Make primaries open

America is in the political gridlock basket. In September, the Harvard Business School survey on U.S. competitiveness concluded, “It is impossible to solve the issues besetting the U.S. economy and bring prosperity to millions of Americans if the United States remains mired in crippling political gridlock and vicious rhetoric.”

Former Republican Rep. Mickey Edwards believes profoundly restructuring Congress and the American political system is necessary to overcome this. His best-selling book, “ The Parties vs. the People: How to turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans,” is a blueprint on how to do it. One major point from this work is that we need to take away the right of the parties to control access to the ballot. Likening them to warring tribes, his vision goes far beyond centrists and extremists thinking. If anything, this election has taught us that one voter’s centrist is another voter’s extremist.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer wrote in a 2014 New York Times OpEd that “polarization and partisanship are a plague on American politics” and called for an open primary system. But in 2016 the New York primaries still are closed to 3 million independent voters. Regardless, 15 states have completely open primaries. Independents outnumber either party in America, and nearly half of millennials identify as political independents.

Living their motto Dirigo, Mainers are first in Clean Elections and ranked-choice voting. May our congressional delegation follow and propose legislation ending the parties right to control ballot access. Make America much greater than before.

Joe Pickering Jr.


The real 12 days of Christmas

Not many people actually know when the 12 days of Christmas are. Many suppose the 12 days end on Christmas Day when the opposite is true. Christmas is the beginning of the 12 days that end on Epiphany, Jan. 6.

Advent, the period of waiting for Christmas, begins on Dec. 1, as any child with an Advent calendar could tell you. This period was called “Little Lent” as it was a time of reflection, fasting and forgoing indulgence. The party started with Christmas Eve and the 12 days followed. This was the time of visiting, caroling, feasts and gift giving.

After my divorce many years ago, when I got sick of arguing about who had the kids for Christmas, I decided to celebrate the 12 days and have the last shebang on or about Epiphany. Hey, that’s when the wise men arrived to give their gifts, right? One little gift was given to each child each of the 12 days and when my girls grew older they very much appreciated the after Christmas sales and waited until then to purchase gifts to give on our Epiphany celebration.

So I will watch again as the Christmas trees in my neighborhood are thrown out Christmas night with sadness. How lovely it would be if more of us embraced the 12 days of Christmas rather than suffering that let down and exhaustion on Christmas night. Joyous Epiphany to all.

Kate Tuck


Oil pipelines put water at risk

The protests against the Dakota Access pipeline by the Standing Rock Sioux and others are a demand for safety and an insistence on reducing risks for current and future generations. Even as I support these demands for prioritizing the protection of public health and the environment, I don’t dispute the claims of huge financial gains that the pipeline will provide to a large number of businesses and people. I recognize this is on top of the billions of revenue made in prior years by the oil industry from other similar projects.

But I don’t dispute that there were more than 3,300 oil and gas spills between 2010 and 2015. More than 1,000 of those were crude oil spills or leaks. The 2010 Kalamazoo River spill cost more than $1.2 billion to clean up, and it took four years to reach the current level of “monitoring” for ongoing risks.

I believe that most people would have preferred if some water protectors had stubbornly stood up for them to prevent this disaster from ever happening. Make no mistake, the risk taking with the Dakota Access pipeline is purely and simply for the sake of making money to make more corporate profits. We can do better for ourselves and for our children. Please support all water protectors, wherever and whoever they are.

Patrick Coville