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  • First-ever AT&T wireless strike could close retail stores this weekend

    Nevada. This is the first time AT&T wireless workers have gone on strike, which could result in closed retail stores this weekend.

     By Ramona du Houx

    AT&T workers who are members of Communications Workers of America (CWA) walked off the job May 19, 2017 in Portland, Maine and across the United States protesting AT&T’s failure to present serious proposals that invest in good jobs with a future. During the three-day strike this weekend, a majority of AT&T wireless, wireline, and DIRECTV workers are fighting for fair contracts.

    In January 2017, the company posted fourth-quarter adjusted earnings per share of 66 cents on revenue of $41.8 billion.

    Nationwide, the groups striking represent four different union contracts and include wireless workers in 36 states and DC; wireline workers in California, Nevada and Connecticut; and DIRECTV technicians in California and Nevada. This is the first time AT&T wireless workers have gone on strike, which could result in closed retail stores this weekend. 

    While the three-day strike may inconvenience customers in the short term, AT&T workers are committed to putting an end to unnecessary frustration and poor service because of AT&T’s lack of investment in its core business.

    Workers are demanding AT&T commit to bargaining that addresses affordable benefits, fair wages, and job security. Workers are also protesting AT&T’s pervasive offshoring of jobs to low-wage contractors, which eliminate good jobs and hurt customer service. 

    After nearly four months of bargaining, AT&T wireless workers are striking. Despite making over a $1 billion a month in profits, AT&T continues to squeeze customers and employees at a time when most Americans believe they are worse off financially than the generation before them.

    Since 2011, AT&T has eliminated 12,000 call center jobs in the U.S., closing and downsizing call centers across the country. Rather than keeping those good-paying jobs here at home, AT&T has contracted with third-party vendors operating in countries with low wages and weak labor protections. A recent report from CWA shed new light on AT&T’s sprawling web of 38 third-party call centers in eight countries that are driving low wages and compromising quality service for millions of AT&T customers.

    At AT&T’s annual shareholder meeting at the end of April, AT&T workers protested the company’s unfair bargaining and announced they had given the company 72-hours’ notice to end their contract extension.

    In late March, 17,000 AT&T wireline workers in California and Nevada went on strike to protest the company’s change of working conditions in violation of federal law. The strike ended when workers won an agreement with the company that it will no longer require employees to do work outside of their expertise and classification. Since a recent merger, 2,300 DIRECTV workers in California and Nevada have been in negotiations for their first contract since April 2016, and hundreds of workers at AT&T East who manage the 911 dispatch system for AT&T have also worked without a contract for over a year.

  • Waking up was the theme of Bowdoin College's spring dance concert


     

    Article and photos By Ramona du Houx 

    The 2017 Bowdoin College spring dance concert took place on the evenings of May 4, 5, 6 and delighted audiences with inspired contemporary dance showcasing the student’s talents. An over all theme of the dance performance explored what it means to wake up-from a dream, from sleeping while being awake, from becoming and adult or from seeing spring shake off the blanket of winter.

    It’s hard to imagine the performers were not profession. Indeed one was—Bowdoin alumna Rakiya Orange ’11 was flown in to perform a 10-minute solo piece, “Nina.” Rakiya has danced solos in N.Y.C. During the spring concert she danced while a video of different movies played on a screen behind her. She used portions of the video to dance with and express her transformation into adulthood as well as aspects of love and relationships. Orange choreographed the piece. (photos above.)

    There were five different dance performances, all choreographed with great care and artistic flare. Many of the dances focused upon self-discovery utilizing a broad range of contemporary styles, and techniques.

    Ben Eisenberg ’17, danced a short piece by the band Mum. His choreography captured his remarkable skills as he apparently eased his way gracefully through complicated moves, becoming one with the music.

    Gina Fickera ’18, took center stage as well with Joy Huang ’19 and Melissa Miura ’19 when they performed a piece that they also choreographed themselves. The avant-garde technique highlighted each of the dancer’s unification within the trio, as well as their individual styles.

    The department of theater and dance’s Modern I class performance centered on themes of sleep through dream sequences with a little politics interwoven in the piece. While students slumbered they slowly awoke to the daunting reality of a Trump presidency. Senior Lecturer in Dance Performance Gwyneth Jones successfully brought out the best in her students as they gave an energetic display of poetry in motion.

