Entries Filed in 'Civil Rights'

The insights of Shenna Bellows from her 350 walk across Maine

October 10th, 2014 · No Comments · Civil Rights, Community Maine

Shenna Bellows walks into Waterville during her 350 mile walk across Maine to connect with people. Photo Ramona du Houx

Shenna Bellows walks into Waterville during her 350 mile walk across Maine to connect with people. Photo Ramona du Houx

Shenna Bellows represents the wave of the future, in young candidates, whom have concluded that the way to bring positive change to their communities for them is through public service. Many in her generation took part in “occupy” demonstrations around the country, and globe, voicing their dissatisfaction with how the corporate world and our government is working. But too many were without direction. Not Bellows, who wants to become an elected official and bring people together in coalitions to make change happen.

“I’m walking to lift up the voices of people in communities who have been left out and left behind by decisions in Washington that benefit the wealthiest corporations and individuals at the expense of our local communities,” said Bellows, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate for Maine.

 Bellows walks in Fairfield on her 350 mile trail with supporters for her Senate race. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Bellows walks in Fairfield on her 350 mile trail with supporters for her Senate race. Photo by Ramona du Houx

On July 20, Bellows took her first step on her 350-mile campaign trek. She made stops in more than 63 communities by the time she reached Kittery, on schedule Aug. 12.

“I think the Walk represents what grass-roots democracy should look like,” said Bellows. “Our elections should be about conversations in people’s living rooms and dooryards about issues that matter to our communities. Too often our elections have become about who has the most money wins.”

Bellows served as Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maine for the last eight years, where she built coalitions with Republicans and Democrats to pass groundbreaking privacy and civil rights laws.

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Michaud Receives 100% on National LGBT equality Congressional scorecard

October 9th, 2014 · No Comments · Civil Rights

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U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud has received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Congressional Scorecard for the 113th Congress. The HRC scorecard tracks both the public positions and votes of Members on a variety of issues related to LGBT equality. The HRC scorecard comes just several weeks after Michaud became one of the first House Members to sign a discharge petition for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would bring federal workplace protections legislation for LGBT people directly to the House floor for a vote if it achieves 218 signatures.

“Our communities are at their best when everyone can feel respected and safe in their neighborhoods, schools and workplaces,” said Michaud. “I’m proud that we’ve led on issues of equality in Maine – from marriage to workplace protections – but there is still more we must do at the federal level to ensure everyone in our society has access to the same benefits and protections. That’s why I’m proud to support an array of bills that will move us in that direction – from legislation that protects young students from bullying in schools, to ensuring no one ever loses their job just because of who they are or who they love.”

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Maine’s LePage wants a law to help pipeline companies to seize private property

September 29th, 2014 · No Comments · Civil Rights

In a letter made public last week, Gov. Paul LePage urged members of Maine’s congressional delegation to support legislation that would make it significantly easier for private businesses to use eminent domain to seize property from unwilling landowners. LePage wrote to U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud urging them to support H.R. 1900, “The Natural Gas Permitting Reform Act.”

The bill makes it much easier for companies proposing to build new natural gas pipelines to sidestep important environmental safeguards and move more quickly to seize private property. This would be especially problematic for landowners in rural Maine. The process of “fracking: to obtain natural gas has been plagued with problems. Water lines have been compromised causing gas to pour through them making the contents flammable, and earthquakes in states not prone to them have happened.

Using the current system, FERC approves 90 percent of pipeline applications within 12 months. H.R. 1900 would disrupt the system by requiring FERC to approve or deny all natural gas pipeline applications, regardless of size or complexity, within one year, and require all relevant agencies to approve or deny related permits within 90 days. If FERC or another agency fails to issue their decisions within the allotted timeframes the application or permits would be automatically approved.The arbitrary deadlines set forth by H.R. 1900 would cause agencies to either rush permits – jeopardizing public health, safety, and the environment – or needlessly deny permits when time limits prevent full environmental reviews. More concerning still, if an application deadline is exceeded, a pipeline company would be automatically granted the power of eminent domain – the ability to take a private landowner’s property,” wrote Congressman Michaud in a letter to LePage.”

“Matters of public safety, Maine’s environment and private property rights are critically important issues that should be fully and carefully considered, not subject to unnecessary deadlines. It is for these reasons that I voted against H.R. 1900 and continue to oppose the legislation.”

The East-West Highway, a proposal by private investors to build a transportation corridor connecting Calais to Canada through western Maine, is an example of a private project that is likely to require eminent domain.

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Portland City Council might vote tonight to repeal the city’s buffer zone outside of health centers

July 7th, 2014 · No Comments · Civil Rights

We Must Move Forward to Protect Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care Services

Portland City Council might vote tonight to repeal the city’s buffer zone outside of health centers.Last month the Supreme Court ruled to strike down buffer zones outside of women’s health centers.

“If elected governor, I am committed to working with the Legislature and Attorney General’s office to move forward with common sense measures that strike the right balance between protecting First Amendment rights and patient safety. These include ‘floating’ or ‘bubble’ protection zones around all health centers, the kind of protected zones that were upheld by the Supreme Court 14 years ago (Hill v. Colorado),” said Congressman Mike Michaud.

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Federal lawsuit alleges more than 250 violations during Maine’s 2008 Blueberry Harvest

July 7th, 2014 · No Comments · Civil Rights, Community Maine

Late last week, Pine Tree Legal Assistance filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court on behalf of 18 farmworkers claiming multiple egregious violations of federal law by a farm labor recruiter, two Maine employers, and several housing providers, during the 2008 blueberry harvest.

