Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hospital debt and Medicaid expansion by Rep. Jane Pringle

The legislature is considering a bill to combine paying the state's debt to Maine hospitals with a plan to expand Medicaid coverage for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($15,856 income/year for an individual; $26,951/year for a family of three) starting in January 2014.

Why does it make sense to tie these together? First, paying past debts is essential for our hospitals to operate, and second, increasing healthcare coverage for as many Maine people as possible will help our hospitals decrease costs going forward. Currently our hospitals provide a lot of charity or "free care" because we have so many Maine people without health insurance. Providing health insurance to more people will reduce the amount of free care hospitals have to give in the future.

The number one reason our U.S. healthcare system costs so much money is the large number of people without health insurance. Covering everyone with health insurance saves money because people are able to get primary care and preventive care before their conditions become so serious that they need to be hospitalized. Primary and preventive care cost about a seventh of the cost of hospital care.

The other reason we should do this is that it won't cost Maine anything to add this coverage for as many as 70,000 Maine people. It will be paid for by the Federal government.

How will the Federal government pay for this ? The Federal government has been paying hospitals through Medicare for part of the free care they provide. Medicare is going to stop paying for this more costly hospital charity care and use those dollars to pay for health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

 It is estimated by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation that this will save Maine $690 million dollars over the next 10 years.

I like to think of this analogy. Everyone with a swimming pool has to put in water periodically to replace the water that evaporates. If the pool develops a leak you have to keep putting in more water until you repair the leak. Having uninsured people creates a leak in our health care system. We have to keep putting in more money (water) until we get everyone covered by health insurance (closing the leak).

I hope all of our legislators and our governor will agree this is both the right thing and the smart thing to do.

Rep. Jane P Pringle
District 111, Windham
207-892-8266 (home)

Foodie Fare "The Good Life Market" by Brian Rounds

TGIF! I love my job and all, but there is something about Fridays that makes me excited. Perhaps it’s the fact that I treat myself to something special for lunch and for breakfast. Typically this means a stop at The Good Life Market in Raymond which just so happens to be the half-way mark between home and work (Raymond Elementary School). This place is great because it opens early at 7 a.m. and has a really diverse selection of foods.

I love going to this place because the people there are always so pleasant. The moment I walk through the door I am welcomed warmly, some of them even know my first name already and use it when saying hello.  I typically take a moment to peruse their deli case which is usually filled with pre-made foods like salads, slaws and casseroles. I then size up their specials menu which may be small, only three items, but these items are very much worth a gander and sound amazing.  They take your order and hand you a slip that you can take to the register to pay so there is no awkward “what did you order?” moment.

First things first: breakfast. Today I ordered a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich that is usually served on foccacia bread.  I ordered mine on their sour dough bread (I think it’s pretty amazing stuff). The sandwich was art. The sausage was seared to sweet and salty perfection. The cheese was melted beautifully, and the egg was scrambled and piled high like a cloud on the Panini pressed bread.  I love it when my breakfast sandwich tastes like it came out of my own kitchen – all too regularly breakfast sandwiches come from places that are known for mass producing low-quality mass-produced, preservative-packed, breakfast sandwiches – The Good Life’s sandwich is fresh, tasty and great ‘til the last little crumb.

While they make my breakfast, I decide on my lunch. Sometimes I order a BLT – they have one on their menu that includes roast beef which is absolutely delectable, but some days I just want a straight up BLT, minus the L, add the O (onion). I make sure it is made on sour dough bread with their garlic mayo. This sandwich is phenomenal, don’t get me wrong, but today I wanted something different – the deli case had caught my eye. There on the middle shelf was a casserole dish piled high with mini-beef wellingtons.  For those who don’t know what beef wellington is, it is an English dish that includes beef tenderloin and mushrooms all wrapped in puff pastry. The Good Life uses steak tips (genius!) for theirs. I ordered one of their wellingtons and a quarter of a pound of their minted melon salad.

The wellington was delicious.  There were three juicy steak tips inside sharing the cavity with some pretty delicious mushrooms. The flavor the meat permeated the pastry crust and, though I was afraid it would be dry because I had to microwave it, the dish, as a whole, was moist and flavorful.   I will definitely be on the lookout for this in their case again.

