Down East 2013 ©
SUN JOURNAL, LEWISTON
Rule of Law
Photograph Courtesy of the Maine Warden Service.
We should have seen it coming.
Only months after going to prison for killing two people with his speedboat, boozing boater Robert LaPointe is already trying to shave time off his sentence.
The Massachusetts man applied for a program that would allow him to get a job and live at his second home in Bridgton under supervision to fulfill part of his prison sentence, according to a story in the Portland Press Herald.
LaPointe, 40, was sentenced to more than three years in prison for the August 2007 boat crash that killed Terry Raye Trott, 55, of Harrison and Suzanne Groetzinger, 44, of Berwick. The couple was out stargazing when LaPointe’s powerful cigarette-style boat roared over them going at least forty-five miles an hour.
Unfortunately, the jury only convicted LaPointe on two counts of aggravated operating under the influence rather than the seemingly more appropriate charge of manslaughter.
At his sentencing, Justice Robert E. Crowley denounced LaPointe for showing no remorse, lying on the witness stand, and blaming the victims. After the accident, LaPointe tried to get a nurse to substitute her own blood for his to hide his guilt.
The test ultimately showed that he was drunk even three hours after the crash. The trial revealed that LaPointe had twenty-three speeding violations, five stop-sign or red-light violations, twelve license suspensions, and nine other moving violations of various types.
LaPointe shouldn’t have been operating a rowboat let alone a thirty-two-foot racing craft with twin four hundred-horsepower engines, appropriately named “No Patience.”
Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson said it best last week: “On a scale of one to ten, with one being in favor of this idea (release) and ten being ‘over my dead body,’ I’m an eleven.”
Given his reckless and defiant personality, we doubt fifteen months in prison has been long enough to change this man’s behavior or attitude.
PORTLAND PRESS HERALD
Raging wind Debate
The good news is that the three-turbine wind farm on Vinalhaven is producing plenty of low-cost power for the year-round island community.
The bad news is that it’s also producing complaints from residents about noise and questions about where this new technology can be reasonably sited.
The problems at Vinalhaven are disappointing. The wind plant was developed with the backing of the island’s electric co-op and was greeted by happy crowds, which included some who have become its most outspoken critics. Some of the people who live within a mile of the turbines are saying that the cheap power comes at the price of low-frequency sound that is loud enough to disrupt their sleep.
The operator of the Fox Islands Wind Project is taking steps to address the concerns of the neighbors, including operating the turbines at a slower speed to reduce sound. That also comes at a price, however. Slowing the turbines reduces output, which makes the power more expensive.
What the Vinalhaven situation clearly shows is that there is still a lot of work that has to be done to integrate this emerging technology into our communities. It’s not just learning how to build better turbine blades from composites, or developing technology to store the power generated, which is the subject of ongoing research at the University of Maine.
There also should be advances in the siting process so that both developers and their neighbors have reliable and predictable guidelines about where turbines should be placed.
To date, most of the regulatory discussions have concerned visual impacts, and the governor’s wind task force produced a good map identifying the areas that were best suited for wind power development. Similar work should be done in settled areas so cities and towns will be able to rely on planning standards and avoid expensive disappointments.
Maximizing the use of wind power is the right priority for Maine’s long-term energy strategy, but just because it looks like free power, it isn’t. There are costs, both financial and environmental, associated with this kind of generator, just as there are with every other source of power.
How well, and how quickly, Maine learns to manage those costs will play a role in how well we reap the benefits.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS
The continued northward march of passenger rail service is good news for Maine on many counts. Amtrak’s Downeaster is set to receive $35 million in federal job stimulus funding. The money means the rail service will be extended north from Portland to Freeport and Brunswick. Passengers will be able to board trains in those two coastal towns by the end of 2012, if construction deadlines are met.
Good transportation links are widely understood as being important for businesses shipping products and receiving materials, but so, too, is passenger travel. The Amtrak’s Downeaster service has allowed some people to live in Maine and commute to work in southern New Hampshire and the Greater Boston region. As the link extends into the midcoast, more people can live in Sagadahoc, Lincoln, and Knox counties and work in Portland and elsewhere in southern Maine. Their paychecks will circulate close to home, thereby boosting the local economies.
The state’s top industry, tourism, also will benefit with passenger rail service to Freeport and Brunswick. Wayne Davis of the rail advocacy group Train Riders/Northeast said a study projected a 25 percent increase in riders on the Downeaster once the connection to Freeport is made. It’s not hard to understand why, since L.L. Bean has been identified as one of the state’s top tourist draws.
What should follow the link from Portland to Freeport and Brunswick is even more promising. The Maine Eastern Railroad now operates on the line between Rockland and Brunswick, so once the Amtrak connection is made in Brunswick, passengers should be able to board a train in Knox County and travel south to Portland and Boston and beyond. And since Rockland has become a top tourist destination in recent years, the potential will exist to bring visitors to Maine without their cars.
The next big step, Mr. Davis said, is to link Brunswick with Augusta. The state owns the line, and the Maine Eastern has the contract to operate service on it. Next, passenger service could return to Waterville and Bangor.
Raising the maximum speed to eighty miles an hour from Bangor to Portland, and raising it to 110 miles an hour from Portland to Boston would boost ridership even more.
Though these rail connections are heralded as new and exciting, they actually return Maine to the mid-1950s, when daily passenger service linked Bangor to Boston. It’s a step back that’s worth taking.