Editorial Roundup: New England

Rutland Herald. February 6, 2024.

Editorial: In unity

We commend our state’s leaders in condemning recent attacks in Vermont against the LGBTQ+ community.

In a statement issued this week from members of the Rainbow Caucus and allies, the elected leaders noted, “we are profoundly concerned about the recent surge in hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ+ community across the country and, sadly, here in Vermont.”

They point to a Jan. 2 incident, in Isle La Motte, in which Sandy Bottom Farm was targeted for a second time for displaying a pride flag. The intruder stole the flag, vandalized the property and left behind a hate-filled letter attacking the LGBTQ+ community.

A week later, on Jan. 9, a bomb threat was sent to disrupt a drag story hour in White River Junction, “instilling fear among attendees and highlighting the persistent threats of violence faced by the LGBTQ+ community.”

The letter goes on to state: “These incidents are not isolated; they reflect a disturbing pattern of increasing anti-LGBTQ+ hate across the nation. This campaign of hate aims to stifle the voices of the LGBTQ+ community and its supporters. In response to this intimidation, we are resolute in our dedication to the core values of love, safety, and inclusion. These principles are integral to our identity as Vermonters, and any assault on them is an assault on us all.”

It concludes, “The LGBTQ+ community has made so much progress; we refuse to backslide and succumb to hatred or fear, and instead, we will intensify our efforts to ensure that our communities remain safe and welcoming for all Vermonters.”

Notably, the signatories represent statewide and federal offices, and represent all three of Vermont’s major parties. We feel it is important for citizens to know who is standing together on this critical issue.

The letter is signed by all three members of the congressional delegation, U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch, and Congresswoman Becca Balint.

All of the state’s statewide officials are represented: Gov. Phil Scott; Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman; Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas; Attorney General Charity Clark; Auditor Doug Hoffer; and Treasurer Mike Pieciak.

House Speaker Jill Krowinski was joined by Minority Leader Rep. Pattie McCoy, as well as Reps. Julia Andrews, Angela Arsenault, Sarita Austin, Ashley Bartley, Scott Beck, Daisy Berbeco, Tiffany Bluemle, Michelle Bos-Lun, Lucy Boyden, Erin Brady, Carolyn Branagan, Pat Brennan, Jana Brown, Tom Burditt, Mollie Burke, Elizabeth Burrows, Bill Canfield, Heather Chase, Kevin Christie, Brian Cina, Paul Clifford, Sara Coffey, Esme Cole, Mari Cordes, Allen “Penny” Demar, Lynn Dickinson, Karen Dolan, Anne Donahue, David Durfee, Caleb Elder, Bobby Farlice-Rubio, Gina Galfetti, Rey Garofano, Leslie Goldman, Rodney Graham, Edye Graning, James Gregoire, Kenneth Goslant, Lisa Hango, James Harrison, Troy Headrick, Rebecca Holcombe, Kathleen James, Stephanie Zak Jerome, Emilie Kornheiser, Emilie Krasnow, Larry Labor, Wayne LaRoche, Josie Leavitt, Emily Long, Mike Marcotte, Eric Maguire, Chris Mattos, Kate McCann, Francis McFaun, Jubilee McGill, Brian Minier, Michael Morgan, Mary Morrissey, Carol Ode, Thom Oliver, Woodman Page, Avram Patt, Monique Priestley, Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Mike Rice, Tristan Roberts, Larry Satcowitz, Laura Sibilia, Butch Shaw, Taylor Small, Tom Stevens, Mary-Katherine Stone, Heather Surprenant, Chris Taylor, Casey Toof, Matt Walker, Chea Waters Evans, Kirk White, Jonathan Williams, Terri Lyn Williams and Theresa Wood.

