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  • Holding up the Sky, a Maine Historical Society exhibit honoring the State's First Peoples


    At Maine Historical Society in Portland —

    April 17, 2019 
    By Ramona du Houx
    Maine Historical Society's (MHS)  new exhibition, Holding up the Sky, at their Portland gallery runs from April 12 to February 1, 2020. It honors and explores the experiences of the First People of Maine — the Wabanaki, which includes the Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot people. 
    Holding up the Sky explores Wabanaki philosophies of leadership and obligation relating to humans and non-humans by highlighting 13,000 years of Wabanaki residence in what is now known as Maine.
    Wabanaki advisors guided the exhibition, interpreting 17th century colonial treaties, photographs, heritage items, and contemporary artworks—everything from ash baskets to haute couture fashion. Wabanaki voices provide context for the present-day relevance and repercussions of 400 years of shared histories between Wabanaki people and immigrants to their region.

    “We believe that it is essential to explore, honor, and help all Mainers better understand the 13,000-year experience of the Wabanaki and their strong continued presence in Maine as the state prepares to commemorate its Bicentennial in 2020,” said Steve Bromage, MHS executive director. “Their story and our shared history provide the foundation for understanding Maine statehood, the context for key issues that shape Maine today, and perspective that will help us plan a future that draws on the strength of all Maine people.” 

    The exhibition is built around the voices and perspectives of Wabanaki people and is being developed in collaboration with a team of advisors, including:
    • Lisa Brooks (Abenaki),
    • James Francis (Penobscot),
    • Suzanne Greenlaw (Maliseet),
    • Darren Ranco (Penobscot),
    • Theresa Secord (Penobscot),
    • Ashley Smith (Wabanaki descent), and
    • Donald Soctomah (Passamaquoddy).

    The exhibit explores Wabanaki philosophies of leadership and obligation and will consider thousands of years of life in “Maine” places prior to the arrival of Europeans, and the complex relationships that have evolved since Europeans settled here.

    In addition to items from Maine Historical Society collections and newly commissioned pieces by Wabanaki artists, the exhibition will feature artifacts loaned by many individuals and organizations, including: Abbe Museum, Hudson Museum, Passamaquoddy Cultural Heritage Museum, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Maine State Museum, Nova Scotia Museum, and Bangor Historical Society.
  • Gov. Mills signs legislation to promote pay equality

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    April 12, 2019, the 100th day ot Governor Janet Mills in office, she signed legislation to promote pay equality. LD 278, was sponsored by Senator Cathy Breen,( on Mills's right in the photo). The measure promotes pay equality by discouraging employers from basing wages on an employee’s salary history. It passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature.  

    “Maine is a better place when we strive to ensure that all citizens are treated equally and fairly. By working to see that all people are paid based not on prior compensation, but on their experience, their abilities, and their qualifications, we can help level the playing field for women across Maine and enhance their economic security,” said Governor Janet Mills. “This is good public policy and it is the fair and right thing to do.” 

    “The gender wage gap exists despite statutes and rules that prohibit wage discrimination on the basis of gender, and despite the good intentions of so many employers, human resource professionals, and advocates,” said Senator Breen.“As policy makers, it’s up to us to do all we can to narrow and someday eliminate the wage gap between Maine women and men. I’m proud of the work we were able to do on LD 278 – it’s the right thing to do for Maine women and Maine taxpayers.”

    LD 278 An Act Regarding Pay Equality prohibits an employer from asking about a prospective employee’s prior wage or salary information until after an offer of employment has been made to the prospective employee, with exceptions included for federal and state law that require the disclosure of compensation history for specific employment purposes. Research shows that men with a bachelor’s degree make on average 20 percent more than their female classmates after just one year of employment. As a result, employers can perpetuate the wage gap by basing wages on salary history and not experience and qualifications.

    In Maine, women make 82 cents for every dollar men make while, nationally, women are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, together losing more than $900 billion a year because of the gender wage gap. In the U.S., the average woman has to work 15 months to earn what the average man earned in 2018 for 12 months of work. The gender pay gap is far starker for women of color. African American women make 61 cents on the dollar, Native American women make 58 cents on the dollar, and Latinas just 51 cents on the dollar compared to white, non-Hispanic men.

