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Monday, Jan. 16, 2012: Corruption, adult ed and cigarette taxes

Disgrace to democracy

I was deeply disturbed by the BDN lead article on Jan. 4 (“Loophole allowed state to pay millions to organization run by lawmakers…”), and bravo to you for revealing this little-known and shocking set of circumstances.

Millions of our dollars flowing (silently) into the coffers of businesses with clear ties to certain Maine state legislators, at a time when Gov. LePage is pushing to cut funding for Maine’s neediest people? It certainly underlines the egregious nature of crony politicians lining their own pockets at the public’s expense.

Mr. Nutting’s questionable Medicare dealings prior to taking office have been reported, and then we had Paul Violette. What next?

Mainers need to know just how corrupt the State House can be. I realize apologists will say, “They only followed the law.” The law needs immediate change. No one can miss the blatant conflicts of interest here, nor the self-serving instincts of certain named representatives. They are supposed to represent us, not defraud us through loopholes. It’s shocking and a disgrace to democracy.

Dennis Lopez


Don’t forget adult ed

I was pleased to see the OpEd piece about early childhood education in the Jan. 7-8 Bangor Daily News, especially the fact that it was written by two businessmen who see, firsthand, the connection between education and economics.

Studies do show the beneficial effects of early childhood education, and the perils of reducing or cutting funding to these programs is real. Feedback to this article also mentioned the role of parents, who are their children’s first teachers.

One critical area of funding that should also be included in the discussion and supported is funding for adult education programming in Maine. The goal of our programs has always been to help our students become effective parents, workers and community members by providing academic and skill training close to home.

The foundation funding for adult education in Maine begins in the communities we serve in the form of taxes raised to support programs. With budget time here again, and town meetings approaching, I encourage all Maine residents to support their local adult education programs.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I work as the part-time director of the adult education programs in Machias and AOS 96.

Bonnie Fortini


The ‘gimmick’ saves lives

The BDN’s recent news report on the MaineCare budget discussions (Jan. 10) included a remark by House Speaker Nutting that requires a response. In his statement, the speaker referred to cigarette tax increases as “gimmicks.” We want to make it clear that the “gimmick” the speaker was referring to was using cigarette tax revenue to address budget shortfalls. He, like all of us, is entitled to his opinion on that matter.

But there is overwhelming evidence from Maine and throughout the nation that increasing the price of cigarettes by raising the excise tax is the most rapid and effective way to lower adult smoking rates and keep young people from starting to smoke. Every time the cigarette tax has been raised in Maine, per capita sales drop, as do smoking rates. People do not drive to New Hampshire; they quit smoking.

The American Lung Association strongly supports efforts to keep the price of cigarettes high by periodic increases in the excise tax as sound health and economic policy. One of the major drivers of Maine’s high health care costs is tobacco-caused disease and disability. If we want to address the “root causes” of this situation, then we can’t ignore tobacco use.

Edward Miller

American Lung Association in Maine

Front-lines offer

In October, I attended the Maine Attorney General’s summit on prescription drug abuse. I listened to the governor, high-ranking professionals and publicly elected leaders declare prescription drug abuse and addiction to be “epidemic” in Maine.

In December, Gov. LePage proposed cutting all noncategorical folks from MaineCare. This will systematically eliminate services to a very high percentage of folks seeking to overcome substance abuse and addiction in Maine. This plan will result in explosive increases in emergency room costs, corrections costs and deaths of Maine citizens.

There is an adage regarding the inevitabilities of continued drug and alcohol use known as the rule of threes. There are only three places an addict or alcoholic can end up if they continue to use: jail, institution or death. Cutting MaineCare prevents people from accessing professional rehabilitation systems (institutions). That leaves two options, governor, and the cost of jail outweighs the cost of treatment.

I understand that we cannot continue on our current fiscal path. I also understand that in the case of addictions, this plan will result in short-term savings and be outweighed in long-term costs in both tax dollars and in human life. To those in power in Maine — we in the trenches cordially invite you to seek solutions from the front lines of health care.

Jim LaPierre


No stinky news here

Aimee Thibodeau’s “skunked” story stimulated a few memories and prompts me to offer more advice.

When I lived in Jacksonville, in Washington County, more than 40 years ago, our house was a skunk hangout during the queasy months of my first pregnancy. The wild critters could have lived unnoticed in the crawl space were it not for neighbor cats who tried to steal skunk babies. Before we learned of better ways, a friend and my then-husband shot the skunks, who released spray with every bullet. Even our dishes held the odor for months.

Had we pinged in mothballs to repel skunks, we’d be stuck with toxic fumes unless we put them in mesh bags with long strings for later removal.

But I want Aimee to know that skunks are not so much “pesky” as helpful in controlling excess insects, including carpenter ants. And skunks do not “waddle” across roads — porcupines do that. A skunk’s white stripe ripples over pavement in a swift attempt to avoid our death-dealing vehicles.

But, best of all, Aimee: your employer is also your best friend when it comes to odors, including skunk spray. Newspaper is an awesome deodorizer that no website can ever replace. Crumple paper into smelly places from Tupperware to shoes and boots to eliminate unwanted perfume or sweaty residue. Layer newspapers across the floors and in closets to help with post-skunked clean-up. Pile a few in your car, too.

Thank you, Bangor Daily News, for your valiant effort to continue publication in a rough financial climate. You provide more than good reading. We stop to smell the ink, but it leaves no trace.

Sharon Bray


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