March 11, 2013

Letters to the editor: Congress Street changes poorly planned

I think I'm in the Twilight Zone at the adoption of the seemingly ill-conceived Congress Street traffic redesign proposal put forth by Councilor Dave Marshall and the City Council's Transportation Committee and recently approved by the City Council ("Traffic changes coming to Congress Street," Feb. 26; "Portland City Council will consider plan for bus service, traffic flow," Feb. 25).

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Removing traffic lights along parts of Congress Street will allow drivers “to zoom through the downtown Arts District,” eroding the pedestrian-friendly environment for which the city has become known, a reader says.

2013 File Photo/Gordon Chibroski

The plan will remove traffic lights in the busiest shopping corridor on Congress Street. The stated goal, to allow traffic to "flow" more "easily," sounds synonymous with enabling drivers to zoom through the downtown Arts District unimpeded at higher speeds.

It's beyond reason as to how this plan will contribute to a thriving downtown district and pedestrian-friendly environment that has won awards.

If some once-grand plan for Congress was so badly "watered down," as Marshall admits, then it should have been thrown out because what's left is just bad policy. Pull it back.

Towns like Kennebunk have wisely moved in the opposite direction by slowing or calming traffic passing through their downtown so people will feel safe to stop and shop.

Making it easier to drive through quickly only makes it harder to cross the street safely or to parallel park -- just as things are looking up in that section of town.

Faster traffic in the heart of downtown Portland helps nobody but those using Congress as a connector to get from High Street to Pearl Street in a hurry, when what we want is for our local retailers in that section of downtown to be the destination.

John Eder


Early education gives kids 'safe, healthy environment'

I disagree with Rose Marie Russell's letter ("Early education doesn't bear fruit," Feb. 25).

In my opinion, there's always going to be a need for early childhood programs. They support and encourage the academic, physical and social/emotional development of children ages birth to 5.

We have to look at the bigger picture and understand what early childhood programs are intended for, which is the success of all children. In most "quality" centers, a developmentally appropriate curriculum is used.

Teachers are knowledgeable about how children develop and learn, know the individual children in their group and know the social and cultural context in which children live and learn.

As a previous teacher of Head Start programs, I can attest firsthand to the services they offer children and their families.

There was a girl about the age of 3 who was enrolled in my program. Some days she came to school, and other days she didn't. When she did come, she was usually unkempt, hungry and tired.

One day she didn't show up for school, and our policy was to call to understand why there was an absence. The parent said she didn't feel like bringing her daughter to school that day, so I offered to come and get her.

When I arrived, the child answered the door, with the mom still in bed. There was an infant crying in another room, it smelled smoky from cigarettes, and trash was strewn on the floor. When we got back to the school, the child was fed, she socialized with friends and she was nurtured in a safe, healthy environment.

My point is that early care is not money wasted on a "bottomless pit" -- it is money invested in our future. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand what young children need to survive and thrive.

Susan Carroll


Congress can find options to cutting care for neediest

As I am watching the current budget debates, both nationally and here in Maine, I have been moved to write my first letter to the editor.

I am new to Medicare, so the assaults on the social program are personal for me.

I am one of the more than 3,000 Mainers who live with the devastating effects of multiple sclerosis. I did not choose to get this disease, but I am going to fight to maintain my health and quality of life.

Let's not confuse assaults on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security with legitimate efforts to reduce government waste.

Efforts to take away benefits under the guise of deficit reduction are an attack on some of the nation's most vulnerable residents. It would be unconscionable to throw them under the bus just so we can lighten the burden on the wealthiest.

If Congress is serious about cutting health care costs, there are alternatives to cuts that harm our most vulnerable citizens.

For instance, they could bring pharmaceutical companies to the table to negotiate lower drug prices. Americans pay more for prescriptions than any other nation.

Tremendous cost savings can be achieved by leveraging the mass purchasing power of Medicaid and Medicare. Isn't that what savvy corporations like Walmart do?

I urge our congressional representatives and senators to consider saner, less punitive options.

Betsy Kaufer


Foreign countries get relief while those here do without

Recently I happened to be watching CNN and saw where John Kerry, the new secretary of state, had offered the Syrian rebels $60 million to help combat the Syrian government. The next piece of news was that with the budget cuts, they were going to cut one meal a day on Meals on Wheels.

We care nothing for the folks who've worked to support the United States but give money to rebels who will probably turn those weapons on us.

Robert Keithley


Washington is broken.

We, the American people, now have to deal with the sequester and all the pain it will bring because our elected officials refuse to act responsibly and find solutions. It is interesting that none of them, or their staffs, will have to take pay cuts or lose their jobs from the sequester.

Now, the day after the $85 billion in cuts from the sequester became law, our new secretary of state gives $250 million to Egypt.

Why does Washington keep pouring our money into countries overseas, most of which hate America, but refuse to aid the American people by getting their jobs done? Why does Washington take better care of foreign countries than this country?

The time has come for Americans to tell their elected officials to stop the bickering, stop the infighting, stop the personal and political bias and be responsible to the people who elected them.

Gary Phillips


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