Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Quick takes on issues in the news this week in central Maine ...
THUMBS UP to the first responders who pulled a Waterville woman from her sinking car after it plunged into the Sebasticook River on Monday.
Delores Withee was trapped inside her 2006 Subaru in 12 feet of water 40 yards offshore. Two Pittsfield police officers and a firefighter swam out, broke the rear window with a police baton, and pulled the 69-year-old to safety.
Today marks the end of National Fire Prevention Week, which highlights the work of local fire departments. Monday's rescue near Burnham Dam shows how much firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel do outside of their basic job description.
THUMBS DOWN to Maine lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for injecting petty politics into the state's handling of the federal shutdown, which threatens to go from minor nuisance to major dilemma as funding runs out for many state workers.
A Republican spokesman complained Wednesday that the party's legislative leadership wasn't notified properly about an emergency hearing regarding funding for Riverview Psychiatric Center and the impact of the federal shutdown on Maine workers.
During the hearing, Finance Commissioner Sawin Millett briefed lawmakers about the state government response to the shutdown. Millett did not mention that a proclamation of civil emergency by the governor was one of the options.
A few hours later, Gov. Paul LePage stunned Democrats by declaring a civil emergency, with little information about how he would use the broadened powers available under that proclamation.
And after LePage explained some of his reasoning Thursday, Democrats continued to bash the governor for keeping them in the dark.
If lawmakers are serious about solving Maine's problems, the parties need to communicate better. Now, too many of the parties' moves come across as baldly, incompetently political. Their first inclination should be to show some leadership and work toward a solution, not score points.
THUMBS UP to the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, which on Monday is celebrating one year in its new building near downtown Waterville.
The $2.7 million building has done wonders for the morale of the people who use the emergency shelter, and allowed staff to provide the homeless with additional resources.
Like other shelters around the state, Mid-Maine has experienced an increase in people looking for a place to stay.
"It's been a steady 7 to 13 percent increase per year for the last five years," said Betty Palmer, the shelter's executive director.
THUMBS UP to Regional School Unit 11 in Gardiner, for taking the lead in a program that will bring new two-way radios to every school in Kennebec County within six months.
The plan, spearheaded by the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency, is aimed at improving communication between schools and first-responders during an emergency. The radios were obtained using $4,500 in federal grant money, and the program will require no local funding.
RSU 11 is the first school district to get the radios because it was the first to align its emergency-response plan with state standards.
The program, likely the first in Maine, will be a interesting test case. If successful, the radios could help increase school safety at minimal cost.