    The Modern III dance piece was improvisational and reminiscent of a river waking up in spring. Assistant Professor of Dance Aretha Aoki choreographed the fluid designed enchantment. During the process she allowed her students active roles in its creation.

    See a slide show of all the photos HERE.

  • Neil Rolde - writer, philanthropist, Maine politician, humanitarian passes

    On May 15th, 2017 with his family at his side Neil Rolde passed away in York, Maine. A memorial service for Rolde will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday at the First Parish Church in York.

    "With a deep heart, and tremendous love for a man who gave so much to others, we will miss Neil in the depths of our souls. He'll live on forever in our hearts and with his books. Thank you Neil for blessing this Earth with your presence," said Ramona du Houx, Neil's publisher at Polar Bear & Co. 

    Neil Rolde was a Maine renowned historian, former politician and, philanthropist. As a youth he attended Phillips Academy in Andover where instructors encouraged his writing talents. He went on to Yale University and earned a Bachelor in Arts before attending Columbia University where he received a Masters in Journalism.

    Rolde grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts. He worked as a film writer before moving to Maine with his wife, Carlotta Florsheim, to raise their family. In York they brought up four wonderful children and enjoyed family visits with their eight grandchildren.

    Mr. Rolde’s many years of public service include being an assistant to Governor Kenneth M. Curtis of Maine for six years and 16 years as an elected Representative in the Maine Legislature. He represented his district of York, Maine and became Majority Leader of the Maine House during the 107th legislature from 1975-77. He became the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 1990 in an election bid against Bill Cohen.

    Many of Mr. Rolde’s books involve the history of Maine and its people. The plight of Native Americans has been a reoccurring theme in Rolde’s life since his childhood and he helped Maine’s tribes while he worked in the Curtis administration. His experiences led his to write one of Maine’s definitive historic books: Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians.

    More recently Neil focused on the plight of Jews during WWII and the Holocaust in a four-part series published by Polar Bear & Company: Breckinridge Long: American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man who Denied Visas to the Jews; Crimes of War; More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, Volume I: The Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board and Volume II: More of The Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board; his last book in this series, The Bricha, will be published posthumously.

    He served as Chairman of the board of the Save our Shipyard nonprofit that successfully fought the potential cuts to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard proposed by the BRAC federal commission, twice.

     “From his long service and leadership in the Legislature, to his generosity in the community, to successfully leading the charge to save Portsmouth Naval Shipyard -not once, but twice – he’s left and indelible mark on the state,” said U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree in a statement.  “He was a true believer in the adage that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.“

    "He was brilliant, witty and always a pleasure to spend time with. Like many others whose lives he touched, I learned so much from his stories and opinions. He will be missed,” said Pingree.

    The author won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council. Neil was very involved in his York community and remained politically active until his death.

    Mr. Rolde served on many State boards and commissions as well. A few are: the Maine Health Care Reform Commission, the Maine Historic Preservation, and the Maine Arts and Humanities Commission. His expertise led him to sit on many private non-profit boards as well, and he became Chairman, Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation, Vice-Chairman, University of New England Board of Trustees, Chairman, Board of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Chairman, Seacoast Shipyard Association Executive Board, Trustee, and the Maine Health Care Access Foundation.

    A list of Neil Rolde’s books:

    A list of Neil Rolde’s books:

    1. More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, Volume I: The Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board
    2. More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, Volume II: More of the Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board
    3. Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politicians
    4. Crimes of War
    5. Breckenridge Long: American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man who Denied Visas to the Jews
    6. Continental Liar from the State of Maine: James G. Blaine
    7. Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians
    8. The Interrupted Forest: A History of Maine’s Wildlands
    9. Maine: A Narrative History
    10. Maine, Downeast and Different: An Illustrated History
    11. An Illustrated History of Maine
    12. Your Money or Your Health: America’s Cruel, Bureaucratic, and Horrendously Expensive Health Care System: How It Got That Way and What to Do About It
    13. Rio Grande Do Norte: The Story of Maine’s Partner State in Brazil: What It’s Like, What It’s Past Has Been, and What Are Its Ties to Maine
    14. The Baxters of Maine: Downeast Visionaries
    15. So You Think You Know Maine
    16.  Maine in the World: Stories of Some of Those from Here Who Went Away
    17.  O. Murray Carr: A Novel
    18. Sir William Pepperrell of Colonial New England

    Contributor as a historian and writer to:

    • To Katahdin: The 1876 Adventures of Four Young Men and a Boat
    •  Greatest Mountain: Katahdin’s Wilderness
  • West Virginia journalist arrested after asking HHS Secretary Price a direct news question

    "This formidable censor of the public functionaries, by arraigning them at the tribunal of public opinion, produces reform peaceably, which must otherwise be done by revolution. It is also the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man and improving him as a rational, moral, and social being." --Thomas Jefferson to A. Coray, 1823. ME 15:489 about a free press.

