Editorials from around New England
Editorials from around New England:
The Brattleboro Reformer, Dec. 17
Along Route 30 in Dummerston, just outside of Brattleboro, the lift chairs of Maple Valley ski area have sat motionless above the slope for years, patiently waiting to carry skiers up the hill.
If you’re interested in owning your own ski area, the online listing says it’s 374 acres, including a 16,000-square-foot lodge, two chair lifts and pumps to carry water for snowmaking up the mountain from the West River.
According to published reports, Maple Valley was listed for sale at $950,000 this past summer. Given its proximity to Brattleboro and Interstate 91, and the fact that it has lights for night skiing, one wonders why no one has made a run at bringing the place back to life as a entry-level mountain catering to families, first-timers and students.
Whatever the reason for its continued closure, it’s sad to see it empty.
A lot of happy memories were made on those trails.
Maple Valley is not the first little ski area to fall by the wayside in a notoriously tough industry.
There are lots of reasons for that, from workforce and equipment costs to liability insurance.
And yet, the ski industry contributes $1.6 billion overall and $900 million directly to the Vermont economy, according to Ski Vermont, a trade association representing the industry in the state.
But there’s another threat to Vermont’s ski economy, one that could take down every single ski area large and small, and it’s not showing signs of letting up.
Sure, we’ve had plenty of snow here this past week, and seasonal temperatures that have kept the snow on lawns and breathtaking frost capping the Green Mountains. The ski season seems to be off to a strong start as a result.
But around the north and south poles, Mother Nature is serving notice around the globe that something is dreadfully wrong and we’d better wake up.
Last week, The Washington Post reported that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers realized the climate data for Barrow, Alaska, on the Arctic coast of Alaska, was missing.
They figured out why: The computer algorithms the agency had designed to filter out erroneous data had excluded Barrow’s rapidly-rising temperatures, as if they were impossible.
They’re real, all right. And frightening. Since 2000, the average temperatures in Barrow have risen by 7.8 degrees in October, 6.9 degrees in November and 4.7 degrees in December.
The impact of climate change in the Arctic is shocking and troubling. Without sea ice to reflect sunlight, the temperatures around the North Pole are likely to rise faster. The permafrost is melting and turning the tundra into mud.
Meanwhile, two major glaciers in Antarctica are shedding ice at an alarming rate. This fall, the Pine Island glacier lost a chunk of ice measuring 100 square miles — four times the size of Manhattan. If the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers melted, ocean levels would eventually rise not by inches, but by 4 feet.
In a world growing warmer and increasingly choked by greenhouse gases, there’s not going to be much skiing.
And that’s the least of our worries. This past summer’s devastating hurricane season may be an object lesson of what we can expect from warmer seas — flooding and widespread destruction.
If major cities flooded by hurricanes, video of emaciated polar bears starving to death in Iceland and satellite images of ginormous icebergs breaking off glaciers in Antarctica can’t get Americans to realize they need to change their tunes about climate change, we’re not sure what will.
But Vermont is still trying. Republican Gov. Phil Scott, in a break with most of his national party’s slavish devotion to the Koch brothers and their dirty campaign money, has remained on the correct side of science — if not as aggressively as some in the state would like.
He has, for example, kept the state committed to the Paris Climate Accords and to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a nine-state, bipartisan effort to curb fossil fuel emissions in northeastern states from Maryland to Maine.
Scott has previously pointed out that Vermont could benefit from becoming an innovation hub for renewable energy technology that will only become more important in years to come.
He seems to understand that the environment is important to his constituents and to the state’s future.
But can Vermont do more?
Like the rest of the U.S., Vermont is addicted to fossil fuels. It powers a lot of our electricity, our cars and our public transit options. Saying we ought to stop burning fossil fuels entirely by 2050 is well and good, but it’s easy to say that — and much harder to do it. Moving to electric cars, for example, seems like a great idea — until you realize that without fossil fuel-fired power plants, there’s not enough renewable energy available just yet to generate the electricity to charge all those electric car batteries.
But if we do nothing, Maple Valley won’t be the only ski area with empty chairlifts.
The (Portsmouth) Herald, Dec. 20
A local man’s decision to shoot an Alaskan malamute after it had picked up one of his far smaller Pomeranian dogs during an encounter in the Rye Town Forest triggered a heated debate in that community and across the Seacoast. While few people were actually witness to the deadly encounter it seems everybody has an opinion.
