COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Question 2 makes people with disabilities part of the election process

by State Representative Bruce White

Election Day is right around the corner. At the polls, you’ll see two ballot questions that come from our work in the Legislature. The first asks if you’d like to authorize a $105 million bond for transportation infrastructure projects, things like road and bridge repairs. The second question comes from a bill I submitted last session and aims to make the political process more inclusive and accessible. This bill had bi-partisan support in the legislature.

Question two will read, “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to allow persons with disabilities to sign petitions in an alternative manner as authorized by the Legislature?” This would allow persons with physical disabilities who cannot sign their own name to use an alternative method to sign citizen’s initiative petitions and people’s veto initiatives.

Alternative signatures for people with physical disabilities are already approved for the purposes of voter registration, change of party enrollment, candidate nomination petitions and Maine Clean Election Act forms. This question simply expands the existing provision and helps ensure all Maine residents are given the opportunity to participate in our political system.

The original idea for this bill came to me from the Secretary of State’s Office, and I was immediately excited and honored to sponsor the legislation. By allowing people with disabilities to use a signature stamp or authorize another resident to sign on their behalf, we’re getting more Maine voices involved in solving the issues our state faces. I look forward to you all having the opportunity to weigh in on this matter on Nov. 5.

OPINION: China firemen do not endorse town’s plans for new emergency services building

Respectfully submitted by,
Chief Dick Morse, South China Volunteer Fire Department,
Chief Tim Theriault, China Village Volunteer Fire Department,
Chief Bill Van Wickler, Weeks Mills Volunteer Fire Department.

To the people of the town of China:

First and foremost thank you all for your continued support. At the June 11, 2019, municipal and RSU #18 election, you will be asked on question 2 to vote on whether or not you want the town to spend $25,000 for an engineering and cost study for an emergency services building and a community building.

The way this proposed project has been presented to the town by the town manager and the select board, by presenting drawings at town meeting and by placing this item on the ballot, has given the impression that this project has been well thought through, and by implication, has the backing of the volunteer fire departments.

This could not be further from the truth. We feel it important to make the residents aware that during several discussions with the town manager and the select board and at two public hearings on the subject, China’s three fire departments have stated unequivocally that they neither need nor want such a building and feel that it would be a waste of the $25,000 to contract for the study since there is absolutely no demonstrated need for an emergency services building.

The China Village VFD has no current plans to move from their station, and if they did they would want to move into a building that they own, not a town-owned building. As we have stated many times, China’s Volunteer Fire Departments are all separate and individual, private nonprofit corporations organized under Maine law and we have no plans to make any changes. As demonstrated by their recent words and actions, the town manager and some members of the current select board appear to want to make changes to this system that has been working very well since at least 1947 and have suggested changes that we cannot agree with. The system we have works very well for the town and there is no need to fix something that is not broken.

By presenting this project in this manner, the town manager and the select board give the impression that we need to start down the road to consolidation or to becoming a municipal fire department. Having had discussions on this topic with the volunteers at each station, we assure you that is the last thing that we would recommend for the town at this time. Such a move would not be a positive change, it would negatively affect membership and would be enormously expensive. Please understand and rest assured that should we have a real need for any major change, the VFDs will not hesitate to come to the town and make it very clear what that change is. This is not that time.

Although supported by the town manager and select board, there was a unanimous vote of ought not to pass by the budget committee and recommendations from the three VFDs not to proceed with this at the budget hearing and budget committee meeting.

We urge you to vote no on this question, thereby telling the town manager and select board that they are not listening and have once again overstepped by putting this on the ballot regardless of the facts.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: An opinion on emergency building

by Wayne Chadwick
China resident

I would like to offer up some insight on the proposed warrant articles for the upcoming June 11, 2019 Municipal and RSU #18 election.

You will be asked to vote on whether or not you want the town to spend $25,000 for an engineering and cost study for an emergency services building and a community building. Where is the justification for such an expense? There appears to be a “build it and they will come” mentality with our present town leadership. The town manager stated that there is no town building to meet in that holds 200 people. When asked how often there was such a requirement he gave the annual town meeting and voting as an example. This has historically been done at the school which your tax dollars already pay to maintain. So why do we need another building for a few occurrences per year at best.

