On May 12, I attended the Aroostook Railway Task Force meeting at the Caribou Inn and Convention Center. The Task Force, under the direction of Gov. Baldacci, was created to ensure that the process of railroad abandonment and acquisition is done openly, and in a way that protects Maine taxpayers.

The only notice of the daytime meeting I spotted was a small piece in the St. John Valley Times that made it into that paper just ahead of press time.

Only 12 chairs were set out for the public. After 30 minutes of self-introductions by the distinguished panel, the several public participants were offered a brief chance to speak.

The Task Force then went into “executive session” for the rest of the day. I expected the meeting to be open to the public. I was mistaken. In my judgment, the process being used is less than transparent and definitely not “open.”

Steve Sutter
Presque Isle

If Maine’s future is to include electric trains (“Another View,” May 11), they will be running under Christmas trees and in hobbyists’ basements.

That fanciful commentary fails to recognize why electrification in this country has been limited to urban rapid transit and commuter applications and certain heavily traveled inter-city passenger routes worthy of massive public-sector investment, such as Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.  Adjusted to scale, there may be more miles of track on American floors and tabletops than those in use for real-life haulage of freight and passengers.

Maine’s fragile, down-size rail system hardly has the traffic density and consequent revenue-generating ability to support its existing infrastructure, let alone a prohibitive capital commitment to electrification. The only U.S. freight line with electric propulsion, in northern Arizona, was constructed and equipped in the early 1970s exclusively to transport large volumes of coal 78 miles form the mine to and on-line generating station as the power source.

Through railroad electrification may be environmentally desirable, and extraordinary cost-benefit ratio makes the author’s argument academic at best in a time of extreme national financial stress.

As with the illusion of high-speed rail (upwards of 100 miles an hour), the paper should be enlightening its readers rather than devoting space to fantasies that have no basis in economic reality for Maine.

George C. Betke Jr.
President, Transport Economics, Inc.

Canada wants to keep on doing business with Maine

The numbers are in – more than 8 million United States jobs depend on trade with Canada, including 37,230 jobs in Maine alone. If the United States-Canada border was closed today, 8 million Americans jobs would be negatively impacted.

As Canada’s representative to the state of Maine, I recently shared the importance of the Canada-United States economic relationship with members of Congress in Washington. The message? When you vote, think North American competitiveness. Think high-paying jobs in Maine.

And when voting on legislation, think open and competitive procurement markets to preserve jobs on both sides of the border.

The recession has hurt millions of people in both Canada and the United States. Our mutual prosperity is greatly enhanced by strengthening our integrated economies and ensuring that our shared border operates efficiently and safely. The United States and Canada have been, and will continue to be, each other’s best customer. More than $1 million worth of goods and services cross our border every minute.

Canada is the largest export market for 34 of the 50 states. We buy almost three times more from the United States than China does. The United States exports more to Canada than to China, Japan and the United Kingdom combined.

The nature of the economic relationship between our two countries is unique. Canadian and U.S. companies make things together through integrated supply chains. We depend on one another to compete globally. Canadians and Americans are in this together.

Neil Le Blanc
Canadian Consul General to New England

Area Agencies on Aging do good job advising elders

I admire Michelle Singletary’s “Color of Money” column. However, regarding caring for aging parents (May 16), she was not on the money in neglecting to mention the nationwide Agencies on Aging.

In my work as a fundraiser for the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, I’ve learned from our social workers that the best care I can provide my parents right now is to be available, to listen, and to respect their decisions.

It’s not easy. I want them to move near me so I can take care of them; they prefer to remain in their small town with friends who take care of each other.

When my sisters call to say “We need to discuss ‘What are we going to do about Mom and Dad?’ ” I now respond, “We must include Mom and Dad in the discussion.”

The Agency on Aging provides support for family caregivers and also hands-on assistance. An older friend recently mentioned he was paying $400 monthly for his medical prescriptions and was cutting pills in half to save money. I suggested he make an appointment with one of our social workers. She enrolled him in a program that reduced his $400 payments to $4. (Not a typo!)

Five Agencies on Aging serve Maine. In spite of our name, we are not federal or state agencies. We are private, nonprofit organizations. We rely on many volunteers and donors to help us help people age 60-plus and their families. Our programs, such as Meals on Wheels, are for people of all income levels.

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging is at 396-6500 and www.smaaa.org. Residents of other counties can call 211 to find their Agency on Aging.

Your readers should know of this free resource for themselves, their family and their friends.

Susan DeWitt Wilder

Episcopal bishop’s letter lacked critical information

Since I doubt the pope will reply to the kind and painful article, “A Letter to Pope Benedict XVI” by Bishop V. Gene Robinson of The Episcopal Church, I want to address a few issues that were the basis of his letter.

Bishop Robinson, who is gay, believes that Roman Catholic seminaries should admit gay men because, he believes, there is no evidence that homosexual men are more or less likely to be child abusers than heterosexual men. Unfortunately, there is a large body of such evidence.

Researchers at Santa Clara University found that 80 percent to 90 per cent of the victims of abuse by Catholic clergy were adolescent boys.

Studies reported in the Archives of Sexual Behavior include statements like “the rate of homosexual attraction is 6 to 20 times higher in pedophiles” or “the prevalence of homosexuality among pedophiles may be as high as 30-40 percent.” A study in the same journal in 1988 found that “86 percent of pedophiles described themselves as homosexual or bisexual.”

Similar studies can be found in the “Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy” and the “Journal of Sex Research.” Even the Kinsey Report in 1948 found that 37 percent of male homosexuals admitted to having sex with children under 17 years old.

Given this research, my church is reluctant to move quickly in decisions like these. Prayer and study may help us in our understanding and our approach to seminary candidates.

Bishop Robinson has shown a great deal of Christian compassion in his letter, and I’m sure with God’s help my church under Pope Benedict will also do so. We join him in his prayers for his church and ours.

Peter Sullivan


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