Editorial Roundup: New England

Hearst Connecticut Media. March 23, 2023.

Editorial: The threat of a stagnant population

Whenever Connecticut population data is released, two points are reinforced — we’re not growing and we’re getting older. Numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau are the latest support for those two points, and as usual, they represent a threat to the state’s long-term viability.

You can’t grow your economy without growing the population. And as people get older and age out of the labor force, they require more care, which requires more money and more workers to supply that support. Connecticut is falling short on all those counts.

To the surprise of very few observers, Fairfield County is the only part of the state that has shown significant population growth over the past decade-plus. The population there is up 5.6% since 2010, whereas the rest of the state is about even or declining in population. Fairfield County is also home to some of the most exclusive addresses on the Eastern Seaboard, and demand is high across the region. What is lacking is supply.

Connecticut’s stagnant population isn’t an issue of the state driving people away or taxing people to South Carolina. There is a desire to live here, as shown by extraordinarily high housing prices and exceedingly low supply. We also have many unfilled jobs in the state, which remain open because employers have a hard time finding people.

What we’re doing as a state is keeping the gates locked, and it’s hurting everyone. The issue is zoning, and it is strangling our economic future.

Connecticut needs more housing, and if it was built our population would rise significantly, with an accompanying boom in economic growth. More people would mean more services required to serve those people, which means more jobs to provide those services, and on and on in a virtuous circle of growth. If you cut off that growth engine by denying the ability to build more housing, you get stagnation and eventual decay.

That’s the path we’re on today.

The only way out of this completely self-created mess is through action at the state level. Towns like to brag about local control, but what that means in practice is that their neighborhoods are frozen in amber, with no hope for meeting the changing demands of a dynamic population. Offering incentives isn’t going to help, as experience has shown over and over again. Reform requires a mandate from the state.

Too many in state government, however, are stuck in the same thinking that has led us down this path. They don’t want to change anything. They want someone else to handle it. Maybe the cities can take on the entire task of population growth — that seems to be the prevailing thinking. It’s a bad idea for all kinds of reasons, not least of which that growth benefits everyone.

This is the biggest long-term challenge facing the state. Our population is getting older and smaller. Our economy is suffering for it. And the solution, right in front of our eyes, is simple — we need to build more housing, and we need to loosen regulations to allow that to happen.

Time is ticking on the legislative session. Lawmakers need to take this seriously.


Portland Press Herald. March 26, 2023.

Editorial: ‘One-stop shop’ for new residents has untold potential

Whether or not Maine gets the federal waiver on asylum seeker work authorization it desires, the state must be ready and waiting for it.


That’s the key word in the proposal for a new state office designed to help people who are new to Maine with housing, job opportunities and associated support and services. Coordination is what our state badly needs in this respect – and has badly needed for some time.

Just ask the 79 organizations that appealed to political leaders for something like this in May of last year. Mufalo Chitam, executive director of the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition and one of the letter’s signatories, said it well then.

“We should stop responding like we’re in a crisis,” Chitam said. “We should normalize our response by coming up with a coordinated way of tracking and supporting people.”

The proposal for a new office, in the form of a bill sponsored by Oxford state Sen. Rick Bennett, takes Chitam’s request seriously. It also gives Maine and Mainers a valuable opportunity to reframe the present moment.

The proposal is a proactive move at a deeply reactive time.

Since Chitam and scores of others made their appeal, a sense of crisis has intensified in many quarters – most conspicuously in Portland, where the city has struggled to support adequate shelter space and repeatedly suggested it has reached a breaking point.

A subsequent letter from U.S. Sen. Susan Collins to the Department of Homeland Security asked that no more asylum seekers be permitted to come to Maine without verifying Maine’s ability to offer people shelter or other assistance.

Responding, the Portland-based Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project sought to shift the focus back to the asylum seekers’ plight, blaming “the situation in Maine right now” on “not simply a lack of resources and capacity” but “poor federal government planning.”

Just as people of most political persuasions are in agreement that asylum seekers should not be forced to wait long periods before being permitted to work in the U.S., disagreement on that last point, regarding deficient and inefficient federal policymaking, is generally hard to find.

Underinvestment has led to pressure on the system; pressure on the system has led to President Biden arriving at a strategy that comes closer to replicating the anti-immigrant line of his immediate predecessor than it does to resembling anything like a contemporary attempt to respond to or reflect the trends and demands of 2023.

The answer to the various “situations” unfolding across America at the moment is comprehensive immigration reform. In the absence of that reform, Maine’s ability to offer people assistance deserves our close attention.

In finally coordinating this, the state, despite having considerable experience in asylum seeker and refugee resettlement, comes a little late to the party. Many cities and states already have offices and programs like Bennett’s bill envisions.

