Street in Bangor. She turned to me and said, “People here just don’t realize how dangerous graffiti is. In New York, when we see graffiti, we know we are going to lose the neighborhood.”

But there is something far worse than graffiti, and that is vandalism against our public monuments. The most glaring example of this form of urban desecration is the smashing of the lamp atop the Lady Victory sculpture in Norumbega Parkway.

Since this sculpture commemorates those who died in battle so Maine could live, there is no more sacred place in our city. The broken lamp which Lady Victory holds aloft in her right hand has since been wrapped in what appears to be a plastic sandwich bag.

There could be no more severe indictment of a society than it allows its sacred monuments to go unrepaired.

The vandalizing of the Lady Victory monument is proof that our society is approaching senility and decrepitude — a place where the light of Western civilization will soon go out.

Each time I look on this grand woman and her broken lamp, I am reminded that our society is not only incapable of confronting its enemies, it even lacks the will to do so.

Please take the word of at least two former residents of New York City. Take up the fight against graffiti and vandalism, or lose Bangor.

Fritz Spencer

Old Town

Respect, not acrimony

This past September marked 39 years since I moved with my family to Hampden. The town has seen a lot of changes in almost four decades. Population growth has necessitated the building of a new municipal complex and a new Hampden Academy, with the town’s center moving from Main Road to Western Avenue. A landfill on one corner of town and a business park on another have generated both controversy and income.

Change is inevitable in any community. What is disturbing is the increasing lack of civility between residents and our municipal officials.

I served two terms on the town council more than 20 years ago. The issues we faced were different but no less controversial than those faced today. I remember many heated discussions about the landfill, which was only beginning to be developed at the time.

The issue of whether we needed a new municipal building found one councilor and I on completely opposite sides. Revisions to the comprehensive plan were discussed at length.

We disagreed on many issues but were always respectful and civil toward each other and toward members of the public. The public in turn showed respect for councilors. People can disagree on any number of issues without resorting to shouting matches and accusations.

Voters have spoken in the recent election, verified by a costly recount. Sue Lessard has kept the town on an even keel during her admirable tenure. We cannot afford to continue down the road of disrespect and acrimony.

Kathy Walker


Gray hairs worth wooing

In a recent BDN column entitled “Hammers, lost keys and economic malaise,” David Farmer cites a recent UMass study that reported the reasons people move are complex and “taxes account for little of the migration from New England.“

In fact, taxes are a significant factor when one reaches retirement. We all know people who call Florida home even though they live here much of the year. As Mr. Farmer noted, older workers contribute significantly to Maine’s economy, so why not give older Mainers one more reason to stay rather than leave? While we are at it, why not give those children of Maine who “live away” another reason to return?

The 2006 “Home to Katahdin” survey sought to find ways to woo those who left the region back to the Katahdin area. It found most had simply settled down elsewhere and were happy to just visit Maine. Still, many hoped to retire “back home” but cited prohibitive reasons including taxes.

I agree with those who say we should do more to retain our youth in-state. But we can also do more to retain retirees and even draw boomer-retirees from elsewhere by eliminating pension taxes.

The money retirees spend on houses, taxes, goods and services will certainly make a dent in the subsequent tax deficit while supporting jobs for the younger workers. And if we market Maine as a retirement as well as a tourism and business destination, we may find that more gray hair — not less — is a good thing.

Bob Baker


Someone is listening

I am so proud of Sen. Susan Collins for breaking rank with all of the other Senate Republicans and voting for continuing what is called the “middle-class tax break” — the payroll tax cut, which currently provides a $1,000 tax cut per family and was going to add an additional $1,500 tax cut next year.

The rest of the Republican herd marched in lockstep behind Norquist (who is this guy and why does he have so much power?) and voted against this plan, and it was defeated 51-49. Why? Because it was to be paid for by increased taxes on millionaires.

If you remember, Norquist got all the Republicans to sign a pledge to never vote to raise taxes for any reason. Thank you Sen. Collins for listening to your constituents. Fellow Mainers, this means the GOP machine will be after Collins — please stand up for her, since she stood up for us.

Kathleen Fox

Tenants Harbor

Snowe, Collins on mercury

I want to applaud Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins for recently voting against a proposal to allow out-of-state pollution to cross state borders without penalty. Their votes showed they are committed to Maine’s environment and public health over special interests in Washington, D.C.

With this vote I am hopeful both senators will continue their commitment to our environment and public health when the Obama administration releases new mercury pollution standards by the end of the year. Maine has had a mercury advisory in all of its lakes, rivers and streams since 1994, affecting our public health, fishing, wildlife and tourism industry. Mercury pollution documented in our common loon’s body and eggs may be a key reason for their declining population.

Sens. Snowe and Collins have shown a commitment to Maine’s public health and environment. I hope they continue to show this commitment on mercury pollution in the future by supporting the new mercury standards and not delaying the implementation of the new rules.

Arthur S. Allen


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