Everything we build, even if it is originally provided fully or in part by grant money, still has a tax dollar requirement for maintaining it. You are being asked to pay for an engineering study without being given any estimated cost for maintaining it after the fact. Consider the cost of plowing, mowing, heating, cooling, repairs and preventative maintenance and utilities.

You will also be asked to approve the purchase of land for a potential beach/swimming area and boat ramp. The parcel in question is located slightly north of and opposite the town office. This site is steep, steep enough that it has to be protected by guardrail for the entire length of its road frontage. Here are some potential issues to consider: It was stated at the May 26 select board meeting that DOT did not want to issue a permit for a driveway for the property. The Four Seasons Club has agreed to discuss potentially allowing access across their property for the sole purpose of accessing a boat launch, no swimming area. Additionally, to my knowledge, to date there has been no discussion with the DEP to determine if this site meets requirements for permitting. And last but certainly not least, there is the cost. The extreme grade to this property is unequivocally going to increase the cost of development and maintenance. Issues such as erosion, storm water, etc. These are continuous maintenance requirements that will never decrease in cost.

Here again we are looking at the purchase separate from the potential cost.

I offer this in hope that it will provide a more informed voting public.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: An open letter to Gov. Janet Mills regarding the NECEC project

by Bob OConnor
Citizen Town of China
Founding board member of China Lake Association

Dear Governor Janet T. Mills,

This is my Open Letter to you to consider revising your stance on the NECEC project (CMP-Quebec Hydro). Please require that NECEC put the new power lines underground.

Recently the federal “Environmental Protection Agency says Central Maine Power’s permit application now being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its controversial New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line project is incomplete and needs a ‘detailed analysis’ of alternatives.”

I want to speak to these alternatives and suggest that the NECEC Change their plan and REQUIRE that the HVDC line be fully put underground.

1. ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE

Underground lines are Safer from Environment Extreme Climate events, Wind and Ice Storms. Transmission towers like the proposed came down in a heap during the 1998 Ice storm in Quebec. (Pictured above)

There was even more ice damage in Quebec than in Maine.

Severe windstorms can also take down these towers. See Google for more examples of the vulnerability of these towers and find many recent examples of failure of these towers due to storms. The trend going forward is for more frequent and more severe storms.

Putting the HVDC lines underground will almost totally eliminate Storm damage.

2. SABOTAGE / TERRORISM

Underground lines are much safer from Sabotage from some misguided person or group.

See the current Canes Film Festival winner from Iceland Woman at War to see how easy it is to sabotage power lines using a bow and arrow. (Shown in Waterville Maine).

This movie shows the necessity of police patrols with helicopters, drones and heat sensitive cameras. The new isolated rural 43-mile line is likely to require regular patrols that will further upset the wildlife and people.

Putting the cables underground would significantly reduce the possibility of sabotage.

3. NO HERBICIDES NECESSARY

With the current plan, CMP will be using herbicides that will adversely affect the Maine woods, wetlands, streams and ponds. Putting the wires underground would eliminate the need for herbicides.

4. GO UNDERGROUND

This picture to the right shows the comparison of land disturbance of above ground HVDC towers with underground HVDC lines.

This image from Page 17 of the EuropaCable document attached shows how much less intrusive underground HVDC is. It shows in the first example, 100m (328 ft.) wide path tower path (1) and the 12m (40 ft.) underground path (4). This is an 88 percent reduction in path width.

There is very little electromagnetic radiation from HVDC underground lines (versus AC lines) and light farming can even be done over the underground cables.

Also note that the two alternate route RFP’s from Vermont and New Hampshire proposed using HVDC underground lines to Quebec Hydro.

See attached document that gets into the details of HVDC underground Europacable ‘Introduction_to_HVDC_Underground_Cables_October_2011‘.

Governor, please consider modifying your stance on the NECEC project and STIPULATE THAT THE CABLES BE PUT UNDERGROUND.

