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Tuesday, September 3, 2013: Unsafe oil, education standards and poverty

Support protesters

Who loves oil? Who loves gasoline? Usually the ones that sell it, but for most of us we seem to feel we need it and believe that there are no other options. Here in the Maritimes we have Irving Oil, which seems to be willing to do anything to move crude through Maine for its refineries and sell it back to us.

What plan seems the best? Through a pipeline from the first part of the last century? How about a highway that they will happily build for themselves? Maybe on rail that has just shown Lac-Megantic what the worst-case scenario feels like. All ways pass through our civic and natural heartland.

We risk way too much for a corporation that is in a business that’s bringing the planet beyond livable. It could be just as easy to build a east-west highway for Irving as it is to support and create ways for everyone to remove their reliance on toxic and volatile oil.

Would Lac-Megantic trade the lives lost and the center of their town for another way to get around and heat their homes? It’s not unknown as to how we can relieve ourselves of oil dependence. Solutions are clear and present and could also keep life as we know it moving along.

Letting Irving Oil risk our lives in the same manner a drug dealer operates is unconscionable. Neither by rail, pipeline or road should we allow a decrepit answer take hold of us.

Rob Lieber


Common standards

Maine’s citizens aren’t aware of the new Common Core education standards and costs. An Aug. 25 BDN editorial states “A potentially harmful fight is brewing” over the new standards. Is it a “harmful fight” to provide both sides of an issue?

BDN: “Maine residents should ignore petitions that would put a question to voters in November 2014 about whether to repeal the academic benchmarks by which public school students are taught.” Is this a principle of the First Amendment?

BDN: “The Common Core replaced a patchwork of state expectations with standards that

are research-based and set to international benchmarks.” Common Core standards are mediocre in rigor, below high-achieving nations’ expectations.

A Fordham Institute study compared current state standards to Common Core. The study identified nine states with superior standards. These proven standards were ignored. Parents should have accountability.

The P-20 Longitudinal Data System is operational. In 2011 student privacy laws changed to allow the collection of student data without parental consent, sharing this information with other federal and state agencies, private companies and others.

As a co-founder of No Common Core Maine, we aren’t trying to go backward. We want standards proven to be effective — the best curriculum and standards we can afford.

It’s never a bad time to get rid of bad policies. We have nothing to gain politically or financially.

Patrick Murray


See, poverty

On Aug. 13, thanks to the Community Caring Collaborative, I attended Dr. Donna Beegle’s Poverty Institute at University of Maine at Machias, along with representatives from organizations throughout Washington County and across the state. She shared her first-hand narrative of life in deep generational poverty and her successful struggle to earn her GED and successive degrees.

She brings to mind Erin Brockovich — a determined woman of exceptional strength and energy as a voice for change.

Beegle illustrated the everyday obstacles people in poverty face, describing it as “living in a war zone … a constant state of crisis.” She helped us rethink our approach to working with those in poverty, separating the ugly, exhausting problems of poverty from the value of the person.

Everyone — every agency and organization — needs to commit to building a strong network with individuals to help those in need navigate the system across agency boundaries. This creates what Beegle calls an “opportunity community.”

Many of us have never lived even one day without food, insurance, a home, holiday gifts, a doctor and dentist, store-bought clothing. This conference was eye-opening even for those of us who have worked in food pantries or for Christmas-giving programs or fuel assistance programs.

I am providing a copy of Beegle’s book, “See Poverty, Be the Difference,” to every library in Washington County. I urge anyone who wants to learn the insider’s view of life in poverty, or as Beegle says, wishes to “promote dialogue and action that makes a real difference” to read the book or check out her website: www.combarriers.com.

Lisa Suarez,

Neighbors in Need Volunteer Center of Washington County



The real world

As a returning student to Eastern Maine Community College, with a GPA of 3.7, I was eager to dive into my overload of 17 credits. However, I quickly discovered that education for students isn’t a main priority here. As everyone knows, life brings complications and unexpected trials, and when I came across a hardship, the school’s response was, “This is not our problem,” and “Why not stop your schooling?”

What happened is, although academically a great student, I owe a few other schools some money, so EMCC retracted my student financing, according to “federal regulations.” Although they had to retract my student aid, they did not embrace the situation.

They didn’t say, “We will work with you in whatever way we can to help you continue your academic goals.” Instead I was laughed at when I cried and was told that the only payment arrangement I could have would be three installments of $1,300, to be paid off by Oct. 15. As a mother of two, living off my husband’s veteran disability, that simply was not possible.

The two choices that EMCC has given me are to either pay $5,000 to the schools I owe, and not be guaranteed the return of my financial aid, or pay EMCC out of pocket $4,000 with only three installments. As a returning student, on the dean’s list, I am discouraged and left feeling hopeless.

Daileen Hibbard


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