Elizabeth Ruediger: Apathy is a terrible disease

To the editor:

Every city with long term employees suffers from a delicate balance of piling too much on a position and the laziness/complacency of tenured job security. Berlin is not immune. They have also tripped over their fifth appendage on many occasions with disastrous results.

Have they contributed to the demise of the WREN market because of a lack of innovative thought? Possibly. According to the latest casualty in the executive director's seat, the city would not negotiate for space for the market, therefore creating an impasse.

It was explained to me that the $50,000 Harvard Pilgrim grant paid for commercial-grade equipment and a wealth of "outreach" spent in spades over the course of a short market season. However, I pointed out that I have been to their galleries in Bethlehem and Mt. Washington and replied, "What retail business can afford those kind of digs without going deeply into debt?" Very few.

They must really work some magic to sweet talk and solicit for donations to outfit themselves with the very best quality, with little out of pocket expense of their own. And all tax free. But that is their modus operandi and it works for them ... for now. My prediction is that in my lifetime the NFP's and religious organizations who have amassed a multitude of real estate holdings will receive property tax bills. There is a concept to chew on.

As the garden minion for the city's food program hosted in conjunction with the USDA program, I was offered $8/hour to facilitate the same grant as WREN (take their wages times two) and informed several days before the grant deadline that I could apply for the grant myself, with little experience doing so, in between schlepping buckets of water out of the river to keep my plants alive.

I worked with residents at Brookside Park and Friendship Park, as well as the terrific kids who worked the USDA food program at Brown Elementary. The wages may have been low, the energy expended high, but the kids were the unequivocal bonus! But no more. This is the city's collective loss due to that complacency and reliance on outside organizations to make Berlin great again, when they have the power to do it in their own.

Apathy is a terrible disease. Innovation and commitment are the cure. So, thank you to the Berlinites who pour their time and energy into their city assisting the elderly and supporting the youth. You are fantastic human beings and your efforts are greatly appreciated.

Elizabeth Ruediger
Dummer

 

Christopher Blair: Continue supporting your schools; your investment in education will pay off

To the editor:

My wife Deidre and I arrived in Gorham from Portland, Ore., in 2014. We knew we'd found a special place; my son Christopher came out for a visit and liked it so much that he stayed, too.

I began my administrative career at Edward Fenn Elementary with the best students and teachers in all of New Hampshire. (That's right, Dartmouth, I said it.) Deidre continued her art career, embraced the North Country lifestyle, and has the mosquito scars to prove it. Christopher finished his associate's at White Mountains Community College and soon will have his computer science degree from Plymouth State. My point is that when you grow up in the Pacific Northwest, you learn about the Oregon Trail pioneers heading west for opportunity. My family did the same, only backward. We are glad we did.

Time for praise: I have never met people as kind, as interesting, or as generous as those I encountered here in Gorham. (Berlin, you ain’t half bad, either.) I have found you to be even-keeled, intelligent and patient. Best of all, you put your children first.

I come from a state that does education on the cheap. Oregon has the terrible scores and overflowing classrooms to show for it. Having now worked in both systems, I implore the citizens of this community to continue supporting your schools. Gorham, Randolph and Shelburne, your investment in education will pay off. Trust me: You’re doing everything right.

I have left my successor, Tina Binette, in a great position to carry the Ed Fenn forward. Please show her the same patience and support that I received in 2014.

Finally, thank you to Superintendent Paul Bousquet, the SAU 20 staff and the GRS Cooperative School Board. It has been a privilege serving with you.

Christopher Blair
Principal
Edward Fenn Elementary School
2014-17

 

Frank LaFerriere: Separation of church and state

To the editor:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State." — Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association, Connecticut, January 1, 1802.

"The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State." — James Madison, 1819.

"The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." — John Adams, the Treaty of Tripoli, 1798.

Right-wing Christians in this country, especially in our government, believe they have every right to put forth laws based on the Christian religion. I hear them scream time and time again, there is no such thing as separation of church and state, despite Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, James Monroe and Thomas Paine using the phrase separation of church and state to describe the meaning behind the First Amendment. We have both, freedom of, and freedom from religion. No one should be allowed to force any form of religious ideology upon anyone else, and that includes those right-wing Christians in our governmental bodies.

I also hear Christians screaming about how the Muslims constantly want to install Sharia Law in our country. Yet? They have no damn problem wanting to install Christian Taliban laws in the United States. Now, the news breaks that Reince Priebus is frothing at the bit to start putting forth laws based on the Christian religion, against abortion, same-sex marriage, and many other things, as are many others like him.

Christians want to force into our public schools their religious ideology. They demand we bring prayer back to our public schools. Of course they hypocritically then strenuously object to having Ppgan religions, or any other religions other than Christianity be taught in our public schools. This is a clear violation of another of Thomas Jefferson's Acts titled the Elementary School Act of 1817, where he stated the Christians and all religions were to stay out of our public schools, that is what religious schools were for, not public. Public schools are run mostly with taxpayer funds, which automatically then forbids any religious ideology being pushed upon public school students, because of the separation of church and state law.

All of these acts are clear violations of the idea of the Founding Fathers and the separation of church and state. Religious belief, is in fact, an opinion. It is the theists opinion their religion is the right one out of the literal thousands of variations on the same theme. We do not have a theocratic government, we have a secular government. Secular means religion stays out.

As Jefferson said, your religion is between you and your God and does not belong in our laws, or legislative actions, or even in our public schools. Separation of church and state is a fact. I and many others are plain sick and tired of Christians trying to force their religious ideology upon the rest of us who want absolutely nothing to do with theirs, or any religion.

