Tourism dollars

“Buildings crumble, monuments decay, wealth vanishes.” How prophetic of Gov. Percival Baxter to inscribe these words on his gift to the people of Maine. Now the only buildings that are prospering in Millinocket are the few related to Baxter State Park.

The forest industry that sold that land to Baxter has come and gone. The great companies like Great Northern stopped the “from womb to tomb” support of its employees many years ago. 1975 was the last year the entire graduating class was recruited to work in the paper mills.

It was right around that time that the forest industry began the hardball attacks on the unions. First the woods workers, then the mill unions became divided and conquered. In 1986 came the promise of more hard times. The names on the mills were changed, but the promise remained the same.

Now what remains is a town of crumbling buildings and wealth that has vanished. What has the forest industry done for us lately? Baxter State Park employs some people year round and some seasonal. The 150,000 acres to Katahdin’s east could utilize a similar number of employees.

These jobs are the maintaining type. This is to say nothing of the Civilian Conservation Corps type of reforesting efforts, road building, trail building and other recreational upgrades that could launch a new-found rejuvenation of an economy.

The economy is in dire need of an inflow of money. The jobs of this tourist industry cannot be shipped offshore.

Charlie Cirame


MaineCare rides

It seems that Maine, or perhaps just the Democratic Party, is still deaf. The MaineCare transportation system cannot be run by large brokers.

One of the provisos is that agencies must always provide the rides when called. CAP agencies used to have volunteer drivers capable of handling unique needs. They were once able to accommodate equipment, support staff and dependent children — necessary to get non-ambulatory people to their doctor on time with the least emotional upset and embarrassment — but virtually all of them have been lost. The IRS considers the mileage reimbursement rate to be about $0.58 per mile, but Maine congressmen seem to think that $0.24 per mile is adequate. It is simply not. Maybe gas, not wear and tear. If volunteers get lost trying to find a new location and end up a few miles out of their way, they get attacked for overbilling when they’re giving their time for free.

The result is an exploitation of public funds. The rides must occur, or the well-meaning and overworked agency will lose financial support. So they hire taxi cabs to do such things as six-hour round trips with a two- to three-hour wait at the visit. Here’s a clue: Taxi cabs charge more than $0.58 per mile, and they charge for their time.

Government can support people who do good works but should never be involved in administration. Verification of a trustworthy board of directors is enough to recommend an agency for grant money. This would have been fixed years ago if we had been allowed the freedom to manage our own funds.

Patty Keyes


Column jolt

Chris Busby’s column in the Nov. 15 BDN should alert parents and taxpayers to the travesty we have unknowingly supported. He points out what is and has been taking place in Maine schools since laptops were introduced by well-meaning Gov. Angus King.

Busby informs us, “School administrators are giving children as young as 11 unrestricted and effectively unmonitored access to the Internet, where they are free to see untold millions of pornographic videos and images online using taxpayer-funded laptops and tablets, like the iPad.

“Internet access on school grounds is filtered to block sites deemed obscene. Most districts have to limit access on campus to comply with federal law, but that law does not apply when the devices are off school property and unconnected to a district’s network. “

His remark that “most parents don’t fully understand the ways a device like the iPad access the Internet or all the ways students can conceal their Internet browsing history” really jolted me. It should jolt all of us.

Society is just beginning to recognize the harmful physical, psychological and social impacts on our young people. The Maine Department of Education needs to enforce the education law for “ Teaching of Virtue and Morality,” found in Title 20, Part 2, Chapter 111, Section 1221. Seeing and reading it printed it in the newspaper should rouse readers to see that it is followed locally.

A copy of that law hung in the lobby of every school would be a helpful reminder.

Bettina Dobbs


Modified filibuster

BDN columnist Matthew Gagnon apparently is not aware of the statistics on executive and judicial nomination filibusters, which may explain why he thinks it didn’t need to be changed.

In all our democracy’s history, our presidents’ executive and judicial nominations were filibustered 168 times. Of that number, our current President Barack Obama, has had his nominations filibustered 82 times. That’s right. One president’s nominations, in less than 5 years, 82 times. Do you really need any more discussion about why Sen. Harry Reid had to carve out a filibuster-free zone for most presidential executive and judicial nominees?

Here’s another statistic: Number of district court nominees filibustered in this country’s entire history: 23. Of those, 20 were Obama nominees. The GOP contends that Obama is trying to pack the courts. Yet one in 10 federal judgeships are currently vacant, and many areas are declared a “judicial emergency” due to the lack of judges. Why have Republicans filibustered nearly all Obama’s judicial nominees? They hoped to run out the clock and leave these positions open in hopes a Republican president could appoint right-leaning judges to continue the transformation they started in the 1990s when they blocked Clinton’s nominees and left open many judicial positions for George W. Bush to fill.

Beyond working to change the face of the judiciary, the truth is the Republicans simply refuse to allow the president to have any appointments, laws or accomplishments if they can stop it, regardless of the harm to our country.

Deborah Ferrell