If there’s a silver lining in Nov. 2’s election results for Maine Democrats, it’s the new elected mayoral position in Portland.

An elected mayor changes southern Maine’s political landscape by producing a Democratic leader who will develop the constituent base, name recognition and financing connections necessary to launch a broader political career.

The new position creates a platform for the Democratic Party to reach out to comparably more conservative suburban voters. While Portland claims 64,000 residents, Greater Portland, including the surrounding suburbs, boasts 230,000 people, roughly half of the 1st Congressional District’s entire population.

Columnist Bill Nemitz called the mayoral position one “to cut ribbons and cash in.” Mr. Nemitz thus briefly described the politics of credit-claiming and constituent-building.

These images of ribbon-cutting will be transmitted to the surrounding suburbs, helping the new mayor gain a positive image and greater visibility. The communities and voters surrounding the city are economically tied to city politics, and the desire of the state’s largest business community to influence Portland’s policy process has already been felt.

The No Elected Mayor campaign was heavily outspent due to strong support from the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce and Portland business community.

The fundraising necessary for a mayoral election will help candidates find the deep pockets they need to finance a run at Maine’s 1st District U.S. House seat, U.S. Senate seat, or the Blaine House.

In fact, Tom Allen has already proved the position helpful in launching a political career. Allen was mayor from 1991-1992 before winning election to the U.S. House in 1996.

It will take time to develop the necessary political capital and connections, so look for the 2018 and 2020 races to be influenced by the new elected position.

Nathaniel Gray

Cape Elizabeth and Arlington, Va.

New fuel-efficiency rules would improve security

In “America, and its auto industry, need a tough new fuel standard” (Oct. 2), Adam Lee, chairman of Lee Auto Malls, pointed out that a strong fuel-efficiency standard of 60 miles per gallon by 2025 would give consumers the vehicles they’re asking for, save us money at the gas pump and jump-start a newly competitive American auto industry.

Lee is spot-on, and yet there are even more reasons to move to cleaner cars: reducing our dangerous addiction to oil, cutting pollution and protecting our environment.

The transportation sector consumes over half the oil used in the United States, so using our technological know-how to make cars and trucks more efficient is the easiest way to cut our oil dependence.

If cars could go an average of 60 miles per gallon, we would save 3 million barrels of oil every day by 2030. We would be less vulnerable to volatile gas prices — remember 2008? — and it would improve national security by keeping more of our troops out of harm’s way.

Furthermore, a 60 mpg standard by 2025 would cut carbon pollution from the transportation sector in half over the next 20 years and prevent millions of asthma attacks and respiratory problems by cutting other tailpipe emissions.

Plus, using less oil means less offshore drilling that gambles with our coastal economies and ecosystems by risking catastrophic spills.

So, if the Obama administration finalizes strong new fuel-efficiency standards of at least 60 mpg by 2025, it will be a triple win toward ending America’s oil addiction and protecting America’s environment, in addition to helping American consumers.

Laura Deetz

South Portland

Genetically modified food is increasing — and it’s safe

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila’s recent articles (Oct. 6 and Oct. 13) on genetically modified salmon raised several important issues. For the general public, deciphering scientific data in a controversial field can be very difficult.

Unfortunately, Ms. Kamila’s biased, misleading and one-sided articles did little to help your readers gain a true understanding of the subject.

The key issue is a genetically modified Atlantic salmon developed by AquaBounty, a Massachusetts biotech firm. Salmon is modified by inserting a gene from Chinook salmon, which mature rapidly, and also a gene from ocean pout, which produce growth hormones all year instead of only in warmer months.

The modified salmon grows to normal size twice as fast as farm-raised salmon. Aside from the two genes inserted, modified salmon is chemically and biologically identical to farm-raised Atlantic salmon.

FDA officials say that the salmon is as safe to eat as the traditional variety. However, the FDA convened an advisory committee largely composed of university scientists to render an independent opinion. The committee is not heavily weighted with members with ties to the genetically modified organism industry, as charged by Ms. Kamila. The committee will render an opinion based on good science and not on biased opinions.

Ms. Kamila goes on to question the safety of all GM foods while ignoring the vast body of scientific evidence to the contrary. GM crops were introduced 14 years ago, and 85 percent of corn and 91 percent of soybeans grown in the United States in 2009 were genetically modified. To date, not a single adverse health effect has been caused by a food derived from these and other GM crops.

More advances are critical for an adequate food supply for the future world population, which is why GM salmon and other biotech advancements must be explored and carefully assessed as options for the future.

Bruce R. Stillings


Vietnam still traumatic, as are our current wars

As I watched a recent MPBN broadcast of the “POV” program regarding Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, I found myself bursting into tears when clips of the Vietnam War were shown.

It dawned on me that even as I sat in the safety of my living room some 40 years ago, I had been traumatized by the killing, gunfire and explosions.

It then occurred to me that America (while in theory not in “harm’s way”) ironically did not escape unharmed. Everyone pays the price of war — very sadly, some more than others.

Fast-forward to the last nine years of explosions, gunfire and violence in Iraq and Afghanistan. What has it done to us? What has it done to you?

We are paying a very high price.

Pamela Levere