Thursday, August 25, 2005

Editorial: Teaching what they should

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Aug 25, 2005): The Scarborough Board of Education has made a good decision regarding its sex education curriculum, and we hope parents will be happy with it.

First, the schools will give out more information to parents and will again hold parental information sessions, canceled in the past because of low turnout.

And while some parents are concerned about demonstrations of condom use to eighth-graders, those families will be able to opt out of the class. The schools are being extra careful by making those class sessions “opt-in:” Parents will have to sign a form saying they know condom use will be discussed and demonstrated during the class, and saying they want their kids to learn that material.

The parents who have expressed concerns about the schools’ curriculum are right to want the teachers to focus on abstinence, encouraging students not to have sex until they are adults. And the teachers do just that.

But they do more – and the state guidelines are right to require it – teaching children how to stay safe if they decide to go against the advice of teachers, parents, other adults and this newspaper, and have sex.

The best advice we can give to kids is this: Wait to have sex. In addition to very real concerns about serious diseases or an unexpected baby, having sex at a young age can be emotionally traumatic, and it's hard for anybody to prepare a teenager for that.

We also applaud the schools’ efforts to teach students about the true challenges of parenthood, including through a program using computerized dolls to simulate the needs of an infant.

But kids don’t need to be taught about the possibilities of sex. As parents noted to the Board of Education last week, sex is all around us, in the movies, on TV, in posters and online. Some children – in any town – will always choose to ignore the advice of caring adults and take risks.

We teach young children to wear bicycle helmets in addition to the basic lesson of riding on the right side of the road. We do that not because we want them to ride unsafely, but because they deserve to know how to minimize the risks they take.

That is why the state Department of Education has ruled that an abstinence-only program developed by Heritage of Maine and supported by several Scarborough parents is not enough to meet the state’s educational standards. Kids need more information.

They need to know that one of the best ways to stay safe during sex is to use a condom. Condoms are not completely effective, it is true, but according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “except for abstinence, latex condoms are the most effective method for reducing the risk of infection” by a range of sexually transmitted diseases.

If a young person is going to give up the 100 percent effective option (abstinence), we should want them to be prepared with the next most effective way to minimize the risks they are about to take.

Schools recognize the need for good information – for frank discussions about sex, for repeated encouragement to abstain from sex, and for lessons on staying safe if kids take risks – and have met that need with classes like those taught in Scarborough.

With the opt-in classes, they have also respected parents’ rights to influence how, when and what their children learn about sex. It is important to note, though, that children here in Scarborough – and in Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and all across Maine – are talking about sex and thinking about sex to a degree their parents were not at the same age. And some of them are trying it.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Changing Cape begins to plan for future

Published in the Current

CAPE ELIZABETH (Aug 25, 2005): More than one-third of the homes in Cape Elizabeth are occupied by a single person.

That is just one aspect of a 30-year trend in Cape Elizabeth that has more homes being built even as the number of people living in town remains about the same.

“We’ve grown in housing units but not in population,” Town Manager Mike McGovern told the Comprehensive Plan Committee last week, as part of a discussion of the history of town efforts to plan for the future.

In 1972, when the town took its first shot at a comprehensive plan, the population was about 7,000. The 1972 plan was rejected by the Planning Board then, but remains as a reference for town leaders, McGovern said. The Comprehensive Plan Committee is just beginning its work updating the town's plan for the future, last updated in 1994.

Since 1972, more than 1,000 homes have been built in town, bringing the total of single-family houses to over 3,300 in 2000 Census figures. That’s nearly half as many as existed in 1972. But the number of people climbed more slowly, reaching just over 9,000 in the 2000 Census, well below the 1972 projection that there would be 15,000 Cape residents, McGovern said.

“The population in the 1970s did not increase despite 320 new housing units,” he said. The main reason for that is “there’s far fewer people per household.”

McGovern noted also that the town more than doubled its land holdings between 1972 and 2005, and that the number of farms increased from nine to 10, though “they’re different types of farms.”

He said his numbers showed that “as much as things don’t seem to change much in Cape Elizabeth, there is in fact a lot of change that is going on.”

Recreational life in town has definitely changed. “In 1972 there was absolutely no Community Services program,” McGovern said, and “Fort Williams was just a bunch of buildings. … It had not yet been designated a park.”

He urged the committee to “challenge every assumption” in the present comprehensive plan, created in 1994 and under review this year by a committee of citizens and elected officials.

He asked whether the vacant lot next to the Inn by the Sea should remain zoned for business, as it now is, and also suggested the group look at housing needs, saying “affordable housing is disappearing” from the town.

“The community needs more than just single-family homes,” McGovern said.

He also suggested the committee review the desire, stated in several town planning documents, that the “rural character” of Cape Elizabeth be preserved. He noted that since that phrase first appeared, 1,000 homes have been built.

“Maybe it’s time to segment” the town, focusing rural-protection efforts in some areas while not in others, he said.

He asked them to consider what changes might mean for residents’ property rights, particularly on the Sprague estate, a vast parcel of land in the southwestern part of town that is privately owned and governed by a town-approved master plan for future development and conservation.

Survey in the works

A survey of town residents is in the planning stages, with Critical Insights, a Portland firm owned by Cape resident MaryEllen FitzGerald, slated to conduct a phone survey of a random sample of residents, pending approval of sufficient funding, according to Town Planner Maureen O’Meara. The survey will cost just shy of $15,000.

The last comprehensive plan is based on a town-wide written survey mailed to all residents, of whom just over 100 chose to respond.