Thanks.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: “The way I see it” from a 60-year firefighter and former chief

China Village Volunteer Fire Department. (Internet photo)

by Sheldon Goodine
54-year member of the SCVFD, Inc., and retired chief

Two years ago the selectboard discussed a stipend for the firefighters. They did this without any input from the three fire chiefs or department members. When it was brought to our attention the members of the South China Volunteer Fire Department said we don’t need it and don’t want it. But, it was put on the town warrant at town meeting and the voters approved the expenditure unanimously. Turns out this just became a carrot on a stick for the selectboard. It was just one little way for the selectboard to gain some control over the volunteer fire departments.

Next they wanted us to open our books so they could see how much money we earned from fundraisers, and wanted to deduct this amount from our annual budget request. Let’s see how that might work out. If our budget request was for $20,000 and our annual auction netted $4,000, the selectboard wants to only give us $16,000. But, if we did not raise $4,000 from a fundraiser, our budget request would be $24,000. Duh!

Budget request for this year – The selectboard wanted to cut the amount requested, but the budget committee voted for the total amount presented to the town. At the town meeting the voters upped the requested amount by $7,000 and it was approved unanimously. This brought the amount appropriated up to the amount requested by the fire departments. This turned out to be a stinging blow to the selectboard, and they are now trying everything they can do to try to gain control of the volunteer fire departments. In June, I’ll start my 60th year as a volunteer firefighter, and during that time I have only received two stipend checks. I will continue to receive the yearly stipend check, but will turn it over to the department to use as needed. I joined as a volunteer and will continue to do so.

Time spent work as a firefighter – Both the chief and deputy chief of the SCVFD, Inc., will put in more hours individually in a month’s time than the entire selectboard members will put in collectively in a full year. When an alarm comes in and a chief officer arrives on the scene to take command, he has to make life or death decisions at any moment. He has the authority to shut down power lines, close roads, and use any available equipment that is located near the scene as needed. None of the selectboard members has that authority.

Money management – For 70 years of our 72-year history, the SCVFD, Inc., has built a new station and bought several trucks over the years. When we backed our four trucks into the new station, we owed nothing on the building and everything in it. We look for and apply for grants as they become available. Our newest truck was awarded to us from a grant for which we applied. We had in our equipment savings account enough money for our share of this equipment. This truck was around $202,000 and the cost to the town of China was $0. However, nothing is for free so as a federal taxpayer, you may have spent a fraction of a penny on the new truck. How is that for money management?

Emergency Services Building – The selectboard wants to have a town-owned fire station at the north end of town. Let’s look at this idea. A new fire station for five or six trucks would cost $3 – 4 million. Five or six trucks would cost about half a million dollars each. The town of China is unique in that we have four villages in the town and have fire chiefs located in three of these villages. The fourth depends on help from Palermo just across the town line. Travel time spent going to the north end of town before a response can even begin has the potential of causing more loss of life and property damage. Many of the newer buildings are using new building materials that burn faster and with higher heat. Maybe in years to come this will happen but then firefighters will need to be in the building 24/7. What will happen to property insurance for folks not living near a fire department: their insurance premiums will skyrocket.

The three departments combined have available 65 firefighters and 14 trucks. The reports in the town report show that South China responded to 88 calls; China Village 82 calls; and Weeks Mills 56 calls, for a total of 226 calls. This is not a true total as on a lot of these calls all departments showed up as mutual aid. China Rescue responded to 263 calls.

Operating budget – Try operating a company of 24 people and five trucks on a budget of $24,000 annually – it is impossible! But not for volunteers. That’s what we do now. Compare this to the rates and costs of operating a municipal fire department.

The way I see it, it’s not the money or how it is spent that is the problem for the selectboard. The selectboard just wants to have total power and control.

I want to thank the taxpayers of the town of China for their past support of the volunteer fire departments and pray that it will continue. However, the actions of the selectboard may have opened a can of worms that will discourage the will to volunteer and has the potential of costing the town millions of dollars.