The minted melon salad was so fresh. It tasted as if they scooped the melon balls right before handing my container to me. The mint was a nice, flavor punch, with the juicy and sweet melon. The only thing that could make this better for me would have been a larger portion. This would be fantastic on a hot day, that’s for sure!

I think the best part of The Good Life Market is that it is conveniently located on Route 302. Those of us who pass it can make the emergency “oops, I forgot my lunch” stop.  They have a really great market of higher end foods which includes a really great selection of wine. They also have a cheese section that could rival a French fromagerie. Their pies are also pretty amazing!

Highly Recommend:

Raspberry pie
Any baked good
Deli case items

You know what really Grinds my Gears? by Jeffrey J. Thivierge

You know what really grinds my gears….?

My dog that revealed her multiple personalities the other day…. to the animal control officer.

After experiencing the long, ridiculous winter that we did, it’s been nice to have an extended period of time in which the self-professed weather “nerd” Keith Carson on WCSH-6 is bored because there are no weather patterns to report. We’ve just got beautiful, open skies in which to enjoy outside activities.

So I decided to bring my two mutts, Drake and Indigo, up to the Mountain Division Trail for a good walk and maybe even a quick dip in the Presumpscot River. Shortly before pulling in, my cell phone rang and it was my ex-wife, calling to discuss our daughter’s progress in school. My dogs know when we pull onto Gambo Rd. that we’re about to go for a good walk, so they started to whine incessantly, which required a quick hushing from their dad. After I parked, I saw our local animal control officer pull in and park his vehicle on the other side of the lot. No big deal, as I’m a law abiding, retired Army guy…. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the men and women who enforce the laws. I wanted to stay in my truck, however, because it’s tough to finagle two dogs on leashes and a cell phone. The dogs, however, wanted to begin their walk.

Dogs: One. Owner: Zero.

We exited the truck, as awkwardly as could be. Almost immediately upon exiting, a friendly young man called over to me, “Excuse me, sir. Can I bother you for a minute?” Our local, friendly animal control officer was executing his duly appointed duty and checking to make sure that my dogs were properly registered.
Figuring this would take a matter of seconds, I asked my ex-wife to hang on the line for a second.

Now, let me explain that Indigo is a labradoodle and she loves people. She will bark at strangers, but she is a complete love-bug. She is completely submissive to children, and absolutely adores little girls. She isn’t aggressive, just noisy.

Drake is arthritic and wants food.

When the officer approached Indigo to check her tag, she snarled at him like I had never seen her snarl and bark at a person before. (Please, don’t offer advice on how to “fix” my dog. This was completely out of character. Really.) I was shocked at her behavior and put her at a “sit” which she complied with. Again, he went for her collar and she had the same reaction. Again, I put her at a “sit” and apologized. I showed him her tag as Indigo apologetically cuddled up to my leg, as if to say, “I’m sorry, dad. I just don’t like cops.” (She was lying, because her “Uncle” Chuck is a police officer and she loves him.)

Next came Drake. As he reached for Drake’s collar, Drake took it as an invitation for a bum-scratching, and promptly put himself in position between the officer’s legs for him to scratch Drake’s posterior. Meanwhile, Indigo wrapped her leash around my legs, ensuring that I couldn’t escape.

I apologized for Indigo’s insolence once more the officer thanked me for my time and walked away. Then I turned to leave and promptly crumbled to the ground, not realizing that my bipolar labradoodle had wrapped her leash around me in such a way that Harry Houdini would have struggled to escape from.
Then, in stereo sound, both the animal control officer and my ex-wife said, “Are you alright?” at exactly the same time.

I’m fine.

Only my pride was hurt.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Rite of passage by Dave deBree

Reprinted with permission and thanks from Andrew LaBrie and Mark LaBrie at “The Notes”. First printed in May 1983.

The way I remember, she would hardly look at me. I’d see her around town and before I could get a good look she’d be gone. Despite her worldliness and indifference to me I dreamed of the day she’d be mine. She was gentle and pure yet sleek and strong; she could easily do without me and I guess that was part of the attraction. I’d daydream about us streaking down some straight of highway in the morning haze while the world and time would stop and we’d be lost in one another. Since then, a day hasn’t gone by when I haven’t thought of her.

