Public schools make America great

Like many of my fellow citizens, I watched President Donald Trump deliver his State of the Union address last Tuesday night. And, again, like many of my fellow citizens, I found myself frequently at odds with some of the president’s words and gestures. But one part of the speech struck me as particularly irksome: Trump’s disparaging references to “government schools.”

Now, one week later, I am still irked. The irk, you might say, persists.

I have taught in several public schools in Maine over the course of my career, yet not once have I ever read or heard the noun “school” modified by such an adjective (“government”) until that night. Why, I wondered, did that phrase irk me so? Then the answer dawned on me: connotation.

Government housing, government land, government regulation, government bureaucracy and even g-man Comey, all of these and more summon up in the minds of Trump supporters a host of negative connotations. Trump seems to want to sever the link between the public and education. Perhaps that is why he appointed Betsey DeVos, an outspoken advocate of privatization, as his secretary of education.

Mark Twain once said that “out of the public school grows the greatness of the nation.” If Trump truly wants to make America great, he should throw the gravitas of his office behind public education, not against it.

William J. Murphy

Belfast

Vote against preventable diseases

By voting no on Question 1, I am voting for no more polio, no more measles, no more mumps. I am voting to protect my family, friends and citizens of Maine from preventable diseases. Vote no on March 3.

Anne Feeley

Belfast

Please pay attention when driving

Ignorance or arrogance — I haven’t quite figured out which one it is that drives people to blatantly ignore the law, or (at the very least) fail to exercise common courtesy. I live in Corinth and travel Route 15 to and from Bangor quite frequently. I don’t mind saying that it has become a very disturbing drive.

Why? I recently made the commute, and (just one way) counted 15 oncoming vehicles with drivers using their cellphones. I have also had several close calls with people crossing the centerline because they were doing something other than what they were supposed to be doing, which is paying attention to the road!

How many more times are we going to hear news stories of fatal crashes due to inattentive drivers? How many more phone calls have to be made telling of the death of a loved one caused by someone who chose to ignore the law?

There are currently very strict laws concerning driving while impaired with severe penalties. I firmly believe that using a cellphone (or any other device) while operating a motor vehicle should be treated as severely as operating under the influence. Distracted drivers can be just as lethal and destructive as impaired drivers, and should be dealt with in the same manner.

Our law enforcement officers have enough on their plates, so it is up to us to be more responsible drivers. Pay attention to driving, and try being more courteous!

Peter Mishou

Corinth

Other solutions to the jail problem

Judy Harrison’s Feb. 11 article, “Bangor jail could spend $1M to board inmates as state cracks down on overcrowding,” points out a serious problem but doesn’t offer a solution. But there are many solutions.

Police and sheriff’s deputies can stop arresting so many, especially for misdemeanors. They can give them citations (tickets) instead. More who have substance use or mental health problems could be going to treatment facilities or gotten into self-help, peer-run programs instead, since jail often makes those conditions worse.

More arrestees who have not been convicted of a crime but are jailed anyway (pre-trial) can be let out on unsecured or personal recognizance bail. Some who have violated bail or probation conditions do not have to be jailed again; they can be fined instead or their conditions changed.

The district attorney has begun using restorative justice as a way to resolve some crimes; that can be expanded. I believe the sheriff has begun a program to keep people out of the jail also; that can be expanded as well.

Jails do not make us safer as a community. Our goal should not be to find other places for inmates, but to reduce the number of people arrested and jailed. It would save county taxpayers money as well.

Larry Dansinger

Bangor

Fairness for Maine tribes

Twenty-two recommendations from the Maine State Legislative Task Force on Changes to the Maine Indian Land Claims Settlement Act have been brought forward for consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary and then by the whole Legislature.

These recommendations, encapsulated in LD 2094, were developed with the collaboration of representatives of the Legislature, the Maine tribes and nations and other interested parties. They are designed to recover and assure aspects of sovereignty, dignity and self-governance, which have been blocked or ignored for 40 years under the terms of the Maine settlement act. Fairness and equity for Maine tribes requires that they have the same rights that all other tribes in the United States have. The proposed revisions by the task force would restore respect for overall sovereignty consistent with Indian law nationally.

As a state, we can assure positive relations with the Indian tribes and nations, which have lived here for 15,000 years, if the Legislature adopts these recommendations in full. We support the adoption of these recommendations in full and urge you to do so also by contacting your legislator. It is the right thing to do.

Kay and Daryle Carter

Hampden

‘A simple change in mindset’

Matthew Gagnon’s column praising Tulsi Gabbard for doing the “human thing” toward those with differing opinions and refraining from celebrating in others’ misfortunes or tragedy is well received. It’s a powerful approach when seen from a U.S. representative.

Imagine how powerful this message could be if it came from our most powerful public office. A “simple change in mindset” at the top would significantly improve the bitter and divided environment that exists today.

Dustin Smiley

Bangor