See these related articles:

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: China selectmen explain their position on the fire department stipend controversy

Selectmen, fire chiefs engage in heated debate over town funding

China selectmen respond to fire chiefs’ letter

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: An open letter to China residents from the town’s fire chiefs

2019 China town meeting: Selectmen, firemen get approval on stipend increases

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: China selectmen explain their position on the fire department stipend controversy

The China Board of Selectmen

At the May 13, 2019, selectboard meeting, Palermo attorney Matt Evans appeared as spokesman on behalf of the three independently incorporated fire associations. Most recently, he confirmed to the town manager that he is representing them as their legal counsel. Mr. Evans and the fire associations are concerned that the $40,000 in volunteer stipend funds approved for the fiscal year 2019/2020 budget year will not be lawfully provided by the town. The selectboard made clear at the meeting that the funds will be provided, but they will be provided lawfully.

At issue is the interpretation of the laws governing the payment of volunteer stipends and whether the town can require the fire and rescue services provide how the volunteer stipends are calculated before funds are disbursed to them. Existing Maine law requires that the municipal treasurer “shall not” pay accounts or claims made against the municipality unless they are itemized. The law does not define “itemized”; therefore, it is up to the treasurer to determine what is a satisfactory definition of “itemized.”

When it was discovered by the town manager that the calculation of stipends was in violation of federal regulations and threatened the volunteer status of firefighters and rescue personnel, he informed the fire and rescue services chiefs and provided an analysis that showed the total amount that should have been paid out using the data supplied by the fire and rescue chiefs and following the federal regulations. That amount should have been less than $14,000 in total for all four organizations over the 18 months the data covered, but more than $63,000 was provided for the current and last fiscal years.

At the last town meeting voters approved to raise and/or appropriate another $40,000 for volunteer stipends, bringing the total now to $110,000. At that meeting a voter asked if the payment of the stipend amount budgeted would be a violation of law, and the town manager affirmed that it would not be a violation as long as the calculation of the stipends was done in accordance with federal and state laws and regulations.

Twice it was suggested by the China Village chief that requiring such calculation of volunteer stipends is unnecessary, since it is unlikely any enforcement action would be taken. It was mentioned by the South China chief at the town meeting that the fire associations do not have sufficient information with which to determine what the stipends should be, so the funds should just be given them and they will figure it out on their own. These remarks alone help to understand why we are requiring the fire and rescue associations, and any other organization that requests volunteer stipend funds (none others currently do) to provide the evidence for how those stipends are calculated.

The selectboard has consistently supported the fire and rescue services, and it was the selectboard that initiated the provision of stipends to acknowledge and encourage volunteer service. Having learned that the method of calculating stipends was being done incorrectly, we intend to see that it is done correctly and legally. The most important considerations for our position is to protect the volunteer status of firefighters and rescue personnel, and to ensure the public tax dollars entrusted to our care are lawfully spent.

See these related articles:

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: “The way I see it” from a 60-year firefighter and former chief

Selectmen, fire chiefs engage in heated debate over town funding

China selectmen respond to fire chiefs’ letter

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: An open letter to China residents from the town’s fire chiefs

2019 China town meeting: Selectmen, firemen get approval on stipend increases

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: An open letter to China residents from the town’s fire chiefs

Tim Theriault, Chief, China Village FD
Richard E. Morse, Chief, So. China FD
William Van Wickler, Chief, Weeks Mills FD

To the residents of the town of China, ME, from the volunteer fire departments.

First and foremost we thank you for your annual support both in the money allocated in our budgets, the stipend funds you have approved, and donations during our various fundraising efforts.

It is the collective opinion of the three volunteer fire departments that there are issues with the present selectboard that need to be addressed.

Recent events have brought to light, what in our opinion, appears an effort to control and dictate to the fire departments how to do business. In a recent “Special Meeting,” as it was titled on the town’s website, there was considerable discussion about the fire departments and action taken to reduce the stipend amount to be provided for firefighters in the proposed 2019/2020 budget. This move was done in one afternoon. A midday request was given to the town manager by the selectboard, he in turn provided an alternate to the existing system in place. That evening it was presented, a motion made to use the alternative, and approved unanimously by all members present. This was accomplished in less than one day. There was no discussion held or notice given to any of the fire departments. The only way we became aware of the matter was an after the fact email from the town manager, stating the selectboard approved an alternate to the stipends and the details of how it will work. This recommendation to cut the stipend of firefighters was proposed, ironically, as the selectboard has proposed to increase their own stipend.