I finally bought her for sixteen hundred and fifty bucks. Plus tax. She was a 1966 Chevy Corvette and the object of all my affections ever since Martin Milner and George Maharis had screeched around the country on the 60s television series Route 66. I still hum the theme song while I’m driving my Toyota today. But anyway she was mine at my tender age of nineteen.

She was an olive green beat of a machine with a 327-350 HP engine under the hood. She looked like jet but rode like a stage coach and when her engine idled she sounded like a contented lion with an antelope in its jaws. She made me a new man. Immediately, I raced out to buy some sunglasses and a denim jacket. With this baby in my grasp I’d surely have a crowd of admirers following me wherever I went. I had to look right. My public deserved at least that.

That night I went home and decided to grow some sideburns. I checked the mirror every hour for progress. As I headed out to crush the town with my new charisma I did what any nineteen yard old sex symbol would do. I asked Mom and Dad for some gas money. (After I bought the car I didn’t have a cent to my name, you see).

After I got the money from Dad, I staged a one-man onslaught on society which I knew would bring herds of woman fainting at the sight of my mag wheels. Once I found the clutch, I was out of my yard in a cloud of dust and charisma. I figured I’d take my Vette into Portland where I’d get the most exposure.  And so I went driving into the mysterious night without an inspection sticker, but I had all I needed- a Corvette and some yet-to-be-assembled throng of female admirers.

By now my name was in all the major gossip columns; women everywhere spoke my name or wished to know it. I was expecting a call from Cosmopolitan any day. Then maybe the Carson Show. Surely I could not be touched, for I was so elusive and so newly charismatic. The world was mine- then the right wheel fell off-while I was speeding around Baxter Boulevard looking for action. The mag sheared the lugs off and the wheel went bouncing, happily into Back Cove. And I experienced the first of many rides in a wrecker.

After many humbling experiences with my Bette, I finally sold her and the denim jacket, and I changed my driving habits along with the car. After owning a string of autos including a ’66 Ford Galaxie, a Dodge Dart, Volkswagon Bug and a Toyota Corolla I changed. I guess I just don’t drive very fast. I’ve been passed by everything from mopeds to back-hoes. Once I impeded the progress of a school bus. I thought I was going pretty fast. One day not long ago I was day dreaming about my olive green girl while driving my Toyota up I-95, and before I knew it I was pulled over by a police offer who, trying to choke back laughed quipped,
“Ya always drive with the emergency brake on, buddy?”

In Augusta State of the Legislature - by Rep. Michael McClellan

I am in my second term in the legislature. I have been in both the majority and now minority parties. In my time in the majority, I was part of a mainly new group of first time legislators. We were eager to make change as we believed the long-term leadership on Maine had taken Maine down the wrong path. In fact, many of the newcomers in the party wanted to make change just because we could. Having the Governor and the majority in both the house and senate gave us the ability to implement our ideas. However, our leadership in the republican caucus and on both my committees (Education and Regulatory Reform) preached a different route. They guided us to look for 80 percent of our goals so that we could get bipartisan votes. In fact, as you look back at six budget votes and perhaps 2,000 committee and body votes, you will find that many of our accomplishments were indeed bipartisan. Charter schools, health reform, tax reform, regulatory reform and other education reforms all passed with votes from republicans and democrats.

Move to this new term and the votes switched the count in Augusta greatly, my party is now well into the minority with only the Governor still on our side. The new leadership has made moves to reverse our work and have been publically critical of it - even as many had voted for the policy they now condemn. Given we were open to listening to the minority, my point today has been that the open dialog does not seem to be continued. Much of the activity being pushed this year comes to me only by my reading the newspapers or when they come out in a committee setting. As a member of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee I do feel included by the majority on some level. As a member of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee (which won an award last year for bipartisan efforts), I do not feel included by the majority at all. The end result is a lot of 9-5 education votes where we more often were 14-0 in the past two years. Democrat Leader Rep. Emily Cain (now Senator Cain) often challenged those of us in the majority during the past two years to include all, she shared that "we do our best work when we work together." I am proud that in the majority I was a part of inclusion and now in the minority I am hopeful that current leadership will discover the value of working together.