The public would be wise to let Police Chief Kevin Walsh do his job interviewing witnesses and reviewing physical evidence, including the necropsy on the malamute, before rushing to judgment.
As a result of his decision to shoot the dog, Robert Vose, 62, of Old Beach Road, is out on $10,000 bail, facing a felony count of reckless conduct alleging he put the public in danger by firing two rounds at the malamute in the town forest. Vose could face further charges pending results of Walsh’s investigation and it’s likely we’ll learn more at his arraignment, scheduled for Dec. 29 in Rockingham County Superior Court. The public can expect the facts of the case to slowly emerge through the judicial process.
This is a tragic event for everyone involved.
Melinda Birse set out for a refreshing walk with her son’s dog, Jah, the malamute as well as a coonhound, and Vose did the same with his two Pomeranians. Walking with your dog in the town forest should always be a healthy and enjoyable experience. Neither of them could have imagined, in their wildest dreams, the sudden violent encounter that ended with the death of a beloved family pet and a man with no apparent criminal record facing charges for responding in the manner he felt the situation demanded. In an instant everything changed and both parties have been hurt and will continue to suffer for some time.
Coincidentally, just the week before this deadly encounter, Walsh warned dog owners of the danger of letting their pets run off leash during hunting season. He said several property owners who allow hunting on their land had reported off-leash dogs on their property without protective blaze orange material on them and without their owners anywhere in sight.
While we cannot claim any expertise when it comes to canine behavior, we know letting dogs run off leash during hunting season exposes them to unnecessary danger.
And while we were not present in the town forest on Saturday, we do think the tragic encounter serves as a reminder to all dog owners of the need to have their pets under control. The Rye Town Forest policy states: “Dogs must be on a leash or under owner control at all times. Dogs cannot run free and out of sight.”
All dogs are different by nature and by nurture. Some are well trained and are therefore highly obedient, respond instantly to voice commands and have been successfully socialized to play nicely with other canines they encounter. Other dogs, while they may be gentle and loving with the people and dogs in their families, are unpredictable terrors to human and canine strangers they encounter. It is each dog owners’ responsibility to keep their pet under control, either through an effective leash and collar (experts do not recommend retractable leashes and a harness may be more appropriate for dogs that can slip collars) or through true voice control.
Dog owners need to understand not everyone wants to interact with their beloved pet. Many people just want to be left alone when they’re out for a walk and don’t want a strange dog jumping on them even after you, the owner, tell them “don’t worry, he’s friendly.” And not all dogs play nicely with others. If your dog has a history of aggression, (and dog fights and human bites are rarely isolated incidents), you need to respect the boundaries of other people and other dogs.
For many, a dog is not simply a pet, it is a cherished family member who provides comfort, companionship and unconditional love. But all dog trainers remind us that dogs are not people. They are animals that need us to control them in order for them and the people and pets they encounter to stay safe. When we don’t control them, bad things can happen, as we saw on Saturday in the Rye Town Forest.
The Times Record, Dec. 17
They’re celebrating in Washington, after the Senate’s passage of a massive tax overhaul, thanks, in part, to a vote cast by Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins yesterday evening. The bill, which had passed the House shortly before, is a win for President Trump, whose legislative victories this year have been few and far between.
“Does this tax cut make the American people better off ?” Collins, who signaled her support for the bill on Monday, was quoted in an AP report. “The answer to that question is yes. The bill puts money back into the pockets of the American taxpayer with tax cuts beginning Jan. 1.”
There are some things to cheer about — the doubling of the child tax credit and the doubling of the standard deductions used by most households. Those cuts, however, expire in 10 years.
Corporations will have it better — their rate will be permanently slashed from 35 to 21 percent.
By the year 2023, those earning less than $30,000 will actually see a tax increase, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. And ”. by 2027, it would boost average levies for everyone earning up to $75,000,” the AP reported.
Keep in mind that Maine’s median income was only around $53,000 in 2016.
Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reaffirmed the big winners under the tax plan are the top 1 percent earners — those making more than $733,000 would see an average tax cut of $51,140.
And let’s not forget the additional $1.46 trillion the overhaul adds to the national debt.
