Broadband advocates upset in Waldo County’s early plan for stimulus cash

Waldo County officials plan to invest approximately $ 3 million in federal stimulus funds to upgrade emergency services infrastructure.

The county received the first half of the $ 7.7 million grant from the American Rescue Plan Act. Commissioners have stated that they are cautiously moving forward with their plans as they await further clarification from the federal government on how the money will be used and project estimates change due to construction costs.

“It’s like a Christmas wish list: you circle everything in the catalog and then, when it gets closer, you say, ‘Yeah, that’s not going to happen,'” said Amy Fowler, chairman of the Waldo County Board of Commissioners. “It’s a work in progress.”

Waldo is one of the first counties in Maine that Outline a plan for stimulus money. The counties here will receive $ 260 million in the stimulus package, plus another $ 233 million for cities and towns. It’s a massive godsend that is expected to lead to large-scale projects that could span any jurisdiction, with many debating broadband, but the money for it has been cut in the county’s plan.

The commissioners presented the spending plans they were considering in a letter to community officials in Waldo County in late July. At the top of the wish list is $ 1.6 million to move the Waldo County Emergency Management Agency from the sheriff’s office to its own building on the county garden lot. The project would also include a new warehouse to house supplies and create a space for food grown in County Garden to be processed and stored.

The county also plans to spend an additional $ 1.25 million in aid to “fully rebuild” the Waldo County’s regional communications center as much of the center’s equipment is no longer supported by the manufacturer.

“The positive part of this project is that it provides excellent law enforcement and emergency services coverage for the entire county,” the district officials said in the July 27 letter.

After receiving requests from several cities and the Southwestern Waldo County Broadband Coalition, the commission decided to allocate US $ 20,000 in broadband infrastructure investments to each of the county’s 26 cities. But then the requirement to spend the funds solely on broadband was lifted after some officials wanted to use the money for other purposes.

The decision to allocate only the $ 20,000 per community was a disappointment to broadband advocates in the county, who hoped that county officials would use the aid to make bigger investments in broadband nationwide.

“When you made your decision, you really underfunded the broadband coalition efforts and only our broadband efforts in general in Waldo County,” said Andre Blanchard, a Liberty voter and member of the Southwestern Waldo County Broadband Coalition.

With not all of the 26 cities having plans to spend the $ 20,000 broadband investment, Blanchard and other broadband proponents say it will take a lot more money to make progress in developing high-speed Internet infrastructure.

“I am grateful that the district officers recognize the importance of broadband, but I think it will take a lot more of our cities and our district to make sure everyone is covered for years to come,” said Breanna Pinkham-Bebb., Northport community commissioner said.

Fowler said the commissioners felt it was fairer to allocate an equal amount to each city than to give a large investment to a smaller number of cities. She hopes the majority of cities will use the $ 20,000 – which will air on August 31st – for broadband partnerships.

The county will continue to hold meetings and workshops to discuss how the funds will be used, Fowler said. She also hopes the county will have a clearer idea of ​​whether these projects can be carried out with the aid funds after submitting a report to the federal government late this month.

Changes in project estimates could also cause the county to change its spending plan.

“Not everything is very specific,” said Fowler.

Why economists and activists are dissatisfied over pledges

(LR) President of the European Council Charles Michel, US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi pose for the official welcome and family photo of the heads of state and government during the G7 Carbis Bay Summit on June 11, 2021 in Carbis Bay, Cornwall.

Leon Neal | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON – A three-day meeting between the heads of state and government of some of the world’s richest nations was a failure, according to some economists and activists who argue the group fell short of its own standards to agree on comprehensive action to combat the climate crisis and Covid-19 pandemic.

The leaders of the G-7, a group of the world’s largest so-called advanced economies, issued a joint statement on Sunday pledged to enact measures on Covid-19 vaccines, China and global corporate tax.

The guides met after meeting in the seaside town of Carbis Bay in Cornwall, England promised another billion Covid vaccine doses either directly or through the World Health Organization over the next 12 months COVAX to plan.

The communique on Sunday also urged China to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly with regard to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong, which are enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law” .

The G-7 pledged to eradicate their contribution to the climate emergency, reaffirmed their commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and vowed to eliminate most of coal energy. It also supported a minimum tax of at least 15% on large multinational corporations to prevent companies from using tax havens for tax avoidance, a US-led initiative

The announcements have been considered significant by groups such as COVAX and the Confederation of British Industry, the latter of whom said the summit “rekindled the belief that the international community can come together in a spirit of cooperation to address the great problems of our time. “

However, critics say the promises are not new, there is a lack of detail and some are simply inadequate.

“The G7 leaders have completely failed to face the challenges of the world,” said Nick Dearden, director of the Global Justice Now campaign group. “After a diplomatic weekend, they just repeated their own inadequate climate goals and failed to meet their own inadequate global vaccination goals.”

“This G7 summit has been, by and large, a pointless exercise without making significant progress in addressing the crises of our lives. This summit proves beyond any doubt that the G7 is unsuitable for its purpose, ”said Dearden.

The G-7 consists of Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the USA. The EU, which sends the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council, also participates. Australia, India and South Korea were also invited this year.

“Cracks are still there”

The summit was seen as a unique opportunity for policymakers to meet in person and agree on the actions necessary to address some of the most pressing global issues such as the ongoing coronavirus and the climate crisis.

The communique did not contain a detailed country-specific commitment or a timetable for the implementation of the global Covid vaccination campaign, and many of the commitments had been agreed in advance.

In a statement on Monday, Paul Donovan, chief economist at UBS Global Wealth Management, described the G-7 as a “selfie summit”.

“The focus of the G7 meeting (the photo opportunity) seemed to be going well. The rest of the meeting expertly whitewashed the cracks,” he wrote.

Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe, Donovan added, “We didn’t have the same direct, big impact. We had a lot of vague statements.”

“The rifts may not be as deep this time around because of the change in leadership in the United States and the fact that the US is playing a more active role, but the rifts are still there,” he said.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists take part in the Sound The Alarm march during the G7 Cornwall Summit June 11, 2021 in St Ives, Cornwall, England.

Jeff J. Mitchell | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The world’s richest countries have come under severe criticism for access to vaccines amid the pandemic.

A number of groups have pushed for the waiver of certain intellectual property rights in Covid vaccines and treatments, including the WHO, health experts, former world leaders and international medical charities.

India and South Africa jointly submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organization in October last year calling on politicians to facilitate the production of Covid treatments on site and to press ahead with the global vaccination campaign.

Several months later, the proposal was blocked by a small number of governments – including the EU, the UK, Switzerland, Japan, Norway, Canada, Australia and Brazil.

Success of COP26 “hangs in the balance”

“We have heard warm words about a green Marshall Plan and the ambition to vaccinate the world, but that goes far behind what is necessary.” said Patrick Watt, Director of Politics, Public Affairs and Campaigns for Christian Aid, a UK charity.

“This is a partial plan, not a Marshall Plan,” said Watt, arguing that the G-7 leadership has made no real progress on aid pledges, comprehensive debt relief, climate finance and “vaccine apartheid”.

“The success of the COP26 climate summit is now pending. There is still time for rich nations to put together a solidarity package that will overcome these interconnected crises. Without it, the COP will fail.”

Politicians are among are Increase pressure to deliver on promises made under the groundbreaking 2015 Paris Agreement ahead of this year’s COP26, due to take place in early November in Glasgow, Scotland.