Rep. Mike McClellan
House 103
Raymond, Frye Island, parts Poland and Standish Repmichael.mcclellan@legislature.maine.gov

Holistic Health "Yoga" by Lisa DeFosse

I have heard people say that yoga is against their religion. Yoga has roots in Hinduism and I am sure it can be a complete spiritual practice. On the flip side, those friends of mine who do Bikram yoga (the hot yoga in a room heated to 105 degrees) will say that the most spiritual aspect of this yoga is praying for it to be over! Yoga is beneficial for the whole body, easing back pain and creating an all-over strength training regimen using your own body weight. It also emphasizes intention, or mindfulness, which helps to maintain a mind/body connection. Whether you take it one step further and connect with the divine is your choice, but yoga stands alone as a great physical exercise.

I don’t claim to be an expert on yoga. In fact, I used to believe that yoga was only for the fit, flexible people in the world. I tried a yoga class at a local gym but didn’t know the poses and spent the entire class trying to breathe according to the instructor’s directions. Months later, I tried a back yoga DVD (in the comfort of my own home). Slower and easier to follow, these poses aligned my back in a way that I had not felt in years. No, I still didn’t get the breathing down, but my posture was better and I felt much taller. I tried another beginner DVD that focused more on the breathing and some basic yoga poses. I found that I couldn’t go all the way into the poses, but the pace allowed me to follow the breathing and end with a sense of peace. The last yoga DVD that I tried was a weight-loss yoga tape. This was more like an intense work-out with no relaxation and my whole body shaking from holding it in one impossible pose after another.

There are many forms of yoga, some more spiritual and others more physical. I encourage you to research and find the one that fits with your belief system and fitness level. Anyone can benefit from a whole-body yoga session that also quiets the mind.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Foodie Fare "Yummy Veggies" by Brian Rounds

As a child, my favorite vegetables were tomatoes, broccoli, corn, cabbage and spinach. There were a few others that I would eat if they were prepared a certain way. I would only eat peas if my grandmother made them in a big sauce pot filled with spaghetti sauce and cut up hot dogs – I know, I know, sounds strange, but for some reason this was one of my favorite things to eat on a cold day. I loved raw carrots, but hated cooked carrots. I think it was something about the texture. The only way I would eat cooked carrots was in soup or stew – especially my mother’s homemade beef stew. Somehow I was able to dodge eating brussels sprouts. I think my parents just knew how to pick and choose their battles.

I think back to the first time I tried brussels sprouts. I was at a really great restaurant in Portland and they were on the menu – wood oven-roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and apple cider vinaigrette. I had a moment of absolute bravado and ordered them. I think I was feeling truly brave because I also decided to try beets that night. The beets were sautéed with chive butter, so I ordered away! The worst that could happen would be that I wouldn’t like them, right?

The two veggies came to my table steaming hot, the sprouts were still sizzling from the wood oven. I had also ordered a white fish dish so I indulged in that first, but after a few bites my curiosity peeked. I turned to the beets first, plunge my fork into one of the deep red cubes and brought it up to my nose – the scent of the sweet red vegetable and chives reached into my nostrils and woke up my olfactory overload sensors. The smell was divine. As I bit into the vegetable I had no preconceived idea of what it would taste like, but the flavor exploded sweetly over my taste buds. I was hooked!

At this point I figured I might as well dive right into the brussels sprouts. I smelled first – a gentle bouquet of cabbage, bacon, and vinegar. When the sprout first hit my tongue I couldn’t believe that something so green could taste so good. Apparently with bacon and vinegar anything is possible, right? The problem with this idea is that on my way home I stopped at the grocery store and picked up fresh beets and brussels sprouts so I could experiment the following weekend.

I made brussels sprouts three different ways: with bacon and balsamic vinegar, with cheese sauce, and steamed with butter and lemon. No matter how I made them, I loved them. I am now addicted to brussels sprouts. I keep some frozen in my freezer just in case, but definitely prefer fresh. I am even trying to grow my own brussels sprouts this season. I hear that they are a pretty hearty plant, so even someone with my not-so-green thumb may see some success. My next experiment with brussels sprouts is adding them to a Guinness beef stew. I think they would hold up nicely in that treatment.

The beets were a different story – not a bad thing, but definitely more comical. I did not heed the warnings to use gloves while dealing with beets. I sliced them up, par-boiled them, then tossed them with some olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and some fresh herbs. After looking as if I murdered someone, I stained my shirt, a cutting board, and I’m pretty sure my finger tips were pink for a week after, I had some pretty amazing beets to top an arugula and goat cheese salad.