Collins said her support hinged on the caveat that Congress passes two bills to stabilize the health insurance market. Yet, as any grade-schooler can tell you, Congress consists of two chambers, and we’ve heard of no guarantees that the House will pass the bills Collins wants.
Also worrying, the tax bill contains a provision that would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that all American’s have health insurance or face a penalty. That penalty is in place in order to lower health care costs for all, but once repealed, 13 million people will likely lose their insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Collins was one of a handful of Republicans this year to stand fast against shortsighted attempts to repeal and replace the ACA.
But supporting the tax plan, she wound up helping undercut her own efforts to support health care in America in the name of a $53,000 handout for those who need it the least.
Susan Collins, what were you thinking?
Republican-American, Dec. 21
So, how has the Internet been treating you lately? That’s at the crux of the question of net neutrality. Ignore all those warnings about Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai destroying the World Wide Web as we know it. Life will go on, and so will the Internet - for better or for worse.
The cacophony from the left began as soon as Mr. Pai made his recent announcement that he would ask the commissioners to vote to end a policy established under the Barack Obama administration called “net neutrality.” Simply put, net neutrality benefited one giant special interest, while ending it benefited another giant special interest. Each side tried, with mixed success, to explain why this change affected actual Americans who use the internet.
Some internet users in Connecticut have been alarmed by the rhetoric of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (it’s “an all-out assault on the free and open internet”), and Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo (it’s “a deeply troubling reversal that benefits the powerful few over the millions of Americans, particularly working families and small businesses”). These officials fail to grasp that when the federal government injects its own vision of competitive fairness into the process, freedom recedes.
Under net neutrality, internet service providers such as Comcast and Verizon operate under the heavy thumb of the federal government. They are hamstrung in their ability to compete - to slow access to some services and charge others more for access.
Without net neutrality, the ISPs have more freedom, but companies that own search engines or social-media sites might encounter higher costs or other obstructions. Emphasis on might. Such behavior by ISPs wasn’t unheard of - recall the Netflix slowdown imposed by Comcast in 2014, and Netflix’ subsequent agreement to pay more for access - but typically was neither common nor unjustified by economic reality.
As Brian Dellinger, a professor of computer science at Pennsylvania’s Grove City College, noted Dec. 12, “Nor are the corporations supporting net neutrality any more trustworthy than the ISPs.” It’s rent-seeking, no matter who does it, and everybody does it.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Internet has been a powerful force for economic growth, communication, news and entertainment. For all but two of those years, there was no net neutrality - just a free-for-all that the federal government never really figured out how to manage, if managing it were even possible.
The Lowell Sun, Dec. 22
A cardinal above the law. That epitaph best describes the former disgraced archbishop of Boston.
Cardinal Bernard F. Law, whose place as one of America’s most influential Roman Catholic prelates came tumbling down in 2002 after revelations surfaced that he had protected abusive priests for years, died on Wednesday. He was 86.
Law arrived in Boston in 1984, a Harvard-educated advocate of social justice for immigrants and the poor. Assigned by Pope John Paul II as Boston’s new archbishop, he was immediately embraced by his new flock.
In the intervening 17 years, he rose in stature, becoming one of this country’s most powerful religious figures. Close to both popes and presidents, and despite his adherence to traditional church teachings, Law displayed an ecumenical spirit by fostering respectful relations with Protestants, Jews and other faiths.
Indeed, in Boston circles, Law was seen as a mover and shaker, right up there with our senior U.S. senator, Ted Kennedy.
All the while presiding over and enabling a cancer of clergy sexual abuse that was about to rock the Catholic Church to its core.
Law’s Teflon façade began to crumble early in 2002, when a judge released documents related to the case of the Rev. John J. Geoghan, a defrocked priest who had been shuttled among a half-dozen parishes while accusations swirled about his sexual abuse of 130 boys over 30 years.
Law tried to downplay what he saw as merely an embarrassment by transferring Geoghan to another parish, based on what he characterized as flawed psychiatric advice.
But the veil of the Catholic Church’s deceit had been lifted. In the Geoghan aftermath, hundreds of people came forward to say they had been molested by priests in the archdiocese, which spurred both lawsuits and criminal investigations.
Law still tried to nip this scandal in the bud; he removed 25 priests suspected of sexual abuse, and gave prosecutors the names of 80 priests accused of abuse over decades.
That’s where his cooperation ended, as more heartbreaking details of church-protected sexual predators became public.