To review the official language used at the time of these offices’ establishment is to be reminded of the strong rationale for a confident approach that zeroes in on social, cultural and economic potential.

In New York state, for example, the city of Buffalo’s Office of New Americans is said to have been founded to “ensure that Buffalo remains a welcoming city and a preferred resettlement site in the United States.”

In Baltimore, with a view to that city’s ability “to retain and attract immigrants as part of the mayor’s goal to grow Baltimore.” In Pittsburgh, the move is “rooted in a commitment to ensure a more livable city for all residents.”

Colorado’s Office of New Americans, created last spring, part of “a statewide strategy to facilitate economic stability and promote successful economic, social, linguistic and cultural integration by investing in the success of immigrants.”

The proposed Maine program is visualized within the Department of Economic and Community Development “as a centralized resource to coordinate municipal efforts to connect persons who have recently moved to the State with housing and job opportunities.”

If Maine’s congressional delegation succeeds in securing a federal waiver on asylum seeker work authorization, this initiative will put the state in a better position to capitalize on that change.

The enthusiastic establishment of this new office can, on top of what it expressly undertakes to do, guide Maine through a significant shift in mindset.

It stands to lift our communities out of disagreement and fragmented crisis-type response and in the direction, together, of a strategy focused on shared opportunity, prosperity and the future.


Bangor Daily News. March 24, 2023.

Editorial: State and tribal leaders must continue to build on positive momentum

History was made at the State House last week, with chiefs from all five Wabanaki tribes giving a State of the Tribes address to a crowded legislative chamber.

Now, it is time for the tribes and the state to make a better future together.

The previous and only State of the Tribes address took place in 2002, and did not include a representative from all of the tribes. The March 16 address included Chief Clarissa Sabattis of the Houlton Band of Maliseets, Chief Edward Peter Paul of the Mi’kmaq Nation, Chief William Nicholas Sr. of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Motahkomikuk, Chief Rena Newell of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik, and Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation.

A common theme from the chiefs was the years-long sovereignty effort to make sweeping changes to the 1980 settlement act that averted a major land claims dispute at the time but also led to decades of friction between the state and tribes.

“It’s time to modernize the agreement between state government and Maine tribes, because the current arrangement makes Maine Native Americans ‘outliers in Indian Country,’” Sabattis said.

“I look forward to forging a new path forward that is not only better for our tribe but also better for this great state that we all call home,” she continued.

“The Passamaquoddy Tribe is proud to be forging new positive bipartisan relationships in the Legislature and we look forward to working with our friends in both parties to improve economic development and the delivery of services in tribal and non-tribal rural communities in Maine,” Nicholas said.

“We want a relationship with the state government that is based on mutual trust, fidelity and respect,” Francis said. “A relationship that recognizes the unique contributions of the Wabanaki peoples to this State and promotes our self-determination without interference.”

“The Mi’kmaq Nation seeks to provide for our citizens what all sovereign nations and local communities provide for theirs,” Peter Paul said. “We seek to provide reliable community services for our citizens, to grow our local economy, and to provide jobs and positive cultural opportunities for our people. I am excited to see the state’s embrace of these objectives.”

Unfortunately, Gov. Janet Mills was not there to hear these messages in person. Her staff has said she had an unspecified scheduling conflict.

Mills’ attendance (or lack thereof), like the address itself, represented a more symbolic element of a very detailed and complicated conversation. But symbols mean something. The change from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day meant something. The move to ban offensive Native American mascots in the state meant something. Symbolic changes can help build momentum for other progress, like the agreement to give tribes exclusive rights to online sports betting.

Last week’s address also meant something. And so did Mills’ absence. Whatever the reason, it was unfortunate that she was not there.

“The governor joins the Legislature in congratulating the tribal chiefs on a return to delivering a State of the Tribes Address, which is an important opportunity for the Wabanaki people to speak directly to the Legislature. Although the governor was grateful to receive an invitation to the Address, a scheduling conflict prevented her from attending,” Mills spokesperson Ben Goodman said this week in response to our questions about the governor’s absence, and about her invitation to meet with tribal leaders following the address.

“However, as you know, the governor has invited tribal chiefs to meet with her in the Cabinet Room, and the chiefs have indicated their interest in meeting with the governor. She looks forward to meeting with them soon to continue the communication, collaboration, and compromise that formed the basis for progress in previous legislative sessions,” Goodman continued. “The governor cares for the health, welfare, opportunity, prosperity and future of the Wabanaki people, just as she cares for every person in Maine, and she is committed to working with the tribes and the Legislature to make progress on health, education, economic development and jurisdictional issues through deliberate and considered work that is grounded in mutual dialogue.”

