Nick Nicholson with Homeless Voices for Justice stands near pads homeless people sleep on in shelters during a vigil Monday at Portland City Hall.
In this upcoming season of Thanksgiving, I was dismayed to read two items.
One is that more than 49 million Americans live below the poverty level ("New formula has poverty level rising above 49 million," Nov. 15).
The second was the news story that Portland business owners and the Portland Community Chamber object to more services and shelters for the homeless ("Portland businesses see more homeless shelters as vicious circle," Nov. 16). It would appear that they only want Portland to be a destination for those with deep pockets.
Homelessness is a big problem, especially if you are one of the millions of homeless. There are a multitude of reasons. A sudden change in economic status, as many families live one paycheck away from being homeless. Mental and physical illness, including the disease of addiction, often leave an individual without food or shelter.
It may be true that some come to Portland because there are few or no services where they are from. It is not a gated community, although some people would have it that way. Rather than just a playground for those with money to burn, don't we want Portland to be a welcoming and all-inclusive city?
Do we need another high-end eatery where few of us can afford to dine? Do we need another luxury hotel when the vacancy rate is actually high? Do we need more expensive condos that few local residents can afford? Or can we channel our time, energy and money into solving the problem of hunger and homelessness?
So instead of being less than compassionate to those less fortunate, can we be giving and thankful?
This letter is in response to the memo from Chris O'Neil to Portland city officials ("Portland businesses see more homeless shelters as vicious circle," Nov. 16).
In his memo, he says the city of Portland should rethink opening more shelters for the homeless, as they are detrimental to the business climate of the city.
I must disagree. O'Neil relegates the homeless to the heap of human trash. Hmmm, is that what Jesus would do? Not only is the attitude not Christian, it's simply not true.
Most homeless find themselves so for a variety of reasons: loss of a job, a fire, an abusive situation, etc., etc. A person making minimum wage must work two jobs in order to pay rent in Portland.
Maybe the business community would be better served if they considered the homeless community as an untapped resource. There are many job seekers there.
I would suggest that Mr. O'Neil visit the Preble Street Resource Center and speak to Mark Swann. He needs to be educated about the homeless.
Roberts' health care vote helped re-elect Obama
Sen.-elect Angus King gave credit in jest to Karl Rove for rejuvenating his campaign for the Senate.
In a similar vein, without the tongue in cheek, much credit for the re-election of Barack Obama must be given to Chief Justice John Roberts.
His critical swing vote upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare effectively neutralized this issue and weakened arguments against Obama's re-election.
William "Skip" Button
Public investment has both tangible, intangible payoff
In a letter published Nov. 7 ("Is rail service a good investment?"), Jim Anderson calculates that it would take 48 years to recoup the $38.3 million spent to extend Amtrak Downeaster service from Portland to Brunswick from ticket revenue, and he concludes that the money would have been better spent elsewhere.
Calculating the return on investment in public infrastructure is tricky.
Take the new Veterans Memorial Bridge across the Fore River. Let's see, $65 million divided by 22,000 vehicles per day, times 365 days per year, times how much toll per vehicle? Oops, there's no toll on the bridge -- looks like we'll never recoup that investment.
By that measure, the bridge was a complete waste of money. (At least the Downeaster generates some revenue!)
And I don't expect ever to receive a nickel in cash back from the Portland Jetport, either, on the $75 million spent over the last couple of years on renovations there. Should that money have been spent elsewhere, too?
Public infrastructure pays for itself indirectly and intangibly as well as in countable beans. That very indirectness is why certain initiatives are undertaken by the public sector instead of by private business, which requires an immediate bottom-line cash return. Just what is the dollars-and-cents payback for making available safe, dependable, energy-efficient, weather-resistant, disabled-accessible rail transportation?
Critic misrepresents impact of Maine care reform bill
Steven Kelley's letter to the editor in the Nov. 11 edition ("Maine care reform bill paved way for insurers' instrusions") is typical of the misinformation bandied about regarding PL 90, Maine's health care reform bill passed in the last Legislature.
Mr. Kelley's partner is employed at Maine Medical Center, where she was required to complete a health assessment to renew her coverage with their self-funded medical program. This has absolutely nothing to do with PL 90 -- employers have been able to require health assessments for many years. The two have nothing to do with one another.
PL 90 merely addressed the rating factors insurers could use to price insurance in Maine. Younger and southern Maine residents have been unfairly subsidizing northern Maine residents for almost 20 years.
Certain sections of the state now pay a more accurate rate for insurance that reflect their region's health care costs, which is fair to every Mainer. Maybe now people will decide where to live based on this factor as well as school system, taxes, etc.
Talk to your local health insurance agent if you have any questions regarding PL 90. With so much misinformation around, I'm sure you'll be surprised to hear how good the bill really is for Maine.
president, Maine Association of Health Underwriters
director of sales, group insurance, Baystate Financial Advisors