The Critical Insights survey will randomly select 400 residents, a sample that because of its randomness and its size will be large enough to make the results statistically representative of the entire town population, FitzGerald told the committee last week.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Editorial: No laughing matter

Published in the Current

(Aug 18, 2005): There is not a huge amount of difference between “Giggles and Grins” and “Grins and Giggles,” but what difference there is should provide room for two companies to keep their names.

Scarborough businesswoman Kristi Stanley, who owns Giggles and Grins, named after some of her young son’s personality traits, says one name is the reverse of the other and shouldn’t cause a problem.

But, as we see on Page 1, the Gerber baby food company seems to think the two are so confusingly similar that it is demanding Stanley change her business’s name.

There are laws and court rulings about this type of dispute, and lawyers are already involved. But common sense and an innate sense of right and wrong should also be in play: Just because someone is bigger than you doesn’t mean they should get their way.

And in this case, the companies should agree to keep their names. They sell items and product lines that are different enough that customers should be able to keep them straight: If you went to buy a blanket (from Giggles and Grins) and instead selected a shampoo (from Grins and Giggles), you’d figure out your mistake long before getting to the cash register.

Perhaps as a safeguard against future disputes like this, the companies could agree that if either is going to sell products similar to the other’s, it must be done under a different product name. So if Stanley decides to make homemade baby soaps, she would have to find a different name for that group of items.

The Internet is the one place where customers could be easily confused, and might unintentionally visit one company’s site when looking for the other.

Because of the mechanics of Internet searches, someone looking for the words “giggles” and “grins” would find both companies’ sites – as well as countless other sites completely unrelated to any products for babies and young children.

So it seems reasonable that to dispel potential customer confusion, at the top of each company’s Web site should be a line saying it is not the other company’s site, and providing a link to the other site.

That sort of solution is quite common in situations where organizations and companies have similar names and want to mutually avoid confusion, and that’s really where the companies’ negotiations should focus.

New inside

I want to call your attention to two items in this week’s issue that are of particular note: the Religion page, on Page 6, and the local school bus schedules, on Pages 20 and 21.

Both are part of our continuing efforts to be the best newspaper serving this territory, and to better serve you, our readers.

This issue marks the second appearance of the Religion page, which will appear every other week as a venue for news, views and information about our local churches and religious groups. Please send contributions, feedback, story ideas and other comments to me by e-mail at, or call me at 883-3533.

This issue also includes the school bus schedules for Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth for the upcoming year. (South Portland’s were not available before press time, but will be posted on our Web site,, as soon as we get them from the school department.) Scarborough’s, in particular, may cause some concern, because of a new district policy consolidating bus stops. Please let us know what you think of the new routes, again by e-mailing me at or by calling 883-3533.

As always, we welcome your comments, feedback and ideas on all aspects of the paper. If you would prefer to write or fax, those addresses are just below this column, on the same page.

Thanks so much for reading the Current! We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Editorial: Show up to speak

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Aug 11, 2005): Next week, on Thursday, Aug. 18, parents will have an opportunity to speak to the Scarborough Board of Education about their views on sex education in the schools.

Every parent of a child in Scarborough schools should attend the meeting, at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall, no matter their views on sex education.

Many parents are pleased with the curriculum, but others are not. Some object to lessons about condoms as a means of protection against sexually transmitted diseases, saying teaching about condoms is tantamount to approving of sexual activity for students. Other parents are concerned that their children might not learn about an effective way to prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy at an early enough age that the lessons will stick and be heeded.

We have had columns and letters to the editor on this subject, and postings on our Web site at, and we invite more of each. Please write to let us know what you think.

Children in our society are exposed to sexual material almost constantly, in the movies, on television, online and elsewhere. We must find ways to help children keep themselves safe, both from dangerous influences and from ignorance of the dangers.

No matter how caring or thoughtful a parent is, children have to do a lot of growing up all on their own, out among their peers, where parents’ watchful eyes cannot go. What we teach them will affect their decisions in those situations.

Parents with ideas, concerns and wishes for all aspects of sex education should make their voices heard. Write to us, and then go speak to the school board.

Making bus sense

Scarborough school officials should be commended for reacting swiftly to complaints from daycare owner Heidi McDonald, who was upset that a new policy reducing the number of school bus stops in town would require some two dozen of her charges to wait just off Route 1, rather than in her building, as has been the case so far.

McDonald’s immediate objections have been taken care of, at least pending further study by a school department committee: On Wednesday, McDonald met with Superintendent Bill Michaud and Transportation Director Scott Macomber, who told her the schools will keep the buses running to her driveway – though not her door – until the committee decides on a permanent solution.

Also, for this year, the schools will continue to transport students between Heidi’s House and all three of the town’s elementary schools, rather than just Eight Corners School, which serves the business’s region of town.

McDonald says she plans to fight the changes, to make permanent the special provisions the schools made this year, mainly because of the short notice to McDonald and to parents.

The schools should carefully consider the effects of this new policy on businesses and parents, as well as children. Parents painstakingly choose daycares for a wide range of reasons, but if the best daycare for a child is across town, that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

The idea of shortening bus trips by consolidating stops is a good one. But it would seem that the daycare centers have already created consolidated stops, by bringing together numerous children from separate homes to one location for pickup and drop-off.

The schools should be able to provide at least the larger daycare centers in town with bus service to and from all three elementary schools. Perhaps there should be a minimum number of students required before a bus route will include an out-of-region daycare, to avoid driving a town-owned bus all over town for a single student.

But there should be a way to meet the daycares’ needs while still achieving the school department’s goals. Bus service to daycares is, after all, a service to parents – just like bus service to homes.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Cape class of 1975 gets together

Published in the Current

CAPE ELIZABETH (Aug 11, 2005): About 60 members of the Cape Elizabeth High School class of 1975, and about 25 spouses, partners and significant others, gathered Saturday at the Purpoodock Club to celebrate the class’s 30th reunion.

