It is understandable that in bad economic times people are concerned about the raises proposed for some University of Southern Maine employees.

As a USM faculty union member, I hope to see raises for all USM and Maine system employees. It’s time for a fair contract with a cost-of-living increase. I hope the same for other Maine workers.

I think, though, that there is some seriously misdirected anger involved in the response to what, in most cases, are moderate adjustments for hardworking and underpaid employees at USM. In some cases, there are larger raises going to hardworking employees doing expanded jobs.

Some of the anger seems disingenuous. Generally, people think it’s good for employers and administrators to try to get fair wages for their staffs. I think the point the University of Maine System unions can make is that there should be more fairness, not less.

However, I believe that understandable anger is, in some cases, being cynically manipulated as an effort to derail changes at USM. President Botman has been trying, in the midst of economic crisis, to lead USM toward being a new, more adaptable university. Some people prefer to live in the past and protect their turf.

I understand that the Press Herald responded to the issue of raises as a matter of public interest. Public employees’ salaries are public information. Fair enough. However, a campaign based on this information, which includes names and salaries of lower-paid as well as some higher-paid employees, has had the effect of hurting people at the university who are serving students and making a living.

To treat individuals as collateral damage in a war against the university administration is shameful. Perhaps some of the faculty need an ethics course.

Eileen Eagan

Portland

When we think of the administrative salaries at USM or at any college or university, we should first ask a simple question: Who is it that does the educating: faculty or administration?

The flaw in the thinking about the university lies within the analogy that compares a university to a corporation. But college faculty are not production workers. Each is an independent specialist in a chosen field of knowledge.

If the administration thinks in corporation terms, the faculty thinks in brotherhood terms, a brotherhood which does the real work of the university.

L. M. Burke

Long Island

Hardworking government worker isn’t taking ‘welfare’

 

I feel compelled to set the record straight regarding a letter to the editor on March 26 about government workers paying toward their health insurance.

As a retired federal employee I do pay into my government health insurance, and as a retiree my health insurance is not exempt from taxes.

As a faithful and hardworking government employee, I take issue with the statement that I draw “welfare.”

Janine Durant

Scarborough

Clean Elections is about challengers not incumbents

In an opinion article published last week, Maine House Speaker Robert Nutting made a series of guesses about the intent of Maine voters in 1996 when they instituted Clean Elections.

He offers no justification for this re-interpretation of voter intent almost two decades later.

In 1996, the people supported the creation of Clean Elections, and last week Speaker Nutting led the Republican legislature to significantly undermine the program.

Maine people voted to limit the influence of special interests on our campaigns and to level the playing field for regular Maine people, including small-business owners, teachers and farmers to represent their neighbors in state government.

Clean Elections was intended to allow any Maine voter to make a case to her neighbors for why she could best represent their district, regardless of her personal financial circumstances and social network.

Speaker Nutting points out that I ran a traditionally-funded campaign in my last election.

I raised $1,105.

I do not know why the speaker chose to list six incumbents who ran traditionally-funded campaigns, but I do think he misses the point.

Clean Elections is not about incumbents, but about the ability of any Mainer to challenge an incumbent if she thinks her representative is doing a bad job.

Democracy in Maine works best when elected representatives remain on their toes.

And for 15 years Maine democracy has worked well, and incumbents ignored challengers at their peril.

Mainers voted for a strong public finance law to give any citizen willing to work hard enough a chance to run for office, not simply professional politicians and those with deep pockets.

Rep. Mike Carey

Lewiston

Short-term gains shouldn’t rob future generations

 

Milt Priggee’s View in the Portland Press Herald on Feb. 29 brought back into focus for me the tragedy of Lancaster County, Pa. Fifty years ago, Lancaster County was recognized as the second most productive agricultural county in the entire United States.

Now, much of the rich soil there has been paved, poisoned by petroleum toxins. Quick profits for a limited number of developers, retailers and other commercial entities destroyed an irreplaceable resource.

Escalating prices of land forced increasing numbers of farmers to sell their land, their heritage, in order to survive.

Meanwhile, of course, millions of dollars have been spent to make deserts bloom.

Not only the fertile earth was destroyed by relentless development, communities devoted to the stewardship of the land were displaced.

Having lived in Maine for more than 45 years, I see the rugged, open natural beauty of Maine as a treasure comparable in many ways to the once productive, uniquely fertile farmland of Lancaster County that now is no different from any parking lot anywhere in the country.

All too often short-term gains for a few rob all future generations of natural treasures.

As Milt Priggee observes, “Uh, ya know — paving over farmland (or other irreplaceable resources) is not the smartest thing to do …”

Pat Renn

South Thomaston