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Letters to the Editor for Friday, April 8, 2011


Velvet, inoffensive art

Our semi-delightful governor could help quiet the uproar over the removal of the mural from the Labor Department by acquiring new art that would not offend business. In keeping with LePage’s cultural level, a choice of several air brushed on velvet portraits might do the trick.

These are available from time to time at supermarkets or perhaps his favorite discount store.

The choices include full color depictions of Jesus, Elvis or a duck.

Ron Jarvella

President Belfast Arts Council


• • •

Church credibility questioned

“A day of prayers and penance” set by Bishop Malone is not going to do much good for the victims of sexual abuse by priest predators. What the survivors of sexual abuse want, in addition to being helped with healing, is to make sure that the kind of abuse we suffered is not

inflicted on other children by predators remaining in ministry.

The so-called “canonical trial” that Bishop Malone describes, manned by three priests (by definition, suspect of being biased), will reassure no one, nor will the “appeal” (by Bishop Malone himself!), nor the final decision of the “church’s appeals court.” The entire process smells like an insider job of a self-policing institution.

Are the minutes of the “trial” and of the “appeals court” available to the public? Who was present at the trial? Were victims represented or interviewed by the judges? Or, was the whole process secret, as usual in a canonical trial? And, could Bishop Malone tell us exactly what

“acting imprudently with minors” means? Is it a euphemism covering up a crime? Could it be what lay people call sexual molestation?

Come on! This is coming from an institution with a long history of multiple coverups in Boston, Tucson, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and many other places; an institution that has gone to court in more than 4,600 cases since 1984, settling 99 percent of them (why settle if you feel so sure that no crime was committed?), and going to trials on 42, at a total cost to the church of more than $ 3 billion.

Robert Gossart

Salisbury Cove

• • •

No shared sacrifice

It was interesting to note last week that State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin has hit the “rubber chicken circuit” with his “the sky is falling” speech spreading gloom and doom concerning the pension system.

I was struck with the disconnect between the governor’s proposed budget and the dire picture the state treasurer painted of the state pension fund. Gov. LePage is proposing to lower the state’s contribution to the fund by 2 percent to 3.5 percent while raising the amount contributed by state workers and teachers by 2 percent to 9.65 percent; this will result in a zero net gain for the fund.

This would appear to be a continuation of the smoke and mirror show practiced by past governors. This proposed reduction in the state’s obligation to the pension fund would then allow for a reduction in the top income tax bracket, expansion of the amount of an estate exempt from tax to $2 million, tax reduction in the amount of $200 million dollars (except for teachers and state workers who will pay a 2 percent surcharge on their salaries) and $500 million in new spending.

I wonder how lawyers, health professionals or bankers would feel if they were selected to contribute 2 percent of their salaries to help the state balance the budget. So much for the shared sacrifice we hear so much about.

I retired after 30 years of teaching and my contribution to the retirement fund was deducted from every paycheck I received. I believed the state was upholding its part of the bargain. Obviously I was wrong.

Steven Gifford


• • •

Art history 101

If anything, the mural episode has demonstrated the importance of art education. Do you suppose that Gov. LePage has had any? His recent actions and comments imply he has not.

Do you suppose he has visited any of Maine’s extraordinary art museums? If he had, he would realize the broad range of views communicated by artists in a variety of media.

Perhaps we could find one or two to create another work of art to represent the “business” side of employment in Maine and mount it in the vicinity of the maligned mural. But then, that would mean acknowledging that artists create jobs and there is a vibrant creative economy in Maine.

Judy Hanscom


• • •

No fashion statements

Irrespective of how one might feel about the dismissal of Cindy Blodgett as UMaine’s women’s basketball coach, she deserves to be regarded with respect and as a professional — not as a fashion model. Would BDN sports reporter Pete Warner (“Defiant Blodgett feels betrayed by Abbott, UMaine,” BDN Sports, March 31) describe Ted Woodward (the men’s basketball coach) in terms of his attire?

Nancy Hall


• • •

LePage’s tax increase

Let’s be clear: The state does not have a pension crisis. In 1987, the retirement system was only 26 percent funded. In the years since then, the system’s coffers have risen to reach the current level of over 70 percent funded.

Clearly, past system administrators and fund managers were doing something right. If this were the funding level for federal Social Security, there would be dancing in the streets.

The state’s treasurer keeps raising alarms about the current cash-flow issue; yet this can be simply addressed by a constitutional amendment to extend the payoff date beyond 2028. Maine’s constitution has been changed twice in the past 20 years on retirement system matters alone. Doing this would be like any of us extending our home mortgage to lessen the payment amounts in order to take the stress off of monthly bills.

A final point — the state is responsible for paying 5.5 percent of employee compensation towards retirement benefits. The current proposal reduces that amount to 3.5 percent. Then teachers and state government workers are asked to increase their contribution from 7.65 percent to 9.65 percent. Why? This will not help more fully fund the retirement system; it just shifts where that 2 percent comes from.

Imagine what would happen if the employee contribution to Social Security were raised from current levels to 10 percent and still didn’t fix the Social Security deficit! The proposed 2 percent rise in contributions from teachers and state workers is a targeted and unfair tax increase on one sector of workers.

Brad LaRoche


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