As an advocate and friend to many Burundian immigrants, it was disheartening to read your interpretation and factual inaccuracies in “Refugees protest Portland visit by Burundi minister” (June 9).

I have had the honor and privilege to become a part of the Burundian community as an International Christian Fellowship member, where my father, Pastor Glenn Mitchell, is the associate pastor (who recently just returned from his fifth trip to Burundi).

There are over 1,100 immigrants in Portland from the Great Lakes Region of Africa, which includes Burundi and its surrounding neighbors of Rwanda and the eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo, whose people are directly affected by the political warfare of Burundi. More immigrants are pouring in every day.

Burundi has been ravaged by warfare, open wounds of genocide and a government that spawns continual corruption and atrocities. Yet, unlike other countries, it is not the Burundian people fighting against the government; this war has divided neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, houses split and trust stripped.

The visiting government minister has had his hand in many injustices, which has perpetuated a spirit of fear and outrage in our community. However, he was never asked to be a speaker at the ICF youth conference, nor was he hosted by the Rev. Mutima Peter. The protest was fueled by a false assumption that the church organization had no control over. It is a common practice in Burundi to discredit individuals by implying involvement; guilty by association, which is not justice or freedom, it’s slander.

Jennifer Mvula

Portland

No risk involved in state’s stance on health exchanges

Eric Russell’s June 15 article, “On health reform, state’s wait is risky,” probably should have appeared on the opinion page. When the headline of a news story states that a course of action by the Legislature is “risky,” that’s an opinion. And this one is quite likely wrong.

ObamaCare exchanges are now mandated by the federal government. All states have the choice of establishing their own state-based exchange, taking on all of the responsibility for its operation as well as paying for it, or the feds will do it for us and they will have to figure out how to pay for it.

The enticement for states to form an exchange, according to the column, is “local control.” Yet, states will have little if any real control over state exchanges — how they operate, the rules of operation, laws, requirements and restrictions will still be up to the whims of feds in charge of the Affordable Care Act. State control in this case is only an illusion — and an expensive one.

The federal government does not have the money to run 50 of these exchanges, estimated at between $20 million and $70 million per year each to operate. They are counting on states running these exchanges for them. In Maine, these funds would come out of Maine’s health care system and our economy.

Thankfully, the Maine Legislature has recently rejected the idea of implementing a state exchange and has enacted legislation to make sure any navigators within an exchange are certified by our own Bureau of Insurance.

Mr. Russell needs to learn that there is never any risk in not forming a new and expensive bureaucracy. And your headline writers should save their opinions for the opinion page.

Rep. Jonathan McKane

R-Newcastle

State health insurance law hikes small-business costs

As a small-business owner providing health insurance to seven employees (several of whom are near 60), one of the biggest challenges I face is the rising cost of health care. We were saved from a more onerous increase only because one of our employees became eligible for Medicare and we hired a new, younger staff member.

When our Legislature passed Public Law 90 last year, a massive deregulation of health insurance in Maine, Republicans and conservatives claimed that this legislation would make the cost of health care more affordable.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen just the opposite happen, with insurance companies raising the cost of premiums and offering less insurance for a higher price. Our recent increase for the coming year through Dirigo will still be 14 percent, after increasing our deductible by $250 and improving our age profile.

At the same time, health insurance companies like Anthem continue to turn tremendous profits, paying outrageous executive salaries and spending unnecessary amounts on administration compared to public-option insurance available in so many countries with better health outcomes than ours. At the same time, they are fighting attempts to reform at every turn.

Small businesses and the self-employed are the backbone of Maine’s economy, but high health insurance costs, because of deregulation, are breaking our backs.

We need to urge Maine’s legislators to ensure that small businesses can keep the lights on at the same time they help keep their employees and themselves healthy.

Halcyon Blake

Halcyon Yarn

Bath

City resident feels robbed by parking enforcement

I suspect I was not alone one recent rainy morning to find that I had been robbed of $25. There had been a gang of thieves canvassing the city, ripping off sleeping citizens of their hard-earned cash.

This working-class cross-section of people can ill afford these rip-off artists stealing their money during down economic times every time they let their guard down.

The crooks out there will stay with you 24/7, and the moment you take your eye off the ball, they run in and steal. And they do it with the blessing of the city. The city actually signs off on most all schemes they come up with. The parking enforcement crooks in this town are out of control and have been for decades. The money brought in is in the millions.

I ask the public works department to comment and answer this question. At midnight, one minute after Memorial Day, was there one city truck sweeper anywhere in this city? The West End street on which I live has not been swept in weeks. Hundreds of rocks are strewn all about by city workers who leave them in the street after they fill potholes.

This town is downright vicious with ticket grubbers. Any elected officials give a damn?

Zoo Cain

Portland