The lawsuit alleges that more than 250 violations of the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (AWPA) during the 2008 blueberry harvest. Maine is the leading producer of wild blueberries, harvesting 91.1 million pounds of wild blueberries in 2012, according to the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistic Service.

“The defendants’ blatant disregard of the legal protections for migrant farmworkers who harvest Maine’s blueberry crop established a pattern of unscrupulous practices that is deplorable, illegal, and should not be tolerated in our state,” said Nan Heald, executive director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance.

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Gov. LePage dodges association with domestic terrorist group Sovereign Citizens

July 1st, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Civil Rights

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Governor LePage’s refused to take responsibility for holding 8 private meetings with members of a domestic terrorist movement that is on the FBI watch list, Sovereign Citizens. New reports today claim that LePage lied about the content discussed in his meetings with the extremest group, which has allegedly threatened to arrest and execute Maine Democratic leadership.

“Gov. LePage’s words and actions are out of step with Maine values. By meeting repeatedly with these individuals, he’s given credence to their dangerous beliefs. We must take threats of violence from extremist groups seriously. Gov. LePage has once again shown a severe lapse in judgment that proves he’s not fit to lead the state of Maine,” said Congressman Mike Michaud, the Democratic nominee for governor.

In a, 20-minute audio recording of the Maine Watchman radio show taped after meetings with the governor, hosted by Steve Martin and Jack McCarthy, both members of the Sovereign Citizens movement, got a firsthand account of these individuals extreme beliefs. They espouse anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT conspiracy theories and warn of a “holocaust against America’s Christian population.”

“There is no place for this. It’s completely unacceptable. Gov. LePage owes the people of Maine an explanation and should denounce this at once,” said Michaud.

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Presidential Inaugural poet delivers address at World Refugee Day in Portland

June 20th, 2014 · No Comments · Arts & Entertainment, Books, Civil Rights, Photos, World News

Omar Raouf presenting his first published book to Presidential Inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, on World Refugee Day in Portland, Maine. Photo by Morgan Rogers

Omar Raouf presenting his first published book to Presidential Inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, on World Refugee Day in Portland, Maine. Photo by Morgan Rogers

World Refugee Day was celebrated and well attended in Portland’s Congress Square Park with Richard Blanco, a Maine resident and 2013 Presidential Inaugural poet, who delivered the main address on June 20th.

The celebration is held every year to honor the 15 million people worldwide who have faced war and persecution in their home countries. City of Portland Mayor Michael Brennan welcomed everyone and highlighted Portland’s continued dedication to give refuge to those in need.

“We recognize that we may be citizens of Portland, that we may be residents of the state of Maine, that we may live in the United States of America, but first and foremost we are human beings joined together by our common humanity,” said Brennan. “And that is more important than the distinction we may have as citizens or as documented residents living in the city.”

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Fast Food workers to strike on May 15th in 150 cities

May 12th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Civil Rights

Thousands of fast food workers will go on strike in 150 cities on May 15th.

President Barack Obama wants to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 but Republicans in Congress are blocking the measure. Obama issued an executive order to increase the wage to $10.10 for federal employees and contractors as a first step. Meanwhile workers are highlighting their plight and fight for a livable wage that values them.

The following article appeared in Nation of Change

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LePage’s DEP drops cancer-causing formaldehyde as ‘Priority Chemical’ under right wing pressure

May 6th, 2014 · 1 Comment · Capitol news, Civil Rights, Community Maine, Health Care, Healthy Lifestyles

Today, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) formally withdrew a proposed rule that would have required manufacturers to disclose which children’s products contain formaldehyde, a widely used toxic chemical known to cause leukemia and other cancers in humans.

“Federal action on formaldehyde has been stalled by Koch brothers campaign cash and chemical industry lobbying,” said Mike Belliveau, president of Prevent Harm, a public health group. “That means Maine should lead, not follow the money. Instead, once again, Governor LePage has placed toxic politics before the health of Maine people.”

The proposed rule would have named the carcinogen a Priority Chemical under the Kid-Safe Products Act, a groundbreaking state law that seeks to protect children’s health from harmful chemicals in consumer products.

“Gov. LePage’s administration continues to undermine the health and public safety of our state. Instead of protecting consumers – and, in this case, children – he has sided with lobbyists for chemical companies. The governor has turned the Department of Environmental Protection over to the companies it should be regulating,” said Congressman Mike Michaud.

Citing federal government review, the DEP action followed the lobbying pleas of major formaldehyde producers, including Koch Industries, the industrial conglomerate owned by David and Charles Koch.

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Maine’s 10th Report of the Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel focuses on importance of recognizing warning signs and intervention

April 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Civil Rights, Public Safety

wmalletscales“Maybe there was something I could have done.” This is the all-too-familiar comment heard in the wake of Maine’s twelve domestic violence homicides in 2013 and it has led Maine’s top experts on domestic abuse to encourage more Mainers to look for the signs of abuse and to connect victims and their families with assistance when they see it.

The 10th biennial report of the Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel was released today at a State House press conference. This year’s report, entitled “Building Bridges Towards Safety and Accountability” makes observations and recommendations for law enforcement, prosecutors, the Judiciary, health providers, state agencies, and the general public.

“Threats of violence and threats of suicide must be taken seriously,” said Attorney General Janet T. Mills. “Telling your boyfriend or girlfriend, ‘I can’t live without you,’ can quickly cross from innocuous to devastating. In the context of an abusive relationship, these utterances are veiled threats of violence, with a strong undercurrent of manipulation and control. Recognizing the signs of abuse is key to preventing homicide.”

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