August 3, 2013

Letters to the editor: Commuter enjoys the road less traveled

I was a Maine Turnpike Authority "frequent flier" for more than 20 years, commuting from our home in Portland to my job in Lewiston five days a week. 

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The Maine Turnpike Authority’s decision to raise E-ZPass tolls for commuters was a boon to one Portland resident, who now saves money, gas and stress by taking back roads to her job in Lewiston.

2013 File Photo/Gordon Chibroski

When the MTA decided to get greedy (my opinion) and in turn intentionally harm all toll road commuters in Maine by discontinuing the wonderful commuter E-ZPass program, I went along with the change for one month. My tolls increased by 400 percent, which was shocking to my budget. 

I grumbled about it daily and am sure my coworkers were tiring of my tirade. One day, in order to work on improving my own mental health about this situation, I decided to forgo the toll road and take the "back road" through Gray to work. And then on my way home that day, I opted for the "back road" through Durham and Freeport. 

I was immediately aware of many benefits of my decision (initially on principle) to boycott the Maine Turnpike. I discovered that:

Going through Gray added three minutes to my commute time; going through Durham and Freeport added 0 minutes.

I benefited from a 3- to 5-mpg increase in gas mileage by traveling at speeds about 10 mph below my turnpike speeds.

And best of all, I found myself enjoying the scenery and the breezes (windows open was not very viable on the turnpike) and arriving at my destination more refreshed and happier than before my boycott. 

I would encourage fellow commuters who have not tried the boycott option to strongly consider it -- just try it for a week. You may find yourself as grateful as I am to the MTA. 

They do not seem the least bit concerned that they have lost me (and many others) as E-ZPass customers -- and I am happier and richer for their decision.  Win-win!

Deborah Taylor

Portland

Michaud erred in his vote on chaplain amendment

On July 23, Rep. John Fleming, R-La., introduced a religiously discriminatory amendment to the defense appropriations bill to prohibit the Defense Department from spending funds for any chaplain not endorsed by a religious organization. 

This amendment presumably was in response to the application of Jason Heap, a humanist and former Methodist minister, to be a Navy chaplain.

Only two Republicans voted for the amendment, while most Democrats, including Chellie Pingree, voted against it, thereby voting against discrimination. Unfortunately, gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mike Michaud joined 25 other Democrats, mostly from red states, in supporting the amendment, which passed.

Members of the military who are not religious are as likely as others to need services provided by chaplains, such as support and counseling on family problems, post-traumatic stress disorder and other personal issues. 

A substantial majority of chaplains are evangelical Protestants. It is questionable how effectively many of them could address the concerns of those who do not share their beliefs. Also, a nonbeliever who has died in the line of duty and his or her family deserve a suitable nonreligious memorial service.

It has been argued that nonbelievers do not need chaplains because mental health services are available to all military personnel, but they would have no guarantee of confidentiality. However, conversations with chaplains are privileged and are not disclosed to commanders, background investigators and others.

According to a 2008 survey by the Pew Religion & Public Life Project, about 8 percent of Mainers do not believe in God, and another 30 percent expressed some uncertainty about their belief in God. Probably those proportions are similar for Mainers in the military.

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