Art meets conservation

  From Adam S. Doyle’s "Urban Wildlife: Learning to Co-Exist” show (firestarter, dye sublimated aluminum), at ArtProv Gallery, Providence.

From Adam S. Doyle’s "Urban Wildlife: Learning to Co-Exist” show (firestarter, dye sublimated aluminum), at ArtProv Gallery, Providence.

  From Patricia Hansen’s show “A Memory of Elephants,’’ also at ArtProv Gallery (charcoal and pastel on paper).    Both connected shows, which run through Nov. 9, look at the consequences of our interactions and interdependency with animals. Art meets conservation. The gallery says:   “‘Urban Wildlife: Learning to Co-Exist’ is staged in collaboration with Creature Conserve (  creatureconserve.com  ), run by Dr. Lucy Spelman, whose aim is to bring artists and scientists together to foster informed and sustained support for animal conservation. The exhibit, which features works by 40 artists, explores the lives of wild animals in urban areas and the human responses to this shared territory. The goal of the show is to encourage the viewing public to take an active role in healthy co-existence with urban animals. Dr. Spelman will also lead a discussion titled ‘Art Can Save a Panda’ at the gallery on Nov. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m.  ‘‘‘A Memory of Elephants’ is a mother/child elephant series evolved from a journey in northern Thailand, where Ms. Hansen spent time with former working elephants, now rescued, learning to care for them and developing a bond and mutual trust in the process. Babies of different ages were present as well and the tender mother/child relationship was a joyous, life-affirming thing to witness. Upon her return to the U.S., Ms. Hansen found that the elephants has become a metaphor for her of our relationship to the earth, prompting her to reflect more deeply about the issues of our co-existence and how we need to live now – respectful in a sustainable world.’’

From Patricia Hansen’s show “A Memory of Elephants,’’ also at ArtProv Gallery (charcoal and pastel on paper).

Both connected shows, which run through Nov. 9, look at the consequences of our interactions and interdependency with animals. Art meets conservation. The gallery says:

“‘Urban Wildlife: Learning to Co-Exist’ is staged in collaboration with Creature Conserve (creatureconserve.com), run by Dr. Lucy Spelman, whose aim is to bring artists and scientists together to foster informed and sustained support for animal conservation. The exhibit, which features works by 40 artists, explores the lives of wild animals in urban areas and the human responses to this shared territory. The goal of the show is to encourage the viewing public to take an active role in healthy co-existence with urban animals. Dr. Spelman will also lead a discussion titled ‘Art Can Save a Panda’ at the gallery on Nov. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m.

‘‘‘A Memory of Elephants’ is a mother/child elephant series evolved from a journey in northern Thailand, where Ms. Hansen spent time with former working elephants, now rescued, learning to care for them and developing a bond and mutual trust in the process. Babies of different ages were present as well and the tender mother/child relationship was a joyous, life-affirming thing to witness. Upon her return to the U.S., Ms. Hansen found that the elephants has become a metaphor for her of our relationship to the earth, prompting her to reflect more deeply about the issues of our co-existence and how we need to live now – respectful in a sustainable world.’’

'Preventive Food Pantry'

  Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., the state’s biggest city and a former textile mill town (famous for the gigantic Amoskeag Mill, on the Merrimack River; see below). A lot of tech and other business has migrated to Manchester from Greater Boston, of which Manchester and Nashua are now parts.

Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., the state’s biggest city and a former textile mill town (famous for the gigantic Amoskeag Mill, on the Merrimack River; see below). A lot of tech and other business has migrated to Manchester from Greater Boston, of which Manchester and Nashua are now parts.

From The New England Council

Catholic Medical Center recently launched a Preventive Food Pantry for its patients. While programs like this one are growing in nationwide popularity, CMC is the first hospital in New Hampshire to launch such an initiative.

The program is intended to serve patients identified by social workers and nutritionists as having chronic medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity by providing them with wholesome foods and nutrition counseling. It will also bridge the gap between physicians, nutritionists, and patients. Upon receiving their prescription, patients will visit the Parish of the Transfiguration Food Pantry to check in with volunteer nurses and then collect their boxes of healthy food. Instrumental contributors to the program include the Bishop’s Charitable Assistance Fund, who provided an initial donation to assist with startup costs, as well as the New Hampshire Food Bank, who will supply the food.

