Bangor Daily News. December 28, 2022.

Editorial: Mainers gave us many reasons to be hopeful this year

Over the course of the last year, we’ve written a lot about things that have gone wrong. Government failures. Natural disasters. Irresponsible campaign messaging. Policy squabbles between elected officials. Sometimes the many problems of the day can feel overwhelming, even when trying to find productive paths forward.

Despite a prominent set of sculptures challenging us to be hopeful in downtown Bangor and other communities across the state, hope can sometimes be in short supply.

As we close out 2022, however, Mainers have provided powerful reminders of all the good that persists out there amongst the chaos.

There is hope in the outpouring of support for the Holden Police Department’s 25 Days of Kindness, for which donations “exploded” from around $7,000 last year to around $26,000 this year (as of last week). As explained by BDN reporter Judy Harrison, this is the sixth year of the program, which helps people in need with gift cards, food, paper products, presents and cash.

“This is a tremendous help to us, and we’ll be using the money to buy food,” one resident said when Chief Chris Greeley stopped by their home to drop off items, a grocery store gift card and cash. “The price of everything’s gone up. I’m so grateful for this.”

There is hope in how the Mansion Church in Bangor has provided warmth during the winter cold for a growing homeless population.

“I’ve always been inclined to help the less fortunate,” volunteer John Michaud told BDN reporter Kathleen O’Brien earlier this month. “I feel it’s my calling because anyone could be homeless — it could be me. A lot of people don’t like the homeless, but they’re human beings. If you show someone love, it goes a long way.”

There is hope in the way that volunteers stepped up to help with warmth and food on Christmas Day. As reported by the Portland Press Herald, people left without power after last week’s storm found assistance at a warming shelter in Standish and a free Christmas dinner at a church in Buxton.

Unable to spend Christmas at home, 88-year-old Jehanne Foster delivered an uplifting message of hope and help, and did it with a smile.

“Nobody goes through life by yourself,” the retired teacher and social worker told the Press Herald. “You have to work together. During the hardest time, nobody has to walk alone. If you look to your left and right, there’s always people who will be there for you. And you have to be there for them.”

Each of these hopeful instances, from Hermon to Bangor to Standish, involve underlying issues like inflation, homelessness and energy reliability that will ultimately require policy action, not just hope. But for now, we’ll focus on celebrating the remarkable people doing what they can to make things better for others.

As people reflect on the trends of 2022, we’d suggest that there was no better style choice this year than the T-shirt Judy Sibley was wearing when the Holden police chief surprised her at home as part of the 25 Days of Kindness. The shirt’s message: “In a world where you can be anything — Be Kind.”

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Boston Globe. December 27, 2022.

Editorial: Time to fix the Massachusetts Republican Party

It is on life support. New leadership is crucial to revitalizing two-party politics in the Bay State.

It can’t be fun being a Massachusetts Republican these days. The party experienced not only a disappointing midterm season on the national level but also an absolute blowout in state elections. The Grand Old Party of Massachusetts is not just impotent. It has flatlined.

The numbers have been counted, but let’s count them again. Come January, there will be zero Republican statewide officials; zero Republicans in the 11-member congressional delegation; and the Democratic supermajorities in both the state House and Senate will have actually grown larger. Today the party has its lowest percentage of registered voters in Massachusetts since World War II and perhaps since its founding: under 9%.

No wonder Republican state Representative Shawn Dooley told the Globe earlier this month that “there is either real change on the horizon or there is no Republican Party in Massachusetts.” Or that Ed Dombroski, who lost a state Senate race last month, wrote in CommonWealth magazine: “No, we’re not tired of winning. We’re tired of losing.”

It will strike some as disingenuous for a proudly liberal editorial page to lament the bad fortunes of the state’s Republican Party. But this page has consistently stood behind the idea that a vibrant two-party system is crucial for a healthy body politic. Without a strong minority party to provide some checks and balances, one-party rule can too easily lead to hubris and overreach.

But in Massachusetts today, politics consist mainly of the center-left talking with the far-left. With the departure of Governor Charlie Baker in January, the last center-right force in state policy making will be gone, and reasonable conservatism will be reduced to less than a whimper.