Many of the attendees had not been to a class reunion before, according to organizer Keith Citrine. About half of the roughly 150-member class live in Maine, with 10 percent in Cape Elizabeth and about a third in Greater Portland, Citrine said. Other attendees came from as far away as California and Oregon.

The reunion was so successful that the class, which has previously had reunions only every 10 years, is planning to have another in five years.

“As we get older, more and more people are returning to Maine,” Citrine said.

Also improving turnout was the advent of e-mail. The correspondence for the last reunion was all by regular post, while nearly everything this time was by e-mail. “It really changed the way we’re able to communicate with classmates,” Citrine said.

The event was organized primarily by class members Lisa Norton of Scarborough, and Jon Chapman, Andy Strout and Citrine, all Cape residents.

In addition to Saturday night’s event, class members and their families gathered Sunday at a private beach owned by Strout’s family for a cookout and shore activities, including kayaking.

Boardman heads back to Afghanistan

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Aug 11, 2005): Army Capt. Jeremy Boardman of Scarborough was home recently on a two-week leave from service in Afghanistan.

Boardman, a West Point graduate who has been stationed in Germany for five years, was last home at Christmas time. He was stationed in Iraq for a year from 2003 to early 2004.

A member of the 510th Personnel Services Battalion in the Adjutant General Corps, Boardman handles mail delivery, and processes paperwork for promotions, deployments, training and casualties.

He has been stationed in Afghanistan since March, mostly in Bagram, the main U.S. base, but more recently in Kandahar, in the southern area of the country. He is the only officer in his unit to be stationed in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

When he returns, he will serve there for eight more months before coming home to Germany, and then, he hopes, the United States.

Boardman scheduled his leave time in part to take a graduate-school admission test, part of his application process for the West Point teacher’s program. He hopes to be accepted to teach economics. If he is accepted to the program, the Army will decide what they want him to teach, and will pay to send him to graduate school for two years.

Then he will teach at West Point for three years, and will have to serve in the Army elsewhere in the world for another three years.

In Kandahar, “it’s a lot like Iraq,” Boardman said: hot and dry. “Get rid of the heat and the dust, it’s not that bad.”

But life is better there than in Bagram, which is at about 9,000 feet of altitude, which takes its toll on the body.

In Bagram, he was assigned a wooden hut to live in, but promptly improved it, with help from fellow soldiers.

“It felt like you were living in a toolshed,” he said. He called a sergeant friend from Iraq who is now building a house in Germany. The sergeant sent Boardman extra building materials, including floor tiles and wallpaper. Boardman also managed to score a real bed, rather than the folding cot the Army gave him.

“It’s 10 times better than it was,” he said.

In Kandahar he lives in modular housing, which is sturdier and more comfortable, he said.

“Our office is in what they call the ‘Taliban last stand building,’” where a contingent of Taliban fighters holed up until an American bomb blew a massive hole in the roof. Much of the building has been repaired for Army use, but the hole remains. A flagpole with a U.S. flag flying now sticks up through the hole.

Boardman signed up to go to Afghanistan, anticipating it would help him prepare for graduate school.

In Afghanistan, “your downtime isn’t really downtime” like it is in Germany, where his girlfriend is a short distance away and there are plenty of things to do.

Instead, “it’s kind of like ‘Groundhog Day,’” a Bill Murray movie in which a man wakes up every morning to find it is the same day over and over again, until he learns the lesson: Make the most of what you’re given.

While in Afghanistan, Boardman has been able to study and prepare for the West Point program and the Captain’s Career Course he needs to qualify for a future promotion.

He has also been working hard, helping handle 500,000 pounds of mail every month, as a primary task. “That’s only going to increase” as the holidays approach, Boardman said.

His unit takes “mobile post offices” to remote outposts in huge twin-rotor Chinook helicopters, as well as in trucks to nearby bazaars, where soldiers can buy local goods and ship them home right away.

Signs, library donations draw council concern

Published in the Current

CAPE ELIZABETH (Aug 11, 2005): Members of the Cape Elizabeth Town Council have expressed reservations about a proposed agreement with a new charity that supports the Thomas Memorial Library, and about the town’s sign ordinance.

At Monday’s meeting, the council scheduled for Monday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m. a public hearing for changes to the sign ordinance, despite concerns about the rules from Councilors Michael Mowles and Carol Fritz.

Mowles, who supported the move for a public hearing, called the sign ordinance “rather restrictive." He said it "impinges on our right to free speech in certain areas.”

Fritz wanted the sign ordinance to be considered by the Planning Board to “have signs be in keeping with the town character.”

Councilor Jack Roberts said the revisions mostly clarified the language to specify the maximum area of each side of a sign, in the wake of last year’s election, when unclear language was exploited by some candidates to make campaign signs larger than town officials wanted.

Another provision removed a limit on the total area of signs on town-owned property, to allow directional and informational signs at the transfer station and Fort Williams Park, according to Town Manager Mike McGovern.

Signs on those properties violate the existing ordinance, which limits signs on town-owned property to a total combined area of 100 square feet. Those large spaces, with multiple possible destinations, need more signs to help people get around, McGovern said.

McGovern will meet with both Fritz and Mowles, and said “there are constitutional questions with any sign ordinance … It wouldn’t hurt to have a review in that context.”

Councilors also were concerned about a proposed agreement with a new charity, the Thomas Memorial Library Foundation, in the wake of a disagreement between councilors and leaders of another charity supporting a major town operation, the Fort Williams Charitable Foundation.

