One of citizenship’s great rights and privileges is the right to vote. As an immigrant and refugee instructor at Southern Maine Community College, I teach about our Constitution and attend every naturalization ceremony of my students, showing support and emphasizing responsibility.

This month, I took a brand-new citizen to vote. She had worked late, so we headed to Portland City Hall at 7:30 p.m. While voting actually happens in Merrill Auditorium (which we did not realize), we roamed City Hall looking for the polls as the minutes ticked away. There were no signs out front pointing to the tiny side street for voting. Nothing!

Eventually, someone directed us around the corner. We ran at high speed and saw the “vote” sign still out front, only to have someone look up and say “Sorry, too late.” My watch said one minute to 8.

I expressed my concern for no signage, for the time spent looking, and for the enthusiasm of a new citizen voter (I had already voted). There was no willingness to allow her to vote and no appreciation for what we had endured.

I was stunned by the lack of support for this person who wanted to experience her newly earned constitutional right, dismayed by the lack of direction to the polls, and alarmed by the challenge a new citizen might experience in trying to understand “How do I do this anyway?”

I contacted Portland City Hall and received an e-mail saying the announcement that “the polls are closed” was given and more signage will be considered. However, no one asked for the citizen’s name, offered to send a letter of regret or give an invitation to come in to register and review the process. Discouraging.

Many naturally born citizens do not vote. Let us consider going above and beyond to encourage, not discourage, voting by all.

Rosemarie De Angelis

city councilor

South Portland

 

 

Maine’s state pensions may not be well-funded

 

The June 6 paper carried a Bloomberg News story, “Falling revenues, rising benefits put state pension funds in a hole,” about underfunded state retirement plans.

The story included a map of the 50 states, shaded to indicate the degree to which each state’s pension plan was funded as of the end of fiscal year 2008. The map suggested that Maine’s plan was 90 percent funded, which came as a surprise to me.

According to the Maine Unified Retirement Plan Task Force Study and Report dated March 8, 2010, Maine’s pension plan was 74 percent funded in 2008 and 68 percent funded in 2009.

According to the report, many state employees who pay into the system do not collect any benefits because they leave state employment before becoming eligible. The task force is considering whether to make state employees’ pension benefits portable.

Doing so will make the system even more underfunded.

Halsey Frank

Portland

 

 

Stranded pair got help from caring stranger

 

My mom and I were driving to work one day, me going only because my father was out of town, when my mom pulled over and informed me that the car had stalled. She tried to start it several times, but it refused.

I put my book down, finished my slice of pizza, and we started walking to the nearest gas station. We hadn’t gone four steps when a car pulled up alongside us. The passenger-side window rolled down and a woman offered us a ride.

We gratefully thanked her and climbed in. She told us that she would gladly pick us up at the gas station after she had driven home and picked up a baby bag for her 8-month-old granddaughter, who was in the back of the car, next to me. Sure enough, after we had gotten some gas, we started walking and she was there almost instantaneously.

I would like to thank this woman, who gave us no name, and her little granddaughter, Olivia, for taking a chance to give us a ride. They didn’t know who we were, but they did it.

My mom would also like to thank them in a letter, but she is an editor at The Portland Press Herald, so she would like to thank them through me and through my letter.

Thank you, girls, for helping some unknown people whose car broke down. Thank you.

Kayti Harper

Age 11

Limerick

 

 

Israeli, U.S. policies work against peace pact

 

Israel’s consul general to New England, Nadav Tamir, recently spoke in Portland. Mr. Tamir presented himself and Israel as moderate and committed to peace with the Palestinians.

For those who follow the conflict closely, however, another perception emerged.

Limited space permits mention of only two of many significant omissions and misrepresentations of fact.

Mr. Tamir rightly described Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the best partner for peace Israel has had, and spoke glowingly of Israel’s work with Abbas to develop the West Bank economy and achieve peace.

What he omitted is how Israel continues to undercut Mr. Abbas’ credibility with the Palestinian electorate by announcing plans for more and more settlements on the very land where a viable Palestinian state would exist.

As Henry Siegman, head of the American Jewish Congress (1978-94), puts it: “The Middle East peace process may well be the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history. Israel’s interest in the peace process is a fiction serving primarily to provide cover for its systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and an occupation whose goal, according to former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, is ‘to sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people.’ “

Mr. Tamir condemned Hamas for rejecting a unity government and throwing the moderate Fatah out of Gaza.

In fact, Hamas agreed to work on a unity government.

But Israel and the United States pressured Mr. Abbas to scrap such plans while providing him money, military hardware, and training of fighters for the purpose of throwing Hamas out of Gaza.

Hamas saw what was coming and threw Fatah out instead.

We who want peace and security for both Jews and Palestinians need more truth-telling than the audience received from Mr. Timir.

Robert Schaible

Buxton