My advice to you is to try some new things by getting into the kitchen and get creative with it. Who knows what you will find that excites your palette!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

1lb. Brussels sprouts, halved
3 strips thick cut bacon, diced
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 400*F.

In a roasting or half sheet pan, distribute sprouts in an even layer drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle diced bacon around the pan. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes. Toss the sprouts and drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar every 15 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese when they first come out of the oven. Enjoy.

Roasted Beets

2 bunches of beets, sliced
Apple Cider Vinegar

Preheat oven to 375*F

Boil the beets until just barely fork tender. Layer on a sheet pan and drizzle with melted butter and vinegar; season them liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with minced chives. Enjoy!

In the Margin "Monthly Book Review" by Phil Baker

Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd weave amusing stories of the writing life with technical advice into “Good Prose, The Art of Nonfiction”. The book is subtitled “stories and advice from a lifetime of writing and editing” and is precisely that, a collection of engaging anecdotes interspersed with technical and artistic instruction. It is collaboratively written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Kidder and his long-time editor Todd. The book of 195 pages is available at the Windham Public Library.

The book is designed as a text exposing how critical decisions are made, such as point of view and tense in which a nonfiction story will be presented. Pace and texture, the question of chronology, linear or otherwise are judgments that the author and editor must make to create a readable and informative piece. Chapter headings such as “Beginnings”, “Narratives” and “The Problem of Style” gained my attention as a writer trying to exercise the craft.

Technique and artistic method aside, the personalities of the two authors shine through making the book far more than a dry text. In italicized back of the hand asides they each testify to how they saw the other performing his job, making the reader a privileged confidant. And no holds are barred. For example, when asked by the writer what was wrong with his article the editor replied: “Well, first of all, the first sentence.” The result is a text that reads more like a memoir. I’m not a fan of the modern memoir. I find it’s often a book written by someone whose tweets strain their writing, or a ghost-written piece about someone who strains my attention. However the chronicling of Kidder’s success as a writer, Todd’s as an editor and their interdependence is compelling reading.

The authors present samples of the work of Jonathan Harr (A Civil Action), John Mcphee (Encounters with the Archdruid and A Sense of Where You Are) and Jon Krakauer (Into the Wild) among others. I selected this book with the hope of gaining an understanding of the writing process. I got that and more including a reading list and good entertainment.

In Augusta - Legislative Leadership Stalling on Paying Hospitals by Senator Gary Plummer

The clock is ticking on the first regular session of the 126th Legislature, and we have yet to act on one of the most important issues before us: paying the $484 million the state owes to Maine hospitals. A bill that would pay the hospitals the money they are owed has been in front of the legislature since January. We now have a little more than a month left before adjournment, and the bill remains tied up in committee.

The latest snag is a last-minute demand by legislative leadership to make the federal expansion of Medicaid in Maine a condition of paying the hospitals. Attaching these two proposals is not only inappropriate, it is impractical at this late juncture.

While the legislative games continue in Augusta, hospitals are struggling to cope without the millions of dollars they are owed. All over Maine, the same scenario is playing out at hospitals. Projects are on hold, workers are being laid off and positions are going unfilled.

Mercy Hospital in Portland, for example, is owed $24 million. They recently had to borrow $15 million just to keep basic services running. Because of the state’s failure to pay its bills, they will now have to pay the interest on that loan. Maine Medical Center is owed nearly $68 million and is currently operating at a $13.4 million loss.

Governor Paul LePage has put forth a responsible plan to pay our hospital bill, which accumulated over years as the state continually gave the hospitals “IOUs” for treating Medicaid patients. The plan calls for issuing a $186 million revenue bond that would be funded through future liquor sales. The payment to hospitals would trigger $298 million in federal matching funds.

The Governor has also committed to releasing $105 million in voter approved general obligation bonds for transportation, conservation, and other projects. He is also supporting a $100 million government facilities bond to replace the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

The hospital payment and bond packages would inject about $700 million into Maine’s economy, creating new jobs in health care, construction and other areas. Those new paychecks going out would, in turn, lead to increased consumer activity in Maine.

