March 10, 2013

Letters to the editor: Public-sector retirees scapegoated

On Page 1 of the Maine Sunday Telegram ("As double-dipping grows, so does scrutiny of state pensions," March 3) was a story about retirees from the state and school districts receiving both state retirement and a tax-supported paycheck.

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Lance Libby, 64, of Bowdoin is a retired teacher who’s gone back to work as a regular substitute. A reader says he agrees with the head of the state teachers union that people who collect “both state retirement and a tax-supported paycheck” are simply collecting the benefits that they’ve earned.

2013 File Photo/Gabe Souza

This story seemed somewhat biased in its subtle implication that once retired -- for example, as a public school teacher -- one should not, perhaps, augment his or her retirement through any position funded by the state or a school system.

The article mentioned that some who had lost their private-sector retirement resented or envied those state retirees whose retirement is safe and didn't somehow disappear.

No one who has tragically lost private-sector retirement should resent public-sector retirees who have avoided that fate. They are not the enemy; nor should they be seen as convenient scapegoats.

The "villain" here may well be a private sector-worshipping attitude fostered by some in positions of wealth and power who dearly love pitting working-class people against each other. "Divide and conquer" is the name of that hideous game.

The article in the Telegram stated, "Opinions about double-dipping range from Gov. Paul LePage, who in January referred to these workers as 'unconscionable' and 'absolutely disgusting,' to Maine Education Association President Lois Kilby-Chesley, who said employees are just collecting benefits earned through years of service."

I believe that the MEA president's words are more accurate here than the governor's, since Mr. LePage was typically contemptuous in his statement about people who "double dip" through, for instance, substitute teaching.

If the state sees a solution in doing away with the state retirement system, or cost-shifting the retirement over to local communities, or simply saying, "Hey, go get your own private-sector retirement," good luck with that. These are not solutions at all.

Robert Barter


Criticism of UMaine coach overlooks sterling resume

Since someone has questioned Coach Richard Barron's qualifications in the Maine Sunday Telegram ("Cindy Blodgett's successor seems to lack qualifications," Jan. 13), and there has not been further information in that publication (and not many of us "up north" get the Sunday Portland paper), I feel that your readers need to hear the other side of the story:

It is unfortunate that the writer didn't take a minute to speak with someone close to the team and/or check Coach Barron's credentials.

A quick Google of his name produces a news release from the University of Maine dated May 11, 2011, stating that, as head coach at Princeton for six years, he took them from a 2-25 record prior to his arrival to an Ivy League title in 2005-'06.

The release also mentions his success as a recruiter, including at Baylor (a team that seems to be doing pretty well).

My wife and I have been UMaine women's basketball fans since 1983. We have also been Cindy Blodgett fans since her high school days. Cindy is a great person and a great basketball player, but not yet a great coach. Don't bet against her becoming one!

When Cindy took over the program, it was at a very low point, and after her best efforts, we still had a long way to go. Coach Barron has the tools to take us there.

Don't be surprised if we someday mention his name in the same sentence as Joanne Palumbo and Sharon Versyp, both of whom brought the program to uncharted heights. Sit back and enjoy the games, because it's going to be a fun ride.

(Continued on page 2)

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