Editorial Roundup: New England


Hartford Courant. September 1, 2022.

Editorial: It will take more than one day of recognition to stop CT’s growing opioid epidemic

It should draw the attention of every adult in Connecticut to know that Fiona Cullinan Firine said, “my son didn’t stand a chance.”

That son, Cameron, did not when he took a pain pill that turned out to be a lethal dose of illicitly manufactured fentanyl in 2018.

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Firine is far from alone. The number of parents and families suffering in that same way has grown immensely since Cameron’s death, as state Department of Public Health data shows drug overdose deaths increased by 11% between 2020 and 2021 in Connecticut and is the leading cause of unintentional death for state residents.

According to DPH, 93% of overdose deaths in the state involved an opioid last year, and 86% of those deaths involved fentanyl.

In total, 1,524 people in Connecticut died of drug overdoses in 2021, DPH data shows. But from 2012 to 2021, there was a 327% increase in these deaths.

The numbers are no surprise to state leaders, many of whom gathered this week for International Overdose Awareness Day at the state Capitol.

Gov. Ned Lamont, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General William Tong, Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani, Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services Commissioner Nancy Navarretta, CT Harm Reduction Alliance Executive Director Mark Jenkins, JoShonda Guerrier of the Department of Children and Families were there.

So were advocates, survivors, and supporters.

Firine explained to those gathered that her son thought he was taking an Oxycodone pill, but it actually was 11,000 micrograms of fentanyl. That’s a dose strong enough to kill several people.

After her son’s death, Firine started the nonprofit advocacy group For Cameron and works to help people fight against addiction. Cameron had hoped to help others, too.

But consider what Cameron was, and others still are, up against.

On the same day of the awareness event, at U.S. District Court in Hartford, a judge sentenced a Manchester man to 28 months in prison (and five years of supervised release), for distributing fentanyl pills.

Just two days before that, a federal judge in Bridgeport sentenced a Hartford man to more than 11 years in prison. That man didn’t just traffic fentanyl, he was a heroin dealer, too. On the same day the Hartford man got sentenced, so did a Wethersfield man.

The charge? Fentanyl trafficking. He kept it in the spare tire compartment of a minivan, federal authorities said. On August 10, an East Hartford man got 15 years in prison for trafficking narcotics. Authorities listed what they said they found in his apartment: 687 grams of fentanyl, 0.69 grams of PCP, four grams of psilocybin mushrooms, and various drug-packaging materials.

A New Britain man was arrested on August 2 and charged with fentanyl distribution.

This list could go on, and Hartford is not alone in trying to get the scourge of fentanyl off its streets: A New Haven man got five years in prison last week for distributing fentanyl.

Those are federal prosecutions. Lamont was not wrong when, in noting the need to go after drug traffickers, he said, “There’s no difference than treating it like a murder weapon because that’s what it is.”

But it goes further than simply rooting out drug dealers. Officials said they also are pursuing illicit manufacturing as well, noting Connecticut has helped in recovering more than $40 billion dollars through legal action against opioid drug manufacturers.

It is only through this combined effort of broad enforcement and prosecution, fierce legal action and assistance for those battling addiction, that Connecticut will make progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

And officials, advocates, survivors and supporters must not let the broad attention to the epidemic be only on one day a year.

State resident Christine Gagnon, who lost her son Michael, 22, to an overdose, was right when she said, “I’m angry, it seems like the problem is just getting worse.”

Hearst Connecticut Media. August 31, 2022.

Editorial: Let’s clear the air in CT classrooms

More than a century ago, even before the 1918 pandemic, educators took the dramatic step of teaching outdoors to try to ensure the health of students

That was an effort to stem the spread of tuberculosis in 1908. The Rhode Island experiment was occasionally emulated during the recent pandemic, yet time and technology have yet to guarantee clean air inside schools.

If COVID did not inspire school districts to invest in enhanced ventilation, what would? Yet an informal Hearst Connecticut Media survey of districts indicates that little has been done to address a problem that was only exacerbated by the coronavirus.

The common excuse, as expected, is to point a lack of funding. Yet federal COVID dollars were delivered to schools across the nation along with a suggestion that some of the cash be spent on modernizing ventilation. In too many cases, that appears to be akin to giving a holiday gift card to a 12-year-old with the expectation they would invest in warm winter clothes. There were exceptions (notably in Norwalk), but many towns spent the money elsewhere.

Part of the challenge is that clean air remains an invisible problem. If a classroom roof leaks and dribbles in dank liquids, there tends to be unified screaming about a crisis. But no one can see unclean air.

Teachers, at least, seem to recognize the problem. When surveyed by their union, the Connecticut Education Association, 85 percent pointed to improved circulation as a “very important” issue.