McGovern said the agreement needed to be in place so town and library foundation leaders can properly allocate donations made by community members. The town owns the library building and employs its staff. The foundation would raise money to donate to the town from time to time, in support of library activities. The town also accepts donations toward library operations costs from other private citizens and organizations.

Councilor Mary Ann Lynch said she had “some concerns, which I think have increased over the past few weeks,” and worried about some printed materials directing members of the Friends of Thomas Memorial Library to donate to the foundation rather than to the town.

Lynch, who said she helped revitalize the Friends group about 20 years ago, asked for the council to discuss the matter more fully at a workshop with the foundation directors before approving the arrangement.

Several councilors expressed concern about the possibility of a conflict between the town and the foundation, if each were pushing the library in a different direction. That is similar to the recent push by the Fort Williams Charitable Foundation to get the town to grant a permanent easement over the fort property to a local land trust, a move resisted by the town, which says the park is fully protected under existing agreements.

Library Director Jay Scherma said he had no problem with the foundation and the town working together.

“I personally don’t perceive a conflict. It’s clear to me that I am an employee of the town. … I answer to the town manager,” he said. “Foundations have become part and parcel of what is almost expected or de rigeur in the library community.”

He said the Friends group had never formally filed for tax-exempt status, and the foundation was taking over. “The Friends are being subsumed under the foundation,” he said.

McGovern said he would sign the agreement as an administrative action so there is a temporary agreement in place until the council can act on the matter.

Dogs to be election issue

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Aug 11, 2005): Dogs are shaping up to be an election issue in South Portland, with a proponent of dogs on Willard Beach planning to run against a dog-control advocate for the City Council District 1 seat.

David Bourke, who has asked the police department to enforce literally the city ordinance's requirement that dogs not on leashes be "at heel," has taken out nominating papers for the seat being vacated by David Jacobs.

Also taking out papers was Claude Morgan, president of the South Portland Dog Owners Group, who has worked to revise city laws to allow dogs in public spaces.

Paul Nixon, who failed to defeat incumbent Larry Bliss for a Statehouse seat last year, has also taken out papers for the seat. He is in his second term on the city's Planning Board.

For District 2, R. Anton Hoecker has taken out papers, as has incumbent Thomas Maietta.

For District 5, Brian Dearborn, a member of the Community Development Advisory Committee, has taken out papers to run against incumbent James Hughes, who has also taken out papers to run for what would be his second term.

For School Board, incumbent Chairman Mark Reuscher has taken out papers to run again, and William Harris, a member of the Conservation Commission, has as well. Two seats are vacant. Incumbent Lori Bowring Michaud had not taken out papers as of Wednesday.

For the Portland Water District seat representing South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, incumbent John Brady has taken out nominating papers.

Nominating papers are now available from the city clerk's office. Completed forms can be filed no sooner than Aug. 29 but no later than Sept. 12, for the Nov. 8 election.

Clarification Aug. 16:
The position held by David Bourke about dogs' access to public spaces was improperly characterized in last week's issue, in a Page 5 article about candidates for City Council. On Aug. 8, at the City Council workshop, Bourke reversed his earlier position. He now supports the proposal of a city task force studying the issue, which would change the dogs ordinance and then provide enforcement of the changed law.

Wheelchair athletes roll to the finish

Published in the Current

(Aug 11, 2005): The first racer across the finish line at Fort Williams Park Saturday was a wheelchair athlete, Tony Nogueira, who won the race for the sixth time, in 0:25:35, a 4:07 mile pace.

The wheelchairs reach speeds of about 30 mph, according to Peter Hawkins, who finished seventh in the division, in 0:31:57.

Hawkins and six others, including Nogueira, second-place Kamel Ayari (0:26:31) and Erik Corbett (fifth, in 0:29:07), spent the night before the race and the night after at a Cape Elizabeth assisted-living home, which opened its spare rooms at no charge to the racers, who needed wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and eating facilities.

Those are hard to find in private homes in Cape Elizabeth, where many out-of-town runners stay, but Village Crossings at Cape Elizabeth on Scott Dyer Road had just renovated several rooms, which were slated to be vacant while work finished up.

David Rogers, assistant executive director at Village Crossings, said the building had the space and it seemed to fit a need. Some years as many as 12 wheelchair racers have competed, according to Russ Connors, a Cape resident who coordinates their arrangements.

The stay at Village Crossings was a good change for Erik Corbett, 25, of Methuen, Mass., who drove up from his home early in the morning of race day 2004, rather than struggling to get ready in unfamiliar and difficult surroundings. This year, he got to “sleep in,” he said, because he was already in town, in accessible accommodations.

Hawkins, a Long Island native who drove up Friday in his van, and gave his friend Ayari a lift, participates in several races each year. He likes the Beach to Beacon for the workout.

“It’s a challenge because it’s not flat,” he said. But the hills also bring risk: “The most dangerous part is when you go down into the park,” heading downhill at top speed into a sharp right turn in toward the finish line.

Hawkins has been racing in his wheelchair for nearly 20 years now. “You have the opportunity to race almost every week,” he said.

He was paralyzed in a car crash during his senior year in high school. Hawkins, the captain of his school’s football team and a member of the lacrosse team, was sleeping in the passenger seat of a car whose driver was drunk.

Hawkins said it took him several years to get into wheelchair athletics after his accident, and he also had to adjust to an individual sport, in which he can compete against himself, from a team-sport mindset, in which winning is everything.

The biggest wheelchair race in the world is the Oita International Wheelchair Marathon in Japan, which attracts as many as 500 racers from around the world. In the 2004 race, Hawkins finished 74th, with a time of 2:05:59.

