Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New England’s newspapers:
A major step is taken to prevent police brutality in CT
The Connecticut Post
If there has been an ancillary benefit to the divisive discourse over enhancing regulation of police, it may be in the way many people are pausing to consider and celebrate some of the good work officers do in their communities. This is resulting in several public celebrations of police.
The two sides of the debate have, unfortunately, become divided like tropes of good cop and bad cop. In an overnight showdown between Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate that ended at 4 a.m. Wednesday, it was sometimes impossible to tell that lawmakers are on the same side concerning public safety issues.
As the majority party, Democrats were able to pass a groundbreaking bill, 21-15, that seeks to halt police abuse and brutality. One Democrat voted against it, siding with every Republican.
Loud opposition to the measure from Connecticut police unions is Exhibit A of why reform is needed. It’s akin to drivers complaining when fines for speeding tickets are raised. If you don’t want to pay, ease off the pedal.
Police resisting regulations is no different than pushback from, say, educators or doctors about legislation related to their fields. But everyone needs oversight, and many of these are long overdue.
Some Connecticut departments have waffled over body cameras while others were quick to recognize their advantages. Under this law, they can no longer be avoided.
It also isn’t too much to ask for one officer to intervene with a colleague who has crossed a line. And the notion of officers being able to find work in another municipality after being fired for misbehavior has been a chilling parallel to abusive priests being reassigned.
Nor should use of a chokehold — or a gun — be anything but a last resort.
It should not have taken the killing of George Floyd 1,300 miles away to see the wisdom in creating an inspector general and civilian review board to provide oversight from people who do not wear police uniforms.
Bold — often overdue — change has a way of coming in the wake of tragedy. We saw that after the events of Dec. 14, 2012 in Sandy Hook.
Republicans, and many Democrats, expressed concerns that this police accountability bill was rushed through the legislative process. It’s preferable to generations of delays in having these difficult discussions.
Reform will not be swift. Lawmakers will — and should — continue to refine these laws. A primary concern over exposing officers to frivolous lawsuits will be tested, and addressed. It would not even take effect until July 2021, so there is room for further debate.
Legislative opponents of some of the measures suggest they will inspire anarchy. But officers need law and order too, and should embrace many of the directives.
As a society, we can no longer look the other way. The common goal should be that we can someday host a public celebration of police that is embraced by all.
State gets tough to make a clear statement
The Newburyport Daily News
Massachusetts has been doing well slowing the spread of COVID-19 and state officials want visitors to help keep it that way.
Starting Saturday, the state can impose a fine of $500 per day on visitors coming to the state or residents who are returning if they haven’t produced a negative test result within the previous three days, or quarantine for 14 days after arrival.
With most of the rest of the national map seeing huge spikes in positive COVID-19 tests – in many cases after states allowed bars, restaurants, movie theaters and parks to open with few restrictions – Bay State officials look like they mean business.
Early in the pandemic, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo raised the hackles of New Yorkers and people from Massachusetts when she instructed state police to advise motorists from out of state about the mandated two-week quarantine. At the end of June she announced that visitors coming from states with a 5% positivity rate would have to either quarantine for 14 days or receive a negative test result within three days of their arrival. Raimondo admitted at the time the rule would be tough to enforce.
This week Maine Gov. Janet Mills went to battle with Republicans in her legislature who want to exempt residents of Massachusetts and Rhode Island from quarantine or testing requirements; Mills is standing firm that we should not be given special treatment.
“For the life of me, I cannot understand why Republicans care more about Massachusetts money than the life of a Maine person,” Mills said on the state’s website Monday.
Whatever state is at issue, that’s what officials have to weigh: How best do they protect residents and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Massachusetts reported Monday that with 10,291 new tests, just 1.7% came back positive, a very respectable rate.
Baker wants to keep that rate low and is putting the $500-per-day fine in place for visitors who don’t abide. That said, don’t expect a state trooper to show up with a $500 ticket if you return from out of state and don’t promptly show proof you’re virus-free – or prove you’re in quarantine.
This will be a tough measure to enforce but the state’s action reminds everyone how urgent it is that we cooperate and abide by basic rules to avoid spreading this deadly virus. That’s an essential message whether it comes with a fine or just a nod of appreciation.
Caution and compassion, not fear, after Maine’s first fatal shark attack
Bangor Daily News
2020 continues to stretch the bounds of what we thought possible in Maine, and not in a good way. As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough, this week has brought a tornado warning, an earthquake and the kind of shock and tragedy better suited for a horror movie than a quiet town on the Maine coast.
For the first time on record, there has been a fatal shark attack here in the state. A 63-year-old woman from New York City was killed Tuesday while swimming with her daughter in Harpswell. The woman, Julie Dimperio Holowach, was a seasonal resident described by those who knew her as “charming” and someone who “had a wonderful life.” It’s painful to see it end in such heartbreaking and horrific fashion.
The details and eyewitness accounts of the attack, which investigators have concluded to be from a great white shark, are haunting. It’s a stunning tragedy, and one that is sure to send shivers up and down the coast.
It certainly has had an impact in Harpswell. George Coffin, a longtime fisherman, speculated to the BDN that the attack “probably changed the town forever” and that he was unsure if he would want his grandchildren swimming there now.
“I know they say it’s an odd, strange, one-in-a-million thing, but if it happens once, it can happen again,” he said. “Who wants to let their grandchildren swim after something like that?”