In the Senate, President Pro Tempore Phil Baruth was joined by Minority Leader Sen. Randy Brock, as well as Sens. Chris Bray, Brian Campion, Thomas I. Chittenden, Alison Clarkson, Brian Collamore, Martine Larocque Gulick, Ruth Hardy, Wendy Harrison, Nader Hashim, Kesha Ram Hinsdale, Jane Kitchel, Ginny Lyons, Dick McCormack, Robert Norris, Andrew Perchlik, Dick Sears, Bobby Starr, Tanya Vyhovsky, Anne Watson, Dave Weeks, Becca White and Terry Williams.

Several of these elected are part of the LGBTQ+ community; many of the signatories are longtime advocates for equality. A few of the names on the letter have, on occasion, voted in opposition of legislation advocating for or supporting LGBTQ+ rights. We are glad to see they are not allowing their politics to cloud the fundamental truth that we must become intolerant of intolerance. When we see acts of hate committed against our neighbors, and especially a vulnerable or marginalized community, we all have an obligation to stand up and say “no more.”

There are so many issues before these elected officials. We wish more tripartisan progress could be made in the spirit of unity and providing for Vermonters before politics.

It should not take acts of hate, tragedy or extreme weather to find a common voice. For now, we will take a moment to praise this moment of advocacy.

May we find the same compassion elsewhere in the important work of the people.


Boston Globe. February 2, 2024.

Editorial: Help Steward patients but don’t bail out the hospital system

State will have to carefully scrutinize any proposed acquisitions.

The nine hospitals Steward Health Care runs in Eastern Massachusetts are lifelines. They serve large numbers of Medicaid patients in cities with low-income populations, including Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton and St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River.

The Boston Globe first reported that Steward is in grave financial danger. WCVB reported, citing Representative Stephen Lynch, that Steward is seeking buyers for Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, Holy Family Hospital in Haverhill and Methuen, and Norwood Hospital, which has been closed since a 2020 flood. Steward is already undergoing a process to close New England Sinai Hospital, a Stoughton rehabilitation hospital.

Steward has not been transparent about its intentions. A spokesperson said the company “is openly engaging in discussions with the Administration and legislators to find solutions that will keep these hospitals open.”

As state officials have those conversations, their first priority must be ensuring safe, continuous care for Steward patients — without bailing out Steward.

The Department of Public Health, as the hospitals’ licensing authority, can and should conduct inspections to ensure the hospitals are providing safe care.

If Steward no longer has money to operate the facilities, the hospital system is required to give DPH 120 days’ notice before closing to ensure patients have a safe, orderly transition of care. If a provider does not do that, the state may have legal authority to run operations temporarily as a receiver — even without the passage of legislation some lawmakers are considering to enshrine an option for state receivership of hospitals into law.

But it is possible for hospitals to shutter abruptly. North Adams Regional Hospital closed with three days’ notice when its parent company declared bankruptcy. State officials went to court, and a judge required the hospital to keep its emergency department open temporarily.

In case of any abrupt attempts at closure, the state should consider any legal options to ensure the hospitals remain open as patients transition their care — which will not be easy since most other providers are already facing capacity crunches.

The state is also responsible for scrutinizing any proposals for transferring Steward’s assets. The Globe reported that Mass General Brigham is being eyed as a potential “savior.” Mass General Brigham and Beth Israel Lahey Health are likely the only health systems large enough and with deep enough pockets to absorb several struggling health care institutions. But MGB also has the state’s highest prices, and any transaction that further consolidates health care and lessens competition could raise prices further.

Other ideas that have been floated include the state helping other systems that run safety-net hospitals — like UMass Memorial Health, Tufts Medicine, or Boston Medical Center — absorb Steward facilities. Health care experts Paul Hattis and John McDonough suggested in a CommonWealth Beacon op-ed that this might take public money but could control costs while helping hospitals that could benefit from gaining more patients.

The Department of Public Health’s Determination of Need process for scrutinizing health care acquisitions, which can be conducted expeditiously in an emergency, will need to be comprehensive, balancing the importance of keeping Steward hospitals open with factors like price, quality, and access over the long term.