  The Amoskeag Manufacturing Co’s mills, on the Merrimack, in 1911. Most of the structures are still there, put to a wide variety of uses. At its height, Amoskeag was the largest cotton textile factory in the world.

The Amoskeag Manufacturing Co’s mills, on the Merrimack, in 1911. Most of the structures are still there, put to a wide variety of uses. At its height, Amoskeag was the largest cotton textile factory in the world.

Holiday markets

  Skating rink at Boston’s City Hall Plaza Winter Market in 2016

Skating rink at Boston’s City Hall Plaza Winter Market in 2016

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

Reading about the “Winter Market’’ on Boston’s often reviled City Hall Plaza last year got me thinking that a similar place for vendors (including of wine and beer) and such family-oriented activities as face-painting and clowns, and illuminated by holiday lights, might do well on Westminster Street, Kennedy Plaza or in Memorial Park, all in cozy downtown Providence, from a week or two before Thanksgiving through New Year’s.

Back in Boston, the City Hall Plaza event won’t happen this year because the windswept plaza is being renovated. However, the Boston Guardian reports that the city is looking into having a holiday season market and beer garden this year at glorious Copley Square, upon which many people from Greater Providence walk every day after alighting from the Back Bay Amtrak/MBTA station. It’s one of the world’s great public places, with the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church facing each other.

  Statue of Anglo-American painter John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) in Copley Square. In the background is the Hancock Tower and Trinity Church.

Statue of Anglo-American painter John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) in Copley Square. In the background is the Hancock Tower and Trinity Church.


Trunk show

  By Grey Held, at New Art Center, Newton. Mass. Newton is well known for having very good public schools, a large Jewish population, many affluent “professionals’’ and Boston College, in the ritzy Chestnut Hill section. The old line about B..C. , a Jesuit institution, is that’s “neither in Boston, and nor is it a college.’’ It’s a university.

By Grey Held, at New Art Center, Newton. Mass. Newton is well known for having very good public schools, a large Jewish population, many affluent “professionals’’ and Boston College, in the ritzy Chestnut Hill section. The old line about B..C. , a Jesuit institution, is that’s “neither in Boston, and nor is it a college.’’ It’s a university.

Llewellyn King: Hurricanes may blow in carbon tax

  The St. Clair Power Plant, in Michigan. It burns coal and oil.

The St. Clair Power Plant, in Michigan. It burns coal and oil.

There are no solutions to complex problems — except when the problem becomes so complex it must have a simple solution.

That is the paradox thrown up by global warming and the shattering report of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report cries out for dramatic, simple remediation of the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere every day by industrial society.

The complex solution is a case-by-case, country-by-country, industry-by-industry, polluter-by-polluter remediation: power plants, automobiles, trucks, trains, ships, aircraft and manufacturers.

The simple solution to this complex problem is to tax carbon emissions: a carbon tax. Make no mistake, it would be tough. Some industries would bear the brunt and their customers would carry the burden — initially a light burden growing to a heavier one.

The obvious place to start is with electric utilities. Those burning coal would get the heaviest penalty. Those burning natural gas — the fuel favored by its low price and abundance in the nation — some penalty, but not as heavy.

Nuclear, which is having a hard time in the marketplace at present, would be the big winner of the central station technologies, and solar and wind would continue to be favored.

When it comes to transportation and farming, the pain of carbon taxation rises. The automobile user has choices like a smaller car, an electric car or simply less driving. But heavy transportation, using diesel or kerosene, is where the pain will be felt: buses, trucks, tractors, trains, aircraft and ships. The burden here is direct and would push up prices to consumers quickly.

Jets are a particularly vexing problem. Although they represent about 3.5 percent of pollution, it is the altitude at which they operate (above 30,000 feet) that makes them particularly lethal greenhouse gas emitters.

A carbon tax must be introduced gradually but firmly so that technology and alternatives have a chance of coming to the rescue. Some things, like airline tickets, will just cost more before manufacturers improve engines and work on new propulsion. Farming will he hard hit, and farmers may have to get rebates.

When a carbon tax was proposed in the 1970s, it was defeated in Congress by a phalanx of industry groups led by the American Petroleum Institute and the National Coal Association, now part of the National Mining Congress. Its purpose then was to cut demand for fuel during the energy crisis, which was in full swing. Today these groups are less vocal on the subject as their members begin to entertain the idea of a tax.

