Letters submitted by BDN readers are verified by BDN Opinion Page staff. Send your letters to letters@bangordailynews.com.

We need to discuss racism and inequity

We support the Bangor School Department, and the Bangor teacher who was harassed on social media for inviting her students to reflect on racism and privilege. Teachers across Maine have been asked to work on multiple unexpected fronts, from COVID protocols to social emotional trauma, to systemic racism. They deserve our support as they navigate these new terrains.

The Bangor schools learned of systemic racism in their classrooms earlier this year, thanks to accounts from courageous students of color. The school department chose to act, from the top with the support of the board. They committed to providing training to their teachers for interrupting racism. Training is based on the premise that we return to our classrooms and do things differently, in ways that actually benefit our children.

This incident seems to be a case in point. All of us, teachers, principals, parents and community members, share a moral obligation to acknowledge and interrupt racism, in conversations at kitchen tables, sidelines of playing fields and absolutely in our classrooms.

Our youth deserve the opportunity to make racism and inequity discussable issues. America has never yet been a just country to each citizen, and so we must engage with that challenge. In discussions about racism and inequity, no student will ever need to ask, “How will I use this when I graduate?” This curriculum is in our history, our economics, our literature, our language, our science, our geography and even our math. This curriculum is our American life.

Craig Kesselheim

Southwest Harbor

Ted Hall

Yarmouth

Think for a minute

Defund the Police — wait a minute. For those who think this is a good idea, they must not be watching what is taking place in our society. Yes, there are a limited number of cops who make some very bad decisions in the heat of the moment. Once the trigger is pulled, they can’t call the bullet back.

But people should consider this scenario: A man who has been drinking and has just assaulted his wife or girlfriend. She manages to call 911. The man gets his gun and threatens to shoot anyone who comes near his house. The cops don’t come because under new “rules” the dispatcher is required to call a mental health worker. He or she comes to the door to conduct a mental health therapy session. The man, who is in flight or fight mode, thinks it is a cop and shoots the mental health worker, his wife/girlfriend and then stands outside with the gun pointed at his head.

More calls to 911. More mental health workers show up. A peaceful demonstration turns into a riot. Someone’s car, with their family members inside, is surrounded by angry people. They call 911. Dispatcher sends mental health workers. Really!

David Winslow

Brewer

Maine DOL is working tirelessly

COVID-19 created an unprecedented surge in the need for unemployment benefits. Since Maine’s state of emergency began on March 15, the Maine Department of Labor has processed 98 percent of initial claims and delivered $1.44 billion in payments, while rapidly implementing multiple new federal programs and extending benefits to workers never eligible before.

In this fast-moving and complex situation, the Maine Department of Labor is doing everything possible to pay benefits quickly and accurately. In fact, from the beginning of the pandemic, independent observers like The Century Foundation have repeatedly recognized our responsiveness in distributing benefits as among the nation’s best, including most recently ranking Maine the eighth best state in the U.S. in terms of the percent of initial claims paid between March and July.

Unfortunately, this fact was unacknowledged in a recent BDN article, which instead evaluated a federal data set that skewed department performance in May and June, when claims processing was slowed deliberately to stop fraud being perpetrated on Labor Departments across the country, including ours.

There is no question there is work to do — and we are doing it. The new programs have created unique and complex claims which may take longer for decisions to ensure workers get the benefits they deserve. And the user experience of the technology we inherited is not acceptable, which I am committed to improving.

Even so, I want all Maine people to know that MDOL — which had just 13 people to process claims prior to COVID-19 — is working tirelessly to ensure the critical lifeline of unemployment benefits are delivered to all Maine people eligible for them.

Laura Fortman

Commissioner

Maine Department of Labor

Augusta

Keep Golden in Congress

Jared Golden deserves reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives for Maine’s Second Congressional District. This district has significant health and economic issues that Golden has proved well informed about and he has been addressing them through several efforts: First, to defend the Affordable Care Act and its protections for workers and their families with inadequate insurance options against Republican repeal threats. And second, to support collective bargaining, sensible minimum wage law, workplace safety, veterans needs and protection against exorbitant prescription drug costs.

He has been an energetic and active champion for the district, ignoring partisanship to keep his attention on what’s important to the district, defending the people of Maine against the corporate interests that can only push failed trickle-down tax policies and shrinking the benefits that workers and their families need to thrive. As a congressman, he has been proactive in partnering with congressional colleagues of both parties to address problems in the district, and he has been putting his time and energy — not into schmoozing lobbyists and wealthy donors — but into keeping in touch with second district communities to fix problems.

The district needs Golden to continue his efforts to push back against the divisiveness and chaos encouraged by the president in order to build a viable future for Maine and the country. He’s shown that he knows how to do the job and not get side-tracked, so let’s keep him on it!

Philip Keith

Farmington