In that same meeting, a selectboard member made the statement that a fire department has had the same budget figure for several years (this was proven to be incorrect at the next budget committee meeting). However, this brings to light the same pattern of distrust. This assumption was stated without any communication, not once did anyone reach out to that chief for clarification or an explanation, not to mention the past budgets were available for review had anyone bothered to check.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. In the Town of China, the Volunteer Fire Departments (VFDs) are independent State of Maine, nonprofit Corporations registered in good standing with the Secretary of State. This form of Fire protection is specifically allowed and provided for in Maine law. This law also allows the Town to support such VFDs with funding in order to provide the emergency services they are required to provide as a Town. VFDs consider these funds to be their operations funds, and they are used to support emergency services that they provide to the Town. The VFDs are not Municipal Fire Departments, and are not under the control and supervision of the Selectboard (Board). They are independent and they have been specifically acknowledged as such in two successive Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) agreed to by the Board and the Chiefs of the VFDs.
  2. The Board has indicated that they want to know how many fundraising dollars each VFD has so that they can reduce VFD operations budget allocations accordingly.
  3. It is not appropriate for VFD fundraising dollars be a revenue stream for the town. The funds raised do directly impact town services in the support of firefighting activities and materials. Raised funds are not projected revenue, but are instead additional efforts of volunteers to provide better services to their community. Unless there were some pattern of abuse of these funds, or complaints from the membership in regards to them, there is not a reasonable reason to request this information.
  4. The Board does have a right to see our books in reference to Town-provided tax dollars. We totally agree with that and currently provide the town with detailed quarterly financial reports showing how we spend Town provided funds.
  5. The fruits of these private donations as well as fundraising efforts directly pay for or provide matching grant funds for the VFDs to purchase fire trucks, build fire stations, support and reward membership, and for other costs consistent with our status as independent corporations.
  6. Two years ago, by the request of a former board member, an article was placed in the Town warrant asking the town to appropriate $40,000 for stipends for the VFDs and China Rescue. This was done as a good faith effort though not fully vetted. In spite of the VFD Chiefs speaking against the proposal on the grounds that we had not been consulted and that the proposal had not been fully thought through. Thankfully (in retrospect), the Townspeople voted overwhelmingly in support of it. The first year of the proforma (July 1, 2017), the Board and the VFDs signed an MOU which in addition to recognizing the independence of the VFDs, set up a process for providing the stipends to the VFDs. It called for certain amounts for Chiefs and other officers and for other amounts to reward participation by all members including the officers. The money was to be held by the Town and given to the VFDs on the basis of invoices presented to the Town. The Town would then cut a check to the VFDs and they would pay out the stipends based on the fixed amounts and participation. Financial reporting was required.
  7. In spite of our initial opposition to the stipend program, the VFDs now recognize and appreciate that it has become a positive factor and has met its intended goal of increased recruitment, retention and participation.
  8. It is ironic that what was once proposed by the board and opposed by the VFDs has turned completely around and for some reason unknown to us (because they no not consult us) the Board now seems to be in opposition to it as evidenced by their criticism and cuts to the stipend budget and the way it is managed.

China’s firefighters have a history of long-term commitment to the town. Some members serve as much as 50 years in one capacity or another. That type of dedication deserves to be commended, not shunned, at the very least a chance to participate in the decision-making process.

Additionally, there have been comments made by some selectmen stating we need to have only one department and a centralized fire station, again no discussion with the department heads as to why. This will not best serve the town. The geographic location of the existing stations works well and all departments respond seamlessly. It is our opinion that what we have now works well and effectively, so we are at a loss as to why so much effort has been given to fixing something that is, in our opinion, not broken.

Here are our questions: Do they have problems with the way we prevent, manage and control emergencies in this town? Do they think we are not doing our jobs? Do they question our motives? Do they think they can run the VFDs better than the current Chiefs? Do they think they have the knowledge, training and experience to do so? Do they think that change to a municipal, paid fire department would be better? If so, in what ways? Do they have personal problems with any of the Chiefs or members?

One thing we do know. The current situation is not sustainable and should not continue. Beyond the obvious need for communication, we feel the solution is to trust us with what we’re trained to do, take comfort that we know what we are doing, and let us continue the excellent emergency services we have provided to China since 1947.

