February 1

Our View: A roundup of the week

High school basketball, gubernatorial vetoes and other items caught our attention.

WHY EVERYBODY HATES TIME WARNER

click image to enlarge

Presque Isle’s Meredith Stewart carries the state championship trophy in 2013, following her team’s Class B state championship win over the Lake Region Lakers for the second straight year. By refusing to pay $5,000 to the Cumberland County Civic Center to allow MPBN to broadcast high school basketball state semifinal and final games, Time Warner Cable is missing a chance to improve its image.

2013 File Photo/John Ewing

You’d think that a multibillion-dollar multinational corporation with a serious public relations problem might think it would be worth spending a few thousand dollars to buy some good will. In the case of Time Warner Cable, you would be wrong.

At issue is a fiber optic cable connection in the renovated Cumberland County Civic Center, which would allow the state high school basketball tournament games to be broadcast over the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. Time Warner previously had a free connection in the civic center, but following the building’s renovation, the company is no longer a sponsor of the facility.

Time Warner is balking at a $5,000 to $8,000 annual fee to run its cable into the building, which is publicly owned. That means the boys and girls Class A championship games, along with other tournament games, will be blacked out.

Time Warner is known for its heavy-handed negotiating style, sometimes pushing networks over the brink and dropping their programming to leverage a better deal. But using those kinds of tactics against a publicly owned facility and a public service broadcaster is uncalled for.

The company collected $22.1 billion in revenue last year, up 3.4 percent from 2012. It ought to be able to let Maine’s high school athletes get their much-deserved moment in the spotlight.

FRANKLIN STREET PROJECT MOVES ON

Where was all the opposition to development in Portland when the city was tearing down a whole neighborhood to build the Franklin Arterial?

Fortunately, some people are doing something about it now. The Franklin Street redesign project held a public design session that is the latest step in a citizen led process that will someday reclaim the overly wide and wasteful roadway, creating better access for pedestrians and cyclists, freeing up valuable land for development while still accommodating vehicle traffic.

The project started with civic activism, but now has the support at Portland City Hall and the state Department of Transportation. It should be the model for future efforts to build on Portland’s strengths through thoughtful development.

LAWMAKERS RIGHT ON DENTAL BILL

The Maine Senate followed the House this week approving a bill that will extend dental care throughout the state.

L.D. 1230 would let specially trained dental hygienists do some procedures without the supervision of a dentist. Since hygienists earn about half of what dentists make, this could make care available to more Mainers.

And we need it. Maine had the fewest dentists per capita in New England. Two-thirds of Maine children don’t have a dentist. Only 12 percent of the state’s dentists accept MaineCare, and untreated dental concerns are a major cause of emergency room visits.

The Maine Dental Association opposes the bill, and representatives make some valid points about the need for other improvements needed to promote dental health. But just because it doesn’t fix all of the problems doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing at all. The dental health system is clearly broken, and this bill would be a good way to start fixing it.

Gov. LePage should sign it as soon as it comes to his desk.

LIQUOR LAWS WAY OUT OF DATE

We know that Prohibition got its start in Maine, but it ended a long time ago. There should have been more than enough time to catch up state laws.

Unfortunately we’ve just seen another example of a place in which it has not. An archaic law bars brewpubs from listing their alcohol by volume figures along with the names of the beers they offer.

Alcohol by volume is a useful piece of information for a consumer, not just to predict how tipsy he can expect to get, but also to learn a little about how the beer was made and how it may taste. But a Belfast brewpub has been told to stop by a state liquor inspector.

Why? Does anyone think that hiding the alcohol content will make for more responsible drinkers?

We have seen similar old laws interfere with a beer industry trade show, the contract negotiations between the Portland Pirates and the Cumberland County Civic Center, as well as creating headaches for craft distillers who want to sell their product by the drink.

The Legislature should take note and get rid of these out-of-date rules. Prohibition is over.

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