Your article about the Portland Planning Board’s Nov. 12 session to consider the proposed midtown project raises several disturbing issues (“$38 million Bayside project nears final vote in Portland,” Nov. 13).

First, board member Jack Soley is quoted once and paraphrased once as saying “we” (presumably the citizens of Portland) will simply have to “get over” several elements of the project: that the Bayside Trail may be in shadow for most of the day and subject to flooding, and that the project will lack a “neighborhood feel.”

What an astonishingly cavalier attitude on the part of a public official! If the trail is in shadow, it will be ice-covered and dangerous for months in the winter; flooding will make it unusable at other times.

And isn’t Portland’s reputation as a livable city built on having a neighborhood feel? Why would we encourage a project that diminishes that?

Second, the project’s developer has indicated that the corridors between some of the taller buildings might act as wind tunnels, with winds strong enough to cause damage or injury.

Why would the Planning Board condone this? I hope the developer, having made this admission, is sufficiently insured to cover future lawsuits.

Third, board member Stuart O’Brien stated that asking the developer to carry out a building shadow and wind study would be “unreasonable,” because there would not be enough time before the company breaks ground.

Doesn’t this suggest that the board considers this project a “done deal” and is simply going through the motions of the hearing process?

Unfortunately, we cannot vote board members out of office when, as here, they make no effort to hide their allegiance to a project that will blight our city.

Ellen D. Murphy


Limiting rehab services bad way to trim Medicare

Now that the government shutdown and debt ceiling matters have been temporarily resolved, Congress will be required to address several important issues over the next several months, one of which is ensuring that Medicare’s payments to physicians are not cut by nearly 25 percent.

Congress has repeatedly acted to override these cuts – usually by cutting other health care providers.

Under the guise of “reform,” some policymakers in Washington want to make it more difficult for qualified Medicare beneficiaries to access intensive medical rehabilitation and nursing care that can only be provided in rehabilitation hospitals. They would do it by revising a technical policy called the “60 Percent Rule.”

This policy requires hospitals like New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland to ensure that at least 60 percent of all patients have medical diagnoses in one of 13 medical categories, such as strokes, neurological impairments, hip fractures and trauma cases. It is antiquated, quota-based and can have a rationing effect.

The proposed change will increase the percentage from 60 percent to 75 percent, an increase that would make the rationing effects worse. Shifting seniors away from rehabilitation hospitals simply because their diagnoses are not included on an outdated list of medical conditions is not “reform.”

Thankfully, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree recognizes this and recently signed a letter to Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing her concerns.

There are multiple alternatives available to achieve reform in our healthcare system, including within the rehabilitation hospital community, but reducing patients’ access to our services simply because of their diagnoses is not one of them.

Jeanine S. Chesley

CEO, New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland Portland

Dechaine could be impetus for Hamlet’s soliloquy

Among the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune Hamlet lists in his “To be or not to be” speech are “the law’s delay” and “the insolence of office.”

As his motion for a retrial enters its sixth year, Dennis Dechaine certainly knows about the former. The latter is amply demonstrated by the diametrically opposite interpretations by two superior court justices of Maine’s post-conviction DNA statute – which requires evaluating DNA test results with all the other evidence in the case.

Justice Carl Bradford, the trial judge still to rule on Dechaine’s re-trial motion, interprets “all the other evidence in the case” to mean only evidence directly related to DNA, e.g., test results and methodologies. To date, Bradford has not admitted evidence relating to time-of-death, which supports Dechaine’s innocence, or an alternative suspect. DNA should not be the only allowable kind of evidence of an alternative suspect.

Judge Thomas Warren, in a March 14, 2012 ruling denying a similar re-trial motion, argues the exact opposite: that it is “necessary” to evaluate the DNA evidence “in light of the entire body of evidence,” which includes bloodstains, a sheet used to wrap the victim’s body, its burial location, the murder weapon, et al.

The courts can’t have it both ways. Neither can the attorney general’s office, which appears eager to use “any and all evidence” to support a conviction, but resists using it to establish a truth that might lead to exoneration.

Given the chance in 2011 to clarify their intent regarding these opposing interpretations of their own law, the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee ruled unanimously against doing so.

So Dechaine is still waiting – in the 26th year of “the law’s delay.”

Bernie Huebner


Push for welfare reform ignores need for fair pay

In all the talk about “welfare reform” and work requirements, notably absent is any discussion of employer responsibility both to their employees and those looking for work.

Is the pay a living wage? What are the benefits, cost of working, including transportation and child care?

Why put all the responsibility on the recipient of “welfare?”

Critics obviously lack facts and compassion. Many employers lack imagination, are unwilling to train a worker and are timid.

The employer has all the power, not the applicant.

Virginia Arbuckle Spencer