  • Maine forth in nation for property tax burden - in top five for highest overall tax burden

    By Ramona du Houx

    A report released April 9, 2019 by the personal-finance website WalletHub shows Maine as having the third highest overall tax burden of the 50 states, and the forth higest property tax burden. With 1.3 million people, of whom live well below the American average income of 50K, for most of the nation it would be hard to see how Maniers meet needs.

    WalletHub's 2018 Tax Burden by State report compared the 50 states according to their property taxes, individual taxes and sales and excise taxes as a share of total personal income. Unlike tax rates, which vary widely based on an individual's circumstances, tax burden measures the proportion of total personal income that residents pay toward state and local taxes.

    Here's how Maine ranked in those tax burden comparisons (1=Highest, 25=Average):

    • 3rd — Overall tax burden (11.02%)
    • 4th — Property tax burden (4.80%)
    • 15th — Individual income tax burden (2.69%)
    • 24th — Total sales and excise tax burden (3.53%).

    New York has the highest overall tax burden at 13.04%, while Alaska, at 4.94%, had the lowest, according to WalletHub's report.

    Only New Hampshire (1), Vermont (2) and New Jersey (3) ranked higher than Maine in the property tax burden comparison.

    he primary reason that the tax burden went up during the Lepage Administration is because the State took money from middle class homeowners by cutting revenue sharing - mainly education and giving it to the wealthiest 1 percent. Tax reform for middle class families should mean tax relief.

    Under the Baldacci Administration the average mil rate was $12.78. Under the LePage adminstration they went up to $15.64.

    Here are figures from the Maine Center for Economic Policy from 2015 showing the dramatic rise in property taxes because of the cuts by Lepage policies to all of Maine's 400 + municipalities:

    Facts & Figures

    • $23,000 – Average tax cut for Top 1 percent under LePage budget
    • 80 percent - of Maine families seeing a tax increase under LePage budget
    • $15.64 – Average mil rate for Maine communities in 2015
    • $12.78 – Average mil rate for Maine communities in 2010
    • $1,000,000,000 – Amount of property taxes needed to compensate for state underfunding local education, since 2011
    • 69 percent –  of homeowners in Maine below the age of 65
    • 213,000 – Number of homeowners losing their Homestead Exemption under LePage budget
    • $313 – Average property tax reduction from the Homestead Exemption.
  • CMP corridor’s climate claims are doubtful - we need DEP independent review

    Op-ed by  J. Mason Morfit is a resident of Freeport. First in Portland Press

    Mainers are increasingly anxious about climate change and the adverse effects it’s already bringing: more violent weather, warmer and more acidic seas threatening our fisheries, increased flooding and erosion along our coast, the spread of Lyme and other insect-borne diseases, invasive bugs destroying our forests, ticks eating our moose, etc. And if they’ve read journalist David Wallace-Wells’ “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming” (currently No. 3 on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list), they’re probably scared silly by what the future holds, as they should be.

    Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, the principal driver of climate change, is something we need to start doing now, and big time, if we want to protect ourselves, our children and our grandchildren from a world we don’t want to (and may not be able to) live in. To quote the first line of the book, “It is worse, much worse, than you think.”

    So, many people may have initially been inclined to favor the New England Clean Energy Connect project being proposed by Central Maine Power and Hydro-Quebec. This 145-mile electrical transmission line would run from western Maine on the Canadian border to a substation in Lewiston, where it would connect to the regional grid. While the transmission line would cut a big, ugly swath through Maine, all the power would go to customers in Massachusetts.

    CMP and Hydro-Quebec state that NECEC will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by importing supposedly “clean” hydropower from Quebec. But that hydropower would be clean (i.e., reduce greenhouse-gas emissions) only if it were new – in addition to hydropower that Hydro-Quebec is already generating or could be expected to generate in the normal course of business. Such power is called “incremental” power. 

