A recent story in the Press Herald (“Lewiston fears release of mentally disabled arson suspect,” Aug. 7) dealt with the potential release of an arsonist with mild intellectual disability back into the Lewiston community.

The Lewiston fires were horrific events that displaced and caused a lot of pain for many people.

The comments that followed that story showed a fair level of ignorance about the vast majority of intellectually disabled people and their ability to be valuable members of the community. Some even condemned the consent decree that closed the Pineland Center years ago.

The closure of the Pineland Center was a step forward for the intellectually disabled and led to a much better life for most of them.

Many of these people now live among us in our communities. They work, volunteer and lead happy, full lives. There are support networks set up to help them succeed with their lives to the best of their abilities. The problem, if any, is the constant cuts to MaineCare, which funds many of their services.

Now, there are within any group of people who need more help than others, who need services to correct unacceptable behavior or who need to be constantly supervised.

The answer isn’t to lump them in one group and say that all or most of them should be locked away from the rest of us. Instead, it is to provide the necessary services to deal with those who require the extra supervision.

Social service budgets are expanded to serve perfectly able-bodied and intellectually sound people who knowingly ruin their lives by abusing drugs or alcohol and who offend all of us.

And in that same process, services are cut or level-funded for people who are born with a challenge. Where is the justice or common sense in that approach?

Howard Hanson

Local farmers don’t need intensive federal oversight

Just think — it took a couple of weeks before we learned which foods are responsible for the cyclospora outbreak and where you might have eaten them (“Foodborne illness blamed on parasite spending in U.S.,” Aug. 3).

In the consolidated U.S. food market, contaminated food may be sold in many states, potentially sickening thousands of people. This most recent food contamination underscores why “buy local” and “know your farmer, know your food” is the best way to know your food is safe.

Obviously, we need local farmers if we want to buy local food, but all of Maine’s farmers are facing a new problem — and it is not the wet weather.

Proposed federal food safety regulations make the most sense for food that travels the longest distance and goes through many hands before it gets to your dinner plate.

However, every farm, food processor and food handler, including local ones, will fall under these regulations, and it will cost thousands of dollars for Maine farmers to comply. This will put some farmers and food producers out of production and discourage new farmers.

I’m not suggesting that local organic or local conventional food is always safe. But local farms and food producers have maximum control over the safety of their food. And you can quickly trace contaminated food to its source when it is locally produced. This short chain of accountability is itself our best assurance of food safety.

Please tell the Food and Drug Administration that we need food safety regulations, but the regulations must relate to risk. Ask them to apply the big regulations to the big safety problems and apply small regulations to low-risk food production.

You can comment in person from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Augusta Civic Center (call 287-3841 for more information). Or comment online at www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm26168 or regulations.gov. The commenting deadline is Nov. 16.

Jo Ann Myers

LePage’s actions worthy of a ‘run of summer thrillers’

Wow, what a run of summer thrillers in the Press Herald! 

A huge, white predator breaks through defenses and chews up a Mainer. 

A rabid beast indiscriminately sinks its teeth into innocent bystanders. 

A runaway freight train explodes, leveling everything in its path.

And that’s just the news about Gov. LePage!

Terry Shepard

It’s worth cost of turnpike to reach destination on time

In a letter of Aug. 3 (“Commuter enjoys the road less traveled“), a Press Herald reader made the bizarre (and obviously untrue) claim that the turnpike had raised rates by 400 percent for her commute between Portland and Lewiston. For that reason, she had decided to take back roads to work.

The current E-ZPass rate from Exit 48 in Portland to Exit 80 in Lewiston is only $2.05.

If a person makes 30 one-way trips per month, the rate drops by 25 percent. At 40 trips, the toll drops by half to just over a dollar, a rate per mile of only 3.2 cents, making it one of the cheapest rates of any toll highway in the world.

The new discount applies not only to commuting but also to all turnpike trips taken by any family member during the month. And Maine families are not required to pay in advance for trips they may never use, as was the case under the former program.

I have lived on back roads in Maine for most of my life and have explored many of them by car, by bicycle and by long-distance running.

However, if I must travel to work every day in all kinds of Maine weather and want to avoid accidents, stoplights and traffic congestion, I will gladly invest a few cents per mile in the Maine Turnpike to get there on time by the safest means possible.

Any member of the public wanting to discuss turnpike business may call me on my cell at 858-6400.

Peter Mills
executive director, Maine Turnpike Authority

Congress has failed to earn extensive stretch of time off

What in heck is happening to the Republican Party in Washington? And now five weeks’ vacation!

Do we need to ask any other question at this point in time? I think not.

J.R. Chasser
Sarasota, Fla., and Wells

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