Support ranked-choice voting

As a young voter, I believe that ranked-choice voting will have positive long-term effects in Maine. Over the past year, I’ve gone from knowing very little about the concept to becoming a committed supporter. I am confident that implementing this system would ensure that the most qualified candidates are elected in Maine. In our state, nine of the last 11 governors were elected with less than a majority vote. That fact signals a broken system. Elected officials should take office by attaining the support of a majority of the public, not a minority.

Perhaps most important, I see ranked-choice voting’s potential to increase voter turnout, especially among young people. I’ve heard my peers express their frustrations surrounding our current plurality voting system, with many complaints regarding vote choice. Ranked-choice voting would fix this problem by allowing individuals to choose their top candidate without having to worry about splitting or throwing away their votes. Since increasing voter participation among young people still is an issue at large, I believe that adopting ranked-choice voting will hopefully encourage young voters to become more engaged in our political system.

On Nov. 8, when we go to the polls to vote, Question 5 will ask Mainers whether to adopt ranked-choice voting for federal and state primary and general elections. I encourage everybody to consider supporting this reform.

Sarah Palmer


Ethanol use a threat to public health

While James Lutz points out in his July 27 Bangor Daily News letter to the editor very important issues — damage to fuel systems, increased energy for production and “enormous subsidy” — about ethanol use, there is an even more important issue — the impact of ethanol use on our health.

When ethanol is combusted in an engine, it produces acetaldehyde in the exhaust. Acetaldehyde is a known human carcinogen and potent neurotoxin that attacks the nervous system. Acetaldehyde causes deficiencies in vitamins B1 (thiamine), B9 (folate) and B12. These deficiencies can cause high-blood pressure, emotional instability, confusion, fatigue, depression, irritability, headaches, sensitivity to noise, insomnia, decreased short-term memory, brain-fog, a feeling of impending doom, shortness of breath, sore or swollen tongue, anemia and reduced heart function.

Acetaldehyde is a foreign substance to the body, which causes an allergic reaction, the same as the different pollens. The difference being that we are exposed to acetaldehyde constantly, so that the allergic reaction is continuous.

When people drink ethanol (beer, wine, hard liquor), it begins to change into acetaldehyde. When people get a hangover, it is because the body cannot get rid of the acetaldehyde quickly enough. Drinking is a choice, but breathing is not, if people choose to live.

Not everybody is affected by acetaldehyde in the same way because of a person’s genetic makeup. If people do have the right genetic makeup, this can lead to a person to become addicted to drugs.

Maybe this is why Gov. Paul LePage has asked the Maine Center for Disease Control and other agencies to look at the ethanol issue.

Ralph Stevens

South Berwick

Protect clean air

We all know that kids are enjoying their summer vacations, but Congress also is taking a summer break. Before they left Washington, D.C., members of the House of Representatives passed an appropriations bill that could make it riskier for kids with asthma to play outside.

The bill, H.R. 5538, would slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and block limits on dangerous air pollution, including the pollution that causes climate change. For Maine, this bill is incredibly important: It would compromise many programs meant to clean up and protect our air, allowing outdated standards to remain in place and power plants to continue to pump pollution into the air, finding its way to Maine in the form of ozone.

Climate change endangers our health in a variety of ways. It makes it harder to clean up the ozone pollution that we often see in the summer. On days with unhealthy air, kids with asthma sometimes have to stay indoors. In Maine, we’ve already had air quality alerts issued, and the summer isn’t over yet.

Fortunately, I do not expect this bill to become law, but Congress will need to pass funding bills to avoid a shutdown later this year. When it does, it must fully fund EPA and reject any provisions that would weaken clean air and climate safeguards. By enforcing strong ozone standards, methane rules and protecting the Clean Air Act, we can continue to clean up our air. Our kids deserve nothing less.

Paul Shapero


King should support monument

Over two months ago, Sen. Angus King and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis witnessed unequivocal statewide support for a national monument in the Katahdin region. I was fortunate to be i n the audience at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono, with about 1,200 other supporters from every part of Maine. As a 66-year-old Maine native, I think what I witnessed that night was historic.

King is generally looked upon by Maine people as a thoughtful leader, and I am hoping that after what he witnessed in Orono, King will once again show leadership and join the vast majority of Mainers who want to accept this generous gift being offered to Maine and the nation.

A monument designation would help the Katahdin region’s economy, and it also will help the rest of the state, as people travel to this unique and remote wilderness.

I really appreciate that King invited and accompanied Jarvis to the heart of Maine, where they saw overwhelming support for acceptance of the land gift and national monument designation. Hopefully, Jarvis has shared with President Barack Obama the support for the monument designation that he witnessed while in Maine.

Recent polling showed 67 percent of the 2nd Congressional District are in favor of a national park. Mainers from Presque Isle to Portland to Bethel to Lubec want King to tell Obama that he supports a monument as a first step. I anxiously await such an outcome.

John Burgess