Once the immediate crisis is over, state officials will have to scrutinize how Steward got into this mess, whether the company can be held accountable, and whether laws need to change to avoid similar future scenarios.

Steward blames its downfall on low Medicaid reimbursement rates and state policies that make it hard for a for-profit company to obtain state financial support. (Most Massachusetts hospitals are nonprofit.)

But public records suggest Steward’s problems are largely self-inflicted. In 2010, Steward, affiliated with private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, bought several hospitals from Caritas Christi. Facing concerns about Steward’s for-profit status and Cerberus’s eventual exit from the market, the attorney general conditioned the sale on a five-year monitoring period during which Steward had to abide by several conditions.

Even then, there were warnings about financial mismanagement. Steward committed to spending $400 million on capital expenditures but did so by loading its hospitals up with debt. It began monetizing real estate through sale and leaseback arrangements, where a real estate trust buys a medical provider’s property, forcing the provider to pay rent. That lets the owner extract immediate cash while saddling the provider with long-term payment obligations.

A study published in the book “The Contributions of Health Care Management to Grand Health Care Challenges” reported that Cerberus in 2016 sold several hospital properties to real estate investment trust Medical Properties Trust for $1.25 billion. Cerberus paid dividends to itself and its investors and financed a national expansion effort, while saddling hospitals with rent payments. Bloomberg reported in 2021 that Cerberus made an $800 million profit during the decade it owned Steward before it transferred ownership to Steward physicians in another unusual deal.

Steward’s current financial crisis was precipitated when Medical Properties Trust revealed Jan. 4 that Steward was unable to make around $50 million in rent payments.

It is impossible to get a full accounting of Steward’s finances because the company sued to avoid providing regulators with the system-wide audited financial statements that every other state hospital provides. A Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled against Steward, but Steward appealed, and litigation is ongoing.

Steward has also faced US Department of Justice scrutiny for improper business practices. In 2022, Steward paid $4.7 million to resolve allegations related to Steward’s relationships with Massachusetts physician groups. Federal prosecutors said Steward paid for services doctors never performed, and those physician groups referred patients to Steward hospitals.

In December, the US attorney’s office brought charges against Steward for violating the Stark Law, which governs “self-referrals” in Medicare. Prosecutors allege Steward improperly paid St. Elizabeth’s chief of cardiac surgery based on the volume of patients he referred to the hospital.

Governor Maura Healey said the state will not bail Steward out. Healey should keep that commitment and refuse to throw taxpayer dollars at an organization that contributed to its own demise. But it is possible state money will be required, for receivership or to help other providers purchase hospitals or care for Steward patients. State policy makers will have the unenviable — but vitally important — role of making sure any public money is spent wisely to ensure Steward’s current patients continue to have access to safe, quality care tomorrow and in the future.


Bangor Daily News. February 7, 2024.

Editorial: Mining near Baxter State Park isn’t appropriate

The staff of the Land Use Planning Commission has recommended in a draft document rejecting a rezoning request that would open the door to a mining plan at Pickett Mountain. To protect the region’s waterways and its burgeoning tourism economy, this is the right decision.

Commissioners are scheduled to meet next week to vote on a rezoning application from Wolfden Resources Corp., a Canadian mining company that wants the zoning change to allow a metallic mine at Pickett Mountain, which is near Baxter State Park and Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Consideration of the rezoning application has involved numerous meetings, filings and public hearings, where lots of opposition was heard. After its review, the planning commission’s staff have recommended denying the rezoning application because Wolfden has failed to show that it could adequately protect the water in the region, which is home to several important fisheries. The company had failed to show that the short-term economic benefits of a mine would outweigh the potential long-term environmental damage, staff said. Also, commission staff expressed skepticism that Wolfden could meet the environmental, water quality and remediation standards that the company pledged to fulfill.

