October 18, 2013

OUR OPINION: Thumbs up, thumbs down

Quick takes on issues in the news this week in central Maine ...

Thumbs up to the Lewis family of Monmouth, which is enduring the deployment of Scott Lewis to Afghanistan. A major in the Maine Army National Guard, Lewis, 45, is helping close military facilities or get them ready for the Afghans to take over after the troop drawdown in complete.

Mom Lynn and kids Kimberlee, 16, and Nathan, 6, use Skype to stay in touch with Lewis, who previously served a tour in Iraq and likely will be gone on this tour until next summer.

Lewis is one of 62,000 or so U.S. troops still on the ground in Afghanistan. That’s 62,000 Americans missing birthdays, holidays and other special occasions, such as, in Lewis’ case, a family trip to the Fryeburg Fair.

To all the military personnel stationed overseas, and to their families, we thank you for your service.

Thumbs down to the Augusta man who is lining his lawn with toilets as a protest against the city’s decision not to allow a Dunkin’ Donuts to be built on his property.

Developers in August proposed a Dunkin’ Donuts for the corner of Davenport and Stone streets. But residents of the neighborhood spoke up against the plan, which they said would bring too much traffic and noise to the residential area, and the Planning Board rejected the zone change necessary to make the restaurant a reality. Last week, a request for the City Council to overrule the Planning Board found no takers.

In protest, David Labbe, whose Davenport Street property would have been bought by the developers, started putting toilets on his lawn. He started with a handful, then recently posted a sign saying he wants 60 to 70 toilets.

Zoning lays out a city’s vision for itself — it defines what should go where. Residents and developers can dispute that vision, but they have to make their case to the Planning Board, in a public forum with all sides considered.

In this case, neighborhood residents were overwhelming in their desire to keep things the same, and the city followed their wishes. That is the way it should work. The new lawn ornaments are just sour grapes, and juvenile ones at that.

Thumbs up to Augusta, Gardiner, Waterville and the other communities taking part in a workplace wellness initiative modeled after a Skowhegan program.

Nineteen Maine municipalities are splitting a $1.64 million federal grant to allow small businesses to encourage healthy habits by employees. In Gardiner, that means pedometers to track the number of steps taken each day and a map showing the distances of trails and routes around town, among other activities and initiatives.

Wellness programs are common for larger employers that can create teams and hold group activities and competitions.

That is more difficult for small businesses. But bringing businesses in a certain downtown together for a program not only will make the employees more active and healthy, it also will foster partnerships and a sense of community among the businesses.

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