It is your right to have a religious belief, just like it is my right to not have one. But when your religious beliefs starts interfering with everyone's right, under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, to their idea of life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness? That is when I and many others will in fact, draw a line and stand up and fight back.

Again, Christians scream how they do not want Muslim Taliban Sharia Law here in the United States. Well, there are many of us who do not want Christian Taliban Sharia Law here either, and we will fight, tooth and nail, against those who dare violate the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Separation of Church and State rules.

In closing, Thomas Jefferson also stated, in his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the most important law first, which is "II. Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods."

So, keep your religious laws out of our government, our laws and our public schools.

Frank LaFerriere
Berlin

 

Elizabeth Ruediger: They were the greatest panhandlers I had ever seen

To the editor:

I’m sure many of you own a Shop Vac and you understand the industrial strength of its suck power.

Well, imagine the subsidy-ridden, vacuous vortex of the former farmer’s market. On the surface, it was a feel good community get together for area producers and consumers to come together in a fun and festive atmosphere. However, if you look at their operating budget, the opposite is true.

The former market relied heavily on government subsidies and area corporate donations to sustain and maintain its existence. As the market was being originally developed, I remember vividly that this well-funded entity encouraged my business (a sole proprietorship that actually relies on sales of goods to sustain itself) into a larger space, with little regard if I was biting off more rent than I could chew.

As a “rural, woman entrepreneur,” I submitted my membership application with my check in support of their efforts and had the office door shut in my face, by the former executive director.

After moving into a space double the size and double the rent, I sat in bewilderment as checks would be slipped under WREN’s door, one after another.

My take away was that as a non-profit “business,” they were the greatest panhandlers I had ever seen. The palm was always out and it was consistently getting greased.

Now, keep in mind that they are good to their market vendors who only paid 5 percent of their earnings up to the administrative functions of the market. I wish my “rent” was 5 percent of my earnings. How do you think my landlords (who were good to me) would have felt about that?

Their mission was to move vendors from tent to rent, and I felt all along their mission was to move existing businesses from rent to tent. This is not a sustainable model, but one that relies on the goodness of the taxpayers to support and again, subsidize the market.

Over several years of operation, the market grew out of its location on Mechanic Street and opted for the backside of Main Street, aka Pleasant Street (drawing business off of Main Street to a concrete wasteland).

They also outgrew their office and moved into free accommodations via Tri-County Cap, on upper Main Street. They expanded their programming and hosted psychic fairs and book signings, once a prominent feature of a Main Street business.

Looking for more suitable accommodations, they tapped into more subsidies and grant money to purchase their current location in the heart of downtown and then, most recently, moved their farmer’s market to Gorham.

Now, with the discussion of carrying on the formation of a Main Street market, the city of Berlin has set aside a small pittance to get the new collaborative effort underway. This is nothing compared to the $50,000 food grant WREN received from Harvard Pilgrim in 2016.

The original grant program was for $5,000 for a variety of groups to manage a food exploration program for low income families. Because they wanted more public relations “bang for their buck,” Harvard Pilgrim foolishly decided to increase the amount and decrease the number of awards.

I voiced my displeasure to Mike Devlin of Harvard Pilgrim, that this measure would serve fewer communities and a $50,000 award for “gardening” was the most ridiculous amount I had ever heard of. What on earth could they have spent that money on? Nevertheless, the City of Berlin opted to allow WREN to apply for the grant.

WREN was awarded the full amount, and Laura Jamison, market manager, offered the city $500 — a pittance. So, if there is an example of biting the hand that feeds you, this is it. Berlin would starve if relying on the goodness and graciousness of the original market.

So, let us hope that the new organizers will develop a sustainable model that serves the community and provides a draw to the remaining Main Street businesses that we so desperately were hoping for with the original WREN market.

With regard to the skate park, a little bird called me the other day and informed me that the City of Berlin did not pay for the original skate park in Community Field.

He said that the skate park was built entirely by donations and volunteer work on a “Day of Caring.” The lumber, concrete and the know-how of construction was donated by area contractors.

This can be recreated. It just requires a little outreach to our area businesses to come together for such a valuable and common goal.

So, all of the hubbub about city funding for this project can be stifled by organizing around the need to bring people together to make the project come to fruition.

I am sure there are plenty of contractors who would love to be a part of making Berlin great again. If this is panhandling for our youth, I guess I am willing to engage in the practice. But at least I know that when the investment is made, that concrete half pipe can’t just up and move to Gorham.

Elizabeth Ruediger
Dummer

 

Bill Dwyer: Rebuilding the skate park is the right thing to do

To the editor:

I really enjoyed reading Saturday's newspaper. I enjoyed reading the news regarding the skate park. It's the right thing to do. I also enjoyed reading the letter to the editor submitted by Donald Enman. I agreed with every statement he made in his letter. People ask me why I care about a skate park. I'm 65 years old with a broken back and and artificial hip so I surely won't be doing a skate boarding. Well, let me tell you. When I grew up in Berlin there was the community club. It had bowling alleys, pool tables, swimming pool among other things. It was a place to go to meet people. Across the street from there was the tennis courts. Well, that got torn down in the 1980s and a skate park went into where the tennis courts were. It was a place for kids to go. Well, along comes a Burgess Power Cogen Plant that asks the city to use that area for a switchyard. Could have been located anywhere but it was more convenient to put it there. Well, the city says sure. Now did we give it to them or did they buy it? If they bought that area where's the money. If they were given that property what gave you the right? I thought at the time that we were promised a replaced for the kids to use. Still waiting. And as far as who will use it even if one mother and her child use the new one it would be worth while for it was stolen from the city and needs to be replaced. It's the right thing to do.

Bill Dwyer

Berlin