Baxter Academy remains in the news. They met with the Charter Commission to discuss the recent changes in management and their fiduciary duties in order to open their doors in September 2013.

In my opinion, it is clear that Portland Mayor Michael Brennan is taking advantage of the present situation in order to disband the charter school movement.

He has been opposed to charter schools since their introduction. He is unhappy with the current way in which charter schools are funded, which is through each public school district’s budget. The average cost per pupil is $9,000 a year.

Brennan plans to seek $40,000 from the Portland Development Corp. to help launch his long-promised “Research Triangle” cluster of education, research and technology institutions.

But he said the new charter Baxter Academy for Technology and Science is not being looked at for participation in the collaborative. Rather, the mayor said, his Research Triangle, which will include the Portland Public Schools, further makes the new charter unnecessary.

Until that time though, it is evident, based on the continued public outcry, that charter schools are necessary to provide what the students are not being given, which is real-life, hands-on learning that relates directly to the world of technology and work. Possibly charter schools will cause public schools to rethink the standard fare that they are currently providing.

Rather than continue to throw stones, Brennan needs to stop and to be held accountable as to what he is doing, which is to slow down any momentum that Baxter Academy has attained in order to make sure that their doors do not open this fall.

I believe that this “David and Goliath” approach only hurts students, families and communities.

Robin Monahan


Arkansas spill bodes poorly for tar sands’ Maine future

The devastating tar sands pipeline spill March 29 drove people from their homes in Arkansas near Lake Conway, a drinking water source. Residents await word on their homes while their neighborhood is seeing rescue efforts for oil-soaked ducks.

And there’s more bad news on the cleanup costs. The pipeline company, ExxonMobil, does not have to pay cleanup costs! Why? Because this spill is not classified as “oil.”

The spill is heavy crude bitumen; it is tar sands; it is what will travel the Keystone XL pipeline. But it is not defined as oil, according to a 30-year-old law. Companies are required to pay into a cleanup fund, but only for “oil,” not for tar sands.

So companies transporting toxic tar sands are exempt from paying into the cleanup fund for spills that will certainly occur. Seems that leaves the mess for the pockets of the taxpayers.

Here in Maine, there’s worry the Portland Pipe Line Corp. may use its Portland-to-Canada pipeline to bring tar sands from Canada to the Maine coast. On radio, an executive of Portland Pipe Line repeatedly called this stuff “oil” in spite of program comments that tar sands is very different.

Now we learn from the Arkansas spill that an oil transport company does not need to pay to clean up tar sands. Why? Because it’s not “oil,” even if Portland Pipe Line says it is.

Is this what Maine people and waters will face if tar sands flows from Canada to our coast on its way to somewhere else?

Jean Foss


Buffer zone will offer shield from anti-abortion ‘gantlet’

It has recently come into light that Portland is trying to create a “buffer zone” to protect women walking through the doors of Planned Parenthood from the pro-life protesters who line sidewalks.

I had an abortion. I withstood walking in and having protesters scream, “I know you’re scared, but you don’t have to do this!” I never saw her face, but that woman’s voice has haunted me since that day in October 2011.

I am fully in support of a buffer zone. While I respect what the protesters are doing, they don’t understand that some of us do “have to do this.”

I grew up in an abusive household. I’ve recently been diagnosed with personality disorder not otherwise specified. For the first time in my life, I’m in a healthy relationship. When I was pregnant, I was not ready for a child. I was emotionally destructive, my hands were bleeding from punching walls and I knew that someday, those fists would hit a child.

I’m in therapy now. Every day I’m recovering from my abortion, yet I’ve never regretted the decision to obtain one — only the fact I’d gotten pregnant in the first place.

No woman should be screamed at for making a legal decision and undergoing a medical procedure. It is her decision to make, and she should be free to walk without confrontation. Creating a buffer zone protects not only the rights of the protesters but the mental stability of the woman walking in.

Lynne Schmidt


I am writing to urge the Portland City Council to fulfill its responsibilities in protecting its citizenry on the public ways in the area of Planned Parenthood on Congress Street by enacting the 35-foot patient safety zone ordinance.

Patients seeking health care and all pedestrians have a right to use public ways without being challenged, taunted or intimidated. The law also recognizes a person’s inherent right to freely seek and obtain health care. This is what we all know as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

In some instances, women seeking health care and guidance from services such as Planned Parenthood are in a vulnerable state and would be quite sensitive to unsolicited remarks, pamphlets in their faces, grotesque graphics, picture taking and Bible quoting — all designed to heap shame and intimidation on those who would seek professional counseling.

Patients are having to run a literal gantlet. In fact, just the proximity of the protesters leads to heightened stress. This is hardly protesting as protected by law. Rather, this is disorderly conduct, punishable by law!

As the weather continues to warm, it is doubtful that mere “extra attention” from police will suffice. Confrontation and intimidation are tactics used by zealots, and because of the close proximity of the two sides, cruisers passing by would only have chance occasion to see violations.

Distance provided by a 35-foot safety zone would serve to reduce tension and increase visibility. My personal view is that if these demonstrations continue with no council action, police presence may have to be incremented as the weather changes.

The City Council needs to be proactive given the nature of these types of demonstrations, step up and protect its vulnerable citizenry.

Robert Fritsch