Kudos to Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ (FOKO) and the Portland Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) for demonstrating the ongoing current popularity of a genre of music that is fading in my own church: the traditional hymn sing!

Merrill Auditorium appeared to be filled to overflowing as I tried to find handicapped parking and there was none available. I parked at some distance, and walked in with my Nordic walking poles.

For events at Merrill Auditorium that actually fill the third level (second balcony), the street needs much more handicapped parking. The first two sections, orchestra plus mezzanine and first balcony, were packed for the FOKO Hymn Festival on Sept. 25 that kicked off the 100th anniversary celebration of the city’s historic Kotzschmar Memorial Organ that is due for restoration.

None too soon, too, for some soft stops that in one instance Sunday afternoon sounded like bathroom plumbing!

In this era of more secular yet considerably diverse spiritual climate, when many mainline New England churches are sometimes more than half empty, it was a coup to accomplish a public display of the fact that hundreds of people in Maine still love to sing the hymns of the Christian church and of the Jewish community, both served by members of the AGO (www.agohq.org). Especially when they are boldly accompanied by a fine pipe organ. Digital organs work, but there is nothing that inspires more than wind through real pipes.

To an organist, it compares with the experience of a violinist being allowed to play a Stradivarius.

The city of Portland is very fortunate to possess the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ, the gift of the late media magnate, Cyrus Curtis.

Mary Elizabeth Nordstrom

Kennebunk 

Civic center’s renovation important in Nov. 8 vote 

How can West Baldwin benefit from the Cumberland County Civic Center?

We all know what the civic center has done for Greater Portland over its lifespan. It has brought us a major hockey league presence with several Calder Cup championships. Performers like Tony Bennett, Garth Brooks, Kenny Rogers and just last month the American Idol show! Do you think Portland would be the great city it is without this attraction?

Long before the great chefs here made us famous as a foodie capital, people like Brian Petrovek, who owns the Pirates, have been sinking a lot of their money and talent into Portland.

But now the Civic Center is “tired” and in need of remodeling and modernization, and if we don’t approve the upcoming bond package we are all the losers as Brian takes his team to another town and the big acts don’t play Portland anymore. So, we need this bond package passed.

So, West Baldwin, where do you fit in? Well, ask Salem, Mass., or Scituate, Mass., where they would be without the Boston Garden? Lost! So will Portland be lost without a restored civic center, so please keep this in mind and help keep Portland the jewel of a city that it is. Don’t make Brian and the Pirates get away. You’ll never get another chance if you do.

Anthony Barrasso

South Portland 

As the vote on the referendum for renovations to the Cumberland County Civic Center fast approaches, I write to stress the need for inclusion of aisle safety railings in the plans.

Not once have I heard this important item mentioned in any plan.

The need for safety railings is important to all ages, but especially to the elderly, the handicapped and children. This item far exceeds the need for a fancy facade and the other cosmetic improvements being discussed.

As a 30-year season ticket holder to both the Mariners and Pirates, I have been at many civic center events over the years. I no longer do that because of fear for my safety in navigating the steep steps.

Unless I hear of plans for the inclusion of safety railings in the aisles as part of the renovations plan, I shall vote against the referendum and urge others to do likewise.

Keith E. Leavitt

Portland 

Social Security’s no scheme, long-term fix will be easy 

Many recent letters to the editor contain misinformation about the future of Social Security. The truth is in the following quotation from the 2011 annual report of the trustees of the Social Security Trust Fund:

“Social Security expenditures exceeded the program’s non-interest income in 2010 for the first time since 1983. The $49 billion deficit last year (excluding interest income) and $46 billion projected deficit in 2011 are in large part due to the weakened economy. This deficit is expected to shrink to about $20 billion for years 2012-2014 as the economy strengthens.

“After 2014, cash deficits are expected to grow rapidly as the number of beneficiaries continues to grow at a substantially faster rate than the number of covered workers. Through 2022, the annual cash deficits will be made up by redeeming trust fund assets from the General Fund of the Treasury. Because these redemptions will be less than interest earnings, trust fund balances will continue to grow.

“After 2022, trust fund assets will be redeemed in amounts that exceed interest earnings until trust fund reserves are exhausted in 2036. Thereafter, tax income would be sufficient to pay only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through 2085.”

Thus Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s statement that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme that will not be available for young Americans is false even if the program is not reformed. Mitt Romney’s talk about raiding the trust fund ignores the fact that the fund’s assets have always been invested in U.S. government bonds, which the trust fund redeems as necessary.

The fairest way to avoid the 25 percent benefits reduction around 2036 would be to eliminate the ceiling of $108,600 on income taxed for Social Security. If these additional payments were insufficient to maintain the present payout formula, only minor adjustments would be necessary.

Meredith N. Springer

Scarborough 

Win or lose, it’s fun to be a fan of the Sea Dogs 

Thanks, Portland Sea Dogs, for another fun baseball season.

The players and all the workers associated with Hadlock Field have provided Greater Portland with fine, family-friendly, outdoor fun! Looking forward to opening day in April 2012.

Rita Smith

Westbrook