Some incremental but concrete progress was made in the last legislative session, with Mills and the tribe finding agreement on some issues such as Passamaquoddy water access, online sports betting, tax relief and collaboration between the tribes and the state. Throughout this process over the past few years, we have encouraged policymakers to pursue areas of agreement and not let some of the more contentious areas of this broad debate stall everything. Based on a BDN report last week, it sounds like the bipartisan effort to craft a veto-proof tribal rights bill would take this pragmatic approach.

“If we get a good bill out of this that corrects the things that were wrong about the 1980 settlement act, we don’t really see why there would be any opposition to it,” House Republican Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham told the BDN recently.

Lawmakers and tribal leaders should look for places to take positive steps forward together. We hope that these discussions and this needed progress will include the governor.

“Today is a sign that our momentum will only increase and, for this reason, I am excited for what the future holds for Wabanaki-state relations,” Newell, chief of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Sipayik, said in her remarks last Thursday.

We share her optimism. It will take sustained leadership from everyone involved, and a willingness to listen and learn, to turn that optimism into much-needed action. Last Thursday’s address made history; now it’s time to make a better future for everyone who calls Maine home.


Boston Globe. March 28, 2023.

Editorial: Growing antisemitism is society’s problem

In the Anti-Defamation League’s annual report on antisemitic incidents, Massachusetts had the sixth-most incidents, 152, up from 108 in 2021.

The centuries-old scourge of antisemitism is experiencing a frightening resurgence in modern Massachusetts.

The Anti-Defamation League’s annual report on antisemitic incidents, released Thursday, reported 3,697 incidents nationwide in 2022, the highest number recorded since the organization began collecting data in 1979. Massachusetts had the sixth-most incidents, 152, up from 108 in 2021.

Massachusetts recorded four assaults, including a Jewish student in Waltham whose classmate held a knife to his throat and an Israeli Jew physically assaulted in Boston while the attacker made anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli comments. There were 66 incidents of harassment, including bomb threats to Jewish institutions, and 82 of vandalism, like swastika graffiti. Incidents targeting private homes doubled from 10 to 20. There were 53 incidents at non-Jewish K-12 schools, up from 35 in 2021.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called the growth in antisemitism over the last decade “mind-boggling.” “These incidents are an ugly manifestation of this growing belief in and normalization of antisemitic ideas, anti-Jewish tropes, and ugly conspiracy theories,” Greenblatt said.

Ted Deutch, a former congressman who is CEO of the American Jewish Committee, attributed the rise to societal unrest at a time when influential figures have modeled antisemitism and spread it via social media. The ADL report found that rapper Ye’s antisemitic comments led to 59 incidents where perpetrators referenced Ye. “We know that in challenging times when people are looking for scapegoats, historically the Jews, sadly, have been that people,” Deutch told the Globe editorial board.

Antisemitism has long existed on the far right, and the ADL tracked a surge in activity by white supremacist groups. But antisemitism also emanates from the far left, where anti-Israel sentiments can morph into antisemitism. Hate is hate, regardless of its origin, and American Jews feel increasingly threatened.

A 2021 survey by Jewish campus organization Hillel and the ADL found that 32% of Jewish college students had personally experienced antisemitism on campus, while an American Jewish Committee survey released in January found that 18% of current and recent Jewish students felt uncomfortable or unsafe at a campus event because of their religion.

The American Jewish Committee survey found that 89% of American Jews and 68 percent of the general public think antisemitism is a problem in the United States. One-quarter of Jews reported experiencing antisemitism the prior year, while 39% altered their behavior out of concern for their safety as a Jew.

As Jeremy Burton, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, says, antisemitism isn’t a Jewish problem, it’s society’s problem.

Jewish communal organizations in Massachusetts are mobilizing, and Bay Staters of all backgrounds must lend support.

One focus is raising awareness of the problem and the need to speak up. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism is launching a $25 million nationwide ad campaign Monday with a series of ads featuring non-Jewish Americans supporting Jews in the fight against hatred. Foundation executive director Matthew Berger said the goal is to enlist allies. “The Jewish community is only 2.4% of the population,” Berger said. “The idea we alone can solve this problem isn’t realistic.”

Combined Jewish Philanthropies, a Boston-based philanthropic foundation, is developing its own local ad campaign. “Awareness and education are the foundation of everything because if people do not understand a phenomenon like Jew hate, they’re not going to be able to identify it, and they’re certainly not going to be able to do anything about it,” said CJP President and CEO Marc Baker.

Education, in schools and campuses, is also vital, since no student should feel like they have to hide their religion.

Massachusetts is one of 22 states mandating genocide education in middle and high school, a new requirement that should improve Holocaust education as long as schools develop and implement appropriate curriculum. The Jewish Community Relations Council is developing curricula to influence how Jews are portrayed more broadly in K-12 schools, beyond the Holocaust.