    "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it." --Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1786.

    By Samantha Schmidt May 10 - article in the Washington Post

    West Virginia reporter Dan Heyman attempted to ask Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price a question about the Republican health-care bill on May 9. He was arrested for “Willful Disruption of State Government Processes." (Valerie Woody/West Virginia Citizen Action Group)

    As Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price walked through a hallway Tuesday in the West Virginia state capitol, veteran reporter Dan Heyman followed alongside him, holding up his phone to Price while attempting to ask him a question.

    Heyman, a journalist with Public News Service, repeatedly asked the secretary whether domestic violence would be considered a preexisting condition under the Republican bill to overhaul the nation’s health care system, he said.

    “He didn’t say anything,” Heyman said later in a news conference. “So I persisted.”

    Then, an officer in the capitol pulled him aside, handcuffed him and arrested him. Heyman was jailed on the charge of willful disruption of state government processes and was released later on $5,000 bail.

    Authorities said while Secret Service agents were providing security in the capitol for Price and Kellyanne Conway, special counsel to the president, Heyman was “aggressively breaching” the agents to the point where they were “forced to remove him a couple of times from the area,” according to a criminal complaint.

    Heyman “was causing a disturbance by yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price,” the complaint stated.

    But Heyman said he was simply fulfilling his role as a journalist and feels that his arrest sets a “terrible example” for members of the press seeking answers to questions.

    “This is my job, this is what I’m supposed to do,” Heyman said. “I think it’s a question that deserves to be answered. I think it’s my job to ask questions and I think it’s my job to try to get answers.”

    Price and Conway were visiting Charleston, W.Va., to hear about efforts to fight opioid addiction in a state that has the nation’s highest drug overdose death rate. They met privately with state and local policymakers and members of several groups, including officials of an addiction treatment center and an addiction hotline, according to the Associated Press.

    Before Heyman’s arrest, no police officer told him he was in the wrong place, Heyman said. He was wearing a press pass as well as a shirt with a Public News Service logo on the front, and identified himself to police as a reporter, he said.

    At the news conference, Heyman’s lawyer called the arrest a “highly unusual case” and said he has never had a client arrested for “talking too loud.” The lawyer, Tim DiPiero, described Heyman as a mild-mannered, reputable journalist and called the arrest “bizarre” and “way over the top.”

    Heyman has worked as a reporter for about 30 years, and his stories have appeared in the New York Times, NPR and other national news outlets, he said. Since 2009, he has worked as a West Virginia-based producer and reporter for Public News Service, a nonprofit news service that provides content to media outlets while also publishing its own stories.

    Lark Corbeil, chief executive and founder of Public News Service, said Heyman’s arrest took the organization “very much by surprise.”

    “From what we can understand, he did nothing out of the ordinary,” Corbeil said in an interview with The Washington Post. “He was doing what any journalist would normally do, calling out a question and trying to get an answer.”

    The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia said in a statement that Heyman’s arrest constituted “a blatant attempt to chill an independent, free press.” It called the charges against Heyman “outrageous” and demanded they be dropped immediately.

    “This is a dangerous time in our country,” the statement read. “Freedom of the press is being eroded every day.”

    Today was a dark day for democracy,” the ACLU of West Virginia added. “But the rule of law will prevail. The First Amendment will prevail.”

    Heyman said he has been reporting on health care issues for many years, calling it “well-trodden ground” in his coverage. As a veteran journalist, he is used to criticism, he said, but he has never heard of a reporter being arrested for asking a question. Heyman said he thinks the public relies on journalists aggressively “pursuing the truth.”

    “If they don’t like the stories I write, that’s fine,” Heyman said. “They can criticize me all they want.”

    “But just saying that I shouldn’t be able to do my job is a bit ridiculous,” he added.

