OPINION: Will Palermo choose the path of sustainability?

David Attenborough in the documentary, “Life on Our Planet”

A Maine resolution to take action on climate pollution

by Pamela McKenney

If you need an introduction to climate change or an update on the state of our planet, David Attenborough’s recent documentary, A Life on Our Planet, is a good place to start. After 93 years of work as a British broadcaster, writer, and naturalist visiting every continent on the globe and exploring its wildest places, Attenborough has seen the results of global warming first hand. He contends, “Real success [at reversing the impact of pollution] can only come if there is a change in our societies, and in our economics, and in our politics.”

Palermo town residents will have an opportunity to join others on the path of sustainability and carbon reduction in March at town meeting. An article has been introduced by Maine citizens at dozens of Maine municipalities intending to show support for federal legislation that will reduce carbon pollution – a major cause of climate change. The Maine Resolution to Take Action on Climate Pollution “calls upon our State and Federal elected representatives to enact legislation that will protect Maine from the costs and environmental risks of continued climate inaction.” This article is not a proposed bill; it is communication tool to instigate action. It communicates that the residents of Palermo favor a fee and dividend approach that charges fossil fuel producers for their carbon pollution and rebates the money collected to all residents on an equal basis. Enacting a Carbon Cash-Back program decreases long-term fossil-fuel dependence, aids in the economic transition to renewable energy, and keeps local energy dollars in Maine’s economy. Carbon Cash-back has been championed by US economists (Jan. 17, 2019, Wall Street Journal) as the most effective and fair way to deliver rapid reductions in harmful carbon emissions at the scale required for our safety and to support our environment.

Carbon Cash-back is a proposed climate solution that would place a fee on fossil fuel production and imports at their source (mine, refinery, pipeline, or port of entry). Money collected from this fee would be returned to every citizen equally as a dividend, to put a price on carbon pollution from fossil fuels and return funds from collected fees to all US households monthly, off-setting the potential increase in pricing. As stated in the article, voting for it will spark “our representatives to lead in this critical moment for the health and well-being of our citizens and for the protection of Maine’s natural resources upon which we all rely.” More information is provided on the Town of Palermo website and at the town office.

There are many attitudes people can adopt on the issue of climate change. We might think:

  • Earth belongs to humanity – the superior species – and its resources are at our disposal.
  • Global warming is part of a natural cycle, not caused or impacted by humans.
  • Global warming may be caused mostly by humans, but there is nothing we can do about it.
  • Global warming is real and rapid, and we can take action now in order to reverse the damage.

To what degree do people understand that global warming is happening, human-caused, and a serious risk for human societies and natural ecosystems? According to a study fielded in December 2020 by the Yale Program on Climate Change, Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who think it is not by a ratio of more than five to one. More than half of Americans (58 percent) understand that evidence indicates global warming is mostly human-caused, although three in ten think global warming is due mostly to natural changes in the environment. The study also states that one in four Americans are “very worried,” however 41 percent feel helpless about creating change. But experts say we can make a difference, if we act now.

David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet details humanity’s impact on the natural world and the devastating changes he has witnessed. Alarming as this film is in its scope and documentation, his reckoning concludes with a message of hope. “Although we are often blinkered by the needs of here and now, we have a path to sustainability. If enough people can see the path, we may start down it in time.”

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Is our country ready to round the corner on race relations?

by Charlotte Henderson

After the Civil War, during the Reconstruction Period in American history (1865 – 1877), many newly-freed blacks took advantage of the right to vote and the right to hold office. As slavery was abolished (13th Amendment to the Constitution), denial of voting rights on account of race was prohibited (15th Amendment), and means were set up for secessionist states (freed blacks, too) to rejoin the nation and vote (14th Amendment), there were as many as 2,000 black office holders. But the successes were short lived as, over only a decade or so, segregationist powers modified rules and carried out personal attacks that drove blacks out.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that they again held significant numbers of public offices. When Barack Obama became our nation’s first black president in 2009, it seemed a huge breakthrough for race relations and a hopeful signal for equality. But as the realization sank in that a person of color could actually get elected, latent prejudices were triggered and a not-so-subtle resistance developed against this black president’s success.