Although Congress is still opposed to it — an anti-carbon tax resolution was overwhelmingly passed in the House in July — industry is coming around.

ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Total have signed on, and several Republican lobbying groups outside of Congress are working with members of the House and Senate, including the new Americans for Tax Dividends. Alex Flint, executive director of the Alliance for Market Solutions, an influential group of Republican graybeards and financiers, says they get a good hearing in private conversations with lawmakers.

The U.N. climate study with its awesome conclusions may have come too late to play a big role in the midterm elections. But, especially after hurricanes Florence and Michael, it will blow through the 116th Congress at gale force, the public demanding action.

The quick fix — rough-and-ready and punitive — may be the only quick fix: Tax carbon where it enters the atmosphere. History tells us the economy will adjust creatively.

On Twitter: @llewellynking2


Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of White House Chronicle, on PBS. His email is llewellynking1@gmail.com.


Chris Powell: Some penny pincher! Kill those old-fashioned pensions; End the war



  The fiscal disaster known as Dunkin’ Donuts Park, in Hartford, opened in 2017 and home of the Hartford Yard Goats.

The fiscal disaster known as Dunkin’ Donuts Park, in Hartford, opened in 2017 and home of the Hartford Yard Goats.


The fiscal disaster known as Dunkin’ Donuts Park, in Hartford, opened in 2017 and home of the Hartford Yard Goats.


Advertising, according to the industry's supposed maxim, is most successful when it touts a product's weakest aspect. If the maxim is accurate, Shawn Wooden's new television commercial makes him a cinch to become Connecticut's next state treasurer.

The commercial depicts Wooden, former president of the Hartford City Council, as the exemplar of financial propriety and efficiency but in a family setting. "I'm a bit of a penny pincher," Wooden says as he turns off a light left on and shuts a faucet left running by his sons. Then he squeezes the dregs from a toothpaste tube.

It's cute but it doesn't match the most notable part of Wooden's record in office -- his advocacy four years ago of Hartford's construction of a minor-league baseball stadium with which the city would steal the team of another struggling city, New Britain, even as Hartford itself was nearly bankrupt.

Of course this being Hartford, the construction of the stadium was botched, its completion was delayed a year, lawsuits resulted, and the expense, originally calculated at $50 million, got close to $80 million and was added to the city's huge bonded debt of $550 million. This year that debt was assumed by state government, so now Hartford isn't paying for the stadium at all, nor for anything else for which it borrowed money. The rest of Connecticut is paying.

That is Wooden's idea of being a "penny pincher" -- making the city so insolvent that state government would be compelled to rescue it from its chronic corruption and incompetence.

Wooden will be rescued with a cushy state job. But who will rescue the state?

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OUTLAW THOSE PENSIONS: The candidates for governor agree that underfunding of the state employee and teacher pension plans is a big part of state government's financial disaster, but the candidates have not proposed any solution. They seem to think that the state employee and teacher unions will negotiate the benefits down.

That's not likely. So Connecticut needs proposals on the record in the campaign.

Indeed, state employees and teachers should be required to contribute much more to their pensions, and defined-benefit pensions should be outlawed for future government employees and replaced with 401(k) plans like those most taxpayers make do with.

This is not because the state's defined-benefit pensions are too generous, though some are. Nor is it because state and municipal employees are less productive than private-sector employees. (They are just like everybody else.)

Instead it is because Connecticut's elected officials always will lack the integrity to ensure that pension accounts are properly funded over the long term. That is, eventually elected officials will always yield to the temptation to divert pension fund contributions to undertakings that offer more immediate political rewards, and because the public itself lacks the civic virtue to hold elected officials accountable for pension underfunding.

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WHAT ABOUT THE WAR?: Republican candidates for the U.S. House and Senate from Connecticut have little to say and less money to say it with and so are being ignored as sure losers.

They don't seem to have noticed that the stupid and futile imperial war in Afghanistan has entered its 18th year and that all members of the state's delegation, all Democrats, support it.

A Republican who pledged to vote against appropriations for the war might get noticed without having to spend a lot of money.


Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.


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Josh Hoxie: No one should be poor in America

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Via OtherWords.org

The federal minimum wage hasn’t gone up in nearly 10 years. Yet with a stroke of his pen, Jeff Bezos of Amazon raised the wages of hundreds of thousands of the company’s lowest paid workers.

