Editorial Roundup: New England

Recent editorials of regional and national interest from New England’s newspapers:

CONNECTICUT:

Bumgardner has nothing to apologize about

The Day

Oct. 7

A month ago, the racist-tinged Facebook posts of a Republican member of the Groton Board of Education shook a school system, and a community, which was focused on promoting an environment in which diversity was respected.

The posts fixated on the isolated violence, rather than the largely peaceful demonstrations, associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, bewailing the “many lives…lost over people acting like uneducated savages.”

The board member had shared and commiserated in her comments with posts from the Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children Facebook page, categorized by the Media Bias/Fact check website as an extreme-right source filled with false information, propaganda and conspiracies. The board member’s posts were filled with allusions to white grievances and the suggestion she might sleep better if “Trump were a dictator. Then this chaos may be done and over.”

The Republican Town Committee Executive Committee did the right thing, joining others in calling for the board member’s resignation, which subsequently took place.

So, we can understand their indignation when a Democratic town councilor, Aundré Bumgardner, who is Black, posted on Twitter and Facebook that “(Trump) is a racist, and he doesn’t even care to hide it. If you vote for him, so are you.”

Certainly, there are members of the town committee who plan on voting for the president’s re-election and take umbrage at the suggestion that makes them racists.

Pointing to what he characterized as the “divisive and highly offensive” statements, Republican Town Committee Chairman John Scott issued a declaration “demanding an apology and (Bumgardner’s) resignation” from the council.

Bumgardner’s comments probably stung more because he was once one of them. A rising star in the Republican universe, he was just 20 when elected in 2014 to the state House of Representatives from Groton. Another Groton Republican was elected to the House that year and would serve with Bumgardner — John Scott.

In 2016, both lost re-election bids. By the end of 2017, Bumgardner had left the party, disgusted by what he saw as Trump’s racist and xenophobic behavior. Trump’s reference to “good people on both sides,” after counter-protestors confronted a white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville, Va., led Bumgardner to conclude he could no longer be a Republican.

And that’s the point. Bumgardner has not just talked the talk, he’s walked the walk.

Those recent Facebook and Twitter posts by Bumgardner came after Trump, at his debate with Joe Biden, was given ample opportunity by the moderator to flatly reject white supremacy and did not. Instead, Trump issued the chilling comment to the far-right, gun-toting white supremacist group Proud Boys, “Stand back and stand by.”

At some point, Bumgardner believes, you cannot separate your support for a candidate from his racist behavior.

“If you vote for him, so are you.”

That is an opinion. An opinion from someone who decided he could no longer remain a Republican given the president’s actions. One may disagree with that opinion — perhaps strongly disagree — but Bumgardner owes no apology for holding it and it is certainly not grounds for him to resign.

Bumgardner took a strong position. He offered Republicans, members of a party to which he once belonged, something to think about.

“If you vote for him, so are you.”

Speaking to The Day, Lauren Gauthier, town committee vice chair, offered a different opinion. Calling someone a racist because they support Trump is “completely discounting any other concern that an individual might have about an upcoming election,” she said.

Concerns such as the role of government, appointments to the federal courts, foreign policy, the economy, and so on.

These are all the considerations voters must take into account, part of the soul searching that is taking place among many Republicans, we suspect.

Bumgardner searched his own soul and made a choice. There is no reason to condemn him for urging others to do likewise.

Online: https://bit.ly/3jK9htG

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MASSACHUSETTS:

Defend census against this administration’s undermining

Berkshire Eagle

Oct. 8

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin wonders what Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “is smoking,” but the sad truth is that the Donald Trump appointee has been engaging in a clear-headed assault on the census for nearly two years. The department’s attempts to end the census count as soon as it can is just the latest attack.

The Trump administration wanted to conclude the count as early as this past Monday, about three weeks early, but was blocked by a court in California. The administration claims it has nearly completed its census count of the nation and Massachusetts, an assertion that Mr. Galvin describes as “truly absurd” and prompted the secretary of state’s rhetorical question about Mr. Ross’ smoking habits. (“Galvin slams Trump administration over plans,” Eagle, Oct. 6.)

The census will determine the amount of federal aid coming to Massachusetts over the next decade and could impact the apportionment of electoral districts, to the potential detriment of Western Massachusetts. The U.S. Census claims that 99.8 percent of Massachusetts households have been counted, which Mr. Galvin is skeptical of, given that officials of the census, which is overseen by Mr. Ross’ Commerce Department, refuse to provide him with localized data.

