- Associated Press - Friday, May 15, 2020

Editorials from around New England:


Personal leadership in war on pandemic

The Stamford Advocate

May 13

Ultimately, the success of reviving the economy won’t be determined by directives from presidents, governors, mayors or first selectmen.

It will be dictated by personal choices.

The clock is ticking quickly to May 20, when Gov. Ned Lamont is allowing offices, restaurants, personal services and retail to open with restrictions.

Everyone wants to get back to business as usual, but that won’t happen in the near future. Back in mid-March, when Lamont shut down dining in restaurants, there were 41 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Connecticut, with no reported deaths.

On Tuesday, Lamont gave the latest update: Thirty-three more deaths brought the total in the state to 3,041.

It’s easy to lose context when so many lives are being lost every day. If the coronavirus didn’t exist and a mysterious strain claimed 33 lives in the state overnight, we’d be imploring the governor to take drastic actions.

Even as he revealed the latest grim toll, he shared this insight: “Shame on us for under-estimating, perhaps, what could have happened. Could we have done everything sooner? I think so.”

Just because Lamont has waved the flag for some businesses doesn’t mean they should rush to open doors. This is where individual choices will be made. If you are a manager or business owner, wait until you have the right precautions in place. Make sure your employees are comfortable as well. If you are a worker, think about everyone around you.

Our eagerness to get back to business is tempered by simple realities. Masks and gloves are still elusive. The United States is the world leader in deaths related to the pandemic (more than 80,000). Nations such as South Korea, Germany and China saw a spike after relaxing regulations.

It’s human nature to seek other people. We want to be in a crowd, screaming lyrics at a concert, melting on the beach, laughing together in a movie theater.

It’s also a natural instinct to rebuff setbacks. It’s rare to see a Major League Baseball pitcher hold up the ball and proclaim, “Yeah, I’m done.”

So we need to continue acting against our impulses in the weeks ahead. If an employee can continue working from home, they should be encouraged to do so. Our climate and traffic will be all the better for it anyway.

We stand behind the governor’s declaration to ensure store owners, customers, workers and the like “feel safe.”

But we would edit him just a bit. His constituents can’t just feel safe, they need to be safe.

That won’t happen if poor personal decisions are made. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become a trusted voice of reason regarding the coronavirus, warned Tuesday that “consequences could be really serious” if the economy reopens too quickly.

Similar mistakes triggered the second wave of the so-called Spanish Flu a century ago.

This moment in history will be defined by how we exercise the freedoms that define us as Americans.

Online: https://bit.ly/3fS6pcX



A short history of color

Greenfield Recorder

May 12

According to Google, it was back in 1977 that color photographs started appearing regularly in daily newspapers. “The first uses, in front-page photos, caused a bit of a sensation,” wrote Robert Dixon, a Midwest editor, writer and independent journalist. “In those days, it was quite expensive because it required significant technological changes at every step in the process, from the film the photographers used to the presses used to print the newspapers.”

Here at the Greenfield Recorder, we were about two decades behind the times. A shallow dive into the bound volumes reveals that color did not come to our front pages on a regular basis until the mid-1990s. Taking color photos was reserved for holidays and required advance planning - except for notable occasions such as the following, back in 1985: As recounted in a 2013 tribute to longtime photographer Charles “Chuck” Blake Jr., the Recorder photographer whose mostly black-and-white images of Franklin County life were seen by thousands of residents for decades as The Recorder’s chief photographer, Blake was the first on the scene of a 1985 fiery train derailment in north Greenfield that forced evacuation of half the town.

“In a time when taking color photos was reserved for holidays and required advance planning, Blake had the presence of mind to shoot color film, which the newspaper managed to use the next day to capture the drama of orange flames and deep black smoke pouring into the noon sky from the derailed chemical tanker.”

