Mining for gold
The debate over relaxing state restrictions on mining was renewed in the Maine Legislature this year. As a teenager I spent days exploring ghost towns in New Mexico — the remnants of old metal mines. There was nothing there but empty buildings — the towns had collapsed when the mines ran out. Those mines were in dry country. Further north in the Rockies there are ghost towns with poisoned watersheds, where arsenic and mercury leachates had killed off every fish downstream from the tailings piles.
This will be the future of Maine’s North Woods if we permit J.D. Irving to mine gold at Bald Mountain. The downstream watershed will be poisoned, the fish will die and, eventually, when the toxins get into alewife spawning waters, they will kill off federally protected fish that are essential forage in the inshore fishery. Then the toxins will work their way into coastal waters, and that may destroy parts of the lobster fishery for a generation or more.
Meanwhile, the profits from that mine will be in Canada and more specifically in the pockets of the Irving family because that corporation is closely held. The corporation will be untouchable when reparations are called for — we can’t easily sue across the border.
This enterprise should be categorically rejected, and Maine’s North Woods kept safe for the recreational activities that attract tourists now, from hunting and fishing to hiking and canoeing.
The police shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina got many people’s attention. In the Scott case, if the incident wasn’t recorded, then Scott wouldn’t have gotten justice. It’s about time we realized that police officers are supposed to be protecting instead of killing us.
Many innocent black men have been killed and didn’t get justice. It seems like the police target people of color. People of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, and not only people of color are criminals. Police search minority communities because it’s easier to get away with.
Some cases get publicized, but many don’t. Here are a few recent CNN headlines: ” A man dies in police custody after a dog allegedly mauls him”; “ A mentally ill man is shot dead after his family calls police asking for help”; “ An officer shoots into a vehicle after a car chase, killing a man originally suspected of drunk driving.” These cases all involved minorities and were less publicized.
As of 2015, the cases of police shooting have gone up. Excessive use of force is becoming too common, and that’s not good for anyone, including the police themselves. The police shouldn’t use force right away; the first thing they do shouldn’t be to pull out a gun. Police need training on how to overcome bias and to use less forceful measures.
Wrongful detention in America is a critical issue that we as citizens are living under. Kalief Browder was arrested for robbery in the second degree and other crimes. He spent three years in Rikers prison awaiting trial. There are about 487,000 people in prison who are on awaiting trial today in the US.
In America there are about 10,000 people who are wrongly imprisoned each year, and only a few of these victims are granted freedom from prison after their innocence has been proven, according to Ronald Huff of Ohio State University. Most of these victims, after losing part of their lives, aren’t given any reparations for their loss of time. As they move back into society, people have a hard time adjusting because they have become used to the social norms in prisons.
A solution to eradicate the issue of suicide of people who have been exonerated from prison would be to provide a psychologist or social worker to watch over them, until they recover.
Lead on clean elections
In 1996, Maine voters passed the first clean elections system in America. It is a system that gives ordinary people the chance to run for office and win without having to rely on wealthy donors. Several other states thought it was such a good idea that they passed similar laws.
But misguided U.S. Supreme Court decisions, such as Citizens United, budget raids and legislative inaction have weakened our clean elections system, even as we face a new era of massive election spending that gives special interests dangerous power to hijack our democracy.
In November, there will be a referendum on the ballot to restore and strengthen our clean elections system. Hundreds of Mainers gathered almost 80,000 signatures to get this on the ballot so we, the people of Maine, could decide this for ourselves. Do we want to let “dark money” and special interests buy our elections? Or do we want a system that allows dedicated people from our communities to run for office so they can represent our interests in Augusta.
Let’s vote to strengthen our Clean Election Act, and hope that once again, “as Maine goes, so goes the Nation.”
End the drug war
Regarding Scott Gagnon’s May 7 BDN blog post, the drug war is a cure worse than the disease. Children of inmates are at risk of educational failure, joblessness, addiction and delinquency. Not only do the children lose out, but society as a whole does, too.
Incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders alongside hardened criminals is the equivalent of providing them with a taxpayer-funded education in criminal behavior. Prisons transmit violent habits rather than reduce them.
Nonviolent drug offenders are eventually released, with dismal job prospects because of criminal records. Turning drug users into unemployable ex-cons is a senseless waste of tax dollars.
It’s time to declare peace in the failed drug war and begin treating all substance abuse, legal or otherwise, as the public health problem it is. Destroying the futures and families of citizens who make unhealthy choices doesn’t benefit anyone. Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.
Robert Sharpe, MPA
Common Sense for Drug Policy