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Issues of drug addiction, its impact deserve better coverage


I read with some dismay the piece titled "Needled by city's crack cocaine 'kits'," published in Tuesday's issue. The issue of drug addiction and its impact on communities deserves better coverage than this.

This story wasn't ready. You didn't do enough work. One man's thoughts and a few anecdotes are a woefully inadequate contribution to the civic discourse Portland needs to have about this issue.
Jay York is an associate of mine on the Bayside Neighborhood Association, and I consider him a friend. We don't see eye-to-eye on everything, but I share his concerns about the distribution of these cut kits into an already challenged community, as do many Portland residents I have spoken with. The BNA has communicated our concerns to the Portland Needle Exchange, the Public Safety/Health & Human Services Committee, and the Mayor's Substance Abuse Sub-Committee. We look forward to working with them toward policies that are safe and effective for drug users and the greater community. Beyond that, this letter is my own personal opinion, and I am not speaking for the BNA.
You took one person's monologue, a brief observation from one member of law enforcement, and two uncredited, unverified incidents, and made it your cover story. Wow.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I don't doubt these events happened, but how about some context? Perhaps some data on drug-related police calls; that's available. And you didn't get a response from the Portland Needle Exchange by presstime? Then you should have waited on the story, or contacted someone else. The reference to "drug giveaway programs" on page 9 is needlessly inflammatory, and the headline on the web version, "Crack cocaine 'kits' and needle exchange irk Bayside resident" reminds me of something I might see on the satiric website The Onion: "Local curmudgeon complains about how social service programs impact him personally."
The last paragraph is astonishingly incompetent: a "lapsed" user intends to go Mercy for detox, where they'll have a bed for her. That's it? How hard was it for her to get this spot? Are detox opportunities accessible to those who seek them, or dangerously rare?
To "cover" an issue this complex and challenging, in such a superficial and one-sided way, is simply irresponsible. Many people have legitimate concerns about the impact of harm reduction programs, both on drug users and on the communities where they live and use. The City of Portland does have a responsibility to ensure that harm reduction programs:
(a) don't impose a disproportionate risk to the long term health and safety of the broader community, in exchange for a perceived benefit to a few, and
(b) actually benefit the populations they intend to serve.
The concerns for the broader community go way beyond the visual impact of drug paraphernalia litter. And drug addicts need comprehensive treatment which includes an accessible path to recovery, not an inconsistent mishmash of policies that palliate very real health risks, and trap them in a dangerous cycle.
By reducing victims of drug addiction to "junkies," and concerned citizens to ornery rabble-rousers, you are propagating the lie that this issue has two opposing and antagonistic sides. It doesn't. It is a public health crisis that impacts different people differently, but these are parallel challenges, not opposing ones. When you perpetuate an "us vs. them" mindset, we all waste time and energy in an irrelevant battle.
Please, be part of the solution, not the problem. And next time, try harder.


Laura Cannon

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 23:51

Hits: 117

South Portland 'tar sands' experience: 'Squeaky wheels' at work?


Regards the far messier side to the oil sands debate in a now hijacked South Portland.

I (six-year planning board member, long time resident, and now conflicted lover of SoPo) and thousands of other voter residents are still trying to figure out what is sadder and more distasteful — what SP has done or how they did it? "How" wins by a nose. The total and utter lack of due process, absence of fair, deliberative debate and collaborative decision making is numbing.

Where was the fact-finding, where was the all-sides-in inclusive process of long, drawn out research, mediation, strategic vision planning, and standard operating procedure, within or even outside the Comp Plan? Heck, have a moratorium for as long as it takes to figure it all out, but do so TOGETHER, as one city, with a far greater likelihood of at least still shaking hands at the end. That is what we had always done up to this point, as well as what we all had already learned in kindergarten. As my friend Kathy said, "You missed a key step here, and it was a doozy."

The only thing close to real public discussion and community participation was a city-wide vote that I think we won, but umm voting does not count in the new SoPo, where mulligans and do-overs are only a wobbly or irrational councilor away. Please ask Jeff Edelstein if he has ever in his long career chaired such a preordained, narrowly directed ordinance edict. Answer — Never. Please ask any city staffer or manager what they think of this travesty and force an answer. Dislike oil sands all you wish SP, I am not a huge fan, but dislike lack of process and a few hundred rabid rulers even more. History will show this was ultimately NOT about oil sands (reminder — it is not even mentioned in the new ordinance), terminal manifest destiny, PMPL, or big-oil. It was about yelling the loudest and scaring the most.

It was textbook 101 on how to disregard a public vote and process, circumvent ethics, Charlie McCarthy a council, and Marcel Marceau a city manager into submission. Was it all right and fair? Nope. Was it all legal? Tbd.