“Color got readers’ attention,” Dixon said, “and advertisers wanted to use color to make their ads stand out.” In fact, color was so startling, and drew the eye so much, that local advertisers running the more expensive color ad in the Greenfield Recorder requested (in vain) that theirs to be the only color on the page - or so we’ve heard.

A big breakthrough in the use of color in the Greenfield Recorder came in 2008, with the installation of a state-of-the-art flexographic press made by Cerutti and shipped from Italy, where it was built, to the new press room specially prepared for it at the Northampton headquarters of the Daily Hampshire Gazette, our sister paper.

With our latest printing press up and running, the use of color exploded. Before the Cerutti press, mechanical limitations dictated which pages could have color. With the arrival of the new press, color became available on every page, and soon, it was everywhere: Advertising supplements, like Home and Garden, were “all-color.” Our niche magazines, which include Valley Kids, Healthy Life, Going Green, were all-color.

With the exception of the Opinion page, color became ubiquitous in this paper. Our award-winning photographer Paul Franz’s nature photos, sports shots and breaking news photos received the full-color impact they deserved. Pat Leuchtman’s Between the Rows ran in color; so did Bill Danielson’s Speaking of Nature column. Arts and entertainment feature stories ran in glorious color, and our food pages, like Tinky Weisblat’s Blue Plate Special series, just popped with color. Even the comics page, on Saturdays, got its own dose of color.

We all got spoiled.

But color is expensive to process and print. Four plates - one for each color of ink - have to be made for every color page, whereas black and white pages require only one, black plate. That’s why, when this newspaper had to pinch pennies in January, we were able to pinch a lot of pennies by dispensing with color pages on all but the section fronts and pages that contain color ads, helping us reduce related costs by nearly 35 percent.

It has been painful and, of course, readers noticed, and you have let us know. The biggest outcry came from fans of Bill Danielson, who submits his own nature photographs directing our attention to the coloration of birds, animals and flowers - fine pointers lost in black-and-white printing.

While we can’t add more color pages at this time, we heard you. So, with the gracious acquiescence of Sports Editor Jeff LaJoie, Danielson’s column on Mondays will run on B1, which has color, instead of on B6, which is black and white.

We love that you care, and we join you in hoping for the quick return of more color to the pages of the Greenfield Recorder.

Online: https://bit.ly/2T26Jvw



Take careful approach

The Nashua Telegraph

May 12

If you are among those who have not lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 epidemic, congratulations. Perhaps you share the widespread opinion that the current “lockdown” of the economy should continue, to keep everyone safe.

How would you like the government to collect your share? That is, your share of what it will take to support those laid off or perhaps, fired altogether in order to keep many American businesses closed.

We’ll do the math for you: About 30 million people in our country have lost their jobs because of COVID-19. That leaves about 133 million working. For them to pay their laid-off neighbors even at a minimum-wage rate, each working person will have to chip in about $3,400 a year.

That is at the federal minimum wage. Some states are higher (California is $13, Washington state is $13.50 and - you guessed it - Washington, D.C. is highest, at $14).

So, again, how do you want the government to collect your share of supporting people without jobs because of the coronavirus shutdown?

Of course, we are not being serious. The government would never, ever attach the wages of those with jobs in order to support the unemployed. But support such as that through state unemployment compensation programs and the federal CARES Act has to be paid for, somehow.

Our solution in the United States has been to print more money. We call it deficit spending and, to date, it has increased the national debt to more than $25 trillion. If you have a calculator, you can determine your share of that. Sit down, first.

The bottom line is that the COVID-19 lockdown is unsustainable, and not just in the long run. We simply cannot afford to maintain an economy on the current basis.

Clearly, we have to reopen the United States. That must be done very, very carefully.

But it does have to be done.

Online: https://bit.ly/2WuguFh



A bottled up note connects us to the past, and to each other

Bangor Daily News

May 10

Nearly 45 years have passed since someone wrote a note and put it inside an empty Miller Lite bottle. That message in a bottle, recently found hidden in the wall of a Standish home, made the rounds on social media and gave people a lighthearted snapshot from several decades ago.