  • Nonprofits essential to improve Maine communities

    At a recent presentation in Augusta about the challenges facing Maine, Gov. Paul LePage asked two important questions: “What’s the cost of despair and how do we fight [it]?” Referring to the role played by religious and community groups and nonprofits, he said: “It’s not going to be done in government. What government can do is create the environment for prosperity.”

    We agree: Solutions to our most vexing social challenges are not found solely in government. Our society relies on an active, engaged partnership among public, business and nonprofit organizations to provide for our most vulnerable citizens, while nurturing a resilient economy that emphasizes prosperity and a high quality of life for everyone who lives, works and plays in Maine.

    Here is a statistic that might surprise you: 1 in 6 Maine workers — more than 95,000 Mainers — works in mission-driven organizations that strengthen both the economic and social fabric of our communities, according to a new economic assessment. That’s 14 times the size of the state’s agricultural industry. Most work in either hospitals (38 percent) or other social services (30 percent), while the rest work in fields like education, the arts, professional services and the environment.

    In addition, 1 in 3 Mainers volunteers for a nonprofit, equaling $935 million per year contributed in time and talent. From Kittery to Fort Kent, a strong network of nonprofits undergirds the Maine we all love.

    Every day, these groups safeguard our natural resources, nurture our minds, protect our health, and provide opportunities for civic engagement. Very likely, we can all point to a nonprofit that we have depended on, donated to or championed as important to our community.

    But the Maine nonprofit sector’s significant contribution to overall economy is often overlooked. In 2015, Maine’s nonprofit sector paid more than $4.3 billion in wages, or 17.5 percent of the state’s total payroll. It contributed $11 billion to the economy through wages, retail and wholesale purchases, and professional services.

    Maine’s nonprofit sector is a partner in prosperity — both as an economic driver and a creative problem solver. Government turns to nonprofits to provide essential services to citizens and to fulfill commitments established by policymakers, often more effectively and at a lower cost. Reliance on nonprofits is especially acute in New England, where many services are delivered locally rather than at the county level. Nonprofits also partner with corporations and businesses to revitalize economies and support community programs. Nonprofits can uniquely attract private contributions that add to government and business investments. In short, this tri-sector relationship works together every day to identify problems, marshal resources and implement innovative solutions.

    A strong Maine economy needs a strong nonprofit sector, which makes support from our government and business partners that is focused on long-term sustainability, rather than short-term fiscal pressures, even more critical. For instance, the state reimbursement rates for intellectual and disability services haven’t changed in 10 years. Just like the demand for workers in the private sector, many nonprofits struggle with high staff turnover because they can’t offer competitive wages. This has a negative financial impact on nonprofits and, more importantly, potentially harmful impact on the quality of care.

    We can be proud that Mainers are doing so much with so little. We have one of the most vibrant nonprofit sectors in the country supported by one of the smallest philanthropic communities. There are thousands of people donating their time and treasure on their own, through community groups, and through highly engaged private and public foundations. As a result, there are many examples of Maine nonprofits being adaptive, innovative and highly effective.

    If they are to continue to be successful partners in prosperity, it is critically important that policymakers, business and community leaders, and Maine residents first understand how nonprofits impact our state, then offer ways to support them. Strong partnerships among all three sectors are the answer to many of our current challenges. Rather than spending limited resources on perennial debates, such as the governor’s recent proposal to remove property tax exemptions for nonprofits, which often pit the sectors against one another, policymakers and other leaders can facilitate better collaborations that target outcomes that are mutually beneficial.

    Nonprofits are essential partners in not only fighting despair, but inspiring and mobilizing people to transform communities. We all have a role to play in ensuring nonprofits are partners in Maine’s prosperity.

    Jennifer Hutchins is the executive director of the Maine Association of Nonprofits.

  • Navy Seal from Falmouth, Maine killed in action

    Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy

    Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, 38, of Falmouth, Maine, a Navy Seal was killed during a raid in Somalia.

    A Navy SEAL who was killed in a raid targeting a remote compound used by al-Shabab militants in Somalia was identified as Kyle Milliken of Falmouth, Maine. Milliken, 38, is the first U.S. service member killed in combat in Somalia since a battle in 1993 when a Black Hawk helicopter was downed leaving 18 U.S. military personnel dead.

    Officials said the U.S. force was accompanying Somali National Army soldiers during an assault on an al-Shabab compound near Barij, about 40 miles west of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, when they came under attack before dawn on May 5, 2017.