    But according to testimony on behalf of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, as well as a study by the international consulting firm Energyzt, the contracts that Massachusetts utilities have signed with Hydro-Quebec contain no legal stipulations that would require Hydro-Quebec to deliver all incrementally clean power all the time. Hydro-Quebec could buy cheap power from other suppliers on its extended system who are using coal or gas, both “dirty” sources, and sell it at a premium to Massachusetts. (Such money-making arbitrage is Hydro-Quebec’s stated practice.)

    Or it could reduce exports of clean power to other customers in its system, requiring those customers to buy dirty power elsewhere. Obviously, if you simply shuffle the location of greenhouse-gas emissions from one location to another, there has been no global reduction in climate-changing pollution. To claim otherwise is to engage in what’s known as “greenwashing.” 

    It’s instructive that, even if we buy CMP’s allegations that all the Hydro-Quebec power sent to NECEC will be squeaky clean, CMP claims only that greenhouse-gas emissions would be reduced in New England, not on a global basis, which is required to reduce the risks of climate change. (Contrary to what some of us might like to believe, New England does not exist in a self-contained bubble, atmospheric or otherwise.) 

    Unfortunately, the Maine Public Utilities Commission appears not to have devoted a lot of attention to the Massachusetts contracts that would permit Hydro-Quebec to follow a profit maximization strategy and send supposedly “clean” power to Massachusetts ratepayers. Nor does it appear to have acknowledged that, even if Hydro-Quebec sends truly incremental clean power to New England, it doesn’t necessarily achieve a reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions on a global basis – and it may cause them to increase.

    Dozens weigh in on whether to study greenhouse gas impact of CMP power line

    That’s why Maine voters should support a bill recently introduced by state Sen. Brownie Carson. L.D. 640 would require the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to conduct an independent investigation of CMP’s claims that the proposed transmission line would have benefits for the climate through reduced greenhouse-gas emissions.

    It’s essential that Maine (and Massachusetts) citizens find out whether NECEC will, in fact, significantly reduce the carbon pollution that’s changing our climate. If not, we’re not only having the wool pulled over our eyes by people who stand to make a lot of money by doing so, but we’re also in the very dangerous position of thinking we’re taking a positive step to help solve the climate crisis when, actually, we’re not. Deception is dangerous, but self-deception can be disastrous.

  • Maine State Library to Host Music Program - Outside Looking In

    04/04/2019 09:32 AM EDT

     The Maine State Library will host an afternoon program with songwriter, guitarist and poet Mike Rogers on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 from 1:00 - 2:30 PM. The event is free and open to the public. 

    The 78 year-old, blind entertainer has been performing for over 45 years and has recorded on more than 40 albums. He has opened for Emmy Lou Harris, Tom Rush, The Eagles, James Montgomery and others. He and his wife, Beverly, represented Maine and Georgia at the 1999 International Very Special Arts Conference in Los Angeles and his folk group, Salt River. He also represented Maine at the New England Artists Conference in 2000. For this show, Mike will be joined by his wife to add poems and some vocal harmony, and his friend and band mate, Dan MacLellan on bass and vocal back-up.

    Rogers' performances are laced with his wry humor, painting portraits of people "outside the circle" in song, story-telling and poetry. Sometimes edgy, sometimes gentle, his characters are all real people from his journey through life and he places emphasis on understanding and accepting others. Mike accompanies himself on his guitar and his signature harmonica. His comfort with his audience comes from 15 years of teaching high school as well as the music business. 

    "The Maine State Library is thrilled to host this event as part of our month-long celebration of libraries across Maine," said James Ritter, State Librarian. Mike's unique performance captures the essence of storytelling and poetic inspiration. We are pleased to have him."

    For more information, call the Maine State Library at 207-287-5600.
  • HOPE: A Benefit Concert for Through These Doors & Preble Street, homeless shelter

    4/1/2019 Portland, Maine. 

    benefit concert for Through These Doors and Preble Street will take place on Thursday, May 02 at seven o’clock in the evening at Woodfords Church.

    This concert, comprised of volunteers and professionals, aims to raise awareness and money for these two charities that serve the least-favored population in Maine.

    The conductor and organizer of the concert, Chris Pelonzi, said he hopes to bring high-quality music to the Portland community for a good cause. Mr. Pelonzi is currently a student of Dr. Nicolas Dosman in the Graduate Choral Conducting program at the University of Southern Maine, and must give a conducting recital to complete his degree.