Folks, it is time to call this sordid affair what it was — a sham, a joke, and shame on any councilor for trying to sell this as anything but what it was — an appeasement to an all emotion, passion only, well organized and nationally directed crowd — an emerging minority voter block of SP that are my way or else, off-oilers, and Utopia theorists with no basis other than select and slanted websites, it feels right, and my asthma must be caused by something. Heck, why let facts, mixed use energy policies, moderation, or petroleum-based clothing and products get in the way of good old mob rule.

Sorry, a ban on sneakers and cling wrap is next. The new SP drivers include many newbies with no frame of reference of the value or history of our unique area. Geez, when your sister was not building liberty ships, or your uncle shipping freight, it is far easier to see every tank only as a condo or hotel (or maybe they prefer casinos?), and every terminal as but a nuisance that would never fly in Cambridge or Berkeley.

Wake up SP. You were a fine blue collar old-time Dem-leaning town with plenty of socially liberal Indies like me mixed in. A diverse, hard-working, and mixed community of enormous blessings. It all worked. You are now running with the new left, the uber-liberals and dark-greenists, many from more urban settings and education, who want to remind us how smarter they are than us, and where real estate pricing trades quite well with Willard Beach haunts — those who praise us on marriage equality and medical marijuana (yeah, we agree) while condemning and scolding on any other disagreement. Those who define acceptable business in only the number of bagel and coffee shops we have.

Stand up, speak up, at your peril. They know what they like and get what they want, and are not afraid to knock on any door, or run city hall from a bully pulpit. An energetic few hundred can clearly do a lot. As Bob Dylan crooned, "The times they rrrrr a-changing'." Accept assimilation or minimally get out of the damn way!

Even worse, some of the new hardcore activists, mixing well with some existing SP progressive pals I still call friends (sadly, they might disagree!), seem to find comfort in calling those of us who believe in process and give and take at all costs — "Damn you tall oil," "You and your like are pure evil" or more convincingly "I hope you die of cancer from the stuff you all are shipping." Wow. An environmentalist SP granny I quote directly. Makes Tom Blake's supposed bag of dog feces on his doorstep seem mild, huh? Clean up in aisle 5 in Hannaford, please.

Now that is passion and emotion. I, of course, wish her nothing but a long, healthy and happy life. Hugs to all, especially those I disagree with. I also greatly respect her right to speech and opinion. I do have some questions, though.

Do you really think a sound, legal, and reasonable ordinance is one where one side is downright giddy to their NRCM toes and the other side is totally unhappy and feels ignored? Is this the way to treat a culture and industry base that has served us so well for so long and has done nothing wrong? Do you really, truly think that this was SP's best practices in place, as responsible, fair, and inclusive local politics? Do you believe in due process and debate and true mediation or only when it suits you and your cause? Process is your friend only when you don't have the council votes? Do you believe in what one Councilor said, "Well, Don, sorry, I need to pay the most attention to those who call or show up" (God help us if Neo-Nazis start attending council meetings with that distorted thinking where squeaky wheels get their grease no matter where they are driving — and with no map)

Shame on the council (and their dual action of timidity and irresponsibility), and shame on city leaders for not sticking their well-paid necks out. Shame on those of us who stayed in the shadows so as not to feel uncomfortable with more passion-filled neighbors. "Gertrude is wrong, but she feels so strongly, and I love her dog and she always brings me garden tomatoes." Shame on any who don't believe in process and debate and some semblance of mutual agreement BEFORE decisions are made that carry huge ramifications to this city's future, the region, the country, and the planet. Who needs debate when you know you are right and what is best for everyone! Sure must be great to be so ... so certain. I for one, like to leave room for continuing education and revision.

And finally, what a shame, I am now a-shamed to wear a sky blue shirt in this divided city that I thought believed in more important things than oil sands will ever be. You know, you remember, those really cool and valuable things that make us humans, make us Americans, make us good people that can coexist. Dang, and I was told I looked good in blue.

Sincere regards and God bless the new South Portland,

Don Russell

South Portland

Last Updated on Monday, 08 September 2014 23:20

Hits: 55

French people perfected separation of church and state


Like our U.S. Constitution, the French Constitution defines a secular government. Unlike us today, but like the earlier years of our own government, the French enjoy religious freedom without government meddling.

French citizens are free to marry at any church or religious service. In France, however, a religious or church marriage is not recognized; one must be married at the Town Hall. There, a friendly chat, appropriate for festive occasions, is given by the mayor with the subject of marriage and family. A number of couples may participate in this marriage ceremony.