More than 100 wheelchair athletes compete in the New York City Marathon, which is where Ayari met his wife after winning the 2000 race. She asked for his autograph at the finish line, and he asked for her phone number.

Hawkins calls Ayari and others, who are professional racers rolling for a living “big-time athletes,” who are “as good an athlete” as the runners in the races.

Ayari, a native of Tunisia, North Africa, now living in New York said his wheelchair – all the racers’ chairs are custom-made – costs about $5,000, and when a tire blows that costs him another $150. A blowout happened in last year’s Beach to Beacon, during the rain squall that hit during the race. Ayari was able to change the tire and still finished third.

Though the wheelchair itself weighs only about 25 pounds, with the 135-pound Ayari aboard, it’s hard work. “You have to push all the weight with your fingers,” he said.

But for him it is work. He is sponsored by a wheelchair manufacturer and races for the prize money. He will be in the Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod next weekend, and wants to do well there too.

“I’m not looking to come to the race just to have fun,” said Ayari.

Fort Williams fees on the way

Published in the Current

CAPE ELIZABETH (Aug 11, 2005): With the Cape Elizabeth Town Council poised to look at a new report on fees at Fort Williams, November's election could decide whether visitors to the park will pay admission.

Although fees at the park have been shot down repeatedly in the past, a majority of councilors now say they either support fees or are at least open to the idea.

Two sitting councilors are in favor of fees at the park. In interviews with the Current, one additional councilor said he is “likely to favor” them and two others said they are considering the idea.

The remaining two oppose fees on a philosophical basis, with one, Councilor Jack Roberts saying “I think they're a terrible idea.” If the town is going to charge admission to the landmark, which has been kept free until now, “why don't we just gate the community,” he said.

Five different ways fees could be charged are outlined in a report from a Cape Elizabeth town commission, and will be discussed by the Town Council this fall. Councilors say any final decision will be only after public hearings and debate, bringing the decision after the Nov. 8 local election, when the occupants of two council seats are up to voters.

A proposal for fees was rejected by the council in 2003, considered again during 2004’s budget process and then put off, and was floated as one possible consequence if the 1 percent property-tax cap referendum had passed in November 2004.

A 2003 statewide survey by Critical Insights, a Portland research firm, showed 74 percent of Mainers supported a $5 annual per-vehicle fee at the fort; 69 percent of people in Southern Maine supported it. The question has not been asked since then, according to company president MaryEllen FitzGerald, a Cape resident.

“We may ask it again” in a September statewide survey, she said, adding that she did not expect a big change in the outcome.

The latest report, from the Fort Williams Advisory Commission, gives five options: charging a per-person fee, which would extend to cyclists and walkers, as well as people who drive to the park; charging a per-vehicle entry fee, which has raised concerns about traffic backups on Shore Road; charging a per-vehicle exit fee, which would move any traffic backups inside the park; installing “pay and display” parking meter machines; or an “envelope system” based on the largely voluntary process used in the White Mountain National Forest.

“For me it comes down to this: The park right now is free for everyone except residents of Cape Elizabeth, who pay for it with their tax dollars. I’d like to see that reversed,” said Councilor Mary Ann Lynch, a leading proponent of park entry fees.

Lynch said specifically that she does not want to charge walkers and cyclists, or Cape residents, for entry.

Need for money

Upkeep of the park costs taxpayers $115,000 in operating expenses and $37,000 in capital improvements in this year’s budget, according to Town Manager Mike McGovern.

“The park is expensive to maintain, and we are not really maintaining it,” Lynch said, citing the estimated $500,000 cost to preserve Goddard Mansion as a ruin.

She said a small fee for a year-long pass could bring in a lot of money. Estimates from 2003 indicated that charging $5 per car and $40 per bus would raise about $200,000, about 70 percent of which would come from out-of-staters. About 20 percent would come from Maine residents – half of that from Greater Portland residents.

Swift-Kayatta said she likes the idea of a fee “in the $5 per year range. … I don’t think it’s unfair” to have people who use the park contribute to its upkeep.

McGovern said he has “no idea” how many people visit the fort each year, and said the 1 million figure the town has used for more than a decade “seems high.”

Lynch said a $5 or $10 fee is similar to fees at other lighthouses she has visited, and less than beach parking in other towns, such as Scarborough’s $10-per-day parking at Pine Point.

“Let’s raise the money from our vacationing tourists,” said Lynch.

The plan could run up against the Fort Williams Charitable Foundation, created by the council in 2001 to raise money to support the park’s operations.

“For whatever reason it has not been as successful a fund-raising effort as people had hoped,” Lynch said. The foundation has asked for an easement on the fort property be granted to the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust, saying the park needs “permanent protection” to garner big donors' dollars. The foundation disputes town officials’ claims that Fort Williams Park is already permanently protected, without an easement.

Councilor Carol Fritz said the foundation’s lack of success is because the council has “put a real damper on” its fund-raising ability, by refusing to grant an easement.

Election outcome key

Lynch said she expects the workshop to lead eventually to a formal proposal for the council to vote on.

Timing matters: Two years ago the council rejected the idea of fees by a consensus, with five councilors objecting to them and with Lynch and Anne Swift-Kayatta in the minority, supporting fees. Of the five-councilor majority, only two, Fritz and Roberts, are still on the council.

The seats now held by Roberts and Swift-Kayatta are expiring this year. Both are still undecided on a reelection bid.

Fritz said Tuesday she is “still pretty much opposed to having fees,” saying free access to the fort is “something that Cape Elizabeth contributes to the regional communities,” though if she had to choose, she would pick the “pay and display” option, as less obtrusive and possibly cheaper.

Fritz noted that three previous reports from the Fort Williams Advisory Commission have opposed fees. “It’s been shot down so many times, and the public says ‘no we don’t want it,’” she said.