Low-income residents, minorities and immigrants are traditionally the most difficult to reach by census officials. Mr. Galvin wants localized census data to determine if areas of the state where they are predominant have been covered by census officials. Ending the census count prematurely might enable the White House to exclude groups that it does not regard as sympathetic voters.

Mr. Ross’ most egregious assault on the census came when he tried to introduce a citizenship question at the urging of President Donald Trump. The Constitution requires the census to count every resident regardless of their legal status, and a citizenship question could have persuaded undocumented immigrants or those who know them to avoid census counters to the detriment of their communities.

That attempt to undermine the census ended early last year when a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Mr. Ross committed a “veritable smorgasbord” of violations of federal law in attempting to add the citizenship question.

The court ruling did not, however, end the administration’s attempts to corrupt the count. The National Urban League and other groups are seeking to keep the census going through lawsuits before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California. Not only should the count continue, but the Commerce Department must provide localized data to the states immediately.

Mr. Galvin, Massachusetts’ top election official, also warned that the Trump administration will attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election if the voters reject the president. The attempts to manipulate the census offer a taste of what the White House could do. Our cherished institutions have been tested mightily by the president and his administration the past four years and they may be tested even more severely in the months ahead.

Online: https://bit.ly/3lv6O74 ___

MAINE

Susan Collins remains best choice for Senate

Bangor Daily News

Oct. 7

The increasing political polarization and dysfunction in Washington, D.C., is disheartening to most Americans. So, Maine is fortunate to have a history of bipartisan lawmakers who often put party affiliation aside to help the Pine Tree State and the country.

Sen. Susan Collins, who is seeking a fifth term in the U.S. Senate, is one of those lawmakers. And, she deserves to be reelected. Put another way, she deserves your first-place ranking in this election, the first U.S. Senate race to be decided by ranked-choice voting.

In a recent example of her willingness to buck her party leadership and to make the right decision, Collins is one of only two Republican senators who said they would oppose a Supreme Court nominee from Donald Trump before the November election. Waiting to see who is elected president, as Republicans demanded in 2016, is the consistent and fair thing to do, Collins said late last month.

On Tuesday, Collins criticized the president for calling for an end to congressional negotiations over a much-needed relief bill to help workers and families, businesses, states and towns make it through the continuing coronavirus-related economic slow down. Late Tuesday night, Trump said the negotiations should continue.

Collins has similarly broken ranks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on other issues, including to vote against a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and to retain Obama-era rules for power plant pollution, as well as some Trump judicial and cabinet nominees.

Before this era of extreme gridlock, Collins was often at the center of efforts to compromise on legislation as diverse as a stimulus bill to soften the 2008 recession to bills to reduce emissions and address climate change to ending the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to a rewriting of American intelligence laws after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She is often the only Republican to support measures backed by Democrats, which frustrates members of her own party but is a sign of working with others to get things done.

With a potential Democratic White House, we envision many more opportunities for similar compromises to move forward with needed legislation on health care, energy, the environment and many other issues.

As the Republican Senate caucus has moved to the right in an era when political loyalty is too often valued over good policymaking, Collins has remained the most bipartisan member of the U.S. Senate and votes for policies supported by President Donald Trump the least often of any Republican in Congress.

We don’t agree with Collins on everything. Her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and her vote for a 2017 Republican tax cut package are two significant examples.

But, on balance, Collins is a hardworking, moderate representative of Maine’s people and values.

In addition, seniority matters in the Senate. Collins is poised to either chair the powerful Appropriations Committee or be its ranking member, depending on whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate. In this role, she would continue to ensure federal funding for vital Maine projects, including alternative energy development, transportation infrastructure and health care, including opioid addiction.

Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives and a Democrat, is a smart and serious lawmaker. She has brokered some difficult compromises, including with former Gov. Paul LePage to fund state government, and also built bipartisan coalitions to go around the recalcitrant former governor, namely on the pressing problems of opioid addiction and energy diversity.

Gideon’s work on improving access to affordable, comprehensive health care, reducing poverty while growing the state’s workforce and paid leave has improved Maine, especially for some of the state’s most vulnerable people.

The House Republican caucus has been especially difficult during her tenure as speaker. However, the inability of Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson to find a way to reconvene the Legislature during the COVID-19 pandemic, even with the recognition that Republicans declined both chances to return to work in Augusta, is a particular failing. Gov. Janet Mills has ably guided the state through the pandemic, but the Legislature has largely abdicated its oversight obligations by remaining out of session.