At the same time, people of color took it as inspiration to seek – even demand – their equal opportunities and treatment in our society which provoked more resistance. Many citizens had gut fear that “those people” were not caving in to white supremacy anymore and the fear shows up as anger and hostility.

Early on in the Obama presidency, in a Senate committee meeting, upon hearing a committee member caution that they couldn’t let Obama have a success, Maine Senator Angus King, asked, “Then what the hell are we doing here?” He was asking why the committee even bothered to discuss it if the foregone conclusion was that they wouldn’t push it forward. Many proposals died in committee due to that attitude.

It seems evident that the election of a black president revealed the possibility that blacks – and, by extension, any people of color and other marginalized citizens – might actually have a shot at true equality. So, as in post-Reconstruction times, resistance to that idea signaled a movement to squelch the notion by suppressing their initiative.

It seems likely that we’re all in for another long and rocky lap in the race toward equality. But this time there are greater numbers and more political savvy. And, the American spirit and idealism that led to the Founding Fathers’ dream of a new kind of country is alive and well in a lot of our countrymen and women. We must keep striving.

Community Commentary is a forum The Town Line makes available for citizens to express their opinions on subjects of interest to our readers, and is not necessarily the views of the staff or the board of directors. 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.

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: China voters asked to amend transfer station ordinances

by Larry Sikora
China Transfer Station Committee

The November ballot will have two questions for China voters on amending the ordinances that describe the operation of the China Transfer Station. The changes are mainly in terminology.

Earlier this year the Transfer Station switched from stickers on vehicles to identifying China and Palermo residents to an electronic tag called RFID or radio frequency identification. The change was brought about with a grant from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and allows for identification by both sight and an alarm and calculates accurately the traffic into the Transfer Station.

The ordinances as currently written use the terms “sticker” and “decal” which are incorrect. These terms are replaced in the amended versions by the generic term “access permit” that describes properly the new RFID and any other identification marker that may be used in the future. The ordinances will now contain a definition of ‘access permit’.

Another change in the ordinances removes details on the hours of operation of the Transfer Station and substitutes the “Facility shall be open as determined by the Town Manager in conjunction with the Select Board.” The hours and any changes to them or closings of the Transfer Station will appear on the Town of China website and displayed on the Town’s electronic sign.

There are also some minor editorial changes for clarity.

The ordinances with the changes discussed can be found under the Elections tab on the Town of China
web site, https://china.govoffice.com . Please review them prior to voting.

Thank you for being a proponent of the Transfer Station. Your support is appreciated as our facility continues to be a model which other towns use.

An open letter to Sheepscot Lake Association members and potential new members

Karen Spehler, a summer resident on Sheepscot Lake, found this loon posing for her in August.

by Slater Claudel, President
Sheepscot Lake Association

In lieu of our normal annual meeting and get together we will be updating you all via this letter.  Hopefully next year we’ll all be together again and enjoy another great potluck dinner!  There are several items we’re focusing on this year:

  •  The Courtesy Boat Inspection (CBI) program will be operating again this year. We  have two trained inspectors who will be working at the launch every Saturday morning through Sunday late afternoon to inspect boats prior to launch. Please be sure to support their critical efforts and let them know how much you appreciate what they’re doing. This is our best tool for controlling introduction of invasive species to the watershed.
  •  LakeSmart on-site inspections this year have been curtailed due to Covid-19. Please watch for updates on the Sheepscot Lake Association Facebook page or the LakeSmart website, mainelakessociety.org.
  •  The Audubon Annual Loon Count will be held July 18th, organized by Joe Burke. We will share the results on the Facebook page. Please continue to be respectful of our loons and give them a wide berth when you see them on the lake or near a nesting site. This is a courtesy and also the law. Visit the Audubon website: www.maineaudubon.org.
  •  There are new signs as a reminder that the river is a no wake zone. Please drive slowly whenever in the river to prevent erosion and promote safety. Maine law requires a no wake zone within 200 feet of any shoreline.
  •  The second annual boat parade will be held July 4th at noon. Please meet in the boat launch cove or join as we pass by your camp. Feel free to decorate your boat. This annual event is an opportunity to show our appreciation of our lake and to build community support.
  •  Water Testing results over past years have been excellent. We will continue our testing this year and will post results on our Facebook page. Many thanks to Ursula & Joe Burke for their continued efforts over many years. However, SLA is looking for someone to continue the water testing program next year. If you are interested, feel free to join them this year. Contact Ursula at upburke@yahoo.com.
  •  A HUGE thanks to Gary Miller, co-founder of SLA in 2012, president for many years, and an active board member for 8 years. The Lake Association Board will miss his dedication and hard work. The Sheepscot Lake Association currently has three openings on the board. If you are interested in being a member of our board please contact our president, Slater Claudel, at Sheepscot_Lake@yahoo.com.  Nominations need to be submitted by July 3rd. A slate of nominees will be sent out to our membership via email along with details as to how to vote in July.