“(C)onsideration of the project requires weighing the predicted socioeconomic impacts against the risk presented to the environment,” the commission staff wrote in their Feb. 2 memo. “… the risk to water resources of extraordinary high-value is substantial, and Wolfden has failed to demonstrate that it can effectively mitigate this risk. Accordingly, in light of the commission’s conclusion that any positive socioeconomic benefits from the project are likely to be diminished by the short-term nature of the project and difficulty in reaching Wolfden’s stated goals of local hiring, the commission concludes that the adverse impact to existing resources posed by the project would be undue.”

This is a straightforward decision. The area around Pickett Mountain is home to some of the state’s highest classification waterways, which also contain vibrant fisheries. The Katahdin region is also becoming a hub for outdoor recreation. These could be threatened by a metallic mining operation, on land that is not currently zoned to allow mining.

This is an important consideration for us. Wolfden bought the land near Pickett Mountain knowing that it was not then zoned for mining. A zoning change to allow mining needed to meet a high threshold to prove there would be no undue adverse impacts. The commission’s staff have found that this standard wasn’t met, so the zoning change should be denied.

As we wrote late last year, we are well aware of the dangers of allowing “not in my backyard” opposition to squelch too many projects in Maine. However, Wolfden’s mining proposal has raised too many red flags.

“Let’s consider this particular project, and this particular backyard,” we wrote in December. “To us, the obvious conclusion is that such a mine does not belong in the backyard of tribal lands and vital watersheds, or in Baxter State Park’s backyard. It’s not the right proposal for the region, especially considering the LUPC’s guidelines related to ‘no undue adverse impact on existing uses or resources,’ and it does not deserve rezoning approval.”

Simply put, this is the wrong project in the wrong place, and this rezoning request should be denied.


Portland Press Herald. February 4, 2024.

Editorial: Important efforts for new Americans stir up old xenophobic tropes

The establishment of a valuable statewide office, among other support, must not be clouded by anti-immigrant untruths and half-truths.

Let’s begin by acknowledging the good.

In January, Maine became the 19th American state to create a statewide office dedicated to the support of immigrants and newcomers to our state.

This is an immensely positive development with dynamic potential for our communities.

As recently as last May, commenting on extensive Press Herald reporting on the plight of asylum seekers striving to find their way in Portland, this editorial board wrote: “In recent times, we have watched the state be permissive or compassionate in spirit but more or less derelict in practice. Maine does not keep tabs on the number of asylum seekers who come into the state, nor does it have anything like a centralized office for the administration of resources to immigrants.”

The plan for the Office of New Americans, called for by scores of advocacy, business and education organizations for successive years, was reportedly informed by some 100 outreach meetings and conversations with more than 800 people all across the state.

Its responsibilities are many and serious: to collect, analyze and report on information about Maine’s immigrant population; to simplify pathways for immigrants to achieve education and professional accreditation; to promote the hiring, retention and promotion of eligible immigrant workers by Maine businesses; to support expanded legal services; and to work with all of the other entities – official and unofficial – that already offer support to immigrants, such as federal and municipal bodies, schools, community groups and more.

Done well, this is the beneficial work that will keep on giving.

Integration, the catch-all goal for the work the office will do, can have a chain reaction capable of vivifying Maine’s communities, labor force and economy as a whole.

Attempts to detract from this work, using lazy xenophobic framing and relying heavily on a crippling “us vs. them” mindset tend to be laden down in racism, isolationist misinformation or both.

And there have been many such attempts in the past two weeks alone of people seizing on this commonsense policy development for scaremongering ends.

“We need to take care of our people first,” one state lawmaker said in testimony critical of the establishment of the office, as if everybody in Maine had the same definition of “our.” Another described the proposal as “tone-deaf” and suggested Maine “look inward.” A third lawmaker expressed nervousness in testimony because of strong criticism from her constituents for her co-sponsorship of the bill behind it.

Respectfully, it’s tone-deaf to advocate against the creation of an inexpensive office with an excellent chance of a monumental and sustained return on investment. This office does not take away from other people.

