Soon the U.S. Senate will decide whether to confirm current U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

This is a lifetime appointment. Kagan’s decision will echo over the next few decades since she’s relatvely young.

I hope Maine’s two senators were listening her recent confirmation hearings before the Judiciary Committee.

Kagan demonstrated savvy knowledge of the law and her commitment to mainstream legal principles. She made clear that she is not a rigid ideologue. During questioning she said she would uphold the Constitution and would be fair and impartial.

As our country continues to grow more diverse, it is critical that the Supreme Court nominee reflect a more progressive, practical knowledge of the Constitution.

Kagan, unlike many of the current Supreme Court members, was not a sitting judge before her nomination. I think this is a good thing. She has excellent credentials, including a stint as dean of Harvard Law School. The confirmation hearings showed how capable she is of listening to all sides before making her decisions.

Let’s hope that Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins see the importance and value of this appointment to the Supreme Court.

Patrice Weber

President, National Council of Jewish Women


New planning process shortchanges the public

Recently, the Portland Planning Board and the City Council’s Community Development Committee voted to streamline the planning process at the expense of the public process.

The changes have the potential to create a much longer, more complex process by adding two optional steps. The process won’t be streamlined at all, it will be made longer.

The only thing streamlined will be the public process and public review. For example, by making workshops optional, at the developer’s option, the public’s ability to participate in a meaningful way is reduced and limited to decision-making night.

Access to the Planning Board, unlike the council, is purposely limited to preserve its integrity. Public notice to abutters of industrial development will be reduced, limited to those within 500 feet.

The Planning Board and the council committee approved the worst of both worlds: a longer process with less public input.

Ten years ago Portland residents voted in a referendum to create a more transparent and meaningful public process with more opportunity for public participation. The result has been better development and a less reactive and conflict-laden process.

Greater public input has helped decision-makers and developers alike to make more thoughtful and better informed decisions. Community input allows for better negotiation and better development.

The public fought hard for the right to speak, and not merely silently observe, at workshops. They need to retain it. Making workshops optional at the developers’ option, leaves only one opportunity for public input — the decision-making meeting.

It is a huge blow to public participation. It again reduces the public’s role to that of mere observer, instead an of active participant.

In a sound democracy, decision-making requires meaningful pubic participation with time for decision-makers to actually consider the public input. Neither Portland nor the public is well served when their input is reduced and limited to the night of the decision making.

Debra Keenan


This gubernatorial hopeful eager to meet with unions

Regardless of your political opinion of the Maine State Employees Association, Maine voters should view with great concern the attitude of confrontation expressed by two candidates for governor in regards to the MSEA invitation to meet with and discuss issues important to its members.

According to reports in the Portland Press Herald, gubernatorial candidates Eliot Cutler and Paul LePage feel their refusal to meet with representatives of the union is perfectly acceptable in today’s political climate of “us against them” politics.

As a competing candidate, I am tired of the “same-old-same-old” attitude and infighting of national political parties and special interests.

Cutler, with his ties to Chinese businesses and his firm’s recent experience helping U.S. companies relocate their manufacturing to China, understandably is a bit reluctant to face workers who are concerned about their future employment and job security.

Both Cutler and LePage cited the MSEA’s support of the Democratic Party candidate as a forgone conclusion and thus said their time would be better spent talking with or courting other voters.

Amazing. How is it possible in our current economic climate to have two gubernatorial candidates who think less of 15,000 state workers than they do other voters?

All Maine citizens deserve open, inclusive and innovative solutions to the coming, crisis-level economic problems facing Maine. MSEA, like it or not, will be a significant stakeholder at the table in that process.

It is time for a “fresh set of eyes on the problem,” time for innovation — not the stand-off and confrontational politics of the past.

As an independent candidate, I will ensure all tools, stakeholders and plans are on the table. What better way to develop new and winning solutions to our real-life challenges here in Maine.

Kevin Scott

Independent candidate for governor


Independent journalism crucial to informed readers

Leigh Donaldson’s column on independent journalism on July 12 presented a current situation clearly dangerous to U.S. citizens.

The reading public becomes acquainted with writers over a period of time, learning about their points of view through quality of writing, perspective and presentation in terms understandable by the reader. Those who write from solely left or right identify themselves and that’s fine.

We request the few who assess the validity of the information offered, and sift and strain and come up with conclusions well-mixed, to keep on offering readers facts and the chance to learn what’s really going on. We ask publishers to support such journalistic efforts.

Jean H. Childs