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Tuesday, April 10, 2012: Misguided cuts, priorities in higher education

Service appreciated

Recently, my family and I had the privilege of greeting our nephew, Airman Winston Poole, as he flew into the Portland Jetport.

Traveling in uniform, he looked quite dapper. A smile crossed my face as a handful of people welcomed him and thanked him for his service.

The next day, we had lunch in Belfast. There, Winston, in uniform, was once again approached by a number of locals who stopped, shook his hand and thanked him for his service. The gentleman seated at the table next to us paid for Winston’s meal, as a gesture of respect and appreciation.

My hat goes off, not only to the men and women of our armed forces, but also to the folks in our community that take time to acknowledge and remind our members of the military how much we appreciate them and their service to our country.

Sarah Nelson


Wrong cut to make

I am a Masters of Social Work student at the University of Maine. I have spent my internship working with the elderly and people with disabilities. I am writing about the proposed budget cuts to the prescription drug and health care assistance for people over 65 and people with disabilities, LD 1746.

Maine Equal Justice Partners reports approximately 40,000 seniors and people with disabilities would lose all or part of the aid they currently receive if this bill passes. This population deserves to continue to receive consistent preventative health care, which is a vital part of being healthy.

Many seniors and people with disabilities use medical services at a higher rate and live on a fixed income, which makes the program a necessity. The cost of housing, fuel and food have risen dramatically the last few years, which has seniors, people with disabilities and those who support them worried. The income threshold for the population begins at 100 percent of the federal poverty level or $11,170 for a senior taxpayer.

The Affordable Care Act maintenance of effort provision makes these cuts illegal. It is noteworthy that no waivers have ever been granted. I feel the state is very unlikely to receive a waiver to make these proposed cuts legal. The budget shortfall can be addressed through reconsidering tax breaks or raising taxes. I am willing to pay more in income taxes to provide for seniors and people with disabilities.

Lucy Barnhart

Bar Harbor


Higher ed pay priorities

In response to the story about University of Maine System raises, I offer the perspective of a soon-to-be retired adjunct faculty member.

Following a career in the utility industry as well as the nonprofit sector, I welcomed an offer to teach part-time in 2003 after a longtime professor passed away. A few years later, another professor retired, replaced by a part-timer to teach his courses. Those two positions were never filled with full-time faculty members. Instead, well-qualified lecturers, who are paid by the course, have carried the equivalent of a full-time teaching load of two to three courses per semester for modest pay and few benefits.

This short-sighted practice is common among institutions of higher learning because initially it saves money, which apparently can then be spent anywhere except for full-time faculty replacements. Full-time faculty members generate the research and inquiry upon which much advanced study depends. Professional staff and adjunct faculty generally do not.

Don’t get me wrong. I have loved teaching as an adjunct faculty member, and I consistently sought ways to improve student experience and outcomes. Students have brought me tears, laughter, joy, pride and immeasurable hope for the future.

I retire appreciating the opportunities I have enjoyed and the students I have met, but wishing institutions of higher learning would reconsider their priorities. If the teaching mission is to rest on the shoulders of part-time faculty, then support and reward them appropriately. If higher education relies on relevant research as well as teaching, let budgets reflect support for full-time faculty.

Judy Hanscom


Go slow on mine law

Jobs are important, especially steady jobs with health benefits. LD 1853, An Act to Improve Environmental Oversight and Streamline Permitting for Mining in Maine, is about much more.

The title of this bill is confusing because the best way to improve environmental oversight is to give the appropriate agencies adequate time, yet the sponsors of the bill are in a big hurry, seemingly for the benefit of one company. Bald Mountain, owned by J.D. Irving, is not even zoned for mining. Rather than first rezone it, LD 1853 would change Maine’s mining laws currently on the books.

Any changes to existing mining standards are setting a precedent. Since there are other areas in Maine with ore deposits that could be mined in the future, it is doubly important to get this right from the beginning. The legislative committee needs to take time carrying out a deliberate process of studying the many issues raised by this bill.

The biggest problem is how to handle the vast quantities of acid mine drainage that will be generated in the mining process. Despite the mining industry’s attempts to deal with this problem it is still potentially a serious threat to our streams and lakes.

The County desperately needs jobs, but these would be temporary, dangerous jobs that would have a long-term impact on Maine’s clean water, wildlife and public health.

No one is against jobs, but this question of mining and mining permits needs to be thoroughly examined.

Siri Beckman


Seniors armed with info

I was pleased to read Northeast Contact’s indignant response to a recent newspaper advertisement that ran like a news story. The misleading news story offered sheets of uncut dollar bills at face value, etc., a potential windfall for collectors.

After reading the article in full, a little warning light went on in my head and sure enough, at the top of the “article” it was clearly labeled as an “advertisement.”

I thank organizations like Northeast Contact and publications like the Waldo County Triad (in connection with the UMaine Cooperative Extension Service) which warn seniors and others about such misleading offers. Through their publications I have become very much aware of scams and “deals which seem too good to be true” and have been able to share that knowledge with those who may be less aware.

Pat Ayers


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