    “Today our hearts are heavy with the loss of U.S. Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken — a local hero who died yesterday in the line of duty,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said in a statement Saturday.

    “Those who knew Senior Chief Kyle Milliken remember him as an amazing athlete who could do flips on skis and run for miles. He graduated from Cheverus High School as one of their top track stars,” Pingree said. “After his college graduation, he felt the call to serve and enlisted as a U.S. Navy SEAL. For many years, he operated with the elite Seal Team 6.

    “We will forever be grateful for Senior Chief Milliken’s selfless service to our nation and his commitment to a cause bigger than himself. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Milliken family and those who knew Senior Chief Milliken from his early days in Falmouth. May we never forget his extraordinary bravery and incredible sacrifice.”

    In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said they are “deeply saddened to learn of the death of Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken. He defended our nation with bravery and with distinction, and his sacrifice will never be forgotten. We hope that his family and loved ones are comforted in knowing that the people of Maine and our nation are eternally grateful for his selfless service.” U.S. Africa Command has provided intelligence, training and logistical support to the Somali army and to African Union troops battling al-Shabab since 2013. Hundreds of U.S. special forces rotate through Somalia annually.

  • A professional stone masonry career in 9 months with training from Maine School of Masonry

    Chandler Ellis takes a look assessing his brickwork at the Maine School of Masonry in Avon. After nine months Chandler will be trained in a profession for life.

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Nestled in the hills along the rolling river Avon just outside of Farmington is a hidden gem of a school, Maine School of Masonry.

    The country’s only private non-profit masonry school continues to be a dream come true for its founder, Stephen D. Mitchell, who opened its doors in 2005. Since then, Mitch has taught hundreds of students the fundamentals of laying brick and stone work empowering every one who graduates with the skills to start their own masonry business — just after 9 months of intensive hands-on instruction.

    “It’s hands-on from the beginning,” said Mitch. Students must complete 1,350 hours of coursework, including 35 or more assigned projects.

    The art of masonry is tragically becoming a lost skill in a time when the demand for masons is incredibly high. The school has begun to change that by teaching new generations in the craftsmanship of stone masonry.

    “The demand for masons is far greater than how many of us are out there,” Mitch said. “This is a trade that has been handed down from generation to generation. But within the last 30 years, kids have turned away from the profession. We’re losing 2,000 masons a year throughout the United States and only training 200 a year. We’re doing our part but really want to do more.”

    In Maine mill closures have become all too regular. Big retail chains are also leaving the state at alarming rates. Automation is throwing good workers out of jobs. Masonry is a skilled trade, a traditional honored trade — one that could lead to a life long profession. Students who want them have jobs lined up through the school before graduation.

    Photo: Andrew Ryba worked as a professional landscaper in Mass., after graduation from the Maine School of Masonry Andy will be able to offer landscape clients stone and brick work options for their properties.

    Ancient pyramids, the Washington Mt., Maine’s State Capitol or any other stone or brick building that marvel visitors never could have been built without experienced masons. The level of complexity involved in masonry work varies from laying a simple wall to installing an ornate exterior, patios, brick ovens, garden walls, the perfect chimney, ornamental stonework or a high-rise building, and always will require the skill and precision of a mason. No automation here.

    “We’ve got so many talented workers out there looking for a good life long job. Masonry gives them that opportunity. They can take that skill anywhere and set up shop,” said Mitch.

    Being able to offer new generations a future in an age-old profession is a passion with Mitch who travels to schools throughout the state.

    “We give a four-day course on masonry,” Mitch said. “There is always a demand for skilled masons, anywhere in the world. Plus, the higher the level of craftsmanship the higher the pay checks.”

    Not long ago the school received an inquiry from Long Island, New York asking for graduates to come work and earn $65 an hour.

    Becoming a quality mason is more than ensuring a plum line is exact when leveling out a brick or stone walls, although every student has to learn these basics. It’s a craft that requires sensitivity to the materials and that only comes from good training and experience.

    Like any other art, the mason has to have an instinctive feel for the craft. Mitch has a talent of bringing out those innate abilities in his students as they build different projects in the workshop.

    “The more artistic the work is, the more money there is to be made,” said Mitch. “It’s a physically demanding job as well as being very creative. It’s a rush when students realize they are creating something that can last through history.”

     Photo:William Ellis, an instructor with a professional engineering background, stands in front of a fireplace he designed and built at the Maine School of Masonry.