“October 15, 1975. This chimney was built by Lawrence Shaw of Sebago,” it reads. “This bottle of beer was drank by the same man. This is his trademark!! May it stand for the next generation to see. Carl Weymouth owned the house at time of erection.”

The note, which current homeowners Rebecca and Lance DeRoche found in April while doing some renovations, also included several observations about life in 1975: Standish was a “growing town,” food prices were “outrageous,” inflation was “very high” and Gerald Ford was president.

After Rebecca DeRoche posted about this entertaining looking glass into the past on Facebook, it eventually found its way to two of Shaw’s daughters, who said he died in 2010.

“I wrote to (Rebecca) and thanked her for sharing it - it was just such a ray of sunshine,” Shaw’s daughter Chrissie Libby said, adding that the note came “at a time when all we’re hearing is such bad news. It was a fun thing to hear.”

Libby was confident that Shaw didn’t write the note himself, with the penmanship not matching her left handed father’s distinctive handwriting.

The message, which BDN reporter and photographer Troy Bennett perfectly described as a “ time traveling note,” gave Shaw’s family another chance to connect with and remember a departed loved one. It also gives everyone who reads it a chance to travel back in time to 1975, long before the current coronavirus crisis, where a couple of buddies could get together to do some work at one of their houses, maybe have a few beers, and not worry about getting each other sick or keeping 6 feet apart.

That ability to be transported to a different time, if only for a moment, is no small thing right now when the tough realities of a global pandemic often feel inescapable. Perhaps that’s why this charming story spread so quickly online.

Libby suspected that the note was meant as a joke, and explained that her father wasn’t a heavy drinker.

“That wasn’t his trademark,” Libby said. “But maybe the guys had one too many and the story got embellished - because his real trademark was helping people.”

If we were to create our own tiny time capsule to give people in the future a sense of what it means to be living through the current pandemic, there would be plenty of headlines of angst and uncertainty that we could include. The most fitting thing to bottle up, however, would be stories of the helpers - the health care workers, first responders, grocery store employees, volunteers checking in on their neighbors, and so many more - who, as Libby recounted about her father, have shown a remarkable commitment to others.

At the house in Standish, the DeRoches said they now plan to seal up their own bottle in the wall for someone else to find. It will describe life in Standish right now the pandemic, and include a photocopy of the original note.

“I hope it brings happiness to whoever finds it,” Rebecca DeRoche said. “We may not be here when it’s found but it’ll be something that’s happy and positive. This house has been good to us.”

Happiness and positivity haven’t always been easy to come by the past few months. It can be a lonely time, as if we’re adrift on our own socially-distant islands. But to lean on the Police and their song “Message in a Bottle,” at least we’re not alone in being alone. The message in a bottle found down in Standish is a fun reminder of the things that connect us, right now and throughout time.

Online: https://bit.ly/2xYqVHt



We’re Glad You Asked, Mr. Ashe

Caledonian Record

May 13

This week State Senator Tim Ashe asked Vermonters for suggestions on closing an anticipated $400 million shortfall.

“We often hear when we go back to our constituents, people will rightly say, ‘government spends too much,’” Ashe said on VPR. “And we ask the same question – ‘tell us the program you want to get rid of.’ And that’s much harder, because the more you scrutinize the state budget, with the Great Recession and the austerity years, there’s not a lot of fat on the state budget.”

Clearly Ashe isn’t a reader of ours because we’ve been outlining austerity plans for more time than he’s been religiously driving up the cost of government.

But we’re glad he asked.

Let’s start with a 35,000 foot comparison with our neighbors. New Hampshire has the same annual budget as Vermont with twice the number of residents. Start by doing everything they do on a per-capita basis. (Savings: $3 billion).