    However, rather than produce a small concert specifically for the auspices of a degree program, Mr. Pelonzi has organized a concert for a greater one.

    “Every day we see those without a home, and we hear about those who lost their family because of abuse…all I want to do is help make a change in our community so that these people can get the help they need. This is just one way to make a graduate degree most relevant to our local community," said Pelonzi.

    The concert will have a choir of over fifty voices, and an orchestra of more than thirty, all performing works by Hildegard, Arvo Part, Mozart, Beethoven, and Karl Jenkins. Featuring Soprano Susanna Moliski, Counter-tenor Chris Garrepy, Tenor Martin Lescault, Mezzo Andrea Graichen, Baritone Scott Wheatley, and Bass John Adams alongside with the choir and orchestra.

    The concert is intended to inspire hope and social change with pieces from all ages and in multiple languages. A brief talk about Preble Street and Through These Doors will be given at intermission along with an inspiring story.

    Thanks to the generosity of Woodfords Church, the University of Southern Maine, and many others, the concert will be held in Portland on May second at Woodfords Church.

    It is open to the public and tickets are available online from brownpapertickets. For more information, please follow the event on facebook.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Maine's Governor Mills Announces Federal Approval of Medicaid Expansion

     

     Governor Janet Mills announced on April 2, 2019 hat the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved Maine’s State Plan Amendments to expand Medicaid (MaineCare) under the Affordable Care Act. CMS notified the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) of the approval today.

    CMS approved the state’s plan retroactive to July 2, 2018, which was the date indicated in the 2017 ballot initiative supported by nearly 60 percent of Maine voters. MaineCare expansion is projected to provide coverage to approximately 70,000 people throughout the state. With today’s approval, the federal government will finance more than $800 million in estimated costs for those who enroll under expansion from July 2, 2018 through state fiscal year 2021. Maine is among 36 states plus the District of Columbia that have expanded Medicaid.

    “This approval marks the culmination of a long-overdue effort to fulfill the will of Maine voters and help tens of thousands of people access health care,” said Governor Janet Mills. “The benefits of expansion – including this injection of hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds – will extend to rural hospitals, to businesses, and to our economy as a whole. In the coming months, my Administration will work with partners across the state to ensure that those who qualify enroll and receive the health care they need to live heathy lives and remain in the workforce.”

    “We are gratified to learn that CMS has formally accepted our plan for expanding Medicaid in Maine,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “We appreciate our partnership with CMS and its regional office, and will continue our efforts to reach all those eligible for Medicaid to ensure Mainers everywhere have access to affordable, quality health care.”

    Maine voters passed a referendum in November of 2017 directing the state to expand MaineCare. The new law required Maine DHHS to adopt rules to implement the program and grant coverage no later than July 2, 2018. Governor Mills, in her first executive order, instructed DHHS to swiftly and efficiently begin implementation of expansion. In a separate letter, Governor Mills also asked CMS to approve the State Plan Amendments filed by the previous administration, which Maine DHHS corrected to reflect the July 2, 2018 effective date. 

    State Plan Amendments detail how a state operates its Medicaid program and are sent to CMS for review and approval. 

    MaineCare started covering enrollees newly eligible under the expansion in January of 2019. With this approval, CMS has started sending notices to low-income people who signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov that they may now be eligible for Medicaid. The Wilton call center will start taking calls in mid-April to answer questions about the MaineCare expansion. 

    As of March 29th, 16,797 individuals have been granted Medicaid coverage under expansion. DHHS has processed all of the applications of those who applied between July 2, 2018 and January 2, 2019.

  • Mainers strongly oppose CMP electric transmission corridor in statewide poll and votes

    Photo: Rep. Seth Berry opposes the CMP transmission plan. He says there is no guarentee that the energy Canada will export will be from clean energy sources. CMP is also under investagation for over charging Maine ratepayers.

    As DEP/LUPC public hearings begin, 65% of Mainers oppose the project

    March 20, 2019

    The vast majority of registered Maine voters are firmly opposed to Central Maine Power’s (CMP) proposed electricity corridor project, according to a new statewide poll conducted by the Portland-based research firm Critical Insights. 