The revenue bond approach makes great fiscal sense for Maine. It would allow us to borrow at a very low rate (probably 3-4 percent). The debt from a revenue bond would not be reflected on the state’s books, which would protect our credit rating.

Now is the time to take advantage of the federal matching rate for the hospital repayment. Back in 2010, the rate for Medicaid reimbursements was 75 cents on the dollar. Today it’s 63 cents. It is very likely that the longer we wait to pay the hospitals, the less we’ll get in the form of matching funds from the federal government.

It’s also the right thing to do. We have a moral obligation to pay Maine hospitals the money they are owed.
It is time to stop stalling and get this important bill in front of the Legislature for a vote.

Senator Gary Plummer (R-Cumberland) represents Maine Senate District 12 which includes the Cumberland County towns of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, and Windham as well as the York County town of Hollis.

My Story by Courtney Post van der Burg

Editor’s note: Post van der Burg will present her unique perspective on corrections officers as the wife of one and daughter of another. This is her second of two insights as to what happens at the Maine Correctional Center and what is projected to happen should the proposed construction take place.

The Maine Legislator has passed a $100 million bond, after a two-year feasibility study, to rebuild the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. Right now, the center can house around 600 inmates, the new building would be able to house around 1,200 inmates. When you think of the expansion of something most people would think that there would then be an increase in the number of jobs. This happens to not be the case here.
The State wants to rebuild and expand the center to have better flow to make it easier to monitor, control and rehabilitate inmates, along with the reason that the center right now has many areas that are old and dilapidated. This all sounds great, the officers would have new doors that don’t jam anymore, and they don’t have to walk long hallways and not be able to monitor all inmates at once.  This new environment would be safer for the inmates and the officers. Not only would a new building be efficient, but it would save money. The State is also saying that because of the new redesign of the center it would need less staff. I don’t know who’s idea this was but if right now there is a problem with the lack of staff at a facility of 600 inmates, then how is housing 1,200 inmates with less staff going to be safer?  I don’t feel my family members and friends working there are safe right now, and I’m sure not going to feel they are safe with more inmates and less staff nor will I feel the community will be safe from escapes if there are less staff to monitor and control the increased number of inmates. 

With a new building and less officers the state is looking to save around $8 million a year. I am all for saving money, I do that at home, and I never leave the house without my coupons. When I read (in the Bangor Daily News) that there would be an $8 million a year savings I got kind of excited about the issue. Correctional officers in Maine have not had a raise or step increase in five years. More than half the officers in Windham work at base pay with one extra dollar for direct care making their pay $14.57 an hour, then to top it off it is mandatory to join and pay union dues which costs the officers $17.60 every two weeks. The ones who feel the costs the most are the officers with families. For those officers you have to take away what they pay for medical for the families.

Now, I dare you all to take a look at your paystubs and see how much is taken out in retirement, Social Security, taxes and so forth; it adds up. But I can say at least for myself that I get paid for the work I do, these officers don’t.  Most officers have second jobs, like my husband, who works seven days a week. With the $8 million in savings the first thing that came to mind was these hard working officers will either get one or both; a step increase or at least a cost of living raise (because we know in the past five years the cost of living has increased for everyone). This happens to not be the case. They are looking to freeze step increases for another four years and cost of living raises for another two years. I understand that there are bills that need to be paid by the state and we need to have cuts somewhere, but how many hits can one community take. I know that as my family’s bills increase it will only get harder and require him or myself to be out of the home away from our family to make up the money somewhere else. I’m not sure about other companies or state jobs, but to go without any cost of living increase for five years and then possibly add another two years, is that normal? How much longer can my family and other families of officers live with daily costs going up and paychecks going down or at a standstill? I’m nervous about my family’s finances in the next year or so. What I am sure about is my family will work harder and more hours so we can make it. I am also very sure that at the end of every year we will still say we are happy to live in Windham in the great State of Maine.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Pause 4 Paws - "Summer Fun with your four-legged friend" by Amy Hebert

Warm weather is upon us and we all have spring fever! We’ve waited all winter long to be able to get outside with our dogs and enjoy hiking, swimming, fetch and more. In our hurry to get outside we sometimes forget to think about being prepared for the unexpected. Hiking and camping with our dogs in the great Maine woods can be an amazing experience, but before you head out, pack some items to ensure your pup is safe. Put together a first aid kit for the dog that should include wet wipes, antibacterial ointment or iodine wound solution, vet wrap, gauze, thermometer  and Benadryl. While this isn’t everything you may need in an emergency, it is essentials that will allow you to patch up your furry friend and get him to a veterinarian. 

