I have been following with growing interest and alarm the news about drivers either talking on their cellphones while behind the wheel or, even worse, texting.

If someone had told me even a decade ago what a serious problem this behavior would become, I would have been doubtful, thinking that people have too much common sense and concern for others. It seems I was wrong.

Cell phone abusers strike me as excessively self-absorbed and self-important types with some kind of “need” to be chronically connected while their full attention should be on safe driving.

Maine’s Legislature apparently is inexplicably satisfied at passing a paltry, perfunctory law that would see a $100 fine for texting while behind the wheel. Why don’t these elected officials instead devise a law to make driving while using using cellphones tantamount to reckless driving?

That is, after all, what it really is. Heavy fines, losing one’s license for multiple offenses and perhaps registration suspension would all seem in order and would send a message to the pathetically cellphone-addicted motorists who continue their often pointless prattle while driving.

I truly don’t understand why so many motorists seem hell-bent on telephonically sharing much of the mundane minutiae of their lives when driving. Can’t they at least just be responsible and wait till they’re either home or at least off the road to make or receive that call?

Bob Barter

Berwick

 

Questions on state pensions need to be answered now

 

The state retirement issue is coming up again as state workers and retirees try to get some movement from the administration. I think some questions of the administration and Finance Commissioner Sawin Millett in particular need to be answered before the final decisions are made.

Why is the municipal side of the retirement system solvent, even though it is administered by the same organization and went through the same economic downturn and losses in the market? Are the benefits better and therefore more expensive?

Did the state not pay in its share or raid the fund? If the goal is to pay off this unfunded liability, why is it proposed that the state reduce its share while increasing the share of employees? Why is there an “elite” group of employees who pay a very small share of their wages toward retirement?

Is Sawin Millett in that class? Is the governor? Mr. Millett said that this group gave up a 10 percent raise in the ’80s for this benefit? Who offered anyone a 10 percent raise ever in state government? Who negotiated for this group? Which side of the table was Mr. Millett on? Possibly both?

Mr. Millett was a high-ranking member of Gov. John McKernan’s administration and later a legislator. Why does a negotiated deal in the ’80s carry more weight than the rank and file’s contracts?

I guess my last question is why does the state pay a share of the teachers’ retirement instead of the muncipalities, RSUs, MSADs or whoever employs them? Should we consider a shift to more local contribution?

I think I could probably answer most of these questions on my own, but would love to hear Sawin Millett’s, members of the Legislature and the governor’s answers.

Alan Douglass

Phippsburg

Ranked choice voting would be more democratic

 

As a Maine citizen, a former independent (unenrolled) candidate for the Maine State Legislature and steering committee member of the Maine League of Young Voters, I am an enthusiastic supporter of the statewide adoption of a ranked choice voting system.

Municipalities and governments that have implemented ranked choice voting have expressed satisfaction with how the process has led to an increase in cooperation among candidates during election seasons, citizen participation in elections and the seriousness with which candidates address issues.

Equal amounts of satisfaction have been expressed for how the system has helped to reduce the frequency of negative campaigning and mudslinging, as candidates who must also rely on being the second and third choice of their opponents can’t afford to reduce their campaign narratives to a series of nasty, off-topic, ad hominem attacks that distract from a constructive, issues-specific dialogue.

For these reasons alone, it is no wonder RCV enjoys support from the left and the right. Both President Obama and Sen. John McCain have expressed support for the system.

If these facts have somehow not provided reason enough for the support of this system, implementation of RCV in Maine would honor the state’s independent political class.

Independents represent a third of Maine voters. Independent candidates, some of whom have proven to be more viable than party candidates, are, regardless of their viability, regarded as second class by the assignment of the “spoiler” stigma. RCV would remove such a stigma by eliminating the “winner-take-all” voting model we have, to this point, settled with.

We must move Maine beyond the “winner-take-all” system that is holding the state back. We must adopt RCV as soon as we possibly can.

Alex Steed

Cornish

 

I think we here in Maine should seriously consider ranked choice voting. L.D. 1126, now under consideration in Augusta, is giving us the opportunity to do just that.

Every governor since the 1970s has won at least one election with less than 40 percent of the vote. That makes 60 percent of Mainers feel like they’ve been had. It’s happened a lot. It’s time to consider other options.

Frankly, the current system sometimes feels a bit like a game of chance. When a large majority of the people feel like they lost at that game of chance, they do not feel represented. And it doesn’t feel like democracy.

With ranked choice voting, the candidate whom most of the people prefer gets elected to office. The candidates whom most people least prefer don’t get elected. That sounds very democratic to me.

In life, you can’t always get what you want, but your second choice is still a valid expression of your preference.

If the local diner ran out of your favorite lunch plate or your first choice in the voting booth isn’t elected, your second choice is a valid choice.

In this great game of life, there might even be an argument that your second choices affect your life more powerfully and more positively than your first choices.

Urge your state senators and representatives to seriously consider L.D. 1126 – even if it’s not their first choice!

Douglas Hall

Portland