February 21, 2013

Letters to the editor: An educated country is a secure country

I was glad to see the recent guest column by area business leaders discussing the importance of high-quality early education for improving Maine's economy and future work force ("Maine Voices: Skilled workers start out as well-educated young Mainers," Feb. 2).

click image to enlarge

A U.S. soldier eyes the road while on patrol near Youssifiyah, Iraq, in 2007. Lack of education is one reason 75 percent of young Americans are ineligible for military service, but high-quality early learning programs can help reverse that trend, a reader says.

2007 File Photo/The Associated Press

As a retired Army general, I would like to add that quality early education is also important for our national security.

Today, 75 percent of young Americans cannot join our armed services, primarily for three reasons: They are poorly educated, physically unfit or already have a criminal record. This not only threatens our economic future, it also poses a real threat to our national security.

One of the best ways to reverse this downward trend is high-quality early education like pre-kindergarten and Head Start.

Early education is a proven way to improve later academic performance and increase graduation rates.

It also helps our youth develop important social skills, which will serve them well in whatever career they choose to pursue.

I thank the governor for not making further cuts in state funding for these important early education programs in the upcoming biennial state budget.

It is my hope that our legislators will also continue to support early learning programs like Head Start and public pre-kindergarten. These programs are important for the education of Maine's children and for our nation's security.

Army Gen. Wallace Nutting (retired)

Saco

Fight back against effort to gut Clean Election fund

The role of money in politics has long loomed like a dark cloud over our democracy, but never more so than in the recent election, in which exceedingly large private contributions from anonymous donors overwhelmed races large and small throughout the country to the tune of $6 billion.

According to the Portland Press Herald ("In Maine, outsiders outspent candidates for first time ever," Dec. 21), outside spending in Maine legislative races alone totaled nearly $3.5 million, more than doubling the previous record.

Maine has a long and proud tradition of rejecting the influence of outside moneyed interests in our politics, and in 1996, Maine citizens spoke, and the nation's first clean election bill became law.

However, the recent Citizens United ruling dismantled many of its key features. What's more, Gov. LePage's outrageous new budget would cripple the program by raiding the Clean Election fund of $4 million, virtually ensuring that the interests of big money will win the day over the people of Maine in the next election cycle ("Proposed cuts worry Maine Clean Election advocates," Jan. 17).

Recent demonstrations in Augusta showed us that, thankfully, a major bipartisan effort is under way in Augusta to reject the governor's budget, strengthen our Clean Election law and send a resolution to Washington that demands a constitutional amendment to limit the influence of anonymous special interests with billions to spend.

As Mainers, we should put our backs into supporting these efforts and demand that our government be beholden to the people, not sold to the highest bidder.

Lucas Desmond

Maine League of Young Voters

Portland

City's spending decisions stir questions, skepticism

A Feb. 13 Press Herald headline, "Schools put budget-cut ideas on table," sparked some ideas of my own. Instead of continuing to shortchange our children, and their futures, how about we:

1. Eliminate the newly hatched assistant city manager position, at a cost of approximately $100,000 per year plus benefits.

2. Also ax the totally redundant and useless mayor's position, saving $65,000 plus benefits.

3. Scrap the proposed park benches for the Bayside path at a whopping $42,500 each. (What?!? $500 benches were not good enough for the transients who dominate that area?)

4. Sell the idiotic dog walking park off Ocean Avenue for development and future property tax revenue.

5. Put an end to the encouraging and enabling of transients and other similar drains on our local economy to siphon off much-needed funds from the city coffers, which contribute greatly to the dreadful and dire financial state of our schools in the first place.

And that's just for starters. If Portland city officials managed our money as if it were their own, things might not be as bad as they are.

Remember the wise words of Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Great Britain: "Socialism only works until you run out of other people's money to spend."

Dennis Gervais

Portland

The potential benefits of conducting the external review to identify possible Portland Fire Department inefficiencies and to determine if realignments may produce fiscal savings have been stated ("Is the Portland Fire Department overstaffed?" Jan. 27).

The reasons the city of Portland has agreed to pay $39,000 for a study that had initially been estimated by the city to cost $30,000 remain opaque.

Did any qualified firms other than the successful bidder respond to the request for proposals? Were other proposals more in line with the budget estimate of $30,000, or was that sum unrealistic given the scope of the study? What qualifications did each firm possess or lack?

This study will be financed by Portland taxpayers. It would serve the public interest to make every proposal submitted to the city in response to that RFP available for publication and review.

Full disclosure of the facts that resulted in the decision to appropriate $9,000 more than had been projected will enable stakeholders to formulate informed opinions as to whether the 30 percent premium represents fiscal folly or a prudent and necessary investment of community resources.

Al Freedman

Portland

 

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