We hope this information sheds some light on our situation and we hope to hear from you at the public hearings for the proposed budget and the town meeting.

P.S. For more information about how the selectboard and budget committee conduct their business, we recommend that you visit the Town’s website and look at the live stream of their recent meetings.

Read the Selectboard’s response here.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Local resident advocates for new state of Maine flag

The original Maine flag, flown from 1901 to 1909.

by Matt Bourque
China resident

As the new Maine Legislature begins its work of improving our state, and Maine’s bicentennial edges closer, an interesting bill proposed by Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, could possibly help Maine’s image abroad and boost our economy.

LD 687 “An Act to Restore the Former State of Maine Flag” seeks to replace the current Maine state flag with the original flag flown from 1901 to 1909. Our original flag is simple, prominently displaying a pine tree and star on a beige background. This design is a far cry from our current flag, which resembles many other state flags such as New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota and a host of others.

Maine has an image. We are portrayed as a rural vacationland nestled along the coast away from the bustle of the busy cities which sprawl across the United States. We are the last outpost of simple living, surrounded by sparkling lakes and deep forests. We are distinct. However, we lack a unifying symbol which we could rally around domestically and also spread the image of Maine across the country. Adopting a distinct flag could help boost our image, and subsequently, our economy.

Some states, and many American cities, have adopted unmistakable flags which positively portray their characteristics and are recognizable at first sight. There are few Americans who would not recognize the unique design of Colorado’s flag or the striking power of Chicago’s city flag. These flags serve both as a rallying point for their citizens, but also as a symbol their residents carry with them as they travel within the United States and across the world.

Of course, adopting a new state flag is not without its difficulties. Two obstacles face its implementation, namely the cost of replacing the flag and determining the legitimacy of the new flag. The cost to instantly replace all current state flags with new ones would be high, yet if older flags were phased out over a period of time, money earmarked for the purchase of new flags could be spent at no extra cost to the taxpayer.

Most importantly, however, is determining whether the Maine people want a new flag to represent them. The old flag, despite resembling many other U.S. state flags, has been flown for over 100 years and many might still remain attached to it. If a new flag were to be used to symbolize our Maine, it must be accepted by a majority of the Maine people.

Maine is unique and we deserve a flag which best represents us. The simple pine tree, a nod to our nickname as the “Pine Tree State,” and the blue star symbolizing our motto “Dirigo,” would serve us well as we continue to improve our tourism industry and seek to diversify our economy to be more competitive on the American stage.

Community Commentary is a forum The Town Line makes available for citizens to express their opinions on subjects of interest to our readers. The Town Line welcomes, and encourages, supportive comments, differing opinions, counterpoints or opposing views. Keep the rebuttals positive, and informative. Submissions containing personal attacks will be rejected.

To submit a Community Commentary send it to townline@fairpoint.net or visit our Contact page.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Local man announces presidential candidacy

The following article does not constitute an endorsement by The Town Line staff or its board of directors.

by Fred Wian
China resident

Today, I’m announcing that I am a presidential candidate for 2020. My campaign, “Running for You,” will have all the aspects of a government which is Of, By and For the People.

From the onset I will tirelessly perform the duties of president and lead our country with positive and progressive ideas further into the 21st century. Second, I am not from ‘within the beltway,’ but will bring viewpoints from all areas of our country. I have traveled in all 50 states, without exception, and very many of them, multiple times. Of that total I have lived in five states, coast to coast, north and south, for at least a year.

I will select a vice president who has the qualifications, intelligence and patience to work for all the people of our great nation. Further, my choice would also have the insight and demeanor to cooperate with other countries and also the United Nations and NATO.

Of the many priority issues, I will work diligently to solve the following:

Infrastructure – immediate funding. This will ensure safety and provide jobs.

Healthcare – Universal care for all.

Tax reform – Shift the tax burden away from the poorer and beleaguered to those who are the most able to pay more.

Campaign finance reform – My campaign is an example of how this can be accomplished. Money in elections is bribery. I will not accept PAC money, none, zip, zero…even though this puts me at a severe disadvantage with my opponents. We should develop a system in which the government will provide candidates a moderate and equal amount of funding. Elections should be won, not bought. This will ensure leadership of, by and for all the people.