Beginning with the President, French government officials are forbidden to invoke God or religion when delivering speeches or speaking in their official status. They must obey their secular constitution prohibiting government involvement with religion.

During the Christmas season, the display of creches, menorahs, etc., is forbidden in front of City Halls, fire stations, etc., but is permitted on church property. Al are free to say "Merry Christmas" or to sing religious carols.

The French people are unanimous in their preference for a strict separation of church and state.

Franch has a 1,000-plus-year tradition in the Christian religion. Most citizens profess the Catholic faith. Joan of Arc is the patron saint.

Public schools are rigorously secular. Students are not permitted to wear ostensibly religious garb or jewelry.

Like the government of our Founding Fathers, Franch has no pledge of allegiance. A "pledge of allegiance" is incompatible with personal freedom.

George Washington's closest friend was a 23-year-old French nobleman, the Marquis de LaFayette. Commissioned a major general in the Continental army, he distinguished himself by his bravery and leadership. He played a major role in the victory at Yorktown which assured as our independence. He later returned to France. To celebrate with us the centennial of July 4, 1776, the French created the Statue of Liberty in Paris. It was then erected in New York Harbor.

Lee Kemble


Last Updated on Saturday, 30 August 2014 18:17

Hits: 56

Chamber: 'Freeport is very supportive of the planned layover facility in Brunswick'

(Editor's note: The Freeport Chamber of Commerce raised concerns that a delay of Downeaster service improvements — like the Brunswick layover facility — will harm local businesses and will have a negative economic impact on the entire region. The chamber wrote the following letter on Aug. 19 in support of Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority's planned Brunswick facility, "which will allow increased ridership and services throughout the region," the chamber noted.)

The Honorable Paul LePage
Governor, State of Maine
No. 1 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0001

Dear Governor LePage:

The Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce, representing more than 200 local businesses, fully supports the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority in their efforts to maintain and increase passenger rail service to Freeport and Brunswick. Business owners in town regularly comment on the positive economic impact that the Downeaster train riders have brought to Freeport.

In 2013, over 16,000 passengers arrived and departed in Freeport. Additionally, over 10,000 inquiries of local businesses have been made at the Train and Visitor Information Center located adjacent to the train platform. The passenger train service has been critically important to the success of the many restaurants, shops, and lodging properties in the area. Freeport is very supportive of the planned layover facility in Brunswick. Having trains overnight and be serviced in Brunswick will allow for the scheduling of more round trips to and from Boston that stop in town. Our local businesses have an important stake in the facility because it will allow visitors from all along the Downeaster line to make more frequent trips that comfortably fit their individual schedules. NNEPRA has planned for this increased trip frequency knowing that more trips mean more capital flowing to Freeport, Brunswick and the southern mid-coast region.

Tourism is Maine's largest economic driver and allowing visitors the option of train travel reduces the strain on the state's transportation infrastructure and air quality and aligns with Freeport's heritage of environmental sensitivity. The expanded use of mass transportation, such as the Downeaster rail service is not only supportive of local and regional business, but is also in keeping with a long tradition of environmental awareness and a focus on reducing automobile congestion and emissions.

The Freeport Chamber of Commerce is concerned that the delay of Downeaster service improvements – like the Brunswick layover facility – will harm our local businesses and will have a negative economic impact on the entire region. We, therefore, urge your support of NNEPRA's planned Brunswick facility, which will allow increased ridership and services throughout the region.


Michelle Allott, President
Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Senator Susan Collins
U.S. Senator Angus King
U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree
The Honorable Olympia Snowe
State Senator Stan Gerzofsky, Senate District No. 10
State Representative Sara Gideon, House District No. 106
Commissioner David Bernhardt, Maine Department of Transportation
Carolann Ouellette, Director, Maine Office of Tourism
John McGough, Chief of Staff
John Butera, Senior Economic Advisor
Patricia Quinn, Executive Director, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 August 2014 23:36

Hits: 72

Will DISCLOSE Act include resolution to Angus King campaign questions?


Though I've moved away, I still follow the rantings and rambling of Maine politics. In Robert Libby's most recent column ("Money pol," Tuesday, Aug. 26), he pointed out our fair Senator Angus King's support for the DISCLOSE act, aimed at ending dark money in politics.
I certainly hope that support extends to finally wrapping up the Federal Election Commission's (FEC) investigation into Angus' campaign, including Eliot Cutler and his bizarre position at Americans Elect ... and how he suddenly had to resign from the board of AE once we figured out that doing so while serving as Angus' Campaign Chair was a violation of the law.
But then again, Ol' Barnjacket never took the bar exam.

Hope all are well.

Bob Higgins
Jacksonville, Fla. (formerly of Portland)

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 August 2014 23:37

Hits: 80


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