Friday, December 13, 2013
Quick takes on issues in the news this week in central Maine ...
Thumbs up to the city of Augusta for cracking down on substandard housing. It is a painful but worthwhile process that ultimately will make sure that vulnerable residents have a safe place to live.
The kudos come with a caveat. People can't be allowed to stay where an emergency could easily turn into a disaster, but they also can't be put out of their homes lightly. In a few instances, tenants taken by surprise by the closings have been left in difficult situations. Every effort should be made to keep tenants aware of any pending actions, and require that they be housed close to Augusta if their building is shuttered.
The city has an equal obligation to require that safety hazards be fixed, and that tenants be taken care of in the meantime. As long as the city can balance those two duties, officials should continue to send the message that safety code violations will not be tolerated. Landlords will get the message.
Likewise, the City Council should move forward with its plan to require tenants receiving general assistance to consent to housing inspections.
That will help the city act on housing safety issues before buildings deteriorate to the point that repairs are too costly.
Thumbs down to the town of Winthrop's finances, which received a D from an auditor unimpressed with practices that failed to adequately keep track of spending.
This easily could become a thumbs-up if officials heed the recommendations from the auditing firm. There is no evidence of wrongdoing, but the system in place certainly left the town open to misappropriation of funds and must be tightened.
Maine public and nonprofit organizations have been proven to be susceptible to embezzlement.
In recent years, the Maine Turnpike Authority, the town of Norway, the Maine Trial Lawyers Association, York County Community Action, an Augusta post office, a Kiwanis Club in Milo and a library in Old Orchard Beach were all the victims of embezzlement.
And those are just the ones that were prosecuted -- many others are settled quietly before allegations are brought to the authorities.
Thumbs up to Wilton Selectwoman Tiffany Maiuri for rescinding her suggestion that the town adopt residency restrictions for sex offenders.
There is an understandable impulse to impose rules that ban sex offenders from certain areas, but study after study show that they don't work. Restrictions can be difficult to enforce in practice, and when they are enforced, the rules sometimes lead to unstable living situations that contribute to recidivism.
In any case, 90 percent of young victims know the offender, and almost half of the time it's a family member.
The keys to preventing sexual abuse are education and community awareness, not ineffective ordinances.
Thumbs down to Augusta schools for stopping outside organizations from distributing fliers and other informational materials at school.
Schools are community centers, and the one place where youth and civic organizations can reach the vast majority of children at once.
That is far too valuable a resource to squander, especially as budgets have tightened and forced schools to cut back on programs.
The Board of Education, which has promised to review the policy, should see the community organizations as partners who provide services and opportunities to students.