Brandeis University recently announced a partnership with Kraft’s foundation that will include convening college administrators and K-12 school leaders for conferences and speakers related to how to respond to antisemitism. Brandeis President Ronald Liebowitz said the pressure on Jewish students often comes from peers, and he worries that as colleges increasingly focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, Jewish students are being excluded — even though Jews are a minority on college campuses and the target of frequent hate.

“Policies need to think about how Jews fit in within the panoply of programming. Now basically they’re not included,” Liebowitz said.

There are steps state government should take. Lawmakers should consider clarifying the state’s hate crimes laws. Governor Maura Healey, when she was attorney general, introduced legislation to simplify the laws, which now make it difficult to charge a hate crime.

The state must continue funding its nonprofit security grant program, which has helped Jewish institutions upgrade security. The governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes should continue working to monitor and prevent threats. All law enforcement agencies need proper training to respond to hate crimes. State officials must continue to denounce hate-based incidents.

Technology platforms can take a more aggressive approach to enforcing policies about hate speech as applied to antisemitism.

More broadly, countless organizations have in recent years renewed their commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and to countering bias and hate, whether through antiracism or eliminating gender bias. It would be a natural step for these organizations to use their DEI programs to take a firm stance against anti-Jewish hate and commit to standing up for Jewish friends and colleagues whenever antisemitism rears its ugly head.


Rutland Herald. March 23, 2023.

Editorial: Sensible safeguards

This week, the House has shown support for H.230, which would require secure storage of firearms, among other precautions aimed at keeping children safe.

In a statement, the Vermont chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action released a state statement applauding lawmakers for supporting legislation they say “will prevent unauthorized access to guns by children and address Vermont’s gun suicide epidemic by reducing access to lethal means for people in crisis.”

“Our communities are too familiar with the grief of one of our friends, neighbors, or loved ones’ lives being taken by a crisis that impacts more and more Vermonters every year,” said Patricia Byrd, a volunteer with the Vermont chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We have worked diligently with our lawmakers in the House to pass this life-saving bill so that more Vermonters struggling with thoughts of suicide can live to see better days.”

Earlier this week, the National Rifle Association sent out an email blast urging its members to reach out to Vermont lawmakers.

“NRA members and Second Amendment supporters are urged to contact lawmakers and request that they oppose all anti-gun measures,” the statement said. “We are seeing a wave of anti-gun testimony from gun-control groups in Vermont and we need you to step up and make your voice heard. … This barrage of gun control measures is aimed not at reducing suicide rates, but rather implementing a slew of failed and ineffective gun-control measures. There is no evidence that any of these measures will impact suicide or violent crime rates. However, it will restrict your Second Amendment rights.”

However, according to the Vermont Department of Health, there were 142 suicide deaths among Vermont residents in 2021 — the largest number and highest rate of suicide deaths ever recorded in Vermont.

More Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2020 than in any other year on record, according to recently published statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That included a record number of gun murders, as well as a near-record number of gun suicides. Despite the increase in such fatalities, the rate of gun deaths — a statistic that accounts for the nation’s growing population — remains below the levels of earlier years, according to Pew Research Center. Suicides have long accounted for the majority of U.S. gun deaths. In 2020, 54% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides (24,292), while 43% were murders (19,384), according to the CDC.

The advocacy groups note that suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the state, and the rate of suicide increased by 16% from 2020 to 2021. And in 2020, 91% of firearm deaths were suicides.

“Access to firearms is tied to elevated suicide risk, as studies show that access to a gun triples a person’s risk of death by suicide,” the statement from Moms Demand Action states.

H.230 includes multiple gun safety policies, including: Requiring gun owners to securely store their firearms if a child or person legally prohibited from possessing guns is likely to gain access to them; expanding eligible petitioners under Vermont’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law to include family and household members; creating a 72-hour waiting period for firearm transfers.

According to supporters of the bill, “waiting period laws create a buffer between temporary suicidal ideation and firearm access, which can be the difference between life and death. They are associated with reduced suicide rates in states that have them.”

The House has spoken. Now we hope the Senate will show the same common sense.

Setting safeguards in order to keep guns out of the hands of children makes sense, especially when — far too often — we hear about a young person taking their own life.

These are challenging times in which to live. Let’s make it so we don’t have to face the challenges that come with tragedy and grief.

If you or someone you know is struggling, here are some specific sources of help:

— 988 is the nationwide number to call to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline from any phone. It connects with a national network of crisis centers that provide free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States.

— The Vermont Crisis Text Line, available by texting the letters “VT” to the number 741741 at any time. It connects callers with a live, trained crisis counselor.

— The Trevor Project provides mental health information and support to LGBTQ+ youth 24/7, year-round. The organization can be reached by phone, text or online chat.

— The Veterans Crisis Line for U.S. service veterans and their loved ones is available by calling 988 and pressing option 1. The veterans line also has an online chat and a text option using the number 838255.