    The future masons come from right down the road or as far away as Texas, Wyoming and Montana. Mitchell accepts up to 12 students every year from various backgrounds and all ages.

    Most days, inside the 4,000-square-foot building students are eagerly building different projects in the workshop. Their fireplaces, chimneys, walls and archways will be taken down in the fall brick-by-brick to be used by the next class. Class work mortar lacks an element that cements it, making it easy to take apart.

    Recently the school expanded its programs and out reach to offer historic stone/brick renovation and preservation classes.

    Restoring historic buildings is a specialized skill that demands good wages.

    All across the country historic buildings are in need of renovation. But while the materials for historic renovations are readily available, there is a shortage of trained quality craftspeople, masons, to do the needed repairs and restoration work.

    The new courses take students through materials and processes of proven methods to conserve, repair, and preserve stone and brick buildings, statuary, and monuments.

    Photo:“It’s hands-on from the beginning,” said Mitch, founder and instructor at the school. Students must complete 1,350 hours of coursework, including 35 or more assigned projects.

     In partnership with the owners of historic landmarks and with the state’s approval, Mitch and his students have begun work on restoration and preservation projects at the Kennebec Arsenal, Fort Knox, The Old Wiscasset Jail and Rangeley’s Historical Society this spring.

    Students at Maine School of Masonry also learn the value of volunteer work and have given their talents and time to community projects in Phillips, Farmington, New Sharon, Madrid and Wilton. They’ve left their mark on churches, community buildings and town halls.

    “This trade is not just to make money, but also to help people,” Mitch said. “Buildings help create the foundations of communities.”

    The school and dormitory are located at 637 Rangeley Road. For more information call 639-2392, or visit masonryschool.org or their Facebook page. Enrollment for the fall is now open.

     

    The North Burleigh building at the Kennebec Arsenal where instructors and students from the Maine School of Masonry have started renovations.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Adventures on the Coast of Maine recall a time of boyhood freedom

     The book review first appeared in the Island Institute Journal

    By Tina Cohen

    April 24, 2017

    The Stone From Halfway Rock: A Boy’s Adventures on the Coast of Maine

    By Peter Macdonald Blachly (published by Polar Bear & Company, 2016)

    The pages of The Stone From Halfway Rock should practically reek of salt air and ocean spray, so vividly does author Peter Macdonald Blachly, a writer and musician who lives in Bath, share his boating experiences. And they are from a special time and place (which family snapshots illustrate) of childhood summer vacations spent on Sheep Island near Cundy’s Harbor, by the waters of the New Meadows River and Casco Bay, when he was 10-12 years old.

    Blachly recounts some thrilling voyages in that locale, peppered with nautical challenges like surprise storms, disorienting fog, sudden surf, and unexpected destinations.

    There are echoes of the wonderful movie Moonrise Kingdom, a 2012 feature film by Wes Anderson. Both are set on islands off the New England coast, and are coming-of-age stories told with empathy and humor. There’s a delicious combination of danger and dissipation, risk and relief. As a viewer or reader, you aren’t assured all threats will be overcome and all problems solved, but the sense of gained confidence provides a measure of success.

    Vacations in Maine in their rustic camp meant going without many conveniences, along with a shorter supply of parental supervision at times, as Peter’s father needed to work back home in Washington D.C., and Mrs. Blachly stayed on alone with their four sons and daughter. She appears to have supported the children’s curiosity and adventurous spirit.

    When 10-year old Peter and a slightly older brother wanted to take their small sailboat to another island on an overnight camping trip, she agreed. The packing of provisions was left to the boys, who took matches, pancake batter, maple syrup, a stick of butter, forks, napkins and paper plates. But no cooking pan or ingredients for dinner came along. Hungry that night, the boys managed to liberate a trapped lobster and boil it in an empty coffee tin over a fire. The Blachly kids wouldn’t starve.

    The Blachlys appreciated ingenuity in boat building, which led the family to local resident and master boat builder Charlie Gomes, from whom they acquired a sailboat of his design. Charlie also oversaw the building of a 10-foot long sailboat by Peter and his older brother Sandy, dubbed Piglet, with sails rigged like a sloop. Peter went on to build a hydroplane out of a plywood kit which, with a 15-hp engine, gained thrilling speeds of 20 mph or more.