Immigration – We must revise our immigration system to continue reasonable immigration and the issue of DACA must be solved. Those legitimately seeking asylum must be taken in and treated as people, not cardboard boxes on a conveyor belt.

Border security – Modern, mostly electronic, security measures will be added to ensure security.

Gun Safety, Me-Too and LGBT – These issues are not at all the same; however, they share the same concept overall for solutions. In our newer world, we need to adapt and adjust. We are all human, the same species, we have equal rights, let’s get past gender bias as well as bias against minorities. Let’s have a country that allows gun ownership but with reasonable guidelines. Military type weapons only for the military, hunting guns only for hunting. We have computers, we can have valid background checks for all gun users and wherever guns are sold.

Climate change/Global warming – We must act, and the time is now! First day in office, return to the Paris Climate Agreement. The issue of global warming/climate change has affected many people in our country and world. This issue WILL AFFECT EVERY PERSON ADVERSELY IN OUR COUNTRY AND GLOBALLY! It is just a matter of time, location and the specific way it will happen. We have a finite planet to live on and past and present actions and policies continue to make life on Earth much more vulnerable. These actions and policies are man-made, they are proven scientifically to be detrimental and must be reversed for all people on our Earth. It can be done! The economics, the work force and health and safety of us all will be positive. It is a symbiotic situation.

Press friendly – I will provide a civil atmosphere for press briefings. The press is our friend, not our enemy, and cooperation with the press will prevail. Truth, honor and dignity are three words that best describe communications from the White House and Cabinet.

Government shutdowns – To be avoided if at all possible! They are detrimental for all the people. The recent shut down, which started in December 2018, compromised health, safety and jobs significantly in all walks of life and in many ways. It was politically motivated, and as of this writing, another shutdown is being threatened by the White House. Crisis management is not quality management. I will lead with a steady hand, aided by highly-qualified Cabinet members who have expertise in their respective positions.

Foreign Policy – We will interact with other countries from the basis of mutual friendship, interests and civility. If and when adverse issues arise we will seek understanding and peaceful solutions first.

In the near future I will start my national tour. I look forward to meeting as many people as possible and will look forward to your ideas and suggestions. My website, www.fredwiand.com.

My Campaign Tour – Stay tuned and I leave you now with three words that I stand for: TRUTH, HONOR AND DIGNITY.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: This is one guy who’s tired of telephone scams

image: AARP

by Roland D. Hallee, managing editor, The Town Line newspaper

This is an important message. Do not turn the page.

Does that sound familiar? I receive something like that every day, over the phone. It’s a robo call, and it sounds like this: “This is an important message. Don’t hang up.” At which point, I instantly hang up.

Times have become perilous.

Recently, I entered my seventh decade on this planet. I grew up in the 1950s, when times were simpler. During the post World War II and Korean War era, you didn’t lock your doors, a gentlemen’s agreement was settled with a handshake, and when someone gave their word, it meant something.

The dawn of the electronic age ushered in a new era of deceit and deception. A more complex world, wary of all phone calls, emails, etc., and a genuine distrust of other people.

Last week, on the front page of The Town Line, we ran an article about an ongoing scam involving Social Security benefits. That was to alert our readers of the scam. This article is to provide more proof to our readers that these scams do exist in our area in large scale, and everyone needs to be alert.

Rewind back to last summer, when my wife checked our answering machine one afternoon when she returned home from work. There, in broken English, was a warning that the IRS investigation task force had noticed four major and serious violations on our tax returns, and we had to notify them within 24 hours to rectify the matter. They wanted us to make the payment for back taxes. If we didn’t comply, the local “cops” would be coming to arrest us.

Nice try!

I knew it was a scam because I have used the same tax preparer for over 30 years, never had a problem. And besides, we file short form, standard deduction, and could not possibly have “major” violations. If there would have been any federal violations, we would have been visited by U.S. marshals, and not the local “cops.”

A call to the local police department led to a referral to the state’s attorney general’s office, in which case I was informed that it was, indeed, a scam. A very profitable one for the scammers, according to the AG’s office.

Now, we fast forward to last Saturday.