We will miss our opportunities to gather this year at our annual meeting and the Palermo Day Parade. We will also miss the beautiful raffle basket Lynda Pound creates each year. The funds from your membership and the proceeds from this important raffle help to fund the critical programs summarized above. We also rely on and appreciate the contribution from the town of Palermo each year supported by the taxpayers of Palermo. The lake needs your continued support.  You can renew your membership this year by sending a check payable to Sheepscot Lake Association to:

Sheepscot Lake Association
P.O. Box 300
Palermo, ME 04354 

Or via PayPal at our website: https://sheepscotlakeassociation.webs.com. The dues are $20/person, $30/household, or $50/patron. Please share this article with any neighbors or friends who would like to join and support the lake. We need to grow our membership!

Thank you all for your continued support, we look forward to another beautiful summer on our spectacular Sheepscot Lake!

An outside look: Independence Day and what it means to us today

Independence Day painting by John Trumbull, in 1819.

by Gary Kennedy

On July 4, 2020, America will be celebrating her 244th birthday (1776 – 2020). The Fourth of July is also known as Independence Day. Unbeknownst to many, on July 4, 1776, there were only 13 colonies. On this day in time so many years ago, the greatest country in the world was born by the writing of the Declaration of Independence;   which proclaimed independence from England.

In the summer of 1776 the Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Independence Hall). At this point in time a man named Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, stated these famous words: “resolved; that these United Colonies are, and all right, ought to be free and independent states, that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

This resolution was not followed up on for a time. However, a committee of five was appointed to draft a statement addressed to the world, which stated the colonies case for independence. The members of the original five were, John Adams, of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman, of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin, of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston, of New York,  and Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia.

The task of drafting the actual document rested with Jefferson. On July 1, 1776, the Continental Congress reconvened and on the following day, Lee’s resolution for Independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies. New York abstained from the vote. At this point, I’d like to interject some fun stuff, facts and trivia.

Last year, Americans and their guests spent $1 billion on beer, ate 150 million hot dogs, consumed 700 million pounds of chicken, and 190 million pounds of beef. Now, I will shock you a little. The number one place to party last year was Seattle, Washington. Do you think Chaz is on the list this year? The number two place was Minneapolis, Minnesota. Both failed in some aspects but they were last year’s destinations of choice. Next came New Orleans, Louisiana, which one would expect. It’s known for this sort of thing in all aspects. Then came Washington, DC, next was Portland, Oregon, followed by St. Louis, Missouri; then San Diego, California,  Milwaukee, Wisconsin (beer town),  of course, San Francisco, California, and last but certainly not least Orlando, Florida.

It goes without saying; I wasn’t on the voting committee. I guess the beauty of New England was too laid-back. Oh well!

(Editor’s note: All of these states did not exist in 1776.)

Now back to our historical part.  Were you surprised by Seattle, Washington, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, being number one and number two? I certainly was and what a coincidence regarding these two. I believe they won’t be on the list this year. Another coincidence that I noticed was that many of our forefathers were from the south and were slave owners. Yet we created buildings, statues, ships, and even military bases with their names on them. Good or bad, that’s history. This Fourth of July the problem of racism coupled with the destruction of historical monuments, TV programs, as well as movies and even some forts/bases that we veterans served on are being defiled.

Slavery was a very bad time in our history, but it is our history. However, slavery was an accepted practice in that time until people started realizing that it was terribly wrong. In any case, many slaves, even after the emancipation, opted to remain on plantations.  Things became better for them, more pay, fed and given housing. Some inherited their own piece of land. I don’t say slavery was right as there were a lot of bad plantation owners. However, after the Civil War, a new America began which included all people. The road has been difficult, bad people made it that way. Even though we are presently going through some turbulent times, a better America will come of it, which will include all people. With all my heart I firmly believe this to be true.

