Cheers and jeers from around the news:

• Cheers to departing Lewiston Police Chief William Welch, who’s retiring after 34 years of service and more than a decade as chief. In many cases, relations between police agencies and newspapers can get frosty; this was never the case in Lewiston. We thought Welch ran an excellent department, the best evidence of which was the professionalism of his officers.

Of course, we didn’t agree with Welch on everything. And there were times in the past when our coverage of him and his agency was tough. Above everything, though, we shared a mutual respect that is rarely developed between the authorities and those who question them.

This city has come a long way and changed immeasurably under Welch’s tenure. Policing Lewiston is far from the rough-and-tumble days of lower Lisbon Street, when – as Welch remembers – law enforcing was a spectator sport. The city still has challenges, but we should all recognize how much it’s grown.

And in great measure, Bill Welch helped do this. We wish him well in his retirement.

• Cheers to Sen. David Hastings of Fryeburg, who showed fortitude to stand alone this week and propose sending LD 1020, the act to allow same-sex marriage in Maine, to referendum. His solo amendment failed to garner traction in the Senate.

There is intense pressure on lawmakers to take sides on this issue. While this a duty of legislators – they are there to vote, after all – their foremost responsibilities should be to their consciences and constituents. (How many times have we said vote the issue, not the party?)

Given the legislative atmosphere, it took courage for Hastings to rise as a party-of-one to advocate a compromise position. He deserves credit for it.

• Jeers to flu hysteria. We’re talking about the no-handshake policies sweeping Maine and, probably, the nation, next. While barring handshakes at college commencements and church services is technically a precaution against swine flu, it is also a precaution against a whole host of other serious maladies.

A question: When this scare is over, will we return to business-as-usual? Normal seasonal flu kills far more people in one year than this H1N1 flu may ever infect. If we are taking such extreme measures for H1N1, why aren’t we extending these same courtesies when its deadlier cousins are around?

Is it because, deep down, these precautions really don’t make a difference?

• And finally, cheers and jeers to burying transmission lines. There are good arguments on both sides – namely health effects and cost. Burying lines is an exorbitant expense for ratepayers to incur, but the impacts on abutting neighbors of above-ground transmission lines cannot be ignored.

A compromise, it seems, is basing burying-versus-building lines on proximity to population density, rather than near areas frequented by children, as a bill now before the Legislature suggests. This seemingly would protect the most people, at the greatest efficiency of cost.


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