Citing several local spots that are free for the public, including the trail around Back Cove and the Eastern Promenade, both in Portland, as well as Willard Beach and Bug Light Park in South Portland, Fritz said she “would hate to see us start a trend that closes off or begins to really charge for all these wonderful places.”

She also was concerned that fees could lower attendance at the museum and reduce income at the gift shop, which would reduce town revenue now used to support the fort, and about public perceptions of Cape Elizabeth.

“People think of the community as wealthy,” she said. If the town began charging, “would we then look like we’re trying to keep people out and have an elitist kind of park?”

Roberts could not be reached for comment.

Of the three councilors elected since the 2003 rejection, none has had to take a formal position on fees at the fort.

Councilor David Backer said Wednesday that despite his opposition to fees when he ran for council two years ago, “I’m coming around in my thinking.”

He cited the council’s self-imposed 3 percent spending cap as a reason “all sources of revenue have to be looked at as fair game. … I think that fees at Fort Williams may be an appropriate way to help supplement the income-versus-expenditure collision” the council is now experiencing. “At this point I’m likely to favor fees at the park,” he said, though he is not sure how they should be administered.

Councilor Paul McKenney said Tuesday that he had not made up his mind on fees. “It would be nice to see Fort Williams as a self-sufficient entity, but I’m not sure that fees are the way” to achieve that. His “first choice” would not be fees, but he said it is “reasonable” to ask park users to support the park financially.

Councilor Michael Mowles blamed the lack of state tax reform for the issue’s reemergence. “I don’t like the idea of having to charge fees at Fort Williams, but I’m open to considering the idea,” Mowles said Wednesday. “Given our current tax situation I’m more open to considering fees than I would have been a year ago,” he said.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Editorial: How could it happen?

Published in the Current

SCARBOROUGH (Aug 4, 2005): If the state is serious about driver safety – and they say they are, even recently stepping up police patrols on busy stretches of highways – it’s time for a registry of dangerous drivers, similar to the one we have for sex offenders.

A bad driver can pose a greater risk to more people in a single day than some sex offenders may in their whole lives. It’s time we knew who the worst drivers are, so we can protect ourselves and each other.

It’s shocking and tragic enough that Tina Turcotte of Scarborough was killed in a car crash last week. Our sympathies go out to her family and friends, who are no doubt reeling in shock. We hope they are also feeling love and support from those around them.

But what’s worse is that the driver of the truck has an extended history of traffic violations, including more than 42 convictions, has had his driver’s license suspended 19 times, and has been involved in five crashes, two of which have killed another driver.

Deputy Secretary of State Doug Dunbar said there are even more convictions that are not shown in state records, because of complications of the state’s computer system.

Scott Hewitt of Caribou, who was bailed out of jail just hours after the crash, might even be back on the road. The state has no way to know, and no way to prevent him from driving again.

And when he was driving Friday, Hewitt’s license was again under suspension, this time for failure to pay a court-imposed fine.

His state driving record starts when he was 19, showing Hewitt has had an average of more than three convictions every year.

Several of those convictions are for serious violations, including two for operating after suspension and one for operating after his license was revoked because he had so many driving-related convictions.

Among his 16 speeding convictions are four for driving double the posted speed limit – 50 mph in a 25 mph zone, 59 mph in a 30 mph zone, 53 mph in a 25 mph zone and 29 mph in a 15 mph zone. He also was convicted for breaking commercial trucking rules 10 times.

That’s just Hewitt. What’s even more scary is that there are others we don't know about. The state needs a way to get drivers them off the road, permanently.

Right now, there’s no way a person’s driver’s license can be permanently revoked. Even a person convicted of driving drunk and causing an accident that kills a person can appeal a revocation after 10 years.

It’s true that there is no practical way to monitor a person to make sure that they are never actually behind the wheel of a car. And such a person can still drive, and can get away with it.

There are parallels here with sex offenders, who also cannot practically be physically monitored to keep them away from children or other potential victims. They must be allowed to go about their lives after serving their sentences.

But they potentially pose a danger to the general public, and enough convicted sex offenders have committed subsequent offenses to generate public outcry.

Gov. John Baldacci has asked for a review to see what the state can do better.

It’s time for Maine to have a dangerous driver registry. After some number of convictions for traffic infractions – say six over three years – or even just one of a very serious nature, like doubling the speed limit, a person should be placed in a public registry for a period of time.

Residents in their communities should be notified. The dangerous drivers should have to register with their local police, and should know that their neighbors are watching them closely.

While that might not make the dangerous drivers reform, it would help neighbors in their communities to know what’s going on, and perhaps encourage the neighbors to call police when the offender backs out of the driveway.

Roads are public spaces, and when dangerous people are in control of heavy machines, we are all at risk.

Jeff Inglis, editor

Bahá’ís keep the faith in S.P.

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Aug 4, 2005): In his late 20s, Glenn Nerbak, raised Catholic, found his true religion: Bahá’í.

Nerbak, now a South Portland resident and one of 10 Bahá’ís in the city, had attended Catholic schools in his youth but had given up practicing religion during college because he felt there were too many questions he couldn’t find answers to. In his late 20s, he started searching again, to find a faith that fit.

Then, in his late 20s, he was playing basketball with a friend in Portsmouth, N.H., and happened to mention he needed a place to live. The friend’s parents had a place in Eliot, Maine, and the friend suggested he consider staying there.

The family were Bahá’ís, and near their place, which Nerbak rented and shared with his friend, was a Bahá’í center called Green Acres, where Nerbak began to learn about the faith.

