NEW SHIP IN TOWN

Those who were expecting a return of the car ferry between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, had a pleasant surprise Thursday.

The Nova Star, the ferry that will begin making nightly trips to Yarmouth starting in May, is bigger and fancier than the Scotia Prince, which stopped calling on the city in 2004. The Nova Star is brand new, and has only made the journey between Singapore, where it was built, through the Suez Canal and to Yarmouth.

Another change from the former ferry is that the Nova Star will dock at Ocean Gateway, the $25 million facility that was designed for just such a ferry.

The arrival of the new ship drew big crowds in Yarmouth, but did not draw the same enthusiasm here, but the ferry’s operators shouldn’t worry. Many Portlanders missed seeing a ship leaving the harbor on every summer evening and will be happy to see it again, only this time bigger and better.

TRAINING SHOULD BE STANDARD

We may not know for some time what really happened in Windham last week, when a Cumberland County deputy sheriff shot and killed Stephen McKenney, but it’s not too soon to say that police need more tools to safely handle people in a mental health crisis.

McKenney’s family called for help on April 12, because they said he was threatening suicide. When he came out of his garage with a firearm, police say aiming it, his family says at his side, the officer fired in self-defense.

A Portland Press Herald study looked at fatal police shootings for the previous decade and found that 40 percent of them involved people with mental illness. The officers responded appropriately, but they may have been able to stay out of that predicament if they had been able to defuse the situation.

There is a 40-hour crisis intervention course that has been completed by some officers in some departments. With the frequency of tragedies like this one, this training should be standard for every officer in every department.

A GOOD STEP FOR DENTAL CARE

Mainers who can’t see a dentist will get some relief from Augusta this year, if Gov. LePage signs a bill that allows specially trained dental hygienists to treat patients.

The bill will expand the kinds of procedures that hygienists can perform, extending the ability of rural dental practices to see more people. The hygienists will operate under the direct supervision of a dentist, much as a physician assistant works with a doctor.

The Maine Dental Association opposed the bill, and they make a good point. The main reason people go without dental care is they can’t afford it, and the bill does little to change that.

But creating a mid-level practitioner is a good step in the right direction. If successful, the program could be expanded to let the hygienists operate independently. Combined with low-income dental benefits, the state could bring less expensive care to people who now have none.

KING SAYS NO COMMENT

The national media thought they found some news last week when Sen. Angus King gave a noncommittal answer to a speculative question.

What they really got was a fancy no comment.

A reporter asked King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, what he would do if the Republican Party took control of the Senate after the November election. King answered that he would evaluate it then and he would do what’s “best for the state of Maine.”

King watchers will remember that this is the same non-answer answer he has given since he announced his candidacy in 2012. King has always said he would use his independence to get the maximum leverage and would vote his conscience no matter what party he caucuses with.

His ideal situation would be an equally divided Senate, in which he had the deciding vote and could have a powerful voice on policy.

Changing that position now and pledging permanent loyalty to the Democrats would make no sense. That’s why he didn’t. No news here folks, let’s move along.