Bill Nemitz is not expected to always say what some of us might want, but I am disappointed in his generally derogatory approach to the subject of Congress Square and condescension toward citizens who spoke of it (“Portland plaza reality gets lost in the kerfuffle,” Sept. 13).

I missed the Sept. 9 hearing, but comments at the previous hearing were thoughtful and sincere — not just nostalgia about movies and bands once upon a time, but serious points about how open space can serve and benefit downtown ambiance and immediate neighborhood.

I’ve been at Congress Square a lot. It’s an agreeable place, granted needing some redesign, especially opening up on High Street.

There is a larger point. Is Portland an interesting, fun, attractive city?  With great brick buildings lining Congress Street — and the need for attractive open areas?

I’ve seen many other cities with inviting, open public places. Portland can do better.

It is a poor excuse to have a space, let it reach utter neglect and then blame that on the people who go there. With good design, everyone should feel welcome. A city has responsibility for all its parks and plazas, flowers, well-designed green plantings, music, events. 

A little square one-story box for “events” so small that convention professionals would not even notice — what is that to the general pedestrian public?

Nemitz said to “see how the public-private approach works for a few decades.” Did he realize that after one decade, the hotel can do whatever it wants? I don’t see a hotel providing the ambiance a great little city needs.

 Also, the land has a higher value.  Museum designer David Cobb suggested returning the clock to its original height, making a unique emblem.

What is wrong with citizens having an idea that one thing could really be better and another thing could really be worse? Shouldn’t city councilors have heeded public interests?

Grace Braley

Portland

LePage’s priorities ignore what’s really important

Recently I was at East End School — a wonderful place, with a great staff and a large and diverse population of students, despite receiving an F in our state’s poorly designed rating system. The staff told me two special education ed techs and one social worker were laid off for this school year.

The next day our governor was on the radio bragging about the welfare cheats who are being caught by his Health and Human Services staff, and how he’s made two new hires to find more alleged fakers. As one of the tea party governors, he also refuses to expand Medicaid here in Maine.

Why do I think something is wrong with the governor’s priorities? Should we be losing support staff at a school with a large population of new immigrant students? These new Americans may need extra support services at school to learn the English language, and other basics.

Our non-immigrants need support services, too. When schools are being accused of failing their students, why does our governor find the time to brag about hiring more people to ferret out welfare cheats when he doesn’t provide the personnel to help our children become successful?

It’s time to stop blaming schools and start addressing the real needs of students.

Brad Fox

South Portland

Gov. LePage recently announced that 3,000 households are no longer a drain on Maine taxpayers. He claims that credit for this “achievement” is due to his administration’s “promotion of job preparation and strategic redesign of Maine’s welfare system.”

One can only conclude that these former “takers” are now gainfully employed and their children well-fed and clothed. For one brief moment I was deluded by what appeared to be a rational speech. There were no derogatory comments, no insults; only self-praise.

Greg Kesich in his Sept. 11 column (“Governor’s actions even more offensive than his words“) quickly returned me to reality: “There is no evidence that any of those people have moved from welfare to work or have lifted themselves out of poverty; in fact it seems unlikely that they did find jobs.” 

Surely Kesich must be mistaken. How can we possibly question the word of LePage in spite of his history of misrepresentation and distortion? After all, he is Maine’s duly elected governor. All he need do is tell Kesich to “kiss his butt” to end all discussion by concerned citizens. 

Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s defender-in-chief, will undoubtedly clarify the real intent of his statement (providing he doesn’t deny making it).

The undeniable authenticity of Kesich’s version has only increased my frustration with the LePage administration.

Gov. LePage, while seeking acclaim for his “promotion of job preparation and strategic redesign of Maine’s welfare system,” has callously shifted financial aid for 3,000 Maine households from state to local levels.

Poverty is still very real for these unfortunate victims of LePage’s “strategic redesign.” 

Sam Kamin

Cumberland

Presidents are different but Iraq, Syria are similar

It was with some amusement that I read former U.S. Rep. Tom Allen’s letter to the editor (“Use of gas compels action in Syria,” Sept. 10) on how he fought against the invasion of Iraq but bravely supported intervention in Syria because of Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

Mr. Allen’s memory appears to be somewhat selective, as Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds in Iraq and killed thousands of Iraqi Kurds, including many women and children, from 1987 to 1988. On March 16, 1988, Saddam Hussein and Chemical Ali used poison gas in an attack on the village of Halabja, killing 4,000 to 5,000 people, mostly women and children.

Maybe it was because the invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein was led by a Republican president. Or maybe Mr. Allen never thought of Saddam as a threat to the thousands of people he had killed in Iraq.

Wesley H. Phillips

Kennebunkport