General Blips

Letter to Editor of My Local Newspaper

Regarding our local school district (Maine SAD 35) purchasing supplies via a “bid system” online.

Dear Editor,

I read the article about South Berwick/Eliot’s school District (SAD 35) saving $100K via a “best bid” purchasing program.  I am all for saving money, but as a citizen of the area, and a local tax payer,  I would like to know if there is transparency in the purchasing program, and where they are purchasing from…are these “bidders” local to the area, the state, county, or even the country? And is there any program in place to give American – and even more so LOCAL vendors – a preferred shot at the bidding, and providing this kind of local advantage because it assists the local economy?

I am interested to know that the local school districts are “putting out to bid” things like supply of copy paper, when Maine is a paper producing state, and I do hope they consider this factor in their final purchasing decisions.  A bidding system is fine, but being discrete in who you allow to bid, whether you prefer bids from local businesses over those from foreign interests should be a deciding factor, especially in the current economic climate.

Purchasing copy paper for the whole country from China would (to me) be akin to Idaho purchasing Maine potatoes for their school lunch programs.  There was also mention of the food service programs at the end of Thursday (10/18) article on page A11.  I would also like to strongly recommend that SAD 35 and every other school district in the state, and around the US and it’s territories to be buying as locally as possible to help us in the economic recovery and to teach our children who are attending these schools the skills and importance of buying local – especially when it comes to fresh foods. 

Buying fresh local foods, and even packaged local products, will save on freight costs, promote jobs and economic growth within the local and regional community.  I believe it is important for all of us to start to become more educated and aware of where the products we consume, including but not limited to food and beverages, are made and from where they originate.  I hate to think that I am eating dinner at my favorite local diner and find out that the potatoes are from Idaho and the Blueberries are from Columbia.  Not when I live in the potato, blueberry and lobster state!

Recently I was shopping at Portsmouth Market Basket on Woodbury Avenue.  As I approached the seafood case I was totally astounded to see only 1 item in the entire case of probably 40 different items of seafood, that originated from Maine.  I saw lobster imported from Canada, Scallops from Portugal and Shrimp from Chile. It was ridiculous.  Here I am standing in one of the most seafood producing areas of New England and I am expected to purchase foreign fished products? Who does that benefit?  Not my fishermen friends in Maine and New Hampshire.  No wonder they are suffering, when even the local grocery stores won’t or don’t carry their products.  It is just not right, and Market Basket should be ashamed to even uncover that fish and seafood case.  I am only glad that they do have to label the products now and state the place of origin for the consumer to see, and I hope that many consumers who shop at these stores that support the foreign fishing industry and not the local fishing industry, have cases full of spoiling seafood as people get with the program and refuse to buy the foreign caught and imported products.  There are plenty of local fish and seafood supply businesses where you can purchase products native to the area and probably caught that morning.  Anyone who is local knows of at least one local fish joint.  And by stopping there on your way by, you will support the local vendor, the fisherman of our own region and in the end your own local economic health. 

We are allowed to view our school district budgets, and their annual expenditure reports.  I also would like to know and see in writing just where these purchases of supplies and necessary equipment for every governmental organizations such as our schools, town halls, police, fire and ambulance services and all public works and tax payer funded organizations.  It’s only right that they would be buying as locally as possible.  And that any work needed on their infastructures be bid to the most reasonable bid coming from the closest local vendor or company.  That doesn’t mean it has to be from Maine…but let’s not hire our bridge work to be done by some company from California (hypothetically speaking) when we have very capable companies right here in New England that can competitively bid and do the work, or supply the materials – US made materials!

I believe it’s time for transparency in purchasing by all governmentally run organizations – schools included and it’s time to bring it home to America.  And to the states that pay the taxes to fund every one of these organizations. Let private schools do what they wish, but if my tax dollars are buying foreign made and supplied products within my own community for community use, that’s just not right.

Buy Local.  Buy America.  Bring it home. 

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