Entries Filed in 'Public Safety'

2014 KIDS COUNT report: Maine improves in education but more children live in poverty

July 23rd, 2014 · No Comments · Public Safety

The Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual KIDS COUNT report on child well-being July 22nd, and ranked Maine 14th among all the states. The special 25th edition of the KIDS COUNT Data Book highlights efforts since 1990 to raise awareness locally and nationally about how kids are doing and what policies and programs might lead to improvements in child well-being in the nation.

Demographic, social and economic changes combined with major policy developments have affected the lives of children in both negative, as well as positive ways since 1990. There has been increased access to health insurance for children, with only 5 percent of Maine children being uninsured in 2012 compared to 10 percent in 1990. However, more Maine children face economic hardships today, with 21 percent of children living in poverty in 2012, compared to 13 percent in 1990.

“Maine’s economy is not working for our children. Too many kids are living in families where no parent has full time work, where housing costs take up a large portion of the family budget, or where wages don’t meet the basic needs of a family,” said Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children’s Alliance (MCA), which produces the Maine KIDS COUNT reports. “The future of Maine depends on ensuring that the pathways to opportunity are open and accessible throughout the state. When we allow any segment of our community to struggle, particularly our children, that derails progress for all of us.”

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Maine panel tasked to create a plan to improve access to food for hungry children meets

July 8th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Community Maine, Public Safety

Maine State Capitol photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol photo by Ramona du Houx

The Task Force to End Student Hunger convened yesterday in Augusta for its first of five meetings focused on developing a multi-year plan to improve access to food for students and end child hunger in Maine.

During today’s meeting, the panel focused on gaining an understanding of the scope of hunger among school-aged children in Maine and the numerous programs and agencies involved in providing meals to Maine’s students.

“The reality is that student hunger connects every part of our state. It is a Maine problem,” said Senate President Justin Alfond of Portland, who serves as the co-chair of the task force. “If we want our students to be successful then we must improve the reality that almost one in four school-aged children in Maine is hungry.”

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Maine’s DEP needs to act on phthalates information to help protect innocent children

June 30th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, Environment, Health Care, Public Safety, Science

Representative Matt Moonen speaking to the crowd about the dangers of phthalates.  On the right is Emily Postman, Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. courtesy photo

Representative Matt Moonen speaking to the crowd about the dangers of phthalates. On the right is Emily Postman, Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. courtesy photo

In Portland’s Monument Square in June citizens were given a chance to guess which common household products contain hormone-disrupting chemicals called phthalates. Hawkers offered passers-by a chance to win a prize for correctly identifying the products containing phthalates, but participants quickly realized there was no way to know, because information on phthalates is not provided on packaging or available in an internet search.

“It’s time to take the guesswork out of keeping our kids safe from phthalates. Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act is a powerful tool for helping us get better information about which products contain dangerous chemicals, but it’s not being used to its potential. The citizen-initiated rule before the DEP would help parents and pregnant women avoid dangerous products and it would create market incentives for safer alternatives. It’s simple and common sense,” said Rep. Matt Moonen, a state legislator from Portland. “I urge the DEP to adopt it quickly.”

Phthalates are commonly used to soften vinyl plastic and are routinely added to hundreds of everyday products and building materials found in the home. They are also a frequent ingredient of “fragrance” found in many lotions, cosmetics, and other personal care products.

“Our children’s health shouldn’t be a game of chance,” said Barbara DiBiase, a grandmother from Falmouth. “It’s a very frustrating situation. Parents and pregnant women have a right to know which products contain these dangerous chemicals called phthalates.”

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DHHS unreliable ride vendor receives $5 million from the state while credibility questions remain

June 18th, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine, Health Care, Public Safety

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The LePage administration on Tuesday again failed to meet with the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and left unanswered major questions around the troubled MaineCare rides program, including more than $5 million in unexplained payments to a failing broker and the Department of Health and Human Services’ plan to manage the upcoming rides broker transition.

“Maine people deserve to know why the administration continues to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on a failed vendor with a miserable performance record,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “For months we have sought to resolve these issues, but at each turn we are stonewalled by the administration. We can’t do it alone and we certainly can’t do it without adequate answers.”

Rather than sending a representative, DHHS provided meager written responses to pressing questions about the rides program and other important services for Maine’s most vulnerable residents.

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New Bangor bus union and Troy Jackson call on Congress to fund public transit

May 27th, 2014 · 1 Comment · Community Maine, Public Safety

Today transit drivers and community members rallied to call on Maine’s Congressional Delegation to fund public transportation in Pickering Square, Bangor. The drivers are members of the newly organized union in Bangor, which is part of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 714. ATU 714 represents approximately 34 drivers in Bangor and also represents bus drivers at the Portland Metro.

“Now that we have a union we have a voice and a place at the table. We are here today to exercise that voice. Please take action and call your elected officials today,” said Susan Warner of Carmel, a Bangor transit driver and union leader of the ATU 714. “Congress should pass SB 2322 to fund public transit now.”

