As a member of the University of Southern Maine Foundation Board, I’d like to offer a comment on Ron Bancroft’s recent column on the state of this nation’s system of higher education (“America’s higher ed system could go the way of Detroit,” Sept. 14).

The column, which raises some valid concerns about rising costs, declining graduation rates and less rigorous courses of study, concludes that the United States is in desperate need of “… new models of delivering higher education.”

I would like to suggest that your readers take note of the dramatic changes at the University of Southern Maine under the leadership of President Selma Botman.

Botman, her faculty and staff have made a number of tough choices. Our local university has paid off its debt; ended the last two fiscal years with surpluses; opened the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years with balanced budgets; is retaining more students; and now is implementing a leaner, more interdisciplinary academic structure that will better prepare students for leadership roles in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.

We should be proud of the hard work that has taken place over the past few years under President Botman’s direction. Her energy and commitment to student success couldn’t have come at a better time for USM.

Thanks to President Botman, our local university will not – to borrow a phrase from the aforementioned column – be going the way of Detroit.

Edward S. McKersie

Founder and President, Pro Search, Inc.

Portland

 

Chellie Pingree’s travel matter of love, not politics

 

Want an example of how some politicians – and more particularly, the people who vote for them – are not smart enough to figure out how to solve problems? Look no further than the Republican attacks on Chellie Pingree for taking a ride on her fiance’s airplane.

When Pingree was president of Common Cause, a nonprofit national group dedicated to clean government, she criticized certain members of Congress who were carted around the country in airplanes owned by major corporations.

What better way for lobbyists to get their way with the congressman than to do nice things for them, expensive nice things? These corporations were not doing it for love. They were doing it to influence votes.

Now come the Republicans accusing Pingree of being a hypocrite because she accepted rides on her fiance’s plane at certain times when he was flying from Washington to Portland. He was motivated by love, not the vote-buying Pingree had criticized as president of Common Cause. But her Republican opponent and the Republican state party obviously do not understand the distinction, and that’s what worries me.

We’ll never rein in the abuses of the corporate lobbyists who absolutely dominate what goes on in Congress as long as these Republicans think there is no difference between riding on a plane owned by a family member or riding on a lobbyist’s plane accompanied by people whose only objective is to influence congressional votes.

We can only hope they do understand it, but thought they could get three days of front-page headlines out of these ludicrous charges, which they did.

In either event, this is an example of the pitiful discourse in today’s politics. The scary thing is so many of our friends and neighbors enjoy it.

Harold C. Pachios

Cape Elizabeth

 

Queen Elizabeth net asset to Britain’s balance sheet

 

As a British expatriate, I recently read with interest the article that mentioned what it cast the United Kingdom to keep the Royal Family. This is in fact a misconception.

The civil list is the amount of money provided by Parliament to meet the official expenses of The Queen’s Household, so that the queen can carry out her roles as head of state and head of the commonwealth. The queen and the duke of Edinburgh are the only members of the Royal Family to receive an annual parliamentary allowance.

In 1760, King George III reached an agreement with the government over the Crown Estate. The Crown Lands would be managed on behalf of the government, and the surplus revenue would go to the treasury. In return, the king would receive a fixed annual payment, which we call today “the civil list.”

For the fiscal year ending March 2010, the revenue surplus received by the treasury from the Crown Estates was 244.8 million pounds ($384.7 million U.S.)

The civil list to date is 38.2 million pounds ($60.3 million), so therefore, in effect the treasury is getting a surplus of 206.6 million pounds ($324.7 million).

Any profit from the estates is paid every year to the treasury for the benefit of all U.K. taxpayers.

If you do the reverse math, the population of the United Kingdon is approximately 61.8 million, so the surplus is benefiting the population by not having to pay approximately 3.90 pounds ($6.12) in extra taxes apiece.

So when it is reported that the taxpayer is being charged another 5 cents (4 pence) to support the crown, it is smoke and mirrors. In actual fact, the treasury owes the Royal Family.

In fact, if the monarchy were ever dissolved and they asked for their land back, then the United Kingdom, or at least the government, would be bankrupt.

Colin Brown

Rockland

 

Letting noncitizens vote not what we fought for

 

Should noncitizens be allowed to vote in local elections? No way.

I am a World War II veteran. I feel I am speaking for many veterans, including many who never came home and so can’t speak for themselves, when I say that the people who signed the petition to allow the voters in Portland to decide whether to allow noncitizens the right to vote should hang their heads in shame.

That is not what we spent many months on foreign soil fighting for. If noncitizens want to vote, let them proceed to become citizens and earn the right to vote.

If a businessperson owns a lot of property in Portland, employs many people, pays a large city tax, but lives in another town like Westbrook and is a citizen, he cannot vote – but a noncitizen with a Portland address could if this referendum passes.

Does that make sense?

Curtis Chapman

Kittery