The instinct to think twice about jumping in the water, or letting a loved one do so, is understandable — especially in that area right now. Caution should rule the day as the Maine Marine Patrol continues to be on the lookout for sharks and is encouraging anyone who sees a shark to report it.
But that doesn’t mean Harpswell or other coastal communities should be overtaken by fear, and for now, it appears they aren’t.
Swimming has been restricted to waist-deep water at two nearby state parks. Harpswell is planning to post signs at beach areas owned or utilized by the town, but doesn’t currently anticipate closing those areas, according to fire administrator and emergency management agent Art Howe.
“In the aftermath of this tragedy, we are advising swimmers to use the utmost caution and recommend that they not go further than waist-deep at this time,” the town said in a July 28 statement. “Be especially aware of your surroundings while swimming or recreating in the water and avoid going near seals or schools of fish.”
The reaction to proceed with caution rather than all-out fear is a good one.
Maine’s Commissioner of Marine Resources, Patrick Keliher, called the attack “a highly unusual event” — it’s only the third fatal shark attack in New England since 1936 — while also noting that great white sharks aren’t “something new,” with recorded sightings in the Gulf of Maine going back into the 1800s. There have been sightings in recent years up and down the coast.
These sharks have been here, according to researchers and sightings, and more are appearing in pursuit of seals. That’s something to be aware of and be cautious about, but it’s not something that should keep everyone out of the water indefinitely.
At the risk of making everything about COVID-19, the idea of sharks lurking unseen in the ocean bears at least some similarity to the pandemic. We’ve known there are sharks in Maine waters, and scientists knew that an unidentified pathogen could cause a global outbreak. We’ve now seen the very real human cost of these sometimes hidden dangers, and that realization requires people to adapt and maintain perspective without letting fear take control.
It may be easy to say from up here in Bangor, but we can’t let fear keep us fastened to dry land. It’s time for caution, for compassion and for realism about the risks seen and unseen.
“There’s so much fear, and I personally have so much fear in my life,” one swimmer in Harpswell said Wednesday. She added that she did not want to let fear get the best of her. “It’s a beautiful day, and my one day off a week.”
Masks for all
The Rutland Herald
If we can do it with our votes, why not try it with our public health?
A national campaign to encourage mask wearing, including the distribution of free masks, would help to check the pandemic.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, and Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allocate $5 billion in federal funding to deliver face masks to every American household through the U.S. Postal Service as the nation struggles with rising coronavirus cases in multiple states.
The legislation would direct the funds to the domestic production of face masks through the Defense Production Act and other means. Although the face coverings would be provided through the Postal Service, the bill would also require that they be distributed to homeless people and that mask-pickup sites be designated in communities. Along with the masks, the legislation would require the government to pass out a one-page flyer with information about masks and how to wear them.
More than three dozen Democratic lawmakers signed on as co-sponsors. Not one Republican signed on.
“Providing all of our people with high-quality, reusable masks without cost could save tens of thousands of lives and avoid hundreds of billions of dollars in economic harm,” Sanders said in a statement.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading member of the White House’s COVID-19 task force, told a Senate committee last month he would support any program that made masks more accessible and widely worn.
The evidence suggests that wearing masks reduces the chances of catching coronavirus and spreading it. President Trump has been the main impediment to mask-wearing, choosing to turn a vital public health measure into a sign of tribal identity. Fauci nevertheless has persisted in his message.
And it is hardly the first time Fauci has tried to get Americans to adopt the simple, lifesaving practice; he’s been reiterating it for months.
“There’s no doubt that wearing masks protects you and gets you to be protected. So it’s people protecting each other,” Fauci said in response to a question from Sanders. “Anything that furthers the use of masks, whether it is giving out free masks or any other mechanism, I am thoroughly in favor of.”
This is a bold and courageous idea that deserves consideration, as states struggle against the pandemic.
Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance urging all Americans to wear face masks to stem the spread of COVID-19 after mounting evidence suggested universal mask-wearing could be extremely effective in containing it. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has issued a mandate, effective Aug. 1, that all Vermonters need to wear a mask when in public.
Congressional lawmakers this week pointed to a Goldman Sachs analysis that found mask-wearing could result in $1 trillion in the economic benefits through avoidance of strict lockdown measures.
“We are the wealthiest country on Earth, yet our health care workers are still facing a shortage of N-95s, our essential workers are having to purchase their own protective face masks, and far too many vulnerable Americans are being left to figure out how to procure this basic need,” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, said in a statement. “Congress has a responsibility to step up where the White House has abdicated its responsibility and ensure every family has the equipment they need to stay safe. … If we’re asking folks to wear a mask, which is absolutely essential, it’s on us to provide one.”
We all know there are no guarantees, and the anti-maskers maintain any mandate is an infringement on personal liberty. (Trump has said he has no intention of issuing a national mask mandate, preferring to leave that decision to state and local governments.)
The bill faces long odds. The Democratic-run House, GOP-controlled Senate and Trump administration are focused on negotiations related to a new coronavirus relief package, and the sides remain far apart. The House passed a $3 trillion bill in May that the GOP criticized as a Democratic wish list, and Senate Republicans answered this week with a $1 trillion package that Democrats called woefully inadequate.
The New York Times threw its weight behind it, stating in an editorial, “The United States needs to remedy a parallel failure to construct adequate testing infrastructure, and rules need to be followed.”
Khanna pointed out that if we can afford a $740 billion defense budget, we can afford to send every American a face mask.
Then we’d be covered.