The Bangor drivers voted to organize a year ago and just settled their first contract with the City of Bangor this month.

“Congress needs to quit worrying about how to get Wall Street to work in their BMWs and start worrying about how to get working class to work. Congress- get on the bus and pass SB 2322!,” said State Senator Troy Jackson to the cheers of the crowd.

Jackson was recently endorsed by ATU Local 714 in his bid for U.S. Congress in the June 10th Democratic primary.

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Nearly $58,000 in Safety Grants to Eddington & Denmark Fire Departments

May 14th, 2014 · No Comments · News from Washington, Public Safety

US Capitol, Washington, D.C. photo by Ramona du Houx

US Capitol, Washington, D.C. photo by Ramona du Houx

Rep. Mike Michaud announced today that the Eddington Fire Department and the Denmark Volunteer Fire Department are receiving nearly $58,000 in operations and safety grants. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is providing $34,675 to Eddington and $23,228 to Denmark as part of its Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) Program.

Eddington’s grant funds will pay for an air supply refill system. In Denmark, the funding will cover equipment needs like hoses and nozzles.

“These investments are critical to providing our brave first responders with the equipment they need to effectively do their jobs,” said Michaud. “Firefighters put their own safety on the line day-in and day-out, and these additional resources are central to keeping them as safe as possible while they serve our communities.”

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Maine State Troopers endorse Mike Michaud for Governor

May 12th, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine, Public Safety

The Maine State Troopers Association (MSTA) announced its endorsement of U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in the Maine governor’s race today.

“We know Mike has the qualities our troopers possess; integrity, fairness, compassion and excellence,” said Maine State Troopers Association president Aaron Turcotte. “We know Mike shares our values and the commitment to make lives better in this great state. We believe that he will be an excellent governor and from our point of view, Maine will be a safer and more secure place under his leadership. It is with great pleasure that the Maine State Troopers Association endorses Mike Michaud to serve as Maine’s next governor.”

Michaud played a significant role in securing the funding for the new barracks for the State Troopers in Houlton and as chair of the Appropriations Committee he was instrumental in the building of the new Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro. Since being elected to Congress, Michaud has been a consistent supporter of the COPS program, which provides local communities resources to hire law enforcement officers, thus allowing troopers to spend more time working in communities without police departments.

“I’m deeply honored to have the endorsement of the Maine State Troopers Association. Every day, troopers and other public safety officials throughout Maine risk their lives to keep Maine safe,” said Michaud. “Their service to our communities is invaluable, and it’s our responsibility to honor their service by ensuring they get the care and support they need after a lifetime of serving others. They always have our backs. They deserve a governor in the Blaine House who has theirs.”

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Feds warn Maine to stop rollout of EBT photo identification until further review

April 28th, 2014 · No Comments · Capitol news, News from Washington, Public Safety

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree voiced her agreement with concerns raised in a letter the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) sent to the state regarding plans to require ID photos on EBT cards.

“The USDA’s letter is another message that adding this burden on families and retailers is not the right direction for the state. It doesn’t do anything to prevent fraud, but it does make it harder for people to access the benefits they need to feed their families,” said Pingree. “The USDA clearly said that the state opens itself to a number of risks if it goes forward with this plan, including possible litigation and loss of federal funding. I hope the state takes this as an opportunity to reconsider its plans.”

The letter states that the state has not given USDA enough time to determine whether the state’s implementation plan adequately addresses the agency’s concerns, including whether safeguards are adequate to protect beneficiaries’ rights and how effectively retailers have been notified of changes.

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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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Portland, Maine makes Baxter Boulevard a car-free oasis on Sundays from May 4 – November 9

April 22nd, 2014 · No Comments · Community Maine, Public Safety

Maine's Portland City Hall during the holidays,  photo by Ramona du Houx

Maine’s Portland City Hall during the holidays, photo by Ramona du Houx

The City of Portland and its partners today announced that it is launching Sundays on the Boulevard starting May 4, 2014. Baxter Boulevard, with one of the best views in Portland, will be transformed into an urban oasis for bike riding, running, walking, skateboarding and other recreational activities. The road will be closed to cars on Sundays from May 4 through November 9, 9:00 AM – 4:00PM, from Vannah Ave to Payson Park.

“We hope to capitalize on the momentum that was created when the Boulevard was closed last year to cars during our public works project,” said Michael Bobinsky, Portland’s Director of Public Services. “People really took advantage of the roadway during this time and enjoyed it as a recreational space. This is just a formal extension of that.”

The impetus for Sundays on the Boulevard follows the City’s public works project last year that kept the Boulevard closed to cars for eight months. The program is part of a growing number of open street projects, in which streets are closed temporarily to auto traffic so that people may use them for walking, bicycling, dancing, playing and socializing. There are more than 100 documented initiatives across North America, according to the Open Streets Project.

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