So now you have your first aid kit ready, but what about the dog overheating and drinking water? Heat stroke is serious and life threatening to your dog.  

Watch the forecast prior to venturing out with your dog especially if you have a short muzzled breed, as high humidity and extreme temperatures are dangerous for both you and your pet. Freeze bottles of water from home and bring them with you so that they stay cold longer as they thaw. Don’t forget a collapsible dog bowl! While hiking with your dog make sure to encourage him to go into streams, lakes and ponds to cool off each time you are near one. This helps to prevent him from overheating.

Even in your own backyard or neighborhood the dog can overheat during the hot summer months, so be aware and prepared. If your dog does get heat stroke make sure to bring his temperature down slowly to avoid shock and call your veterinarian immediately. 

Amy Herbert owns and runs Boulder Ridge Kennels. She is also an ABC certified trainer.

The Book Nook by Sally Bannen

Windham Public Library Director, Inese Gruber, has announced that she will be retiring on May 23.  After 23 years at the Windham Public Library, she is stepping down to enjoy family life and traveling. 

Originally hired as the reference librarian, Inese helped the public with their requests and questions for four years.  When Joanne Kellogg retired as director in 1994, Inese was the obvious and unanimous choice to bring the library into the future.  For 19 years, Inese has served as director, seeing the utilization of the library addition, the automation of the library collection, and addition of new collection formats (CDs and DVDs to name a few), and the ever-growing community needs.  She has been “the face of the library”, as she served as liaison between the library and the community. As town manager Tony Plante, recently said when he announced the retirement to the town councilors, “I think Inese has been a great director, a great advocate for the library… she’s enthusiastic and passionate about things… very upbeat.”  It is with sadness for ourselves, but great happiness and fondness for her, that we wish her well as she retires.

My Story by Courtney Post van der Burg

Editor’s note: Post van der Burg will present her unique perspective on corrections officers as the wife of one and daughter of another. This is her first of two insights as to what happens at the Maine Correctional Center and what is projected to happen should the proposed construction take place. 

I have never worked within the walls of a prison, correctional facility, a jail or a pre-release center; I am the daughter of a serving officer of 25 plus years, a cousin of a serving officer and the wife of an officer. I also have a number of friends within corrections, prisons and jails throughout the state of Maine who serve at many levels.  I not only hear the stories, but have seen what officers are put through on a daily basis.  There have been times where there is a crisis and officers have to stay beyond their shift only to return home for four to five hours, and then have to report back to their post for another twelve to sixteen hour shift.  Or, when all of a sudden, it’s the middle of the night or day and an officer is running home to shower and change because they were assaulted by an inmate and their uniform soiled, so they were given a one-hour leave to clean up and return.  

Seven years ago when my husband was studying for the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, I made a mental note that nowhere in the training, handbook or even in the job description does it mention anything about how to handle or deal with people with mental illnesses.  Now this is my personal opinion, but people with a mental illness; even if they have committed a crime, should not be placed within the walls of a correctional facility, prison or jail.  The job description for a correctional officer in the State of Maine does not state that they will have to work in an environment with people who have mental illnesses.  Yet, now these officers not only have to provide a service to the public by protecting us from bad guys, but also making sure someone gets their meds on time so they don’t have a mental break down.

As an officer in the State of Maine they provide the space, time and equipment to help inmates change the paths they are on, and have set up and run many programs to re-integrate them back into society.  At MCC they have a paws and stripes program, a work release program, the industries store.  Back in the day, MCC had a fully working farm that provided food for the facility that was run by inmates.  The officers are dedicated men and women who work hard in a very real and scary environment.  They put their lives on the line every day for very little pay.  

The families of officers are the ones who pay the highest price in this career.  The loved one works long hours, and on their days off they are either back in uniform working overtime because they are short staffed, or they are working a second job to make up for the lack in their salaries.  We get creative in knowing what we need, and what we want, and know that there are things we can’t have.   The biggest thing we can’t have is having our officer home.  Some of us get by with seeing our officer home for an hour or two a few days a week because they work crazy, long and extra hours.  We sit home and worry if they will be assaulted, or even make it home at the end of their shift.  We see our officers age faster than they should, knowing that correctional officers have the second highest death rate of any occupation and will be seriously assaulted at least twice during a twenty year career.  (“A publication of the American Correctional Officer”, 1998).  