America is a resilient country which will never allow the influence of other countries and radical groups to agitate this great country of ours.  We will always come out on the positive side of the negative of the world. In the past few years, we have had a tremendous number of immigrant migrations from Africa and Mexico, and have suffered a severe financial and cultural shock, which has compounded an already nervous society. Change is always difficult, especially when it is given to us in the manner that it has. When you look also with world tension in general, and the problems it has laid upon our society and our need for change, we end up with different types of governance and conflict, placing us into a negative situation nationally as well as internationally.

Some of us are very complacent while others of us see the big picture which is full of “what ifs,” both on the local level as well as the international level. We have faced these things before, and name them, Revolutionary War, Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, and Vietnam conflicts. This doesn’t take into consideration the unrest in the Middle East as well. Those things happened and we could be dangerously close to another such event. I pray that doesn’t happen.

This July 4 let’s all reflect on the history and the civics lessons we were taught and use that which was instilled in our memories by the teachers we were so fond of and use that information/knowledge to create the beautiful and prosperous America, that our founding fathers envisioned for us. We are all in this together, and religious beliefs, the color of our skin or our political persuasions should just give us strength, not division. Outside of that, I believe only evil exists. So this July 4, let’s enjoy our family and friends and pray that we can all find common ground and go forward as a proud, free and together,  America. Remember, we have always called George Washington the father of our country. Also, Thomas Jefferson was the right (write) hand/author of the Declaration of Independence. Also, Abraham Lincoln, who died by an assassin’s bullet, placed his quill in the Emancipation Proclamation. This is the land of the free and home to the brave. Strive for peace and unity.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day holiday, and reflect about the reason for the day. May the God that you pray to bless and keep you and yours safe and free. God bless and God bless America.

Now is the time to take good care of our veterans

by Gary Kennedy

Well, here we are in this space and time. Covid-19 is involved in all we say and do. It is true here and it is true in the rest of the world. I have spent the past few months working on projects in Southeast Asia as I usually do. I came home to Covid-19, political unrest, riots and terrorism. This doesn’t set well with me and most veterans who served to avoid living the life of third world countries. Our veterans feel this more than anyone. They fought to keep us free. This is not the definition of freedom.

As you know I work with veterans here, and when I am across the Pacific Ocean I work with veterans there. The American Embassy is massive in Manila, Philippines. A few years ago the USA invested millions of dollars to build, equip and start a very large medical center. They call themselves a clinic so as to be able to avoid some veteran interplay. They have no beds but they have everything else including a dozen or so doctors and a couple of dozen nurses as well as a lab, pharmacy and a modern X-ray department.

Its been a battle since they opened to have them comply to American mandates. Ninety-nine percent of the staff are Asian with only the manager being an American national. I have led the battle on a couple of occasions to maintain veterans’ rights according to American standards. In the pacific we have the Philippines, Guam and the Marshal Islands which service American interests. In 1898 we drove the Spanish out of this area and claimed the Philippines as a territory. Since that time in history we gave the Philippines its freedom but retained strong ties. Most of you don’t know it but we have 350,000 Americans living there in the islands. Many of these are U.S. veterans and their families. The VA there aids the veteran, but unfortunately, the family is not covered. We are trying to work on that now. Medical help is very limited.

We have made a lot of progress on veteran issues worldwide but as great as the politicians would like us to believe they are not getting the work done. My phone both here and there rings a lot. Sometimes I can help immediately but most of the time the requested issues take research development and application. When Senator Olympia Snowe was in office I spent a lot of time there with Bob Cummings working out issues. Bob was a wonderful person with whom to work out veterans issues. I have done a couple of things with Senator Susan Collins’ office but not as much as I would like. The expression “Freedom isn’t Free,” really needs to be realized by those who think that all things are rosey. Those people are ones who usually receive a fat pay check and proclaim, “Don’t mess with the status quo.”

