Plan for Maine train: Pain or plain?

Much has been made of the $30 million coming to Maine to provide passenger rail service from Portland to Brunswick.

Politicians and civic leaders are grabbing the microphone from each other to extol the benefits of slow rail, a third-world infrastructure.

I could understand if the train were going to replace buggies or canal boats. But why so much fanfare for a system that we abandoned in the 1950s? I understand all the public transportation arguments and the benefits of New Urbanism, of which the Maine Street Station area in Brunswick is a natural example.

Many of us in southern Maine travel to Boston (by bus) to access high-speed rail from South Station or less expensive and nonstop air travel from Logan, neither of which is accessible from the Downeaster.

Given the coming focus from all parties on tackling the deficit, it is hard to imagine that once we have our reconstituted 1950s transportation option, we will ever find the money to actually bring it up to first- or even second-world standards.

It appears to be a colossal waste of money, however charming it seems.

Peter Bass

Yarmouth

 

I think it’s wonderful that the Downeaster service will be extended to Brunswick and eventually to Freeport. My question is: Any chance of adding a stop in Kennebunk?

I ride the Downeaster at least eight or nine times a month to Maine. I work at the streetcar museum on the Kennebunkport/Arundel line and a stop at Kennebunk would greatly benefit this loyal rider.

Maine has it right when it comes to public transportation. The Concord coach between Boston and Portland is a nice express service between the two cities, but the Downeaster service is the way to go.

I used to take the Concord coach to Portland and then have to backtrack on either the Shuttlebus or the Zoom bus, which added roughly 60 to 90 minutes travel time.

John W. Coyle III

Weymouth, Mass.

Obesity a problem with many potential solutions

The message that our hospitals send when melding with mainstream America’s food culture in offering fried foods, hot dogs, ice cream in the cafeteria (and candy bars in the lobby) is that they don’t make the connection with nutritional wellness and health.

Come in for your cardiac rehab class, your diabetes counseling or perhaps have those stents put in to open up your arteries – we are here for you. Your family members may want to grab a Danish, a doughnut or one of our extra-large cookies as they wait in the hospital cafeteria, or a candy bar and soda from the vending machines in the lobby.

The message our hospitals are delivering daily is that nutrition is not a connection they make with health.

Yes, we are adults and personal responsibility and choice is paramount in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But is it the hospitals’ role to mimic convenience stores and fast food chains in what they offer us as adults? Or, can our hospitals be the first to take the lead on creating a different model for the food environment?

The burden of disease related to lifestyle (and choices) is financially and emotionally staggering to adults and children. Why then, if hospitals are in the health care business, would they continue to provide readily available high-fat and high-sugar foods with low nutritional value and super-sized portions as part of their environment?

My angst is with the lack of accountability our hospitals have in the message of health promotion within their environments. Aren’t there enough federal dollars coming into our hospitals to warrant that accountability?

I believe it’s going to happen and whatever the pushback that follows, the message will be clear: Our hospitals are in the business of health.

Marybeth Judy

Bernard

 

Physical education cuts in this age of childhood obesity? I don’t think so. Let’s shape up!

With the Portland schools facing a $5 million budget shortfall, I knew I would see our schools suffering cutbacks. What surprised and concerned me was to see that physical education is finding a place on the chopping block.

By now I am sure every American knows we have a cultural weight problem. But is it really clear to everyone that according to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity has tripled and one in three children nationwide is now overweight or obese?

We are facing a catastrophic problem with health care costs in this country. Obesity-related diseases account for over $100 billion in expenses for the United States economy every year. Congressional studies found that overweight kids have a 70 percent likelihood of becoming overweight adults.

Every minute of PE that Portland students receive each week is an important investment in their well-being and our well-being as a population. The World Health Organization has stated that for every $1 the United States invests in physical activity education, we save $3.20 in health costs.

Physical education taught in schools is one of the best ways to change the trend of an overweight society. We want our children to be literate and proficient in math and science, so why not their own health and fitness? First lady Michelle Obama has introduced a new program called “Let’s Move” to combat childhood obesity. The state of Illinois now has mandatory daily PE for its students.

Conversely, Portland’s public schools have proposed cutting 3.5 teaching positions for physical education.

In a time when we should be increasing the amount of PE our students get, we are reducing it.

These are cuts we can’t afford, cuts that may save a little money in the short term, but shortchange the future health of this city’s youth.

Elizabeth Clifford

Portland

 

Paul Main’s the best man for York County sheriff

As a voter of York County, I truly believe when Paul Main is elected as the York County sheriff, he will bring back respectability and integrity to the York County Sheriff’s Department.

Paul will fix the many problems that the York County Sheriff’s Department is having now.

York County voters will be proud of the Sheriff’s Department again.

I urge all voters of York County to vote for Paul Main for sheriff.

Go to www.paulmainforsheriff.com for more information about Paul, and what he wants to do to improve the Sheriff’s Department.

Helen Dustin

Lyman