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Thursday, May 8, 2014: Bangor school budget, minimum wage, EBT cards

Tax interest

For as long as I can remember, Bangor residents have generously supported their public schools. And for as long as I can remember, the Bangor City Council has been highly sensitive to the impact of the tax rate on residents.

I don’t question the sincerity of the Bangor School Committee’s budget request for the next fiscal year. I don’t doubt the council’s desire to minimize any property tax increase.

But this year the council faces the possibility of enacting the largest single-year increase in the tax rate that I can remember.

Under present conditions, it is extremely important that the council and the school committee do everything possible to keep property taxes at an absolute minimum.

It will involve mutual sacrifice, the kind of shared sacrifice that Americans willingly accepted during World War II: Doing with less, so our armed forces could have the tools needed to defeat our enemies.

I appeal to the council and the school committee to postpone those budget items that are not immediately necessary to serve the greater good, just as most Americans did in our time of greatest danger.

An increase of $1 to $1.50 in the tax rate will have a serious impact on homeowners and, in the broader view, will have a negative impact on economic development.

Bangor has exceptional schools and exceptional public services. We have a lot going for us as residents of Bangor, but a major tax increase at this time is not in anyone’s best interest.

Hal Wheeler


My brain

Please, liberal Democrats, I beseech you. As time goes by, I find my 56-year-old brain becoming more accused of curmudgeon-like thinking. That was not my aim in my youth nor in my senior years.

I hear you talk of increasing the minimum wage, so working folks can live better. I want working folks to live better. But if it’s as easy as raising the minimum wage to $10.10, let’s make it $50.10. Then we could all live really well. Unfortunately my old brain (I would call it my male brain, but that got Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, in trouble) tells me that if you raise the cost of hiring, hiring will decrease. Shame on me.

I hear you talking of increasing the unemployment insurance time limits. I don’t want to see the unwilling unemployed suffer, so why not get rid of time limits altogether and have endless unemployment insurance benefits? Unfortunately, that same portion of my brain tells me that if you pay people not to work, more people will not work. Then who will pay into the insurance pool? Shame on me.

In the old days, there was financial incentive for parents to raise children together. Now the financial incentive is for them to live apart. My old brain tells me if you incentivize parents living apart, more parents will live apart. Shame on me.

Please, liberal Democrats, I, like you, want to make life better for all. Help me control the logical side of my brain.

Randy Day


Card limits

I went back and read the Jan. 19 article by Lindsay Tice, “Mainers using EBT cash in unusual places.” I was shocked. I couldn’t believe Maine’s electronic benefits transfer cards can be used to buy literally anything the card holder wants. I don’t understand how that is legal, but it is. I know the government has put restrictions on the cards, and you can’t use them at casinos, liquor stores or strip clubs, but it doesn’t make sense that you could go to your local grocery store and just purchase liquor there.

Another thing I do not understand is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash benefits. Tice explained that unlike Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, TANF benefits can be used anywhere; if they are not accepted somewhere, the person can just go to the ATM. These cards are supposed to be used by people who cannot afford essential things like food and toiletries. I think it’s ridiculous that you can get cash out of an ATM! You could spend that money on whatever you wanted, and the government would have no way of tracing it.

Hopefully the government starts to be stricter about who gets EBT cards. There are people who need and deserve them, such as main income earners who get laid off. But I definitely think there should be background and drug tests required to obtain an EBT card. I also think there should be a limit of how long you can have one.

Catherine Hughes



Checks and balances

I — we — live in an era where being independent is in vogue: Both parties pander to the blessed independents in hopes of inheriting America. We also live in an era where it is very popular to hold disdain for the Electoral College. I love the Electoral College. I fully endorse all the checks and balances the Constitution puts on government, and the Electoral College is another check and balance; it ensures that the largest cities do not decide the election for the rest of the country.

But I think it deserves a tweak.

I think that each voting district should go to the candidate who wins that district. In short, winning the popular vote in Florida doesn’t give you all of the electoral delegates; it only gives you the delegates from the districts you won. The same is true for New York. Winning New York City won’t give you the whole state; you have to impress the people of St. Johnsville, too.

I do think that every properly cast vote should count; I believe that a vote should never be cast for a popular candidate because the person the voter really liked had no chance of winning. From where I sit, both Republicans and Democrats have ceased to represent the people of the United States. I think my plan would excite a public that deserves to have something to be excited about. I think that, frankly, too many voices like mine — but not necessarily espousing my belief system — have been ignored for far too long.

Ben Crocker



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