Saturday/Sunday, Sept. 28-29, 2013: Newspaper changes, crumbling infrastructure and childless adults
What a sad day, the BDN is no longer printing its newspapers locally. I remember when my husband Carroll Astbury started working for the paper in the promotions department in the early 1980s, one of his duties was to give group tours through the paper. The press was still at the Main Street office. He was so proud to be part of this exciting industry where each day brings different challenges. He so enjoyed imparting his enthusiasm about the news industry to anyone who would listen.
When the new printing plant opened, his fascination with the process magnified. He often went to visit the Hampden plant during production to learn about the new press. As computer programs became more sophisticated, the responsibilities of the news editor — that he became — included doing the layout at the desktop. The simple word processing function of the keyboard was no more.
With the Internet in people’s lives, the newspaper’s struggle to adapt has been monumental. Career newspapermen are finding themselves on the unemployment line. The importance of ethics and dispassionate reporting are being lost with the ravings from cyberspace. It is my hope that the integrity of the news business won’t be lost as more of our daily newspapers go by the wayside. The simplest way to keep these institutions reporting the news is to make purchasing and reading a newspaper part of our daily routine.
Finally, I want to wish the best to those in the production department that must move on to new endeavors.
Fix roads, bridges
Current Federal Highway Administration data reveal that a total of 792 (32.9 percent) of Maine’s bridges are considered deficient. That deficiency is made up of 356 (14.8 percent) structurally deficient bridges and 436 (18.1 percent) functionally obsolete bridges.
“Keeping Our Bridges Safe,” a November 2007 Maine Department of Transportation report, conceded that more than 2,000 of Maine’s bridges were in fair or poor condition; 343 (14.4 percent) were structurally deficient, 13th worst nationwide. Maine is currently ninth worst.
Even with the release of the 2011 transportation bond and the governor’s $100 million transportation bond awaiting voters, the core highway and bridge programs will suffer an annual $113 million funding shortfall (-32 percent) in the current 2013-15 work plan; an annual $19 million funding shortfall (-18 percent) in bridge improvement projects alone.
The average number of bridge improvement projects per year in the current 2013-15 work plan is 40 (5 percent of current deficient bridges).
The federal TIGER Grant for the final funding piece of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge replacement was recently denied, leaving the Maine DOT scrambling to find $12.5 million to move forward; TIGER Grant funding was also denied for the $9.4 million Howland-Enfield Bridge replacement.
Simply speaking, we don’t have the money to repair our failing infrastructure.
With the sluggish economic recovery and forecasted transportation shortfalls, our limited tax dollars must be spent wisely. Adding more miles to the state’s transportation system without adequately maintaining the existing infrastructure doesn’t make good fiscal sense.
The $61 million in state and federal funds saved by canceling the Interstate 395-Route 9 connector project would be better spent on the unmet transportation needs of this state.
SNAP, crackle, pop
“ Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” — President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
To any member of Congress who feels the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program should be reduced by 4 million U.S. citizens, I’ll say an extra prayer for you tonight. You may need it someday when you try to get in through the pearly gates, if that’s your intended destination at some point and if you did not make it to confession prior to checkout.
I know it’s hard to relate when you have seen your own tax-funded salaries rise from $97,000 a year in 1990 to $174,000 a year presently, not including the pensions, heath care, etc. you also receive from taxpayers.
Amy Blackstone’s Sept. 18 BDN OpEd counters popular criticisms of childfree adults. This disapproval seems largely based on the idea that kids owe their parents something in the way of grandkids or perpetuating the family name.
When we consider some of today’s wrong-way trends — climate change and resource exhaustion, suburban sprawl and urban blight — all aggravated by a global population boom, then the childfree trend can be seen as not just hedonism and a flight from duty but can result from a search for it.
The day before I saw Blackstone’s column, I chanced to hear Debora Spar, president of Barnard College, speak on National Public Radio.
She challenged feminists to find a larger purpose than “having it all.” Nineteenth century feminists sought no less than to civilize the world. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and hastened slavery’s end. Dorothea Dix tackled prison reform and championed humane treatment of the mentally ill.
Such a larger purpose could be found if we were to conceive fewer kids and adopt more, thereby slowing population growth and easing unconscionable poverty. If this idea seems odd, it’s perhaps because we’re by and large used to holding institutions to account while exempting individuals. We badly need the moral “amateur.”
In the coming decades of resource scarcity, “having it all” will give way to more thoughtful priorities, as people find happiness in fewer but more authentically realized goals. A society less obsessed with a “Leave it to Beaver” picture of success offers more time for developing a personal interest or cultivating friendships and community. Fulfillment and conscience can and do happily coexist in the childfree lifestyle.
Listen up, supporters of the plan for a North Woods National Park. Jobs for Mainers? Look what has just happened Down East. The Acadia Corp., based in Bar Harbor and providing services for 33 years, has been dropped in favor of a New Mexico firm. Wouldn’t you just love to buy souvenirs of Yosemite for a discount?
Patricia L. Reynolds