    The survey shows that 65% of Mainers oppose the project, with only 15% expressing support.  Fifty-one percent (51%) of respondents “strongly oppose,” while only 7% “strongly support.” Every demographic subgroup in Maine opposes the project, including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; men and women; Mainers of all ages; and voters in every part of the state.

    “This survey shows that Maine people overwhelmingly oppose the CMP corridor. By huge margins, they believe it is a bad deal for Maine and will cause more harm than good to our environment. Opposition is red hot in western Maine, where barely one in ten people supports the project,” said Pete Didisheim, Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which sponsored the poll.

    The survey included an oversample of voters in western Maine, where the project would cut a new 53-mile corridor through forestlands in that region: 

    • 90% of voters in Franklin County oppose the project, with 80% “strongly opposed” and only 6% in support.
    • 83% of voters in Somerset County oppose the project, with 75% “strongly opposed” and only 9% in support.

    This is the most detailed survey publicly released about the attitudes of Maine people toward the CMP corridor, and it comes as the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) begin a week of hearings on the project in Farmington. The survey also comes on the heels of a memo from staff at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recommending that the PUC grant a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the project. Additional permitting in Maine and Massachusetts will continue well into the summer. 

    The survey of 850 Maine residents took place between March 11 and March 27, several weeks after Maine Governor Janet Mills, CMP, and other parties announced a settlement agreement. The statewide survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

    Summary of Survey Findings:

    The survey shows a very high level of awareness of the project, with 89% saying that they had seen, read, or heard about CMP’s plan to build the power line. The data showing statewide opposition outpacing support by 65% to 15%, with 20% unsure or having no opinion, came in response to a “top of mind” question with no positive or negative information provided about the project. This indicates that Mainers have strong opinions on the issue.

    Based on everything you may know about the proposed CMP corridor, would you support or oppose its construction?

    PHOTO: THIS VIEW WOULD BE MARED WITH ELECTRIC TRANSMISSION LINES IF CMP DEAL BECOMES REAL.

    When asked which statement comes closest to your view, Mainers responded as following: 

    • 72% statewide say the CMP corridor would be a bad deal for Maine people
      • 88% in Franklin County feel this way, and 85% in Somerset County
    • 27% statewide say the CMP corridor would be a good deal for Maine people
      • 5% in Franklin County feel this way, and 10% in Somerset County
    • 68% statewide say the CMP corridor would do more harm than good to our environment
      • 87% in Franklin County feel this way, and 70% in Somerset County
    • 16% statewide say the CMP corridor would do more good than harm to our environment
      • 8% in Franklin County feel this way, and 18% in Somerset County

    Mainers also expressed support for several proposed bills that are pending in the Maine Legislature that could affect the CMP corridor.

    • 65% support passage of a bill that would require the DEP to conduct an independent review of the CMP corridor before a permit is granted, to determine whether the project would actually benefit the climate by reducing greenhouse gas pollution, as CMP claims. (as called for in LD 640)
    • 62% support passage of a bill that would prevent CMP from forcing towns to accept the transmission line passing through their town. (as called for in LD 1383)

    Only one in ten Mainers think the governor should support the proposed CMP transmission line, compared to half who believe the governor should oppose the project. A full 70% of Mainers believe the governor should oppose the CMP corridor or take no position. 

    Do you believe the governor of Maine should support the CMP transmission corridor, oppose the CMP transmission corridor, or take no position on the CMP corridor?

     

    The survey results are consistent with recent votes by towns in western Maine to oppose the project. To date, 11 towns and the Franklin County Commissioners have voted to oppose or rescind their support for the project.

    • Most recently, on March 25, Farmington residents voted 262-102 to rescind their support and adopt a new position in opposition.
    • On March 5, residents of Wilton voted 162-1 to rescind support and adopt a position of opposition to the project.  

    The level of opposition in Maine is striking when compared to the public sentiment in New Hampshire for a similar project called the Northern Pass. That project was ultimately rejected by regulators, and opposition over many years hovered between 30% and 40%. At no point did opposition in New Hampshire to the Northern Pass project reach the level of 65% opposition currently held by Maine voters.