I have lived near the South China Sea and can tell you not all conversations are pro-American. There are forces out there that would love to teach you another language and have you work for $5 a day; that is without any benefits. We are fortunate to live in one of the greatest countries in the world. We need to realize that and not let politics deviate our love of country with complacency. Thanking a vet is a great and wonderful thing but really meaning it is another. Verifying the government’s application of aid is left to your vigilance and watchful eye. We need your help.

Veterans with disabilities aren’t asking for a hand out, only a hand up. Through my eyes, opinion only, we grow ever closer to another war. Being in the South Pacific and my compulsion to watch the news makes me very nervous because of my first hand knowledge to what is going on. Now is the time to take good care of our veterans for they are the example, the bench mark for others to go by. Recruitment is not easy today with America having the highest wage out there. When I tell people in Asia that work at McDonald’s there is $6 a day, and that our people of McDonald’s make $12 to $15 per hour, and some companies even give benefits, they gasp with disbelief. The positive side for third world folks is, even in dispute, they find a way to handle it. They have that old country intellect; make due, find a way.

The U.S currently is doing the veterans a disservice by bragging that we are taking great care of our vets. Even VA has succumbed to be the work-at-home intellect. I had an argument recently with the VA system. A person that is an official at the VA stated that the VA work from home program was working out very well. That made me see fire and brought back memories of my conversations with veterans. I answered this person respectfully even though that statement made this disabled veteran very upset. The person mentioned video conferences were working out surprisingly well. I know several of these work-from-home people and, in my opinion, that program is full of abuse and is very inefficient with only a few exceptions. Just think about medical people staying at home and tending to disabled people. Most disabled veterans that I know need hands-on and serious direction with their health care, the VA needs to be open for our vets. Short of that our vets are being abused.

Currently all physical therapy is shut down. This is one essential that isn’t considered. The pain clinic is in lockdown mode. The chief of the pain clinic isn’t functioning, the chiropractic is not functioning, the acupuncturist is not working, but you can leave a message. Orthopedics is in lock down. Needles needed for knee, hand, back, ankle pain are not being given because of Covid-19. Anything they can call non-essential is not allowed. Unless it is a dire emergency no X-rays, cat scans, MRI’s or other evaluation tools are not being used. In neurology all testing equipment is broken so you have to locate a doctor outside and get permission to go. No dental is being done. Ever had a tooth ache? If your in dire pain physically or emotionally, dial 911. You can’t get through to primary care. They avoid you like the plague. Oh, there are a few exceptions, but very few. Call center has become the norm. Pharmacy makes many mistakes and some employees are curt/rude. Now they are insisting that all prescriptions are to be mailed even if they don’t fit in your box or are restricted. Your scripts might end up in Portland, as mine did and five days late. If you go through the front door you get the fifth degree along with a free face mask and alcohol rub for your hands; not the respect we are use to.

Many calls to departments with answering machines are ignored. I personally have had one neurology appointment way up in Bangor because all the machinery in neurology is broken at Togus. One doctor I know who won’t let his patients down is Dr. Barry Raskin Gastro. I had an appointment because of serious ongoing issues. He examined me and came up with a game plan. I really appreciated that. My primary care physician is a fantastic doctor, but the VA has really given him a heavy load. We do have two neurologist who will refer you out; expensive service.

I just received word the VA will be opening its doors, at least partly, soon, I will keep everyone abreast of that in the next issue of The Town Line. I have had several calls regarding those who need physical therapy. I haven’t received word from the VA yet about the gym and the pool which is where a lot of therapy is received; both monitored and independent. The gym and pool is used recreationally very little these days. This has become a necessary tool with PTSD patients and those with physical afflictions. In my opinion, for strength and well-being emotionally and physically essential.

VA, being built in 1866, has had many faces but the current one is the one that is direly needed by our veterans. It is supposed to serve and should not allow themselves to be used as a political football. Truly give America’s veterans all they deserve. Veterans are advised to make yourselves aware of what is happening in Washington D.C. and address yourself accordingly. Do not be awed by the accolades being bestowed upon you with political agendas. You know who and what you are and what you have given. You don’t need to be told because someone is waving a political banner. You have every reason to be proud and deserving of respect for what you have given for your love ones and your country.

God be with you and yours; One veteran to another. Thank you for your service. God Bless!

