Rest in peace ‘JR’

I was saddened to hear of Robert “JR” West’s death after he was struck by a car May 30 on Hammond Street. Whatever dark side he had, I didn’t see much of it while I knew him.

I first met JR while staying briefly at Hope House in 2010. I had just done my first time in jail and was spending my first days in a shelter. JR had a sense of humor, which made it easier to be there. He loved ribbing people; that was how he engaged and connected with them. Those who understood this got along with him.

It wasn’t easy for him to be cheerful because homeless living wore on his nerves. He smoked to calm himself, which aggravated his asthma and apnea. He knitted afghans quickly, then unravelled them, starting over — a nervous habit. Many people called him out for being on the Sex Offender Registry. It appeared that he had very few true friends. I regret that the last time I saw him I wasn’t mindful enough to speak to him.

So I’ll speak now: JR lived a hard life and struggled every day. Although he was a kid in a grown-up’s body, he displayed more grit and grace than he will ever get credit for having. I remember him sadly, and I hope that he rests in peace.

Clint Grubbs

Bangor

Estate tax cut

Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason stated in his comments about the budget that “with the provisions,” including “lowering the estate tax, Mainers will have their hard-earned money and family businesses protected.”

I would like to point out that the state estate tax exemption is in the $2 million range. According to CNBC, there were 85 multimillionaires in Maine as of October 2012. The median income in Maine is slightly more than $48,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. I guess at least 85 Mainers would be delighted to see the estate tax lowered.

Mary Cahoon

Hancock

LePage tax reform

Gov. Paul LePage wants the people to vote on repealing the state income tax because he wishes to give a gift to the wealthy, who would disproportionately benefit from such imposition of regressive taxation as would be required to make up the shortfall of $1.7 billion. He also mentions only cutting education and health care (Medicaid) in the bargain, again hurting the people of Maine.

He is a national embarrassment. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that he cannot arbitrarily take health care away from 19- and 20-year-olds either.

Keep people poor, sick and stupid and they’ll be sure to vote Republican, knowing that they are just temporarily out of luck but destined to be millionaires. He forgets that the people have voted. We voted in our representatives to do our bidding and work in our best interest.

Perhaps America needs to spend less supporting failed states, such as Israel, to the tune of $10 million per day, and start supporting our people here at home first. If we make ourselves and our middle class strong, we will be better able to help others in the world, but America first.

Robert Finlay

Medway