Boos & Bravos: Tax axing, Harvey heroes, roadway clogs, phone-ban bravado

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Welcome to another edition of Boos & Bravos:

• Bravo to President Donald J. Trump for calling for a drastic reduction in the corporate income tax, from 35 percent to 15 percent. Trump is a businessman. I loathe his bull-headed tweets and strong-man posturing, but I do like his business background. He’s failed at health-care overhaul, playing nice with Congress and convincing North Korea to lay off their nukes, but I think this corporate tax-slashing effort is something he can accomplish. I also think this might be something both sides of the aisle can agree on if special interests don’t scare them off.

We’ll see; politics is ugly, and no doubt this proposal will meet stiff headwinds. But as the old saying goes, “Business is the business of America,” and I applaud any tax reduction that keeps more money in companies’ coffers, thereby creating better working conditions for us average folk. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

• Bravo to the innumerable acts of heroism displayed after Hurricane Harvey. Watching the response by the so-called Cajun Navy and neighbors helping neighbors was truly inspiring, as was, of course, the bravery of first-response professionals. I have nothing but pity for the victims of Harvey. We all need to prepare for times of disaster, but how do you prepare for 50 inches of rain? You can’t. You know you’re hopeless when your emergency food, extra batteries, flashlights and blankets are submerged along with everything else you own.

We’re not helpless watching TV coverage of the events, sitting here in Maine, since we can open our wallets to bona fide charities that are helping. Or volunteer. Lots of Maine people heed the call when tragedy strikes in other parts of the country. Check out opportunities to serve on the ground (when the ground in Texas reappears, that is) at National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (www.nvoad.org/).

• Boo to all the traffic that snarled Maine’s roads this summer. It almost makes me pine for the days of the economic crisis, when nobody had money to go on vacation.

Seriously, we have got to do something about town centers such as Kennebunkport, Wiscasset, Camden, North Windham, Bar Harbor, Old Orchard Beach and a host of other traffic magnets that suffer in peak tourist season. It’s no way to run a state that relies on tourism. At some point people (locals, too) won’t put up with the long lines associated with our otherwise beautiful and welcoming state.

Ever tried to drive south along Route 1 into Wells or Ogunquit on a summer day? Ever been stuck in the York toll line on a Labor Day afternoon? If you have, and aren’t still stuck in jail for road rage, then you know the situation on Maine roads is cruel and unusual punishment. Here are some suggestions to get MDOT and MTA thinking how to improve traffic flow:

Consider toll amnesty during peak usage. Yes, we’ll lose revenue, but tourists will be happier and not enter our state enraged. Also, add lanes to main thoroughfares. Coordinate traffic lights. Turn key intersections into roundabouts. On feasible stretches, increase speed limits to get traffic moving more quickly. Incorporate one-way street networks in downtown areas, as York and Rockland have done. We’ve got record numbers of tourists visiting, and for their and our sanity something needs to be done. We’re relying on roadways designed for last-century travel, and it’s getting old.

• Bravo to Lewiston Middle School’s bold decision to ban cell phones. I grew up when chewing gum in class was the unpardonable sin that distracted teachers and other students, so I was surprised to hear cell phones – the ultimate distraction – are allowed. If most school administrators in Maine are afraid to take cell phones away – a common-sense measure if ever there was one – what else are they permitting?

What this story also reveals is how little we know about what goes on inside our taxpayer-funded school buildings, especially academically. We see standardized test results (which are still lackluster, even after more than a decade of leaving no child behind) and we see high school sports scores, but we don’t know what kids are being taught. The media is great at reporting on games, spelling bees, school plays, art shows and kids who care about the community. But give us the nitty gritty about the day-to-day academics in our schools. We want to know what’s really happening – or not happening – with the curriculum and our tax money.

John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.

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