I find Jonathan Riskind’s Feb. 26 column about the Downeaster to be quite revealing (“Downeaster funding puts pressure on Snowe”).

It is true, as he states, that federal funds, taxpayers’ money, account for $6 million a year of the Downeaster’s operating budget.

It is also true that revenue from the Downeaster covers only 50 percent of the operating expenses.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority is the manager of Amtrak’s Downeaster, and their accounting does not include depreciation costs or debt service.

Taxpayers cover 100 percent of the capital costs for engines, passenger cars, rails and other infrastructure.

Much was celebrated when the Downeaster reached its 10th year anniversary in 2011 and the milestone of more than 500,000 passengers a year.

The focus on passenger numbers is what prompted U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, to call Amtrak, the Downeaster included, “a Soviet-style train system.”

The number of passengers is not an issue.

Three trains carry 55 percent of the total riders. These are No. 680 at 5:45 a.m. from Portland, No. 682 at 8 a.m. from Portland, and No. 685 at 5 p.m. from Boston.

So what are the other seven of the 10 daily trains doing to generate revenue?

Evidently, not much.

Given the times of these trains, it is clear that the Downeaster is primarily a commuter train. Should taxpayers be covering half of the commuter’s ticket cost?

Seasonal summer figures show a rise in ridership from tourists, and taxpayers are giving them a 50 percent discount to take the train.

The Downeaster has tremendous potential to run as a profitable private-sector business, but it won’t as long as public funds flow so easily, as Jonathan Riskind indicates, through its pursuit of federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement funds.

So even if we never ride the Downeaster, which is the case of the vast majority of Mainers, we will be paying half the ticket price for commuters, tourists and train enthusiasts.

John MacKillop


Facts about deportation should have been checked

Immigrants come to America for many reasons. Some to find work and avoid hunger, some to be free from religious and governmental oppression, and some simply for the educational opportunities and benefits this country offers.

There have been American citizens in the past and the present that object to “any” newcomers coming to America.

Now comes Mr. Richard Dodge (Press Herald, March 1) who strongly purports that if we deport all illegal aliens then the problems with job creation for Americans will be solved. Mr. Dodge cites former President Hoover as his hero, who Dodge says ordered all illegal aliens deported.

Mr. Dodge, this distortion of history has been around for a long time. Hoover did not use immigration policy to create jobs and never did he order the deportation of all illegal aliens.

Nor did he try to create jobs for returning veterans by ordering deportations.

Minimal historical research done with the Office of the Historian of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services along with an inquiry at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, would have shown you that there is no evidence that this former president ever issued a statement, executive order or proclamation ordering the deportation of all illegal immigrants.

In summary, your thesis is bogus. Next time you have an urge to rant, check your facts before showing your ignorance to the general public.

John J. McGinnis


Thinking ahead shouldn’t be subjected to sarcasm

Frank O’Connor’s sarcastic letter to the editor (“Rising seas and other threats,” March 2) ridiculing Mayor Brennan and the Portland City Council for starting to think about the potential damage to the city’s low-lying areas due to sea level rise was off base. I commend the mayor and the council for thinking ahead.

Thanks largely to the disinformation efforts of the fossil fuel industry and its well-compensated, doubt-spreading allies in Congress, the scientific reality of a warming earth has been turned into a political football for people like Mr. O’Connor to kick around.

Sadly, if he gets more than his feet wet visiting Portland from the rhetorical heights of Gorham, the rest of us will, too.

Sam Saltonstall

Peaks Island

South Portland High’s FIRST team are winners

I have just attended the FIRST Robotics event in Manchester, N.H.

The team from South Portland High School, which I graduated from in 1961, won the innovation award.

They also won the Woody Flowers award earlier in the day.

I was so proud to see my alma mater do so well.

Congratulations for the hard work that these high school students have done to achieve this award.

FIRST Robotics is an excellent program.

This was the 21st anniversary of the program’s competition.

It provides students with organizing skills, discipline, team spirit and, in some cases, it has provided a direct path to technical careers.

My husband and I also met students from the Bonny Eagle High School Robotics Team, which is located in Standish.

My husband graduated from Standish High School in 1961.

Congratulations to their team, coaches and mentors for all their dedication and hard work.

It was a joy to see our Maine teams represented in the competition.

Linda French Twombly

Nashua, N.H.