Not targeted enough? Well, our human services expenditure is over $2 billion a year. That money doesn’t buy us much, according to a comment once made by former Brattleboro Retreat CEO Louis Josephson. “There is no mental health system,” he told colleagues at a 2018 symposium. “I defy anyone here … tell me what our mental health system is and what it looks like.” So, Senator Ashe, since the system isn’t working anyway, cut it in half. (Savings: $1 billion).

Vermont employs almost 10,000 people. About 1,800 of them earn over $80,000 a year plus benefits that far exceed what’s available to their private sector peers. 651 clear six-figures. That’s top heavy and we suspect you could get the same output from half the people. (Savings: $112,500,000).

Education is another $2 billion morass and we know that we’re paying more than anyone else in the nation for average results and plummeting enrollments. Just get rid of the Education Department, we doubt even they would mind. (Savings: $14 million).

Vermont could save another $50 million a year by reducing student/staff ratios to 5.5-to-1, from the current 5.1-to-1 average. Even at 5.5-to-1 we’d still have (by far), the lowest student/staff ratio in the country. (Savings: $50 million).

Did you know you have 300 people in Environmental Conservation and a hot mess in Lake Champlain? I’d get rid of two-thirds of those people, who average $66,266/in salary. (Savings: $17,080,668).

Your desire to incarcerate fewer people is well-known. But you haven’t reduced your corrections staff of 1,000 people, as you’ve freed more people. First, shut the state prison in St. Johnsbury down, then reduce staff proportional to your goal to imprison fewer dangerous criminals. (Savings: $35 million).

Eighty-five people in Liquor and Lottery are costing you over $5.7 million in salaries and benefits and we bet the house you could live with half of that. (Savings: $2,850,000).

You have 344 people, averaging $76,000/year in the Vermont Digital Services Agency but, based on the performance of the Unemployment Office system in the past month, or HealthCare Connect, or any other digital undertaking in the past two decades, I think we can all agree you’d be fine outsourcing most of your tech to local high school kids. (Savings: $34 million).

Do you really need 25 people in the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living earning over $100,000 a year? Based on all the reports, you’re not getting your money’s worth. (Savings: $3 million).

Do you know how many attorneys you have on the payroll? By our quick count there are about 300. We move that you streamline to no more than 100. (Savings: $20 million).

Financial Regulation did such a whiz-bang job on the EB-5 stuff we think half of the 100+ employees should enjoy early retirement. (Savings: $5.5 million).

We watch Northwoods Law and love it. But do we really need 156 people in Fish & Wildlife AND 121 people in Forest, Parks and Recreation? Combine those departments. (Savings: $10 million).

You have almost $10 million tied up in Human Resources. With the aforementioned cuts to staff, you will only need half that amount. (Savings: $5 million).

You have 20 people in the Department of Labor clearing over $100,000/year in salary and benefits. Based on their terrible performance of late, we would send them to unemployment line on principle. (Savings: $2 million).

A tax department of 170 people is a bad look. Send “we the people” a message with RIF notices to half. If you’re concerned about who will be left to calculate income sensitivity reductions, then just remove them altogether and watch even more savings accrue as 75% more Vermonters have to actually pay for the school budgets they blindly keep passing. (Savings: $6.6 million).

Sit down for this one. You have 1,300 workers in Transportation at a cost of over $100 million. We would concede that roads are the one thing we want from government. Since you’re a white-collar Chittenden County boy, we know you don’t know what we’re talking about when we say we aren’t getting our money’s worth. But give Route 2 a try if you ever want to see Vermont. Then try outsourcing. (Savings: $50 million).

Senator Ashe, your record at growing the size and scope of government is remarkably unblemished. Here in the private sector, we’ve been forced to contract over the years, proportional to your extraordinary growth. Thanks to you, we know efficiency. Trust us when we say these numbers are solid. There’s a good $2 billion in savings here and we’ve only just scratched the surface. You’re welcome, Senator, and thanks for asking.

Online: https://bit.ly/2yTNFcc


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