August 26, 2013

Letters to the editor: Extra funds critical to Portland schools

It is imperative that Portland residents vote "yes" to approve the referendum to add $1.9 million to the Portland Public School budget on Sept. 4. This supplemental budget will not cost the city any more money.

This budget will be totally funded by the state, and therefore will not cause an increase in Portland property taxes. Further, the supplemental budget has already been approved unanimously by the City Council and the Board of Public Education.

Passing the budget will save jobs because the money will be used to cover the mandatory increased cost of teacher retirement and charter schools instead of Portland being forced to cut more jobs.

Additionally, eight positions would be added, including: one elementary assistant principal, the equivalent of 1.5 instructional support specialists to provide all middle schools with a full-time person focused on literacy instruction, the equivalent of 1.5 high school teachers (to expand elective options in technology at Deering, world language at Casco Bay and visual arts at Portland), and add four educational technicians in order to support students with Individual Education Plans and English Language Learners.

People can also vote absentee in the city clerk's office, request a ballot online or request a ballot by calling 874-8677.

Students are successful when there is an adequate number of staff members present. More teachers mean an increased chance of success for a greater number of students. Make sure Portland's students have the best school year possible by voting "yes" on Sept. 4 to approve the supplemental budget.

Andrea Levinsky

Portland

Planned Parenthood clinic needs patient safety zone

The benefits of a patient safety zone around Planned Parenthood of Northern New England's Congress Street Health Center would extend far beyond the zone's physical boundaries.

In addition to giving local law enforcement an important tool in ensuring safety and civility in our community, it would allow our patients, staff and volunteers to access the building without intimidation, harassment or fear.

As an intern at Planned Parenthood, I have read the sobering stories we've collected from our patients regarding their individual experiences with the protesters. I can attest that 94 percent of patients surveyed stated that the presence of protesters so close to the Health Center made them uncomfortable; to me, that statistic cannot be ignored.

I am not a Portland resident, but like many Maine citizens, I turn to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England's Portland Health Center for my reproductive health care. Our service area covers more than Portland; patients coming to us from all over southern Maine to access our services would be positively impacted by the patient safety zone.

At the first Public Safety, Health and Human Services Committee meeting in July, 120 supporters, clad in pink T-shirts, came out to show their support for a patient safety zone. This upwelling of community support has been inspiring, but every week the patient safety zone isn't in place, individual rights to access reproductive health care are being threatened by protest activity.

I urge all of you to continue this work until a patient safety zone is achieved. Attend the next City Council meeting, contact your city councilor, write a letter to the editor of your own, or email grassrootsme@ppnne.org for volunteer opportunities.

As a young woman who cares about the rights, safety and well-being of my community, I urge the Portland City Council to quickly enact a patient safety zone.

Samantha Levy

Grassroots Organizing Intern

Planned Parenthood Northern New England Falmouth

Timing couldn't be better for transportation bond

We are a third-generation earth-moving construction company based in Gorham. With our industry in the fifth year of an economic downturn, there just isn't much work to bid on and we're cutting prices to the bone to keep people working. To my mind, there are four advantages to passing the proposed $150 million transportation bond now:

We can lock in low interest rates now, and not take the risk of rates rising as the Federal Reserve starts easing back on quantitative easing as the economy slowly recovers.

When the economy finally recovers for the construction industry, pricing for work will increase compared to where it is now, which will affect MDOT budgets down the road. This happened in the mid-1990's after the last big dip in construction.

The projects done by MDOT last anywhere from a decade to a century or more. Prudent investments made now at low borrowing and low construction costs will be appreciated by generations to come.

It will help save and create a lot of Maine jobs, especially in one of the hardest-hit sectors of our economy. The unemployment rate in construction has been near double the overall rate for several years now. At our company, our workforce is down by over a third from 2008, and we have had to cut people and salaries top to bottom to stem the bleeding.

Passing the transportation bond is truly a win for the state, construction companies and Mainers who want to do productive work and earn a good living from it.

Philip Grondin

Treasurer, R.J. Grondin & Sons Gorham

City's East End Beach anything but swimmable

Recently, Portlanders were invited by Friends of Casco Bay to participate in Swimmable Water Weekend. Unfortunately, Portland's own East End Beach is anything but swimmable.

Recently, I went to the beach for a picnic with family members. The beach was overtaken by running dogs, with families squeezed into a small area near the beach entrance.

A small dog defecated in the family area, and several dog owners stood by but no one cleaned up after the dog. Then a large dog backed into the water where children where playing and defecated into the water. Again, no one cleaned up, and we left.

The next day we talked to a ranger and learned that this is a frequent occurrence.

The beach provides a rich organic environment for pathogens and worms in dog feces, some of which can enter the body through bare feet.

I urge the city of Portland to enforce its own regulations and prohibit dogs from the beach during the swimming season.

Nini McManamy

Portland

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