What, then, must be done to restore the Massachusetts Republican Party to a modicum of health?

It should start with the ousting of the state party’s chairman, Jim Lyons, when the Republicans meet in early January to elect new leadership. Lyons, an uncommunicative, hard-right, and litigious Donald Trump acolyte, has all but bankrupted the party financially, organizationally, and ideologically.

As the party has spiraled into pointlessness, he has feuded with the Baker camp and sued party members he considers insufficiently loyal. Even the influential conservative columnist Howie Carr of the Boston Herald has called for Lyons’s ouster, mocking the state party as “a dumpster fire.”

Whether the party can recover anytime soon from its Trumpian swoon is far from clear. Some in the Baker camp argue that as long as the former president remains active in national politics — he has declared his intention to seek reelection in 2024 — the Republican base will remain committed to a Lyons-like leadership.

Lyons, who did not respond to requests for an interview, has yet to announce whether he will stand for his third term. But state party committee members say it is likely that he will. If he does, he might be hard to beat, as many members of the Republican state committee still seem loyal to him and to the Trump brand, no matter that it is tarnished and perhaps fading.

By some counts there might be at least four people vying to replace Lyons. Despite the crowded field, one of the leading candidates, Amy Carnevale, a state committeewoman from Marblehead, is optimistic a challenger can win.

“If our party wants to win elections, we have to get back to the center, to appeal to independent voters, to appeal to moderate Democrats,” she said in an interview with the Globe editorial page. “I’m running to write that chapter.”

What might a reimagined Massachusetts Republican Party look like? Some Republicans point longingly to a Reagan-era focus on pocket book issues, emphasizing small government, lower taxes, and pro-business policies. Others hope for a return to the pragmatic Yankee Republicanism of Baker and Bill Weld, where fiscal prudence fused with centrist stands on cultural issues and social-welfare programs.

Either way, a new Republican state leadership will have to build a bridge between its traditional moderates and hard-right base, no easy task. And it will need to get down to the hard work that the Lyons team failed at, like fund-raising, recruiting quality candidates, and building back the party infrastructure from its most rural reaches to Boston.

A new leadership might start by listening to its own constituencies, building coalitions with centrist and independent voters, and finding practical answers to big problems.

Rather than the reflexive anti-immigrant cant of Trump, for instance, might they support a more rational immigration policy that could help farmers and small-business owners — key parts of the Republican coalition — find urgently needed workers?

And rather than using virulently transphobic rhetoric to lambast public school curricula, might they focus instead on the learning losses caused by COVID-19 lockdowns that trouble many parents in both parties?

The rebuilding won’t happen overnight, and it will take more than Lyons’s ouster. The alienated moderate Republicans who say they are embarrassed by the party’s mean-spirited rhetoric and extremist image should not stand back silently while the most inflexible ideologues steer the ship. They need to run for state committee or local office, recruit young people into their fold, and find common ground with independent voters and centrist Democrats. They need to participate.

We can’t think of a better way to make America great again.

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Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. December 29, 2022.

Editorial: In gratitude

A week ago, a deadly storm rolled through the state, claiming one life and causing millions of dollars in property damage.

Around the state, utility and work crews continue (even today) to reconnect power, remove fall trees and limbs from lines, and clear debris in order to make roads passable.

When power is returned, and our lives slide back into a state of “normal,” we forget that these crews have been working long shifts for days to get our infrastructure back up and running. It is dangerous work, especially when one is exhausted and weather conditions are well-below freezing.

Many of these devoted individuals have been working in the state since the previous weekend, when a storm came through with heavy snow, knocking out power. And then, when the “monster storm” blew in, living up to the meteorological models and hype, nearly 100,000 Vermonters went into the Christmas weekend in the dark and bitter cold.

It is frustrating to have the holiday disrupted. But we are remiss if we do not go out of our way to extend gratitude to these utility crews — especially linemen — from Vermont and elsewhere who all but surrendered their holidays to make sure that ours were enjoyable.

No one wants to be taken for granted. And we should never assume — in the face of such widespread devastation — that these individuals are “just doing their jobs.”