When the state Department of Education surveyed districts, the responses indicated 40 percent of facilities had central air conditioning for the entire building. Given that this doesn’t count facilities that did not respond, the true number is likely even worse.

Local school buildings tend to be old, and municipalities everywhere are struggling with decisions on whether to upgrade cherished landmarks or build new.

In the meantime, it’s another example of the lack of equality when it comes to classrooms. Some have centralized system, while others leave it to teachers to open windows to deliver fresh air like it’s 1919.

The standard defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to have up-to-date HVAC systems and air filtration methods. Many classrooms have added portable air purifiers during the pandemic, which isn’t all that much better than putting a bucket under those leaking ceilings.

Twenty-nine months into COVID, some of its lessons still refuse to be learned. In those early months, we were cleaning groceries before figuring out that we should have been doing was cleaning the air.

School districts in Connecticut insist on maintaining independence from state intervention on many issues. This is a case where Hartford lawmakers need to officially define air quality standards that local districts must meet.

COVID did not unmask this problem, which has existed for generations. But our gubernatorial candidates should suggest workable remedies on the campaign trail. Closing the achievement gap requires keeping kids in the classroom, and that demands Connecticut maintain healthy school buildings.

Bangor Daily News. August 31, 2022.

Editorial: Maine supreme court left big questions unanswered in CMP corridor ruling

We’ll put it in plain English: The Maine Supreme Judicial Court’s decision on the validity of the referendum that rejected the Central Maine Power Co. transmission line corridor in western Maine is a muddle. Faced with one of the most closely watched decisions of its recent tenure, the court essentially punted.

A portion of the referendum is unconstitutional, five justices wrote in a decision released Tuesday, if CMP had vested rights in the project before the November referendum vote. But, the court didn’t decide if the company has “vested rights” in the project, by way of investments in and construction already done on the transmission line. The justices sent that question back to a lower business court, which will likely initiate a new round of court filings and hearings. That court’s decision, presumably, could be appealed.

After the business court proceeding, the Maine supreme court would again consider the situation and make a final determination on the constitutionality of the referendum, in which 59% of voters voted to block the project and others like it in the future in the same region.

Another Maine supreme court decision involving the corridor – this one concerning the validity of a lease of state land for a tiny section of the 145-mile corridor – remains pending.

It all adds up to a lot of uncertainty with Mainers and CMP and its partners in the New England Clean Energy Connect left wondering about the status of the project. Could it be resurrected? Did the referendum really stop it?

We still don’t know because the court did not fully answer the question, and there’s likely lots of litigation still to come. Some of these questions could likely be answered outside the courtroom by officials in Massachusetts, which initiated the project to bring hydropower from Quebec to the Bay State to meet clean energy requirements. The state gave CMP until the end of 2023 to complete the project, something that currently looks unlikely.

We’re not lawyers, but here’s our understanding of the core issue. If CMP has “vested rights” in the project, it would be unconstitutional for those rights to be extinguished through retroactive law changes, which is, in part, what the referendum did. Whether the company has vested rights to complete the project will be determined by how much money was already invested in the NECEC, how much work the company did before the referendum question and on whether it sped up construction — to try to gain vested rights — knowing that the referendum vote was imminent. The court noted numerous times that the NECEC had received numerous state and federal permits to proceed with the project.

Here’s how the justices put it: “The issue before us involves the intersection of NECEC’s private interest to proceed and the interest of the electorate to determine public legislative policy. The applicability of the vested rights doctrine here turns on whether NECEC acquired a cognizable property right that the Maine Constitution protects from being impaired by retroactive legislation.”

Beyond the incomplete decision, the court’s analysis comes too late. The constitutionality of ballot questions should be determined — or at least significantly clarified — before they are put to voters. Such a process — even if it were advisory — could save Maine people, companies, regulators and others a lot of headaches, and money.

We realize that technically, courts can’t rule on matters that haven’t been formally put before them. But they can issue advisory opinions, which they did with regard to ranked-choice voting, although that one was unhelpfully after a referendum vote. Voters approved the new voting method in 2016 and the court found parts of it unconstitutional a year later. It would have been helpful to have the court’s advice about the constitutional problems before the statewide vote.

In the case of a previous NECEC transmission line referendum, CMP’s parent company filed a lawsuit against the secretary of state challenging its constitutionality. The supreme court found that the question, which sought to stop the corridor, was unconstitutional based on the state’s separation of powers. It was the first time that the Maine Supreme Judicial Court prejudged the constitutionality of a question. So, clearly, this type of review is possible ahead of time.

Opponents of the CMP project wrote a new question and gathered the required number of signatures to get it on the ballot a year later, even though there were questions about the measure’s retroactive aspects before the November vote.

Requiring a review for constitutionality before questions are put on the ballot could save a lot of trouble.

