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Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014: Babysitters, wood smoke, government assistance

Child care

I wasn’t surprised by what columnist Erin Donovan wrote in the Feb. 24 BDN about babysitters. My husband says her pieces are generally negative, but I read it anyway. I really don’t know what to say about someone who comes to Maine and thinks she will be dealing with a subset of humans more mysterious than galloping unicorns — Maine teenagers.

Yes, Mainers are different. That’s what sets us apart — but in a very good way. My family has been here since 1750 when they settled Vinalhaven for Massachusetts. On a whole, I love all the members of my Maine family and the way they are, with that extra bit of Moxie. I think it helps us to deal with people from away.

Teens, well, we can’t expect them to be just like adults. I am sure the wonderful state of New York has good adults capable of watching children just like in Maine, and that goes for teens also.

Yes, teens are different then they were when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s. Yes, they love electronics, but don’t discount them yet. I, too, am fortunate to have always had someone who could watch my children. I raised my own, having had seven kids. But I also know some wonderful teens.

If Donovan needs a babysitter, she should ask around. Believe it or not, even here in Maine there are people — adults and teens — who would take very good care of her children.

Mary Carver-Stiehler


Smoke dangers

In regards to the woodstove and smoke dangers described in a Feb. 21 BDN article by Jackie Farwell, someone should have told me about wood smoke a long time ago.

I was born during the Depression when woodstoves were widely in use. The wood stove heated the house, cooked the food and heated the water. In those days I had to walk two miles to school, and in the winter I had to walk by 20 homes that burned only wood. The article mentioned that one stove does as much pollution as five old diesel trucks. That means I was breathing the cumulative amount of pollution of 100 old diesel trucks during my winter walks to school.

I have been burning wood all my life except for two years of military service during the Korean war, four years of college education and three years as a carpenter in New York. All other years involved burning wood.

I am now 82-years old. I still work my six days a week, 52 weeks a year. I pay my taxes and support government programs. With all the negative talk about burning wood, maybe I am sick after inhaling all that poison

Wil Labbe


Child success

Liz Soares, a guest columnist in the central Maine papers, recently suggested that lazy and irresponsible poor people stay on the government dole too long.

The facts suggest that most people move off governmental assistance when they have alternatives. For example, The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program data show that the average recipient receives assistance for about two years.

The data show that a tiny percent of people in poverty do become 1 percenters. The vast majority, made up of women and minorities usually, do not. Once again, the data suggest several good reasons why not. The following are but a few of the reasons:

1. Children in poverty households generally perform poorly in school.

2. Most available jobs do not pay a “living” wage (a wage that brings the family out of poverty) or require education and/or training dependent on success in school.

3. Most people who live in poverty actually do work.

4. Governmental support for poverty programs has been declining, while tax breaks for upper-income groups have increased.

5. The performance of the education system has been declining. A minority of our students perform acceptably on the basic skills of reading and math.

Blaming the poor is easy and convenient. The “societal change” Soares suggests is necessary will only come from informed public opinion. Our children’s success is dependent on our ability to stop making public policy by anecdote.

Dean Crocker



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