    One story recounts the surprise ending to the visit of an otherwise bored school chum from the city. After Peter and his friend tied up a skiff at Ragged Island to help fight a wild fire there, and then lost track of the time (and being due back home), a Coast Guard boat arrived, having been alerted by Mrs. Blachly.

    Peter accepted the offer of a tow home, keenly aware his skiff “looked especially small and unseaworthy. The 3-horsepower outboard motor on the stern looked to me like a shrunken head.”

    Underway, Blachly writes, “the captain poured on the power to get us home before dark, and for some time Don and I stood at the stern of the cutter marveling at our speed and the immense size of the wake the cutter left behind us. During the afternoon, the swells had grown considerably, and I was glad we didn’t have to spend another two hours bringing the skiff back home through these waves. It would have taken us well past dark. I was also grateful for... the friendly demeanor of the Coast Guard crew. But mostly I was happy to have done something with Don that I knew he would remember enthusiastically for years to come.”

    And that describes well this warmly entertaining book: adventures remembered enthusiastically. Once the “big people” in your family have finished this book, pass it along to or read it out loud with children- it’s perfect for a wide range of ages, and landlubbers too.

    Tina Cohen is a summer resident of Vinalhaven.

  • Maine News Groups and NEFAC call for Preservation of State House Committee Recordings

    The New England First Amendment Coalition expressed concern this week about a proposed policy that would limit access to recordings of the Maine State House Facilities Committee, calling such recordings “an invaluable tool to aid with accuracy and immediacy, and one that is in the public’s great interest.”

    The State House Facilities Committee is responsible for, among other things, the management of the capitol grounds and legislative space in the State House. It is currently considering three policies for the recording of its public hearings:

    (1) provide the recordings for public viewing on the legislature’s website,
    (2) provide the recordings to the public only by request, or
    (3) immediately delete the recordings after they are publicly broadcasted.

    The committee is also exploring copyright protection against the public distribution of the recordings if they are ultimately preserved.

    These options are being considered in response to the fears of some committee members that widely distributed recordings of public hearings may have an adverse impact on those providing testimony.

    In an April 25 letter to the committee — drafted by the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition — NEFAC, MFOIC, Sun Media Group and MaineToday Media addressed those concerns while advocating for public access.

    “Members of the public who offer testimony do so in a public forum, where they can be clearly seen and heard, and that testimony is streamed live to be heard by untold numbers of people,” the groups wrote. “Preserving information that has already been made public does no harm. In fact, quite the opposite.”

    A publicly accessible archive of the recordings, the groups explained, has research and educational value. There is also the legal value of having a record of committee dialogue: “Preservation and access eliminates any question about what was said in committee rooms, including by those offering testimony and by elected officials, many who ask questions for more information and clarity.”

    The immediate deletion of the recordings will also limit the ability of news organizations to inform their communities, according to the groups. Of additional concern is the idea that the recordings could be given copyright protection and their distribution limited by the very taxpayers who paid for them.

    “Media companies, upon which the public relies for information, often access these files for background material, to confirm facts and also to report on current legislation,” the groups wrote, adding that the recordings “are unquestionably public records which the public has an absolute right to access.”

  • Mainers testify against discriminatory hate bills targeting immigrants, refugees

    By Ramona du Houx

    Gathering for the hearings on May 26,2017, the hallways and waiting rooms became packed with concerned citizens who came to defend their neighbors and to stand up for their communities.

    House Judiciary Chair Matt Moonen of Portland forcefully denounced a series of prejudicial bills targeting immigrants and refugees that drew so many to Augusta.

    Two hours into the first bill’s public hearing, already over a dozen Mainers had testified in fierce opposition. The public hearings required two overflow rooms to accommodate those wishing to testify.

    The bills, sponsored by Republican Larry Lockman of Amherst, were also rejected by dozens of Mainers who attended public hearings to testify against the bills.

    “This is not the first time Representative Lockman has tried to enshrine in law his hatred of immigrants, or as he calls our neighbors, ‘aliens’,” said Rep. Moonen. “Beyond the fact that we’re debating the future of human beings, immigrants have always strengthened Maine. That’s as true today as it has been for the last 200 years. The Legislature should swiftly reject these bills.”