    The survey was conducted by telephone between March 11 and March 27, 2019. Among the 850 respondents surveyed, a total of 299 are residents of Franklin County (124 respondents) or Somerset County (175 respondents). Respondents were required to live in Maine and be registered to vote in the state. Final data were statistically weighted to reflect the age, gender, and county populations of the state.

  • Maine Children’s Alliance 2019 Maine KIDS COUNT findings

    Maine has seen improvements for kids in key areas over the past 25 years, but this year’s data indicates we should be concerned about how our youngest children are faring

    MARCH 28, 2019 – The Maine Children’s Alliance released the latest edition of the Maine KIDS COUNT® Data Book, marking 25 years of producing this compilation of the most comprehensive data on the status and well-being of children in Maine. KIDS COUNT® is a project of the Maine Children’s Alliance (MCA), a nonpartisan, data-focused advocate for public policies that improve the lives of Maine’s children, youth and families.

    “Since the publication of the first Maine KIDS COUNT® Data Book in 1994, we have followed trends over time in children’s health and well-being,” said Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children’s Alliance. “One thing is certain: when parents, providers, and policymakers use data to make informed decisions and prioritize investments in Maine kids, the lives of those children and their families are improved, both in the present and in their future success.”

    Over the course of the last 25 years, Maine has seen significant improvement in some key indicators of health and well-being for children. The number of teen births in 1992 was 834, compared to 186 in 2017 – a reduction of 78 percent. In another gain, the percent of people over age 25 who have at least a high school degree went from 84.3 in 1994 to 93.2 percent in 2017. For juvenile arrests, the rate in 2017 was 25.5 per 1,000 youth ages 12-17, down significantly from 81.1 per 1,000 youth in 1997. For every three youth arrested in 1994, only one would be arrested in 2017. And in Maine, the percent of children without health care coverage in 1993 was 8.7, while today, thanks in part to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, those rates have fallen to 4.8 percent.

    While we have made progress in some areas of children’s health, there are concerning trends in how our youngest children are faring.

    • In each of the last 5 years, approximately one in twelve babies in Maine was born substance exposed/affected.
    • And while Maine used to lead the country with low rates of infant mortality, recently that number had risen to a high of 6.7 deaths per 1,000 births before decreasing slightly to 6.3 - still above the national average.

    Access to early intervention services for infants with developmental delays is essential to improving outcomes and preventing delays later on, but Maine currently ranks 50th in the nation for the rate of infants provided with these services before the age of one. These data all point to larger problems with access to prenatal care, evidence-based programs that support new parents in the home, and early services for infants with special needs.

    • In 2018, there were 1,791 children in state custody, a rate of 7.6 per 1,000 children ages 0-17.
    • That rate is up from 6.5 in the previous year. In addition, there were 576 children in foster care waiting to be adopted, up from 480 in 2012 – a 20 percent increase. 

    It is critical for favorable outcomes for children in state custody that, when reunification is not safe or possible, a stable, permanent family situation must be created as quickly as possible.

    Access to quality, affordable health care is critical for child health and overall well-being. Maine has seen improvements in its rates of uninsured children, down to 4.8 percent in 2016, from 5.5 percent the prior year. And as Maine implements Medicaid expansion, we expect to see that rate continue to improve, as parents of low-income children gain coverage.

    “To build a brighter future for our kids, it is imperative that we use data to inform our policy decisions and to track our progress over time,” said Helen Hemminger, research and KIDS COUNT associate at the Maine Children’s Alliance. “KIDS COUNT is a treasure trove of data related to education, poverty, health and youth risk factors.”

    • There is cause for concern related to mental health indicators for children. In 2017, Maine held the highest rate in the nation of children diagnosed with anxiety disorders, the third highest rate of children with diagnosed depression, and the highest rate for the percentage of youth accessing mental health counseling.
    • In addition, Maine has experienced an alarming rate of teen suicides. While the rate varies by year, at 8.1 suicide deaths per 100,000 youth ages 10-19, Maine’s five-year average has risen by 50 percent and is well above the national average of 5.5 suicide deaths per 100,000 youth.