In an age of extreme income inequality, this is leap in the right direction. It’s also a stark reminder of how far we as a nation are from caring for our most vulnerable people.

Consider the story of Vanessa Solivan, an East Trenton mother of three struggling in and out of homelessness. Vanessa is “working homeless,” an increasingly common phenomenon as the gap between wages and cost of living grows wider.

In the richest country in the world, millions of families shouldn’t have to struggle every day to get by while wealth concentrates into fewer and fewer hands at the top.

Workers’ fates shouldn’t be at the whims of billionaire CEOs — that’s why the minimum wage was introduced in the first place. Yet today’s federal minimum wage of $7.25 is less than the cost of living of every major city in the country.

Vanessa shared her story with Matthew Desmond in a recent New York Times feature story titled, “Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty. They’re Not.” Desmond, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book Evicted, and a Princeton sociologist, shows that working is no longer an antidote to poverty.

Vanessa holds down a job as a home health care aid for 20-30 hours a week while juggling her parenting and childcare duties, and also managing her own health. For her efforts, Vanessa earns about $1,200 in a good month. Last year she made just $10,446.81.

Desmond relays Vanessa’s constant struggle to feed, clothe, and house her family, navigating the byzantine patchwork of public programs designed to help her, but not too much.

Despite tax credits that increased her income by $5,000, she remained well below the poverty line. And when did find herself with a little more money than usual, like when her daughter qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance, other cuts were often made — in that case her Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds were slashed.

Vanessa’s story is far from unique. The average income for the bottom half of wage earners is just $16,000, according to economist Thomas Piketty.

Despite major increases in productivity, the buying power of average hourly wages hasn’t gone up in four decades. Meanwhile, rents continue ticking upward, and more Americans join the ranks of the “working homeless.”

Given such poverty, one might logically assume the United States is poor. Quite the contrary. If we split the nation’s combined wealth equally among households, the country has enough money for every family to have nearly $800,000.

So where’s all that money?

Consider Bezos, the founder of Amazon. He’s the wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth around $165 billion. For context, that means he has enough money to spend $20 every second, every day — for the next 261 years.

One way Bezos got so rich is that until recently, he paid his workers the lowest rate he could legally get away with. He left many to depend on public assistance programs for food, housing, and other essentials. So too did the Waltons of Wal-Mart, who also built their riches on the backs of low-wage workers.

If companies pay workers less than it costs those workers to live, it’s their billionaire owners who benefit the most from government subsidies. Why on earth would we subsidize billionaires in an age of extreme inequality?

The time is past due to end poverty. Dramatically raising the minimum wage is just one step. Also needed are a host of other interventions to help all of us live dignified lives.

As Desmond points out, it’s no longer enough to say any “Nobody who works should be poor.” Nobody in America should be poor, period.

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Taxation and Opportunity at the Institute for Policy Studies.


William Morgan: Haunting words and images in Concord

All photos except the last by William Morgan

There are few better ways to spend an autumn afternoon than wandering amidst the headstones in an old New England cemetery. And some of the best old necropolises are in the historic town of Concord, west of Boston. Sleepy Hollow, the large garden cemetery with its Author's Ridge, resting place of Thoreau, Emerson and Hawthorne, is a big draw for tourists. But don’t ignore the Old Hill Burying Ground, overlooking the east end of Main Street, which has an astounding collection of carved tombstones from the 17th and 18th centuries.

  Mary Minot, wife of Jonas Minot, who died at age 54.

Mary Minot, wife of Jonas Minot, who died at age 54.

  Archibald Smith (1716-1780).

Archibald Smith (1716-1780).


  Old Hill contains some classic and noted examples of New England stone carving: seraphim, death’s heads and hourglasses that have run out of time. This is the resting place of Captain Jonathan Butterick (1690-1767). The grave says “Weep not for me’’.

Old Hill contains some classic and noted examples of New England stone carving: seraphim, death’s heads and hourglasses that have run out of time. This is the resting place of Captain Jonathan Butterick (1690-1767). The grave says “Weep not for me’’.

Butterick, according to his stone, "lived a reputable & Useful life; in the field a good officer in ye Church a deacon." He was we can read, "not doubled-tongued; in private life a good Christian, loving husband, a kind father, a friendly neighbor." At his death, he was "followed to his grave by his aged widow & 13 well-instructed children."

