The Supreme Court recently decided that overall political contributions from individuals cannot be limited because of the right of free speech (the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution). On the surface this may seem reasonable. A person should be able to spend as much as he or she wants to put forth a point of view, right?
But imagine a public forum, perhaps a town meeting, where some individuals are able to speak a thousand, or ten thousand, or even a hundred thousand times as loudly as the other participants. Can that be considered free speech? When the few are able to overwhelm and obliterate the right of others to be heard, can that society still be called a democracy?
The decisions of the Supreme Court in recent years seem to be focused on finding legal justification for destroying democracy for the short term benefit of the wealthy and powerful, rather than sustaining democracy forever for the benefit of all.
There is no room in our media or in public academia for climate change denial today. Global warming may be stalled by volcanism, as it has been on past occasions, but the acidification of the oceans from excessive dissolved carbon dioxide stands a good chance of destroying much of the phytoplankton we depend on for oxygen.
If we run short on oxygen, it won’t make any difference how warm or cold it is; we’ll all be dying. The BDN should offer a weekly column on the consequences of excessive carbon dioxide production from burning fossil fuels to inform readership of the truth of this threat, which could create a real traffic jam at the pearly gates, so to speak.
Starting at the top
In March, the University of Southern Maine announced that due to a budget shortfall of $14 million, numerous programs and 20 and 30 faculty jobs would be cut.
One of the programs to be cut is “American and New England Studies,” which happens to be the only American New England Studies master’s program in New England and the only American New England Studies “master’s in humanities” at USM.
It appears that with information available to the public the University of Southern Maine is not the crux of the budget problem. In 2012-2013, USM graduated 2,019 students and Orono 2,102. The cost per student at USM to graduate was 50 percent less than the University of Orono per graduate. So why cut programs at USM?
Why would a person with a degree in business cut back programs that are doing well at USM? There’s more to this than meets the eye. In 2012, $54 million was being invested in new capital projects. If a budget shortfall was predicted, why spend $54 million on these projects? To lose these programs and the staff to run them is not beneficial to USM, along with the future of our University of Maine foundation.
Maybe we should rethink how these cuts should begin. Starting at the top and working down might be a better option.
Burris Jester Sr.
In the late 1990s, the Maine Department of Marine Resources decided not to renew several hundred elver licenses in a conservation measure. This left roughly 400 nontribal people to profit hugely, some reporting earnings of more than $700,000 in 10 weeks but leaving others in debt and close to poverty. Now the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has issued a total allowable catch limit on the amount of eels the state is allowed to harvest. DMR is choosing to allow the same few to keep this to themselves rather than opening the resource to all, allowing many families a much needed boost.
The Maine Indian tribes were asked to limit the amount of licenses they issued but refused to adopt such a prejudiced policy. They chose to allow all able tribal members to fish until their quota is filled, thus giving all a chance to feed their families.
Our governor and legislators are aware of this opportunity to give many Maine families a chance to come off poverty and a shot at providing for their families. With elections approaching our governor and elected officials are claiming to be doing what they can about unemployment.
Allowing open licensing would create hundreds of new jobs and still be conserving a resource that belongs to all, not a few. I say before we decide who to vote for, we should see for ourselves how they address this simple solution.
The March 31 BDN article “ House advances bill to give Unorganized Territory more say in wind development” depicts a scary situation for the Maine businesses that are creating jobs and putting millions of dollars into the state’s economy due to a burgeoning wind energy industry.
Wind energy is one of Maine’s most abundant natural resources. It is an economic driver; with each wind project built there are ripple effects throughout the Maine economy. For example, First Wind, which has numerous wind energy projects in Maine, has created more than 1,000 jobs in recent years, spent $150 million with more than 300 local businesses, and is bringing nearly $2 million a year in revenue to Maine towns.
The wind and renewable energy industry supports strong clear policies for project siting, permitting and review, and Maine has instituted such processes over recent years to clarify the project planning roadmap. LD 616 stands to disrupt this roadmap and bring this robust economic activity to a screeching halt by allowing a small minority of Mainers who are often unaffected by a project to make decisions that affect an industry that is providing economic opportunities to towns, landowners, and businesses in the wind construction and service supply chain.
Like any industry, the wind energy in Maine needs regulatory certainty, not regulations that change every few years.
New England Clean Energy Council president