    In other ways, Maine adolescents are leading healthier and safer lives. The percentage of high school students reporting alcohol and cigarette use has decreased steadily since 2001. The percentage of students reporting smoking cigarettes has decreased by 65 percent, and the percentage of students reporting drinking alcohol has decreased by just over 50 percent. Despite these reductions, there is an increase in overall tobacco use and cause for concern in the increasing risks associated with the use of e-cigarettes. Arrests for juveniles in Maine and in the nation are significantly down. In addition, the number of youths incarcerated in Maine has dropped from 318 in 1997 to 39 detained or committed as of December 2018.

    There is good news this year in terms of child poverty, in which Maine saw the deepest decline in the country between 2016 and 2017 and has fallen from 19.8 percent in 2012 to 14.2 percent in 2017. Despite this gain, Maine’s child poverty rate is still higher than all the other New England states, except Rhode Island, with 35,000 children still living in poverty.

    Anti-poverty programs like TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) can alleviate the negative effects of poverty on children.

    • But, TANF serves significantly fewer Maine children and families than before the 2012 implementation of a 60-month lifetime limit on the program and stricter sanction policy covering the entire family.
    • As of December 2018, there were just 7,014 children receiving TANF – down from 15,293 children in 2012 – even while there are more than 14,000 children living in deep poverty.

    Reading and math skills are foundational tools for future learning success for children. Despite this, based on Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) test scores, just over half of Maine students are proficient in reading at the end of 4th grade and only two out of five 8th graders are proficient in math. And wide disparities exist across income levels for both reading and math, for both 4th graders and 8th graders.

    Maine currently has the 9th highest rate of identifying and serving children ages 3-5 with disabilities, and the highest rate in the nation for students ages 6-20 receiving special education services. However, Maine lags behind all other states in its rate for serving infants under age one with a disability, in 2018 serving only 249 Maine children, at a rate of less than 2 percent.

    In an aging state like Maine with workforce issues, it is important to reduce the rate of disconnected youth – those neither attending school nor working. In Maine, we are seeing improvements in these rates, with a current rate of 4.9 percent of teens ages 16-19 not attending school or working, down from 5.9 percent the previous year, and better than the national rate of 6.8 percent. More students in Maine are also graduating from college, at 53 percent in 2017, up from 48 percent the previous year. While this shows improvement for our youth, Maine continues to have the lowest rate of young adults having enrolled in or completed college in New England.

    “When all Maine children have the resources, support and opportunity to thrive, we all benefit,” said Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children’s Alliance. “The 2019 report provides us the opportunity to make sure the policies and practices seek to improve the lives of all our children, especially children in immigrant families and children of color.”

    This year, several indicators illustrate racial and ethnic disparities that exist as a result of historic racism and systemic inequalities. Early prenatal care can provide critical information about physical and behavioral risk factors affecting both mother and child. Yet African American women in Maine are less likely to receive prenatal care in the first trimester compared to white women: 75 percent vs. 91 percent. In rates of children identified with a disability and placed in special education services, data shows significant disproportionality particularly for American Indian students in Maine, with 30% having any disability. In Maine and in the nation, children of color continue to experience higher rates of poverty. In Maine, the African American child poverty rate of 53 percent was well above the national average of 36 percent.

    “When confronted with such a wide variety and amount of data, it can be difficult to remember that these numbers represent real children,” said Helen Hemminger. “But by understanding the data, decision makers, business leaders, elected officials and community members can make informed decisions that will help Maine’s children reach their full potential.”

    Digital downloads of the 2019 Maine KIDS COUNT® Data Book are available online at www.mekids.org. National, state and county-level data can be found on the KIDS COUNT Data Center atdatacenter.kidscount.org. To obtain a copy of the data book, email mhackett@mekids.org.

  • Belfast area creative coalition seeking input from Waldo County for arts and cultural plan

    The Belfast waterfront. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    The Belfast Area Creative Coalition, a Waldo County-based nonprofit organization formed in 2012 whose mission is to create cohesion and coordination for Waldo County’s vibrant arts and cultural sector, is leading an effort to develop a Waldo County Arts and Cultural Plan.  The Coalition intends to create a comprehensive, data-driven, community-designed plan, one when completed will utilize resources strategically and thoughtfully, identify community priorities, enhance the quality of life for residents, provide strategies to enhance and develop arts and cultural opportunities for residents, and recommend policies to expand the area’s creative economy.