Perhaps Butterick's captaincy was in the local militia, the very one that would hold the North Bridge against the King's regulars a few years later. Or perhaps he fought in one of the Indian wars.

But the quaint description of Butterick's life seems almost cozy and quaint compared to the memorial to the Concord men killed in the slaughter of the War to End All Wars, whose centennial we are now celebrating. Just across the street from Old Hill is the town's dark tribute to the carnage of modern warfare.

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The seemingly straightforward recitation of the names of the 25 "Concord Men who gave their lives in the World War" provides an intriguing history lesson.

There are the usual soldiers, sailors, marines and national guardsmen, plus two deaths in the heretofore-unknown Aviation Corps. Another new wrinkle in modern killing are the members of the 1st Gas Regiment and the Gas Defence Service (given the spelling, were these two different outfits, one British?). There are medical corpsmen, quartermasters and ambulance drivers and maybe the most ancient craft represented, a farrier in the Veterinary Corps.

Being Massachusetts a century ago, there are a sprinkling of French (Gaudet, Bergeron and Bernier), Irish names (Toomey, Donovan) and Italian (Liberace and Napolitano).

Private Clemente Napolitano was in the Italian Army. Was he an immigrant drafted home, or did he go back to Italy to fight in the years before the United States entered the war? Captain Gordon M. Channel was in a Canadian light infantry regiment. Was he one of the many Americans who went north to join up to fight in Europe, not waiting for an isolationist America to confront the Hun?

The list of names tells us little more than the warriors' names and their outfits. Were that not poignant enough, Concord added the words of its own Ralph Waldo Emerson. While eloquent, the sentiment feels more high-minded Victorian, nobler than the grim reaper's cast of local boys lost in a senseless conflict, far from home.

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Of course, Emerson has long been associated with Concord. Consider one of the most famous American poems, his “Concord Hymn,’’ written to commemorate the Battle of Concord (and, by extension, the Battle of Lexington, too), on April 19, 1775, at the start of the Revolutionary War. The most famous line is the fourth.

It was read and then sung at the Completion of the Battle Monument, in Concord, on July 4, 1837.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood, 

   Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, 

Here once the embattled farmers stood 

   And fired the shot heard round the world. 


The foe long since in silence slept; 

   Alike the conqueror silent sleeps; 

And Time the ruined bridge has swept 

   Down the dark stream which seaward creeps. 


On this green bank, by this soft stream, 

   We set today a votive stone; 

That memory may their deed redeem, 

   When, like our sires, our sons are gone. 

Spirit, that made those heroes dare 

   To die, and leave their children free, 

Bid Time and Nature gently spare 

   The shaft we raise to them and thee.

  The Concord Battle Monument, next to the Concord River.    — Photo by Dave Pape

The Concord Battle Monument, next to the Concord River.

— Photo by Dave Pape

William Morgan, an essayist and architectural historian, is a frequent contributor to New England Diary on the subject of cemeteries, among other topics. He is the author of The Cape Cod Cottage, The Abrams Guide to American House Styles and Monadnock Summer, among other books.









































Choke points

  Stay on the right! Near the Zakim Bridge, in Boston.

Stay on the right! Near the Zakim Bridge, in Boston.


From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

The Boston Herald, in an Oct. 2 article headlined “Choking on Growth,’’ reported on environmental experts warning about the downside of Boston’s booming economy and thus ever heavier traffic: more air pollution and thus more asthma.  Some of this is caused by the fact that there are more commuters, mostly driving alone, and some by such services as Lyft and Uber.

The solutions are obvious: more public transportation and more electrification of the transportation system, meaning more and better subway and street-car lines and more electric-powered private vehicles and places to charge them. To read the Herald piece, please hit this link.

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It’s too bad that at this late date the Rhode Island Department of Transportation thinks it has to delay starting reconstruction work on the long-overdue Routes 6 and 10 Interchange project in Providence in order to do another study of lane shifts and closures. The new study might take a couple of months. Apparently this has to do with trying to head off the sort of motorist outrage that accompanied the traffic jams caused by westbound-lane closures needed for repairs on the Route 195 Washington Bridge. But are these situations similar enough to warrant more delays and thus higher costs?
The traffic plan for the 6/10 project was approved in the spring. Are officials reinventing the wheel? Or was the earlier plan somehow clearly flawed? In any event, at least a few of the people reading this will be dead before the project is completed, perhaps in 2024.