While investigators probed scores of sexual abuse accusations, two outrageous examples of predatory behavior capsulized the Boston Archdiocese’s conspiracy of silence.
The personnel file of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, disclosed by a plaintiff’s lawyer, indicated that Cardinal Law and his predecessor, Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, knew of dozens of pedophilia accusations against the former self-described street priest, but allowed Shanley to have continued contacts with troubled children.
The Rev. Joseph E. Birmingham was another one of those sheltered sex abusers. One of Law’s subordinates, Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., repeatedly denied to parishioners that Birmingham was a threat to molest minors, even though Birmingham’s personnel file showed evidence of abuse starting under Richard Cardinal Cushing in 1964.
In the years after Birmingham’s death in 1989, scores of his alleged victims came forward, detailing accounts of his compulsive molestation of children during six parish assignments in his 29 years as a priest.
One of those assignments was at St. Michael’s Church in Lowell, where he served from 1970 to 1977. There, his alleged victims numbered more than 20, including David Lyko, who recounted his painful experience in Thursday’s Sun.
Lyko was among the first group of more than 552 people abused by priests to split an $85 million cash settlement from the archdiocese. Many more victims and millions more in settlements followed.
Instead of being held accountable for enabling the molestation of the most vulnerable in his charge, Law fled to Rome, where he — as incomprehensible as it sounds — was allowed to serve as archpriest of the Papal Liberian Basilica of St. Mary, a plum assignment, especially for someone who left his previous position in disgrace.
On Thursday, the Vatican honored Law with a full cardinal’s funeral at St. Peter’s Basilica, during which Pope Francis gave a “final commendation,” or blessing, as he has for cardinals’ funerals previously.
The Catholic Church, despite the curse of clergy sexual abuse that it allowed to fester, continues to protect its own, no matter their sins.
Cardinal Law wasn’t the first archbishop to conceal the rampant abuse of his priests, but his inability to recognize its cumulative destructive effects leaves him with a lot to answer for — if not in this world, then the next.
The Providence Journal, Dec. 21
Ever since the Census of 1790, Rhode Island has held at least two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. At one point, during an early 20th century wave of immigration, it even claimed three.
But that was many decades ago, and the prospect of Rhode Island losing one of its two seats, and with it, some influence in the nation’s capital, appears to be inching closer to reality. The loss of a House seat would make it harder for Rhode Island to get its share of federal spending, and it would give the state even less clout in presidential races, costing it one of its four electoral votes.
According to U.S. Census estimates released Wednesday, Rhode Island is just 157 people away from losing a seat. But the numbers that will determine the next allocation of House seats are not the estimates released this week but those that will come with the next census, which will take place in 2020. In other words, Rhode Island is on a knife’s edge, in terms of retaining its seat.
While the population in Rhode Island is growing very slightly — the state added 2,073 people from July 2016 to July 2017 — other states are seeing rapid gains. Texas, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Oregon are on track to add at least one seat apiece, if current trends are borne out by the next census. Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are all on track to lose seats. New York, in fact, was narrowly ahead of Rhode Island in the list of states that are expected to lose a seat. If Rhode Island had 157 fewer people, it would replace New York on that list.
There are many factors at play as states gain and lose people. Among them, and playing no small role, is the health of the local economy. Rhode Island’s long record of economic decline and lack of middle class job opportunities does not help. People will move to the places that offer jobs and opportunity. As we have long argued, Rhode Island must create a stronger environment for job creation if it hopes to grow.
Gov. Gina Raimondo and state lawmakers have taken some positive steps by reducing the minimum corporate tax, eliminating the sales tax that businesses paid on utility bills, creating a funding mechanism for bridge repairs, better aligning workforce-training programs with the needs of employers and using taxpayer-funded incentives to attract high-profile companies such as GE, Johnson & Johnson and Virgin Pulse. But the toughest steps are still waiting. To grow, Rhode Island will need a more competitive tax and regulatory climate, along with much better public schools. Addressing these issues would send a message that Rhode Island is serious about being a place of opportunity.
Of course, Rhode Island would still have some influence in Washington even if it loses a seat in the House. To protect even smaller states, the Founders designed a system under which every state has two seats in the Senate, while House seats are determined by population. But long-term, Rhode Island is better off if it can retain the two House seats it has had for so long.