Every night when I put my children to bed I may not be able to sleep myself, but I can have peace of mind knowing that my family and friends who are correctional officers are doing honest work, doing the best they can given their training and resources, but most importantly that they are keeping us safe by providing the public service of keeping committers of crimes off the streets.  My children and I are proud of our officers. As the town that houses the Maine Correctional Center, you should all be proud of the officers and the work they do, too.

You know what really Grinds my Gears? by Jeffrey J. Thivierge

My muddy labradoodle.

Three years ago, my wife and I decided to make an addition to our family.  We already had a big, oaf of a chocolate lab, which we got when I returned home from Iraq in 2007.  While we adored our boy, Drake, we learned as time progressed that not only was he a complete wuss, but he was riddled with knee and back issues which continue to plague him.

My wife and I like to think that we’re reasonably active people and like to have the company of a dog during our activities. Enter the labradoodle.  We didn’t want to run into the problems with Drake, so we did our homework.  The breeder we ended up choosing was actually on the list of breeders that was vetted by the Obama’s prior to getting their Portuguese Water Dog, Bo.  We chose a beautiful apricot colored puppy that we named Indigo and picked her up just before Memorial Day in 2010.

Luckily, Drake was around to train her.  In only four weeks, this gorgeous puppy that was quickly growing into a beautiful dog was completely housebroken.  Within another few weeks, she was knocking out some of the same commands that Drake had dazzled the neighbors with in his youth.  (Mind you, Drake was still only three years old at the time, but he’s an old soul, and acts like an old man.)

The time had come for Indigo to go hiking out on the trails with the pack.  She was a svelte 40 pounds at the time, and only around six months old.  Since it was a short walk, Drake would join us.  Less than a quarter mile into the woods, I released the hounds from their leashes, and Indigo found her new love…. mud.

She stood there.  Looking at me.  Knowing what she was about to do was wrong. 

I called out to her, “Indigo! No!”

Too late.

My beautiful puppy was covered in mud.  Literally, from her neck to her paws was covered in thick, black mud.  Not one inch of her body was her natural color.

Drake watched this happen, not trying to stop her.  I blame him.

The rest of our “hike” consisted of me muttering to myself about getting a cat instead of another dog as we searched for a body of water to wash her off.

This scenario has played out no fewer than 15 times in the past two-and-a-half years.  I love my labradoodle, but I can’t help but think I’d prefer to live in an area like El Paso that doesn’t have mud.

In Augusta - Taxation Committee looks to make up gap by Rep. Thomas Tyler

What’s happening at the Statehouse?  In my committee the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee we are working very hard on firearms issues these days with approximately 20 plus bills that have been submitted for consideration.  Many of these bills have similar issues so several members are working to combine them into one all encompassing bill however for me, personally, most of these will do nothing for public safety and personal protection.  We are one of the safest states in the nation. New laws will just burden all our law abiding citizens while criminals will still be criminals with no regard for the law.  Looking at ways to prevent violence in the first place is where we need to expend our efforts.

As you read this, we will have approximately eight weeks left in the first regular session of the 126th Maine Legislature.  There is a lot of work to be done and all the committees are working diligently get the bills processed and to the floor of the House and Senate.   

The Taxation Committee is considering measures to increase the lodging tax from 7 percent to 12 percent, the liquor tax from 7 percent to 9 percent, and the general sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent. According to Maine Revenue Services, raising the lodging and sales taxes under those bills would raid the private sector to the tune of about $166 million per year, or 38 percent of the budget gap. This comprehensive revenue-grab would represent the largest tax hike in Maine’s history.

As quoted by Rep. Ken Fredette, “These are taxes that hit the middle class the hardest.”  Many would like to think that we can close the budget gap by taxing somebody else—the rich or the tourists.  But the reality is that their tax hike package hits every Mainer, and hits them hard.   We need to look at all state programs to find efficiencies. 

It is a pleasure and honor to be your representative.  Contact me if you have any questions at repthomas.tyler@maine.legislature.gov.