The latest snag will almost certainly raise the total cost of the project, which is now estimated at $410 million. But that amount includes $162 million in Amtrak-related work: The interchange crosses the railroad’s Northeast Corridor line. Which makes me think of how nice it would be if there were more rail lines carrying commuters in and out of Providence and fewer polluting and space-taking cars. We can at least hope that the new 6/10 will be less ugly than the current one.



Judith Graham: Mainers to vote on expanding home health care, to be paid for by new tax

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By JUDITH GRAHAM

For Kaiser Health News

As Election Day draws near, a ballot initiative in Maine to provide universal home care is shining a spotlight on the inadequacies of the nation’s long-term-care system. The essential problem: Although most older adults want to live at home when their health starts to decline or they become frail, programs that help them do so are narrow in scope, fragmented and poorly funded. Medicare’s home care benefits are limited to seniors and adults with disabilities who are homebound and need skilled services intermittently.

State Medicaid programs vary widely but are generally restricted to people at the lower end of income ladder. Long-term-care insurance is expensive and covers only a small slice of the older population. That leaves millions of middle-class families struggling to figure out what to do when an older relative develops a serious chronic illness, such as heart failure, or suffers an acute medical crisis, such as a stroke. “We’re about to have the largest older population we’ve ever had, which is going to need exponentially more care than has ever been needed before. And we’re not prepared,” said Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations, an organization working to expand long-term care services across the U.S. Maine, with nearly 20 percent of its residents age 65 and older, is exploring a radical response to this dilemma that’s being closely watched by other states.

Its ballot initiative, known as Question 1, proposes that home care services be available to all residents, at no cost, regardless of income. If enacted, it would become the first such program in the nation. Adults would be eligible for the program when they need help with at least one “activity of daily living”: walking, bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, personal hygiene and getting in or out of bed. Services covered would include care from aides and companions; speech, physical and occupational therapy; counseling; home repairs; transportation; respite care; devices for people with disabilities; and even, occasionally, small rent subsidies. Stipends would be granted to family caregivers. Seventy-seven percent of program funds would be directed to home care aides, in a move to strengthen this workforce.

More than 21,000 people could qualify for home care services under the new program, in addition to about 5,600 people who already receive services through Maine Medicaid and other state programs, according to the most definitive analysis to date, published last month by researchers at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service.

Funding for the new program would come from a new 3.8 percent tax on wages and non-wage income that isn’t taxed by Social Security: a threshold of $128,400 per person in 2018. Between $180 million and $310 million would be raised annually, according to various estimates. The program would be fully implemented by January 2022. The political battle over Question 1 is fierce, although no one questions the need for affordable home care for seniors and people with disabilities.

In AARP’s most recent “Long-Term Services and Supports State Scorecard,” Maine ranked last in the nation on affordability of home care. Among thousands of people affected are Rick Alexander of Blue Hill, Maine. 70, a retired school librarian, and his wife, Debbie, 64, who has multiple sclerosis.

“Since Debbie has a progressive form of MS, her needs are going to increase,” said Alexander, his wife’s sole, unpaid caregiver and a supporter of Question 1. “We brought in some paid help years back, but we couldn’t do that for very long: It’s too expensive.” Alexander wants to keep Debbie at home as long as possible, but he worries about the physical demands and emotional consequences.

“I have chronic clinical depression and periodically I go down into the dumps, a long way,” he admitted. “When that happens, it’s hard for me to motivate myself to do anything.” Also, it’s generally accepted in Maine that something needs to be done about a severe shortage of home care aides — a problem surfacing nationwide. Each week, 6,000 hours of home care services that have been authorized aren’t delivered by Maine agencies because of staff shortages, which are particularly acute in rural areas, according to the Maine Council on Aging.

Despite these areas of consensus, however, disagreements surrounding Question 1 are intense and most Maine health care and business associations oppose it, along with all four candidates for governor.