Boston Globe. August 31, 2022.

Editorial: Why reasonable conservatives need to mobilize for Chris Doughty

It is time to reset the Massachusetts state Republican Party by pulling it from the grip of Donald Trump.

Massachusetts voters might be excused for not paying close attention to this year’s primary elections for governor. On the Republican side, former state Representative Geoff Diehl, who was trounced by Senator Elizabeth Warren in his last electoral outing, faces a political newcomer, businessman Chris Doughty. In the Democratic race, Attorney General Maura Healey is effectively running unopposed.

Polls widely suggest that Diehl will handily defeat Doughty on Sept. 6 and that Healey will then rout him in November. Yawn.

But in fact something important is at stake in this primary: the future of the state’s small and steadily shrinking Republican Party. For those who believe vibrant debate between competing political candidates is good for democracy, the Grand Old Party’s near-comatose condition should be cause for alarm.

Democrats now outnumber Republicans among registered voters three to one. Less than 10 percent of the state’s electorate currently calls itself Republican. Matters on Beacon Hill are worse. Republicans now hold 27 of the 160 seats in the House and 3 of 40 seats in the Senate. Among the main statewide elected officials, only Governor Charlie Baker, who despite high approval ratings did not seek reelection, is a Republican.

If Democrats sweep those statewide races in November, as seems almost certain, their domination of state government will be complete and the Republicans’ utter irrelevance utterly assured.

It is time, then, for a party reset. That process will take years, but voters can jump-start it by choosing Doughty, a calm voice for a more pragmatic conservatism, over Diehl, a dedicated acolyte of former President Donald Trump. Independents, who can vote in the Republican primary, should take note.

Doughty, 59, is a California native who graduated from Harvard Business School and went on to build a company that makes parts for automobiles and other machines. A self-styled problem solver in the mold of former Governor Mitt Romney, he says he is trying to appeal to “the exhausted middle.” He advocates fiscal restraint and lower taxes and insists that he would not try to change the state’s strong abortion rights and gun safety laws. Importantly, he says he considers the rising cost of living the state’s biggest issue and pledges to make affordable housing a priority from day one.

On the question of President Biden’s victory in 2020, Doughty asserted in an interview with the Globe editorial board: “The election was decided. Let’s move on.”

Diehl, 53, was born in Pennsylvania and moved with his wife to her hometown of Whitman in 2001, building a career as an account executive for sign companies. In 2011, he won election to the House, where his claim to fame was helping overturn a state law tying the gas tax to inflation.

As a candidate for governor, Diehl’s policy agenda is notably thin on details, calling broadly for reducing government bureaucracy and opposing COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates. But on one thing he is crystal clear: He has become an aggressive proponent of Trump’s election-denying movement.

Having initially accepted the 2020 election results, Diehl did an about-face last year when, as he was preparing to run for governor, he suddenly declared the election “rigged.” (Trump’s endorsement arrived soon after.) More recently, he accused the FBI of trying “to bring down” the former president after agents, with a federal judge’s authorization, removed more than two-dozen boxes of government documents, some of them containing top-secret files, from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.

Diehl is also closely tied to the Republican state party chairman, Jim Lyons, who has pushed the party hard to the right while gleefully deriding Baker as a RINO — “Republican in name only.” He insists the party’s centrist traditions have failed, even though Republicans have held the governor’s seat for 24 of the past 32 years. He has also channeled the spirit of the former president by declining to condemn party leaders who made blatantly anti-gay and anti-Asian remarks.

In hewing to the Trump line, Diehl is of course little different from dozens of other Republican candidates who won primary elections in places like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wyoming on the strength of the former president’s endorsement. But Massachusetts is not like those states, and while Trump’s embrace might solidify Diehl and Lyons’s support among the tiny Republican base, it is more than likely to turn off voters in the general election.

Enter the state’s independent voters, who represent 60 percent of its 4.8 million registered voters — twice as many as in the Democratic Party. Polls indicate they like Baker’s centrist policies and want to see both parties represented in state government. This GOP primary is their chance to weigh in against one-party rule.

Loyal Republicans will no doubt object to the idea of independent voters flocking into their primary. But political parties are not private clubs. They are open associations where the members self-select. And in Massachusetts, the unenrolled can choose to associate with either party in their primaries, if only for one day.

There is also a case to be made for why reasonable conservatives should want to bring the party back from the brink of extinction. Subtract the blatant bigotry and narcissistic bullying Trump brings to almost every political endeavor and the party has an opportunity to win over more of those unenrolled voters. Though this page might not agree with many positions on the right, it sees the value of hearty debate over taxes, regulation, the high cost of higher education, and the economic plight of rural regions left behind by the global economy.