OPINIONS: The Covid-19 lock down

by David Reed
Resident of Hope, Maine

A couple of months ago we didn’t really know much about this scourge, but now it appears that the elderly, immune-compromised patients, and nursing home residents are those at highest risk. Like the common cold, this virus spreads by a sneeze, cough, droplet dispersion or contact with a contaminated surface with the virus infecting via the nose, mouth or tear ducts.

Recognizing this, Governor DeSantis, of Florida, targeted nursing homes with strict infection control measures with amazingly good prevention results, as contrasted with Gov. Cuomo’s ill-advised New York policy of discharging coronavirus patients to nursing homes. If you have a high number of automobile accidents at a particular intersection, you fix the problem: install a traffic light, put in a turn around, change the speed limit, whatever. You don’t make everybody in the state drive 35 miles per hour.

How can you foster a tourism industry in “Vacationland” when you impose a 14-day quarantine on state entrants, especially if they only have a two-week vacation? I’m 83 years old with a heart murmur, so I’m highly vulnerable. But why should the whole state suffer because of me? What right do I have to hold the whole state hostage, particularly when suspect forces in government may be exploiting me to promote some pet agenda?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tipped her hand with her trillion dollar relief bill. It’s not really about the coronavirus. It’s about ramming an agenda-driven, outrageous, rape of the treasury spending bill down our throats.

I know what precautions to take: wear a mask, avoid crowds, social distance, hit the grocery store at 7 a.m., and stay out of jail and nursing homes. Will we have cases of coronavirus? Certainly. Just like the flu. Just like an automobile accident on the road not protected by the newly-installed traffic light. If you’ve got to quarantine anyone, quarantine me, not the whole state.

What gives Gov. Janet Mills the right to pull some restaurant owner’s liquor and operator’s license? Did he violate some licensing provision in the way he served alcohol and food? Has he violated some law passed by our legislature concerning the coronavirus pandemic?

And, by the way, where is Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon during all this? We could use the wisdom, expertise, and supposed problem-solving skills of our elected representatives to do some of the heavy lifting during this crisis.

LETTERS: How to control municipal spending

To the editor:

We have entered the 20th year of the 21st century with a flood of information at our fingertips. We can now watch local government at work with video streaming, pay our taxes online and ask questions with email.

The current open meeting limits voter participation to 3 – 4 hours on a Saturday. A secret ballot would allow town registered voters the ability to vote absentee 30 days prior. The elderly and disabled would find it easier to vote. People could vote early due to a conflicting obligation or if they’re on vacation on that Saturday.

In the past, the normal attendance at our town meeting has been between 120 – 150 registered voters. This is usually after calling neighbors to meet the required quorum of 4 percent. The recent secret ballot governor’s race in China had 2,065 at voters. The petition I’m circulating requires at least 10 percent of that number or 207 registered voters turned in by March 10 when the town office would verify the names. Finally, at the March 16 selectboard meeting, it will be submitted for placement on the June 9 primary ballot.

How do we control municipal spending? Individually…… in the voting booth.

Neil Farrington
South China

OPINIONS – Question 1: No vote will protect our children and everyone’s health

Community Commentary is a forum The Town Line makes available for citizens to express their opinions on subjects of interest to our readers, and is not necessarily the views of the staff nor the board of directors. 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. Email any submissions to townline@townline.org, subject “Community Commentary.”

by Tom Waddell

Question 1 on the March 3, 2020 Maine primaries ballot reads – “Do you want to reject the new law that removes religious and philosophical exemptions to requiring immunization against certain communicable diseases for students to attend schools and colleges and for employees of nursery schools and health care facilities?”

A yes vote allows religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccinations. A no vote only allows medical exemptions.

Independents can vote on referendum questions. Don’t let a poll worker deny you your right to vote on Question 1.

Cara Sacks, co-chairman of Yes on 1 Maine to Reject Big Pharma – formally Mainers for Health and Parental Rights – opposes the current law, claiming it violates religious freedom. Almost 30 years ago the Supreme Court ruled against the religious privilege argument. The Court wrote the government must protect people from actions taken for religious reasons if that action endangers another’s health. Granting religious exemptions endangers others and provides some people with religious privilege. We can only protect religious freedom for everyone if no one has religious privilege.