    The planning effort was launched in late 2018, and the Coalition is now entering its next phase - the collection of input through surveys.  The Coalition strongly feels that feedback from the community is essential to ensure that this plan accurately reflects their values, priorities, and concerns.  The Coalition is interested in receiving input from those who live, work, and/or spend time in Waldo County, including residents, artists, and cultural organizations.  These surveys were designed based on feedback obtained from a series of community forums that were held throughout Waldo County in late 2018.  The data that will be collected through the surveys will be used to identify the goals for the Waldo County Arts and Cultural Plan.   

    According to the Belfast Area Creative Coalition’s Executive Director, Larraine Brown, "Waldo County is brimming with rich arts and cultural activity in the form of historic, traditional, contemporary, and original visual art and performance.  The Waldo County Arts and Cultural Plan and the surveys are set to benefit all corners of the county in a myriad of ways - to point the way to the future as Waldo County citizens imagine what they want it to be, to reveal opportunities for increased support of the arts and our artists, and to serve as a mirror to see what is already happening in all parts of the county.  I hope that people take a few minutes to fill out these surveys, it's a great way for you to have your say and to make a difference."

    There are three versions of surveys that can be completed: 1) a Public Opinion Survey; 2) an Artist & Performer Survey; and 3) a Cultural Organization Survey.  The Coalition is asking respondents to complete the survey or surveys that best apply to them.  Each survey takes approximately 5 to 10 minutes to complete.  As an incentive, anyone who completes a Public Opinion Survey will be entered into a prize drawing, with winners to be announced in June.  All three surveys are available online at http://reinholtconsulting.com/projects/waldo-county/.  

    The Belfast Area Creative Coalition is being assisted in this planning effort by the Maine-based firm Reinholt Consulting.  Individuals with questions regarding these surveys or the planning effort itself, or who wish to request paper copies of the surveys, are encouraged to contact either Larraine Brown, Executive Director for the Belfast Area Creative Coalition, at (207) 218-1144 or belfastcreativecoalition@gmail.com, or Saskia Reinholt of Reinholt Consulting, at (207) 218-2072 or saskia@reinholtconsulting.com.

  • Maine CDC Seeks to Locate Individuals Exposed to Rabid Bat in Bangor

    03/25/2019 

    Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is working to identify several individuals who may have been exposed to rabies through the handling of a rabid bat in Bangor.

    Maine CDC is investigating the circumstances of the potential exposure, which occurred during the weekend of March 16 and 17. The live bat was found in the vicinity of the Shaw House, a youth shelter in Bangor. It was passed among several individuals who handled it with their bare hands across several locations in the Bangor area. The bat later tested positive for rabies at Maine's Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory. Those who had direct skin contact with the bat, and did not wear gloves or use a cloth or other barrier, are at risk of acquiring rabies.

    Bats that exhibit unusual behavior, such as being easily approached, active during the day, or unable to fly, could be infected with rabies.

    Rabies is fatal, but preventable if treated without delay after exposure. Individuals who had direct skin contact with the bat should start rabies prophylaxis as soon as possible. Rabies prophylaxis includes two different injections: Rabies Immune Globulin (RIG) and the rabies vaccine.

    Rabies is spread when infected animals bite or scratch another animal or person. The virus can also be spread if saliva or tissue from the brain or spinal cord gets into broken skin or the mouth, nose, or eyes.

    Maine CDC requests that anyone who had direct skin contact with a bat in the Bangor area during the weekend of March  16 and 17 contact their healthcare provider to discuss the risks and determine if they need prophylaxis. Individuals may also contact Maine CDC directly at 1-800-821-5821.

    Only those who handled the bat with bare hands are at risk for rabies. There is no risk to the general public in the area where the bat was found among those who did not touch the animal.

    To help prevent the spread of rabies, never touch a wild animal or any animal that you do not know.

    For more information:

    • Maine CDC's disease reporting and consultation line 1-800-821-5821

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