Bahá’í is a monotheistic faith, believing in one God, and having aspects similar to Christianity, Judaism and Islam. It teaches “progressive revelation,” in which God sends many messengers into the world over time, bringing universal teachings that never change, and rules and guidelines specific to the time the messengers arrive.

“It’s the most recent of the independent religions,” beginning in 1863. It has about 75 followers in Portland and a total of about 300 statewide. Nationally, there are 120,000 to 130,000, and five million to six million in more than 200 countries around the world.

Based on the oneness of humankind and the Golden Rule, and incorporating the teachings of Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Zoroaster and Muhammad, the Bahá’í faith teaches that the most recent messenger from God is Bahá’u’llah, born in 1817 in Persia – now Iran – into a Muslim family. As a young man, he followed another teacher, now considered a herald of Bahá’í, who was feared by the mainstream clerics, and was eventually executed, as were about 20,000 of his followers.

Bahá’u’llah was not executed, but went to prison, where, in a Tehran dungeon in 1853, he felt called by God, Nerbak said. The calling would result in the Bahá’í faith, but would also mean powerful clerics would keep him in prison or in exile for most of his life.

Even though Bahá’u’llah was born a Muslim, the Bahá’í faith is an independent religion, just as Jesus was born a Jew but founded Christianity, Nerbak said.

As he learned about Bahá’í, “I felt this is the religion for me.” A teacher himself, the idea of progressive revelation was appealing.

“It builds on previous knowledge,” the same way he teaches students lessons based on what they learned the previous year from another teacher, he said.

Bahá’u’llah wrote over 100 books throughout his life, some of which have not yet been translated into English. It is to those books that Bahá’ís look for wisdom and guidance.

“We’re a quiet religion. We don’t proselytize. We don’t have clergy,” Nerbak said.

One of Bahá’u’llah’s teachings about equality was the lack of a need for clergy to interpret his lessons. Instead, people were now educated well throughout the world, and could interpret the teachings for themselves.

Nerbak felt this was what he had been praying to find, and discounts the idea of the meeting with his friends’ parents being just an accident.

“Coincidence is like God’s way of remaining anonymous,” Nerbak said.

In the early 1980s, Nerbak went on a pilgrimage to the world headquarters of the Bahá’í faith, on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, a place Bahá’u’llah visited and pointed out to his followers as a place that should be a holy spot for them.

“It’s a wonderful place to be,” said Nerbak.

While there, he met a woman in whom he became interested, and she in him. But he reminded himself that he was on a pilgrimage: “I didn’t come here to meet someone,” he said.

Even as he prayed about what to do, a series of coincidences showed him that he was not just intoxicated by the beautiful surroundings and the holiness of the place. Among the events that revealed to him that she was the match of his life was when she pulled off a huge surprise party for his birthday.

They have been married for 20 years, and both are active in South Portland’s Bahá’í community. The group meets on the first day of every month of the Bahá’í calendar to talk about religion, as well as meet socially.

In 1990, they were invited to serve in Haifa, where they spent five years working in the administrative offices of the faith. He had to quit his job at Lyman Moore Middle School in Portland, but managed to get rehired when he returned.

The experience, and his practice of his faith, have brought him together with other people who are also working toward world unity.

“We’re united in a lot of realms,” including information and economic areas, but not in the political and religious areas, Nerbak said. But Bahá’ís recognize it will not happen overnight.

“The world has to be ready for it,” Nerbak said.

Another pipe found on Casino Beach

Published in the Current

CAPE ELIZABETH (Aug 4, 2005): A copper pipe was found in the surf on Casino Beach in Cape Elizabeth Tuesday evening, recalling the recovery of a similar item in June, which turned out to be a pipe bomb.

The item was found by a resident near the low-tide line, according to Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Neil Williams.

"It had obviously been in the water quite some time," he said. The pipe did not have any holes drilled in it for a fuse, but did have an end cap, similar to other pipe bombs.

There was no gunpowder or other explosive material in the pipe, Williams said.

He would not say whether the pipe was related to the previous pipe bomb, which has triggered an investigation into a 15-year-old Cape resident, in whose home police found explosives and pipes similar to those found on the beach.

Police have also found in his home a box sent from a fireworks company to the boy's mother's office in the Old Port and a videotape that court documents say shows the boy blowing up pipe bombs on Casino Beach the night before the first pipe was found.

Former chief still going strong

Published in the Current

SOUTH PORTLAND (Aug 4, 2005): Jim Darling of South Portland has helped train hundreds of South Portland drivers and shaped its police force, but his local ties run deeper still.

Darling, who turns 94 today, Aug. 4, was born in Ferry Village, and has stayed in the area his whole life. He and his family lived in Portland before becoming pioneers in the Broad Cove area of Cape Elizabeth. “We were the only ones there,” he said.

Darling remembers his father trying to get a skiff off the beach to get out to the boat during a northeaster, but the waves drove him back. “His boat eventually sunk that night,” taking to the bottom all of his traps and his dory.

The family – “there were 13 of us altogether” – stayed in Broad Cove eking out a living into the 1920s.

Darling went to school at the Bowery Beach schoolhouse, now the Lions’ Den.

“We walked a mile to get there,” up a dirt road, he said. “When the snow came, we just had a little trail up to the school.”

When he finished the five grades there, he still walked up there, to catch a horse-drawn wagon to class at Pond Cove School, where the Thomas Memorial Library is now. High school classes were held on the second floor of Town Hall.

“The summers were idyllic,” Darling said. “On the last day of school we came home, took off our shoes and didn’t put them back on until school started.”

Winters were different, living by kerosene lamps and well water. “It toughened you up in a lot of ways,” Darling said.

The family eventually moved to the Riverton area of Portland for a brief stay, and then to Front Street in South Portland.