Gideon’s stances on health care, climate change and other Democratic priorities are appealing, but a freshman senator is unlikely to have much sway no matter what party controls the U.S. Senate.

Independent Lisa Savage, a teacher, has brought common sense and solid policy proposals to this race. Her grassroots campaign relying only on small donations has been largely drowned out by the expensive and nasty ads run by national political parties and political action committees both for and against Collins and Gideon. That is a shame. Depending on your alignment with Savage’s priorities, she’s certainly worthy of a second or third-place ranking.

The same cannot be said of the other independent in the race. Max Linn disqualified himself from serious consideration with his debate performances in which he cut up face masks and refused to answer questions from moderators.

Maine voters face a choice of two strong lawmakers on the November ballot. We recommend ranking Susan Collins first.

Online: https://bit.ly/3lw0c8e

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VERMONT:

Signs of the times

Times Argus

Oct. 7

Every day, our reporters cull websites and sort emails from local police departments, as well as the Vermont State Police news releases. What you discover by doing so day in and day out, is that crime, too, has trends.

That makes sense. In warmer weather there are more complaints and police calls about loud parties, fireworks. In winter, there are more break-ins at camps and, around the holidays, the theft of packages left on doorsteps. Unfortunately, there are always drunk drivers and cases of domestic violence. Those are year-round occurrences.

This year is different in that since George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis, law enforcement has been called to many homes where Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter signs have been stolen or vandalized — many times the targets of trespassers, which is a criminal offense. As is vandalism. As is theft.

At the same time, the political season — which this year feels the most polemic we have seen in the modern age — has led to another layer of attacks on signs supporting one candidate over another. Several recent police reports in Central Vermont have specifically cited Trump signs being damaged, knocked down or tossed into ditches.

These actions have fueled anger and paranoia, as well as fear and intimidation. And while we could not come up with any cases of physical violence as a result of sign stealing or vandalism, there is a violation taking place. Individuals are willing to risk being caught committing a crime to send a message to someone using their constitutional rights to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression.

In fact, we absolutely can have political signs on our private property. (There are pretty strict rules about what can be placed on public roads or in public places and for how long.)

The ACLU notes that there can be limits on your right to display yard signs.

“Unlike oral speech, signs take up space and may obstruct views, distract motorists, displace alternative uses for land, and pose other problems that legitimately call for regulation. It is common ground that governments may regulate the physical characteristics of signs — just as they can, within reasonable bounds and absent censorial purpose, regulate audible expression in its capacity as noise,” the ACLU writes. And municipalities may have reasonable, content-neutral laws that apply to all signs. For instance, a town may require the signs be no larger than certain dimensions and be placed in a manner so as not to impede visibility on the roads by motorists.

However, “your government may not ban all signs on private property. That would violate our federal and state constitutions by restricting too much speech and limiting a protected form of communication,” the ACLU notes.

Nor do we want government attempting to ban those freedoms.

“Political speech, and particularly political speech on private property, is entitled to the highest form of protection. Therefore, a government may not, for example, allow ‘for sale’ signs while banning ‘Climate Change is Real’ signs,” the group writes on its website.

In 2015, the Supreme Court struck down a municipal ordinance that did just this; it discriminated between signs based on the message. These types of content-based sign ordinances are almost always unconstitutional unless the government can prove their actions were necessary to serve a compelling interest.

Last year, the ACLU of Massachusetts urged cities and towns to suspend any local policies that prohibit the display of political signs on private property and restrict political speech. At the time, several towns put in place ordinances restricting residents’ ability to display signs, including political signs, on private property in residential neighborhoods. “Some of these ordinances limit the period before and after an election during which residents may place signs of support or opposition on political or social issues on private property,” the letter to towns stated.

Fortunately, we are unaware of any towns calling for any restrictions to private property. Several Vermont communities, including the Capital City, have debated when political messaging can be made part of the public landscape. (Montpelier had “Black Lives Matter” painted on State Street in front of the State House, which drew counter-proposals and widespread criticism.)

For sure, these are challenging times, and emotions are high and convictions are being cemented. But we have the right to express ourselves, even if we don’t like what is being stated. And we do not have the right to deface or steal private property; and we definitely should not be trespassing.

We are looking forward to the highlight of the police log to once again be, “Two moose were standing in the road, blocking traffic.”

Online: https://bit.ly/3jJZXWU

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