So we want to say, loud and clear: “Thank you, all. We appreciate your sacrifice, your commitment to each of us, and the hardship you are going through. In the darkness we faced, you were the bright lights that provided us with hope and relief. May you get to enjoy your holidays and family very soon.”

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Rutland Herald. December 26, 2022.

Editorial: The darkest hours

While the holiday storm of 2022 brought out the worst in Mother Nature, it brought out the best in Vermonters.

The imminent danger of the storm was of grave concern. The hype and harbingers proved to be painfully accurate. (A woman died in Vermont when a tree fell on her as a result of the high winds; there has been significant property damage.) Gov. Phil Scott, while concerned about the wind damage and outages, was more concerned at the time with the cold snap that was to follow. He acknowledged, the arctic blast was the thing that was “keeping me up at night.”

The storm became the great leveler – literally and metaphorically. The wind certainly stripped away our electricity, but it also blew away our pretentiousness, our politics and our pettiness. It made the season of giving significant, because what was being shared in many cases were acts of kindness and generosity.

On back roads on Friday, as drivers were trying to get to safety, or get out to help others, strangers were clearing trees and debris blocking the way. There were lawyers and teenagers and mechanics clearing blowdowns together. They all were asking the right questions: “Is there anybody farther up this road we should check on?” or “Do you know if they have a wood stove or back-up heat?”

Roadside meetings were not discussing last-minute Christmas shopping, but rather who knew someone with a chainsaw or a generator. The race was on to beat the frigid weather.

In cases where calls could not get out, in spite of the widespread power outages, texts could sometimes eke through. Smart phones proved their worth in relaying assurances, urging calm, or asking for help.

The holiday became very inwardly focused, as families – many who had to abandon grandiose plans – hunkered down in candlelight and shared time without screens. Our focus became on patience. (Non-stop holiday songs on a portable radio have a completely different “feel” in the dark.)

That’s not to say it was idyllic by any stretch of the imagination. It was (and is) not easy. It is about making do.

Media reports (including ours) suggest a violence from this storm. Thousands of Vermonters are still without power. Homes will have been damaged (and potentially ruined) by this storm and the ensuing cold weather. It will take weeks to tally the damage.

While memories were made, so is the self-reflection on what storm preparedness looks like for the next time. What did we learn? What is our plan? Where can I get a generator (and the corresponding electrician to make the back-up system work)?

At one point, there were more than 75,000 Vermonters without power. (As of noon on Monday, there were still several thousand homes across the state without power — mostly in Central Vermont; and in some cases it may not be restored until closer to the end of the week or the weekend.)

The truth of the matter is that Mother Nature’s gift this year is one that will keep on giving. These strong storm cycles are not random. They are not flukes of nature. They are a result of changing weather patterns – cycles whose root causes are changes to our climate. (The reasons for those changes are likely the topic of many “around the wood stove” conversations this week.)

Leafing through the latest Vermont Almanac, a collection of articles, commentaries and data compiled – now for a third consecutive year – about all things Vermonty, there are monthly examinations of our region’s weather. In 2021, there were either temperature shifts or weather events that were referred to as “unusual” or “extreme” or “uncharacteristic.” (Part of Volume 4 basically wrote itself, and its authors are going to need a thesaurus to accurately explain this storm and its effects across the state.)

It will happen again. Some forecasters would say what is happening to Buffalo, New York, coupled with the storm this weekend is the first sign of a shift in weather patterns across North America.

As one commentator on Vermont Public noted, “It’s out of our control.” Perhaps.

There is comfort, though, in knowing we still can fall back on each other.

Largely, we are grateful we live in a state where neighbors look out for one another. Those connections are not always made in the rush of our over-complicated lives. But we saw that we did not need a screen to manifest our interaction and connectivity. In recent days, we problem-solved for one another in order to ensure safety. We were (and are) willing to go the extra mile to move the tree, open our homes, or deliver provisions.

For all of the anxiety the storm provided, we hope the governor rested better in the days since knowing that Vermonters were (and are) looking out for one another in this year’s darkest hours.


The Associated Press

The Associated Press (AP) is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.