Taxes are a key point of contention. Question 1 supporters argue that a relatively small number of high-income individuals would pay extra taxes. The Maine Center for Economic Policy estimates that only 3.4 percent of people earning income in Maine would be affected, according to a September report. Citing ambiguous language in the initiative, opponents argue that families earning more than $128,400 would also be subject to the tax hike, significantly expanding its impact. A pressing concern is that higher taxes would discourage doctors, nurses and other professionals from moving to or remaining in Maine.

“We have a workforce crisis already, and this increase — which would make our income tax rate among the highest in the country — would be a disaster,” said Jeffrey Austin, vice president of government affairs at the Maine Hospital Association. The program is too expansive and expensive to be sustained long term, other opponents say.

“We have limited public resources in Maine and those should be dedicated to the people most in need, fiscally and physically,” said Newell Augur, a lobbyist for the Home Care & Hospice Alliance of Maine and chair of the “NO on Question One/Stop the Scam” campaign.

In a statement, AARP Maine, which has not taken a stand on Question 1, expressed reservations. “Using a payroll tax to pay for HCBS [home and community-based services] is an untested policy at the local level,” it noted. Also controversial is the board that would be established to operate the home care program. The initiative calls for nine members (three from home care agencies, three direct care workers and three service recipients) elected by constituent organizations to oversee the program.

“The board wouldn’t be accountable to the governor or the legislature, and Maine taxpayers would have no say over how their money is being spent,” said Jacob Posik, a policy analyst at the conservative-leaning Maine Heritage Policy Center. Supporters note that an advisory committee would include state officials from multiple agencies. The board’s structure is meant to be “responsive to the people providing and receiving the care,” said Mike Tipping, communications director for the Maine People’s Alliance, a grass-roots organization that’s spearheading Question 1 and that helped pass a 2017 ballot initiative expanding Medicaid in Maine, currently tied up in the courts.

For all these policy disputes, it’s clear that Question 1 has considerable emotional resonance. “I’ve never had people cry signing a petition and tell me how much something like this would have changed their lives,” said Kevin Simowitz, political director for Caring Across Generations. One of the people who’s spoken out publicly is the Rev. Myrick Cross, 75, of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Brewer. Cross works part time at the church so he can pay for aides that care for his 38- year-old daughter with Down syndrome and his 95-year-old mother, who has suffered from kidney disease, falls, wounds that didn’t heal and pneumonia in the past several years.

Cross works part time at the church so he can pay for aides that care for his 38-year-old daughter with Down syndrome and his 95-year-old mother, who has suffered from kidney disease, falls, wounds that didn’t heal and pneumonia in the past several years. “I will do whatever I need to keep them home,” he said.

Originally, Cross looked to home care agencies for assistance, but with rates of $23 to $25 per hour “that was more than I could afford,” he said. Today, three local residents provide more than 50 hours of care a week for $12 to $15 an hour.

“I’m blessed that I’m able to work and to hire all these people to keep us going,” Cross said. “But several members of my congregation are older and don’t have the family resources that we have. This would make the quality of their lives better.”



A new tuna acquaculture industry in R.I.?

  Schooling yellowfin tuna.

Schooling yellowfin tuna.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

All hail the University of Rhode Island’s planned

, whose mission is to create a sustainable yellowfin tuna aquaculture industry. The project includes a 125,000-gallon tank (which I’ve visited) at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography, on the shore in Narragansett. The tank now has about a dozen tuna swimming in it. Do fish suffer from claustrophobia?

This is still entirely a research program, focused on studying tuna reproduction. But the idea is to eventually create an important industry, with perhaps some of it based in our region. Presumably other finfish species will be studied and, ultimately, farmed because of URI research. This is the sort of project in which the Ocean State should have a strong comparative advantage. URI continues to do great things.

Distilling the simplicity

  “Finally” (oil), by Anthony Padula, in his show “true,’’ at the Marblehead Arts Association, Marblehead, Mass., through Nov. 4.    Mr. Padula pursued a career in the sciences before following his artistic passion. He paints still life, portraits and figures with a keen focus on light and shadow, focusing, he says, on “the quiet, hidden and pure simplicity of each."

“Finally” (oil), by Anthony Padula, in his show “true,’’ at the Marblehead Arts Association, Marblehead, Mass., through Nov. 4.

Mr. Padula pursued a career in the sciences before following his artistic passion. He paints still life, portraits and figures with a keen focus on light and shadow, focusing, he says, on “the quiet, hidden and pure simplicity of each."