Making a new life

Just after coming back to South Portland, Darling met the woman who would become his wife. The two were at a housewarming in Ferry Village and struck up a conversation, what Darling now calls “just one of those chance meetings, which turned out to be perfect.”

Merle, a bank teller, died in March at age 90, after 69 years of marriage. She was born on Feb. 4, so the couple would celebrate one’s birthday and the other’s half-birthday on those dates each year.

He works hard to keep her memory alive. Last week he baked a pineapple pie. “I found it in my wife’s recipe book. I don’t remember her ever making it and I thought I’d try it,” he said.

He and Merle raised three sons, Peter, who died in 2000 of asbestos-related cancer; George, who is a Methodist minister in Clinton; and Dana, who lives on Two Lights Road in Cape Elizabeth.

In February 1941, Darling started work with the South Portland police.

“I was the seventh man on the police department,” he said. “We had no training, nothing. You learned by doing.”

“During the war, they discovered there wasn’t enough young men who knew how to drive the trucks” the Army needed, so the federal government started driver education courses.

“I was always interested in traffic safety,” so Darling began teaching classes at South Portland High School, where he taught 80 kids a year for eight years, while also working full-time as a police officer.

As a result of his work, he attended a traffic safety institute at Northwestern University, from which he brought back many ideas that would become common practice in South Portland and nationwide.

Formalizing the police

“I put seat belts in cruisers,” he said, recalling having to convince people during test drives, zipping quickly around corners to show how seat belts can help prevent accidents by keeping drivers behind the wheel.

Later, “we were the first to use the breathalyzer.”

Another first is “burned” into his memory: “I was the first officer on the scene of that plane crash in Redbank,” on July 11, 1944, when a bomber clipped a tree while trying to land at the Portland airport.

He remembers the challenge of identifying the 15 dead, many burned beyond recognition.

“The one person who could identify them was a blind girl” who had talked to many of the victims earlier in the day and remembered what they said they were going to have for dinner, Darling said. “She knew what they ate,” allowing authorities to identify some victims by the contents of their stomachs.

On Jan. 1, 1959, Darling became chief of police, a job he held until retiring in 1968.

“I liked the work. I liked meeting the people, but you lose a lot of faith in human nature,” he said.

The couple enjoyed their retirement as well. Darling did more of the woodcarving that had been a hobby, making the seagull that sits out front of his house, as well as models of puffins, ducks, geese, eagles and owls that decorate the shelves inside and the homes of a few folks who bought them or were given them over the years.

For their 50th anniversary, Darling and Merle, then in their 70s, took a Volkswagen camper across the country, traveling 10,000 miles in 10 weeks on a marathon tour to see friends and family.

For his 85th birthday, his sons got him a dog. And last month, he got his first computer. “I can write an e-mail,” he said.

Monday, August 1, 2005

Maine Attraction: Portland's inland and coastal secrets

Published in National Geographic Adventure

Come August, Mainers and Maine-lovers take to Portland's Casco Bay like lobsters to salted herring. But while the bay's more than 200 islands offer countless opportunities for sailing, paddling, and lighthouse ogling, savvy visitors combine coastal attractions with inland thrills to create the ultimate seaside escape. Hit the coast, sure, but also bike a back road, climb a local hill, and save an evening or two to check out the urban scene in Portland's very own warehouse district-bum-boutique haven: the Old Port.

Drop your bags. The 1835 vintage Inn at ParkSpring ($149;, just off Portland's bustling Old Port, offers an eclectic medley of lodgings, from 19th-century colonial bedchambers to renovated modern rooms - all air-conditioned to cool you down after a hard day's exploring. In the morning, get your fill of Maine blueberries and other local delicacies at the inn's breakfast table before setting out on your day's paddle or pedal.

Treat your ears. Seven nights a week, top local and regional artists, like the rockabilly group King Memphis, jam at the Free Street Taverna's downstairs bar (207-772-5483). Accompany the set with a pint of local summer ale like Geary's or Shipyard ($3).

Fill your belly. Wrap up your day's coastal adventures like a true-blue Mainer: Eat seafood from a plastic basket at a picnic table right on the rocky shore. The Lobster Shack at Two Lights (207-799-1677) in Cape Elizabeth specializes in steamed lobster and lobster rolls, but their lobster stew ($13) - a coastal favorite little known elsewhere - steals the show ($4 to $22 for entrées; lobster prices vary with market).

Bike by morning. If you only have a few hours, rent a bike from CycleMania ($20 a day; and head north out of town for the rolling countryside along the lightly traveled State Routes 9 and 115. Don't forget your snack money: At Toots Ice Cream (207-829-3723) on Walnut Hill Road, just south of the junction with Route 9 in North Yarmouth, you'll have a chance to meet the cows who contributed to your chocolate shake.

Hike by day. A scenic hour's drive northwest of Portland is Pleasant Mountain, in Bridgton, where the three-and-a-half mile (round-trip) Ledges Trail affords summit views that extend to New Hampshire's Mount Washington.

Paddle by night. Choppy surf and hidden rocks make a nocturnal paddle on Casco Bay a dicey proposition. But at Scarborough Marsh - the state's largest - you can paddle in the enchanting stillness of a full-moon night. Your naturalist guide from the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center ($12 for a one-and-a-half hour trip; will attune you to the great horned owls hooting from their perches and the black-crowned night herons stalking in the darkness.

Resources: To find out about the best sea kayaking between Kennebunkport and Bar Harbor, take the ferry to Peaks Island to visit the Maine Island Kayak Company (800-796-2373; For other pursuits, stop by one of Maine MountainWorks's two Portland stores (207-879-1410).