Furthermore, a lot of the power of the Office of New Americans is in the message that it sends and the commitment that it telegraphs. It’s not surprising that, in 2024, there are people who wish to distort that message and register their discomfort at what they would prefer the world looked at as some form of calculated onslaught by asylum seekers. It’s happening all over the country.

The national outlet Breitbart ran a story about the Maine State Housing Authority’s asylum housing project, saying “illegals” were being given free housing while Americans go homeless. Donald Trump Jr. would go on to repeat the claim at a rally in New Hampshire. Never mind that asylum seekers have a legal basis for being here.

Here’s the truth, hard as it seems for some to accept: Building housing for new Mainers is part of the housing response, not something carried out in competition with it. You can’t complain about every effort to build more housing, then complain when people don’t have housing, and you certainly can’t blame asylum seekers for problems created by years of bad policy.

The same calculus applies to the responsibility to demystify and deliver public services, as the office undertakes to do; it applies to the the 2 + 2 = 5 effect of collaboration and coordination when it comes to simply helping people to figure things out, to do beneficial and productive things for themselves, their families and, in turn, for the places where they live.

“Our state cannot wish away this pattern of migration,” we wrote back in May. “What Maine can do is better prepare for it and position itself to take the appropriate advantage of it.”

It should be encouraging to every resident that we appear to be in the process of doing that now.


Hearst Connecticut Media. February 2, 2024.

Editorial: Measuring CT’s racial and economic divide won’t close it

Connecticut House Majority Leader Jason Rojas had to work too hard to get an official measure of the racial and economic divide in the state.

He and other members of the General Assembly fought for several rounds before winning approval for the report. The result was a conclusion from the New York consulting firm Urbanomics that “segregation in the state of Connecticut is high.”

Rojas, D-East Hartford, who is the first person of color to head the state House or Senate, responded that “it confirms what I already knew to be true. But consistently seeing people doubt that segregation exists in Connecticut — or even exists to the extent that it does — I don’t know that we can deny that looking at this report.”

Did we really need a report? Are Connecticut residents really in denial, or are they simply content to ignore the problem? The latter is the worst scenario. It is also the likely reality.

Segregation in Connecticut doesn’t really need contextualizing. It has never been invisible. We refer to by phrases such as “the wealth gap,” but naming the problem doesn’t seem to have led to solutions.

According to the new report, 29 percent of Connecticut residents are people of color, and 71 percent of them live in federally subsidized housing. That’s not a small problem, and would take at least a generation to remedy. But Connecticut shouldn’t let more generations pass before taking true action.

The report also identifies challenges that echo what experts have pointed out for years. Segregation is thriving in our suburbs, as it has since the first manor was built on a massive tract of land in the state. And local leaders want to maintain a stranglehold — aka, “local control” — on exclusive zoning laws to protect the “character” of their fiefdoms.

The report is just a mark on a loop that keeps returning Connecticut to the same place. It’s The Connecticut Way for towns to want to determine their own fate when it comes to zoning. Even if that were to change, Connecticut would still need to deal with a more existential identity crisis. Too many residents in its towns are fine with segregation as it exists.

We never want all of our neighborhoods to look the same. But Connecticut should strive to reach a place where it can celebrate its own diversity, instead of being shamed by it.

A different recent study by WalletHub (“2024’s States with the Biggest & Smallest Wealth Gaps by Race/Ethnicity”) ranked Connecticut’s wealth gap as the ninth highest in the nation. Still ,Fairfield County notoriously stands at or near the top of most lists of this nature.

Gov. Ned Lamont’s Office of Policy and Management hired the firm to conduct the Urbanomics analysis. Other state leaders fear it will just gather dust with similar studies. The governor says he hasn’t read it yet. He doesn’t really need to, any more than Rojas does.

We all know what Connecticut’s problem is. When are we going to do something about it?