    • LD 366 “An Act To Ensure Compliance with Federal Immigration Law by State and Local Government Entities” seeks to prohibit restricting the enforcement of federal immigration law. Maine is already in full compliance with federal immigration law.
    • LD 1099 “Resolve, To Require the State To Bring Suit against the Federal Government for Failure To Comply with the Federal Refugee Act of 1980” directs the Attorney General to sue the Federal Government for failure to comply with the federal Refugee Act of 1980. The federal Refugee Act of 1980 contains provisions requiring consultation between the federal government and states regarding the placement of refugees.
    • LD 847 “An Act To Hold Refugee Resettlement Agencies Accountable to Maine People” targets the tax status of refugee resettlement agencies, such as Catholic Charities, and seeks to make them liable in the event of any terrorist acts committed by refugees in Maine.

    Throughout the state immigrants are helping to grow Maine’s economy — which means growing jobs — while enriching their communities.

     Many new businesses immigrant businesses are doing well in Lewiston/Auburn invigorating the local economy and bringing diversity to the area. In Lewiston Somali immigrants who attended the local high school brought the community together when they helped train and win the state championship.

    Portland has the largest concentration of immigrants — approximately 11,000 representing over 80 nationalities. Recent immigrants, especially in the Portland region, are young and well educated. In addition, they are likely to pursue higher education and possibly launch their own businesses.

    Immigrants only represent 3.5 percent of Maine’s population, according to a U.S. Census Bureau, while 13.1 percent of the U.S. population is foreign-born.

    Instead of placing more restrictions on our immigrant populations community organizations want to encourage and help them integrate, as well as invite more to the state.

    A report released in September of 2016, commissioned by the Maine Development Foundation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the fact that the state’s aging population has created a smaller workforce which has restricted economic growth because employers can’t fill their vacant jobs once they retire. This problem will grow as more and more workers reach retirement age, while younger Mainers continue to leave the state.

    It’s a huge problem — Maine is facing now. That’s way the MDF and MSCC called for setting a statewide goal to attract more immigrants to Maine, and to expand efforts to help them integrate into society and the workplace.

     Each bill will face work sessions in the Judiciary Committee before moving to the full House and Senate.

  • First Amendment Coalition opposes ME legislation that would delay release of public records

     
    APRIL 24 LETTER
    The New England First Amendment Coalition recently opposed Maine legislation that would cause unnecessary delays to the release of public records. 

    The legislation, L.D. 1432, allows an agency or official to "require payment of all costs before the public record is provided to the requester" under the state's Freedom of Access Act

    If L.D. 1432 were to become law, NEFAC explained, inexpensive and routine documents could be withheld for the sake of the relatively low fees collected in return, creating "a system ripe for obfuscation and needless delay." 

    The coalition submitted written testimony April 24 to the state's Committee on the Judiciary, which is currently considering the legislation. The testimony was provided on behalf of NEFAC by Maine attorney and coalition board member Sigmund Schutz and Justin Silverman, NEFAC's executive director.

    "L.D. 1432 will discourage public records requests under FOAA and cause unnecessary delay by state agencies and local municipalities," they wrote. "Worse, the law would violate the spirit of FOAA by making it more difficult for Maine citizens to monitor their government."
     
    As explained in the letter, the concern L.D. 1432 seeks to address - loss of money from unpaid records requests - is already covered by the state's public records law:

    L.D. 1432 would allow a custodian to require advance payment for all costs of producing a record - no matter how small - before that record is provided. While this may seem like a practical way for agencies to recoup their costs and prevent non-payment of fees, there is already a sufficient safeguard for agency budgets: § 408-A (10). This provision of FOAA allows custodians to require advance payment for requests made by individuals who have previously failed to pay a fee or are requesting records that will cost more than $100 to produce. Under § 408-A (10), advance payment can be required even before any time is expended on the search and retrieval process.

    The coalition outlined several scenarios under which the legislation could lead to excessive delays, including when a fee dispute arises between the custodian and requester. Rather than releasing the reports in expectation of future payment, the custodian in this example could instead use the new law to withhold all documents until a court adjudicates the conflict and payment is made. The public interest in those reports would meanwhile dissipate in the delay.

    The legislation also conflicts with the spirit of FOAA, the coalition testified, and would ultimately cost more to the public's right to know than whatever financial savings may occur. 

    "The intent of FOAA is to open government records to public view so Maine residents can better oversee the work being done on their behalf," according to the coalition. "The law should facilitate the flow of information not allow basic low-cost record requests to bottleneck while payment is pending."