This year, I was one of a team of volunteers who worked with AARP in Augusta during the legislative session. Our goal was to address critical issues on behalf of the 228,000 AARP members in Maine.

I enjoyed serving as an advocate for those 50 and older in our state, especially for those who may not feel they have a voice in Augusta. Our team worked hard to make their voices heard and to make a difference. We attended committee hearings and testified on certain issues.

Right from the start, the programs being considered for massive cuts were the programs upon which our most at-risk neighbors rely, including the Medicare Savings Program and Drugs for the Elderly Program. These are among the services that help seniors stay in their own homes and communities.

Our team and many AARP members opposed the proposed cuts. In the end, 6,000 older Mainers will lose their program benefits. While that’s better than the 72,000 seniors who would have originally been affected by the cuts, that is still 6,000 too many.

We also followed other bills of importance to seniors in Maine and tackled issues such as elder abuse, long-term care and telecommunication deregulation. Our team testified against the proposed telecommunication deregulation, which would have been terrible for low-income residents and those in rural communities. Mainers could have been subjected to reduced services and higher rates, but our efforts resulted in better consumer protections.

We are always looking for new volunteers, and there is more information about our work at aarp.org/maine. Thank you to all our volunteers who really made a difference during the 2012 legislative session. See you next year!

Rena Heath

volunteer, AARP Maine Capitol City Task Force

Hallowell

Gov. LePage gives priority to corporate interests

The divide in America is not between political parties and their ideologies, between religious beliefs, between rich and poor or between value systems; it is between the corporate state and the citizen.

Paul LePage knows what he wants: a corporate state. LePage, his staff and his supporters clearly march to the following orders: Establish optimal conditions for private firms to enter Maine so that they may profit without interference. The marching orders follow a simple set of principles.

Eliminate outside influence on compensation and benefits.

Consolidate control of operating expenses.

Remove controls (regulations) impacting freedom of action.

Establish barriers that prevent challenges to the corporate state’s control.

Removal of collective bargaining rights for child care providers was a symbolic message to corporate entities: “Maine is open for business, no wage/benefit concerns here.”

Educational Commissioner Steve Bowen’s dismissal of a citizens group was a message to corporate entities: “Maine is open for business; if someone gets in your way, they’re gone.”

None of this is difficult to accomplish if you have the legislative votes and pre-written legislation (American Legislative Exchange Council); critical thinking is not required.

Can it be more insidious? Revenue from within the state comes from state income, sales and real estate taxes. Reducing the state income tax more than likely places additional burden on sales and real estate taxes, and that is Paul LePage’s intent. Those who can least afford real estate tax increases are the middle class and working class. Mainers will have to work harder and longer for wages and benefits more highly controlled by corporate entities.

Elimination of the middle class and working class — is it social Darwinism or social genocide? Paul LePage doesn’t care. All he cares about is being CEO of a corporate state, and he is well on his way.

Thomas Czyz

Falmouth

Pieces of Portland history should be seen in City Hall

In May, the city of Portland’s attorney wrote a letter saying that the city has hired a historian to research the ownership of the Boxer cannon (“Portland says cannon is the city’s,” May 25).

I think this is a mistake. I was told sometime in the 1970s by the head of Portland Public Works that he had a document showing the cannon belongs to Portland. A historian will never find that. The city needs to have the head of Public Works check his own files for that document.

The cannon and the Cruiser Portland silver set belong to the citizens of Portland and should be on permanent display in City Hall, not on display in a museum 35 miles away that charges admission. I know people in the Portland area who would like to see these two items on display in City Hall, but I do not know anyone who wants to make a 70-mile round-trip to Bath to see them while gas is up near $4 a gallon.

Next year is the bicentennial of the battle in which the cannon was captured at the cost of the lives of Lt. William Burroughs and Midshipman Kervin Waters.

The bravery of these two men who gave their lives so the rest of us could live in freedom should be remembered and honored next year, and the Boxer cannon and the Cruiser Portland silver set should be on permanent display here in City Hall at that time. To leave them in a closet out of sight is insulting to the memory of the many veterans who have served their country with honor.

Thomas O’Connor

Falmouth

Church collections to fight gay marriage upset Baptist

I do believe that my vote may be changing in support of gay marriage. As churches pass around a guilt plate for gay marriage on a secondary collection, it saddens me. This money could be used in the inner city and in other developmental task forces for churches.

As a whole, it sickens and saddens me that millions of dollars will be all but wasted in financing fat cat industry tycoons of the religious right or moral majority, as they continually call themselves. It is not something that I can live with on my conscience, seeing churches not only defiled but boosted up by a false litany of teachings.

With the Catholic churches and others seemingly following in line with the orthodoxy of the Southern Baptist Convention and other right-wing groups, it becomes a sadder measure. As a Baptist, I cannot help but notice while they finance these candidates, those who provide and work — the backbone of the churches — are passed by. Whether in crushing poverty or not, the church loves hearing the sound of its own voice.

I am utterly and completely sickened by the church’s judgments toward the poor, as it continually asks for more money against an effort which in all honesty should be decided by voters — not churches who should have their tax-exempt status stripped!

Joseph Ziehm

Lewiston