I received a phone call, on my cell phone, from a restricted number. Now, I don’t usually answer those calls, but I was expecting a call from a state agency on another matter, one that usually comes in restricted. I answered.

It was a male voice, with a slight speech impediment, informing me that I was the chosen recipient of a Publishers’ Clearinghouse $4.5 million prize. The voice, which had an unconvincing tone of jubilance for me, asked several questions. Like what time I would be home to receive my windfall prize; what I would do with the money; how I felt about winning so much money, etc.

My responses were mostly one word.

My wife and I are known to binge watch the three NCIS series, Monk, Bones, Columbo and Matlock. I consider myself an amateur sleuth, trying to figure out the conclusion of the episode before it gets there. I needed to follow this trail as far as it would take me, without compromising my financial assets. Then, pass my experience on to others, as to what I had learned, and warn them of impending fraud calls.

The first thing that tipped me off was the fact that he said I was selected because I had returned the form they had sent by mail. Something I never did. All of those mailings went straight into the paper shredder.

He then proceeded to give me a “code” number, and that I needed three forms of identification: my driver’s license, another one that I don’t quite remember, and that I had to produce the “invitational receipt.” When I informed the caller that I did not have that, he replied by saying, “Don’t worry, we can remedy that. Go to the nearest Wal-Mart, proceed to the customer service counter, and they would have the receipt there for me.”

Up came red flag No. 2. A lot of unlawful activities occur in Wal-Mart parking lots. And with the sophisticated electronic equipment of today, they probably could have retrieved all my personal information off my driver’s license while it was still in my pocket. I was not about to risk that, even if it is not possible.

He then informed me he would be calling back in 30 minutes. Now, when the call first came in, I suspected scam, and told the caller that I was driving and unable to take down notes. He asked if I could pull over and take down the information. I wasn’t really driving, but sitting in a rocking chair at a friend’s home where my wife and I had gone for Saturday morning coffee.

I concurred, pretended to pull over by the side of the road, and took down the information.

Thirty minutes later, the person called again. This time he asked if I was at Wal-Mart yet. I told him that I was still about 45 minutes away. I was on the road, and was headed home. He then instructed me to proceed to the Wal-Mart parking lot, and sit and wait in the car until he called again, in 45 minutes, with additional instructions before I entered Wal-Mart. Another red flag!

Within that 45 minutes, I called the local police department and informed them of the scam that was developing. They instructed me to not answer the phone when it rang.

Exactly 45 minutes to the second, my phone rang again. I did not answer. The phone rang a second time. Again, I did not answer. The caller tried four more times to contact me, within a span of five minutes. Every time, the caller ID indicated it was from an unavailable number. The calls then stopped.

I figured we were done.

At ten minutes before 2 p.m., the time they were supposed to deliver my “certified bank check, for $4.5 million,” my phone rang again. This time from a local number that looked familiar. I answered. It was that male voice again, asking what had happened and whether I was at Wal-Mart.

At that point, I informed him that I was through with him, that I had called the police, and that this was a scam.

I hadn’t even finished uttering the word “police” when the line went dead.

That was the end of that. But, my reason for relaying this story is that if you are in your senior years, and you receive calls like this, hang up immediately, do not engage in conversation with these people. They can make things look mighty attractive, and plant that doubt in your mind of, “what if this is legitimate?” But, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, they will ask for money somewhere along the way.

Remember the tried and true saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

My solution to all of this? As of this writing, Sunday afternoon, I am a little disappointed that I  have not heard back from the police seeking more details about the scam. The scam caller gave me his phone number to call if I had questions. The police had told me that this was the first time they had heard about his scam. So, maybe, this is something new and that word has to be relayed to folks to be on the lookout for this particular scam.

Instead of diverting $5.7 billion to build a wall on our southern border, why not appropriate funds to establish an agency, a la FBI, that investigates these scams, and tracks down these predators of the elderly for prosecution? This is going on all over America, and many unsuspecting and vulnerable senior citizens are being bilked of their hard-earned, well-deserved, and under-compensated livelyhood following a lifetime of work.

Dear fellow senior citizens, please be vigilant, and as attractive as an offer sounds, don’t fall for it.