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Wednesday, May 9, 2012: Dennis Dechaine, Cary Weston and Olympia Snowe

Extreme malfunction

Recent exonerations in Virginia and Colorado of men wrongfully convicted of murder in the 1990s bring to mind Maine’s Dennis Dechaine, who has been imprisoned for nearly 24 years following a murder conviction that has wrongful written all over it.

The Virginia verdict against Michael Wayne Hash was overturned after a judge found prosecutorial misconduct and apologized to Hash for “an extreme malfunction of the state criminal justice system.”

In Colorado, Robert Dewey was freed after advanced DNA testing exonerated him. The Colorado Attorney General’s office, realizing they had the wrong man, actually cooperated in Dewey’s exoneration.

By contrast, the Maine Attorney General’s office continues to fight vigorously against reopening the Dechaine case and holding a retrial. This, despite DNA evidence in Dechaine’s favor and opinions by world-renowned forensic experts that time-of-death evidence also clears Dechaine.

The Maine Attorney General’s office has indicated that when a hearing is held on May 23 to determine whether there will be a retrial, it will again attempt to block the way. It’s time to ask why. Is there something to cover up related to Maine’s own “extreme malfunction” other than simple human error? Is there something even worse?

Bob MacLaughlin


Praise for Sen. Collins, staff

I would like to extend my thanks to Sen. Susan Collins and her dedicated staff for their tireless work in passing S1789, the 21st Century Postal Reform Act.

Sen. Collins’ commonsense ideas and willingness to reach across the legislative aisle reflect well upon our traditional Maine approach in finding solutions to problems which affect all Maine people.

Ralph Jordan


Solutions, not demagoguery

Cary Weston made a political blunder recently, opening himself up to accusations of being anti-free-speech and anti-library. Based on the reactions, he might as well have urinated on the Constitution. How could a marketing company owner be so obtuse regarding public opinion?

I doubt Cary purposefully generated a controversy that would damage his public image, but armchair heroes rushed to the defense of libraries and speech, armed with indignation and predictable platitudes. Barbara McDade was portrayed as a courageous defender of the First Amendment, sabotaged by a bully who seemed antagonistic. I respect Barbara; she is smart and certainly capable of handling a couple questions from a city councilor.

Free speech is only productive if we speak honestly. Does failure to fully fund McDade’s budget request, without question, constitute an assault on liberty? Bangor faces difficult budget choices; shortfalls in state general assistance funding may leave a gap over $1 million. Weston fought Gov. Paul LePage over this issue, but nevertheless needs to find a local solution — his position is not enviable.

If the Council cuts school funding, Weston is anti-education; if they cut from the police he is punishing cops. If they don’t fully fund general assistance, well, Cary obviously hates poor people. No matter what outcome, people will find an easy way to denigrate Weston on the editorial pages. What these courageous folks won’t need to do is make a tough decision, balance the budget and take the public heat. I challenge them to offer an actual solution, not demagoguery.

Patrick Frazier


Back in the bar

In past years the local bar was where you went to hear the sages expound about their ideas of how the government should be. As the night wore on, the more outrageous and acceptable these pronouncements became.

Today we don’t have to go to a bar. One of those sages is our governor. His plan for the future belongs back in the bar.

Dick Wands

Old Town

Teacher appreciation week

It’s that time of year when political issues dominate the news and conversation. We are reading, listening and talking about elections, taxes, school budgets and a host of other topics. When we focus on the politics it is easy to forget about the people.

I’m privileged to work with several of the local schools through Valley Grange’s Words for the Thirds Dictionary and Bookworm Program. Both programs have given me a deep appreciation for what is happening in our schools and communities and gratitude for the people who are facilitating it. Kids are learning like crazy and, I think, teachers are teaching like crazy.

While bookworming earlier this year, a second grader told me that he was quite sure his brain was too small — he gets overwhelmed by all the things there are to learn at school. I wanted to tell him that I knew exactly how he felt but instead suggested that perhaps his brain was just too busy and he needed to focus.

It pays to listen to our children. It’s encouraging, exciting, rewarding and educational. My second- and third-grade friends don’t always know a lot about local politics, but they surprise me with what they do know and how they are learning. At the end of the day education is about kids and teachers. We can and should debate politics and our social and economic issues. But occasionally we need to focus.

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week and this is a simple but sincere “thanks” for the incredible jobs you do.

Walter Boomsma


Snowe criticism

I was disappointed with the characterization of my speech to the Maine Republican Convention in the text of your May 7 article. The piece claims I made no references to “the bitter partisanship in Washington,” which is puzzling as the final quarter of my remarks was a plea for consensus-building.

I said if Republicans are entrusted with the opportunity to lead, I wanted to share how we could build a sustainable majority based on my 18 years of experience in the Senate. I expressed that, “on those major issues that are central to charting a new course for America, we cannot afford and, more critically, our nation cannot afford to replicate the vacuum of leadership that characterizes the current Democratic Senate, that has resulted in a legislative deadlock — leaving America’s pressing problems unresolved. A vacuum created by their refusal to work across the aisle on the [key] issues…that will dictate the quality of our future.”

I stated that “if Republicans control the Senate, we must validate the trust [of] the American people … by seeking common ground to achieve the common good — to prove to the entire nation that we can govern.” And I even spoke of the example set by the creation of the U.S. Constitution, that “consensus is achievable, even after the exercise of passionate advocacy.”

Finally, I would point out that my message is not one that is being delivered by many Republicans or Democrats at their conventions — but they are crucial for us to heed.

Olympia Snowe


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