The Yes on Question 1 road signs include No to Big Pharma to gain support against a perceived common enemy. Most people revile Big Pharma’s obscene profits and assume a yes vote will lower drug prices, but it won’t. What it will do is increase the risk of children catching a deadly and preventable disease.

Measles is highly contagious because the virus can remain in the air for two hours after an infected person, often without symptoms, leaves the area. Most unvaccinated people who walk into that area will get the measles virus. Caitlin Gilmet, a spokesman for Maine Families for Vaccines, a group that supports the current law, said: “Vaccines are one of the most effective ways that parents can protect their children and help them lead a healthy life. Improving Maine’s immunization rates helps to protect the entire community from preventable diseases.” Maine’s current law joins a growing number of other states that have eliminated non-medical vaccine exemptions to protect their citizens from preventable diseases.

Dr. Laura Blaisdell, co-chairman of Maine Families for Vaccines, reports they just started airing TV ads to expose the dangers of voting yes on 1. She said, “The message is very simple: We have to protect our kids, and schools need to be a safe place for our kids. Every major medical organization in Maine supports the law (and) removal of non-medical exemptions for vaccines protects community health, prevents infectious disease outbreaks, and protects people with impaired immune systems.” Earlier, Dr. Blaisdell said, “Ultimately, it’s about the health of children, the health of schools, and the health of our community” and “If we continue on our current (vaccine opt-out) track, it’s not a matter of if we get an outbreak, it’s a matter of when.”

The Maine CDC reports: “Among kindergartners, the state’s vaccination-exemption rate (is) 6.2 percent, the highest level in 10 years, and is above the national level” and “Forty-three elementary schools (have) 15 percent or higher rates of unvaccinated kindergarten students, putting those schools and the surrounding community at greater risk for the return of preventable diseases such as measles, chickenpox, and pertussis.”

Dr. Meghan May, a University of New England PhD pathologist, said despite decades of scientific research showing vaccines are effective and safe, there is a significant anti-vaccination movement in Maine. Consequently, Maine’s pertussis (whooping cough) infection rate is more than eight times higher than the national average. Refusing to vaccinate children allows the pertussis virus to spread and mutate more rapidly, making current vaccines less effective. Pertussis has a 40 percent mortality rate in infants who are unvaccinated and untreated.

Cara Sacks rejected this scientific evidence when she said: “While we don’t know that all (vaccines) are 100 percent safe for 100 percent of people every time, you can’t mandate a product that has known risks and liability associated with it.”

However, according to the CDC, the “known risks and liability associated with” unvaccinated children contracting measles are: “Ten percent of children will have an ear infection, five percent will come down with pneumonia, and 0.2 percent will die of organ failure or brain swelling.” Are these “known risks and liabilities associated with” not vaccinating children an acceptable risk for your child, especially when another parent puts your child at greater risk of catching the measles by not vaccinating their child?

I urge you to protect everyone’s health and religious freedom by voting NO on Question 1 on March 3, 2020.

Tom Waddell is a resident of Litchfield and is the president of the Maine chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He can be reached at president@ffrfmaine.org.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Take control of your future

To the editor:

It is a stark reality that on average, working households in Maine have just $2,500 in retirement account savings. As the current AARP Volunteer State President, a Portland Maine resident, and a former small business owner, I am very interested in changing this situation.

Our great State of Maine has over 175,000 small businesses who could help provide a mechanism for its employees to begin to save for their own retirement. In our 2020 legislative session, a simple solution to address this growing and critical savings program will be considered. AARP strongly supports LD 594, the Maine Retirement Savings Program, sponsored by Senator Eloise Vitelli (D-Arrowsic).

Under this new law, employers would be able to offer their employees a way to save for retirement through payroll deduction. Employees would be automatically enrolled in this program unless they opted out of it. However, a survey we just released showed that 98 percent of voters in Maine who are working believe it’s important to save for retirement at work. And 84 percent of workers without access to a workplace savings program would take advantage of one if it were available. Over time, even a small contribution can make a big difference.

If you are one of the thousands of Mainers concerned about saving for retirement, please urge your legislators to support LD 594. It’s time for Maine lawmakers to give employees the opportunity to increase their savings and take control of their future.

Pat Pinto
AARP Maine Volunteer State President