Diehl has declined most offers to debate Doughty except on conservative forums and loudly rejected an offer to meet with the Globe editorial board, calling it “a bulletin board for left-wing progressive talking points and utopian daydreams.” But in fact, this page has endorsed centrist Republicans in the general election, including Baker and former Governor Bill Weld.

More to the point, this page firmly believes in a functioning two-party system — provided both those parties legitimately uphold America’s democratic traditions and institutions. Trump, by refusing to stop the violent insurrection on Jan. 6 and relentlessly seeking to overturn a legitimate election, has forfeited any claims to political legitimacy. And so should any party that blindly follows his lead.

Though it happens only once in a blue moon, American political parties have been transformed or even replaced. It happened when an amalgam of anti-slavery parties came together in 1854 to create the Republican Party. Six years later, that party nominated an Illinois lawyer named Abraham Lincoln to be its candidate for president.

Massachusetts helped create that proud Republican Party, which came to play an important role in state politics. The time has come for reasonable conservatives, Republicans and independents, to reclaim it from the corrupt and autocratic grip of Donald Trump. They can start on Sept. 6 by voting for Chris Doughty.

Rutland Herald. August 25, 2022.

Editorial: Tip of the iceberg

Around Vermont this summer, folks have been remarking about what a warm summer it has been. “It’s like the summers I remember growing up,” someone remarked recently.

Except, that might only be true if you were born (and had some keen awareness) over the last 15 years.

We will find that July was one of the warmest on the globe. But for all intents and purposes, at least in the Northeast, it has been a “normal” summer, if not too dry, weather watchers say.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the average temperature in August 2021 for the contiguous U.S. was 74 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2.6 degrees warmer than the long-term average. The heat record capped off a season full of extremes, with parts of the country experiencing persistent drought, wildfires, record-breaking heat waves, hurricanes and other extreme weather exacerbated by climate change.

Last summer beat the previous record set in 1936 by a hair, coming in at less than 0.01 degrees warmer than during the Dust Bowl year, when huge portions of the West and Great Plains were parched by severe drought.

That is not to say, however, that we have not been seeing the implications of climate change in summer 2022 in equally pronounced ways: river beds drying up; crops are dying from lack of irrigation; wildfires, and the like.

If you’ll excuse the pun, this may be the “tip of the iceberg.”

A new study says the dangerous heat we have been experiencing globally may become the new normal.

In much of Earth’s wealthy mid-latitudes, spiking temperatures and humidity that feel like 103 degrees or higher — now an occasional summer shock — statistically should happen 20 to 50 times a year by mid-century, said a study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

By 2100, that brutal heat index may linger for most of the summer for places like the U.S. Southeast, the study’s author said.

“So that’s kind of the scary thing about this,” said study author Lucas Zeppetello, a Harvard climate scientist, speaking with the Associated Press. “That’s something where potentially billions of people are going to be exposed to extremely dangerous levels of heat very regularly. So something that’s gone from virtually never happening before will go to something that is happening every year.”

The study is based on mathematical probabilities instead of other climate research that looks at what happens at various carbon pollution levels.

Zeppetello and colleagues used more than 1,000 computer simulations to look at the probabilities of two different levels of high heat — heat indexes of 103 degrees and above 124 degrees, which are dangerous and extremely dangerous thresholds according to the U.S. National Weather Service. They calculated for the years 2050 and 2100 and compared that to how often that heat happened each year across the world from 1979 to 1998, according to an article by the AP.

The study found a three- to ten-fold increase in 103-degree heat in the mid-latitudes even in the unlikely best-case scenario of global warming limited to only 3.6 degrees since pre-industrial times — the less stringent of two international goals, the article states.

Heat waves are one of the new four horsemen of apocalyptic climate change, along with sea level rise, water scarcity and changes in the overall ecosystem, Zeppetello told the AP.

Climate scientist Jennifer Francis of the Woodwell Climate Research Center, told the AP that the past two summers have provided a window into our steamy future, with lethal heat waves in Europe, China, northwestern North America, India, the south-central U.S., the U.K., central Siberia, and even New England.

“Already hot places will become uninhabitable as heat indices exceed dangerous thresholds, affecting humans and ecosystems alike. Areas where extreme heat is now rare will also suffer increasingly, as infrastructure and living things are ill-adapted to the crushing heat,” she told the AP.

The study focuses on the heat index and that’s smart because it’s not just heat but the combination with humidity that hurts health.

No matter how you look at it, economically, the demands that heat puts on us are going to be costly. We will use more electricity; we will want fresh water; we will need to protect ourselves from extreme weather; and be prepared for 100-year storms, like Tropical Storm Irene which ravaged the state 11 years ago this week.

Hopefully, the tip of that iceberg is the final warning, and what sits beneath the surface is actually a solution against our selfishness and arrogance.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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