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Broadband is a necessity
The COVID-19 health crisis highlighted many ways that our communities were unprepared for this kind of emergency. We’ve understood for some time that a lack of reliable internet access has limited employee recruitment efforts. When schools closed, and students, teachers, and parents worked to transition to remote learning, many found that they lacked adequate internet access. This gap in service limited many students’ participation in online learning opportunities.
Maine is full of innovators. We’re known for our ingenuity. Some students were able to drive to locations that had internet they could access from their cars. Schools, libraries and other institutions responded by placing WiFi closer to exterior walls and windows. Organizations like Network Maine developed listings of places where learners could #studyfromcar. But these creative ideas are not long-term solutions.
The Kennebec Valley Council of Governments (KVCOG) has been working with organizations like ConnectME and Grow Smart Maine in order to provide more adequate and more reliable internet service for Mainers. Remote working, as we have all learned, is no longer a niche perk that some jobs offer. To that end, we fully support the $15 million bond question that gives voters an opportunity to strengthen the economy, create new jobs, and build access to high speed internet, particularly in our rural area along the Kennebec Valley.
Our region’s economic vitality depends on high speed internet to remain flexible and available in the face of our changing times. The broadband bond is a smart plan that focuses on rural Maine and helps us to close the gap with other parts of the state. It’s an investment that will help businesses grow and strengthen our economy.
Kennebec Valley Council of Governments
Baldacci for state Senate
Joe Baldacci will be an outstanding state Senator for Hermon and Bangor. As a 12-year veteran of the Bangor City Council, Joe brought a special commitment that resulted in increased funding for Bangor schools, waterfront development, expanded broadband service and more frequent street repaving.
Several years ago, Joe paved the way for Bangor and eventually the state of Maine to raise its minimum wage years before other states took action. My work as an economic analyst has shown that minimum wages boost workers’ incomes without hampering job growth, even in rural areas. By contrast, Joe’s primary election opponent voted against multiple bills in the current legislative session that would have strengthened collective bargaining for Maine workers, including teachers.
As a former intern in Joe Baldacci’s law office, I observed how he is a generous person, careful listener and responsive public servant. I will be proud to cast my ballot for him.
Getting ready for the election
The 30-day period of in-person absentee voting in Maine began on June 14. Gov. Janet Mills and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap should act together, now, to give citizens additional support to ensure maximum voter participation and prevent foreseeable voting obstacles. Maine currently has no-excuse absentee voting that includes both submission by-mail and in-person.
However, this year, there is inconsistency across some municipalities that have limited office hours when citizens could feasibly choose the in-person route. We should support voters who have unreliable mail delivery issues, disabilities, COVID-19-related health risks and other personal circumstances that make an in-person vote at their local office the best way to ensure that their voice is heard.
Maine instituted a reasonable delay of the primary election to give the state more time to prepare around COVID-19 safety threats. Additionally, Maine should consider more practical, municipal guidance to ensure that citizens can actually access the in-person right to vote safely, securely and easily in this world so complicated by the current pandemic and other crises that may be in our future.
Successful experience in smoothing voter access could also strengthen our readiness for the November election. Nationwide electoral alarm bells are already ringing, loudly.
Please keep Maine safe
Thanks to all of the wonderful and responsible people who are coming to Maine to enjoy our beautiful state and who are following the rules to keep us all safe. Thanks for keeping themselves in quarantine while they make sure that they are not bringing COVID-19 to us.
There are so many ways to enjoy Maine that people can follow safe quarantining procedures and still have a good time! Some of them chose to be tested instead of quarantining — thanks to them, also! We are all in this together and their respect for us and our governor’s requests is appreciated!
I also want to thank them for wearing masks and keeping social distances! When I see an out-of-state plate at the grocery store and the person getting out of the car is putting on a mask, I want to go over and say, “Thanks!” I don’t, because these are not times to walk up to strangers and start talking, but I think it! They should be assured that their actions are appreciated by those of us who live here!
To those who can’t be bothered to quarantine because it interferes with what they regard as their personal rights, to those who did not get tested because it was inconvenient, to those of who think that rules are for everyone else, but not them: may I suggest that they reevaluate their position and start thinking of others instead of just themselves?
To anyone refusing to wear a mask in stores that say masks are required, may I ask why? If I am wearing a mask to protect them, why won’t they wear one to protect me?
We are fortunate enough to be in one of the safer places in the country, which just happens to be one of the most beautiful. We are so very lucky. We all need to work together to keep it safe and secure.
The BDN will stop accepting letters and OpEds related to the July 14 election on July 7. Not all submissions can be published.