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  • N.C. Wyeth: Poems of American Patriotism at Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine

    Photos and Article by Ramona du Houx

    The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland presented an opening lecture the museum’s Curator Michael Komanecky by for the exhibition “N.C. Wyeth: Poems of American Patriotism.”

     Wyeth’s illustrations in two anthologies were inspired by Americans’ long-standing familiarity with and appreciation for poetry, and in particular its love of works by the so-called “Schoolroom Poets” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman, and John Greenleaf Whittier, among others.

    Komanecky’s presentation focused on the context in which the two anthologies of poems were created, including Wyeth’s role as illustrator.

    The exhibition “N.C. Wyeth: Poems of American Patriotism” opened to the public on June 16, 2018. At the members’ preview the evening before local children dressed up in the traditional Revolutionary War Blue Coat uniforms.

  • Maine’s University and Community College Systems need a big investment to compete

    Editorial by Representative Erik Jorgensen.

     If we want to give young people the best chance earn a good living right here in Maine, then we need to make a meaningful investment in our state’s University and Community College systems right away.

    Here in the Maine Legislature, we are pushing hard to make that happen.

    I’m proud to sponsor LD 836, a bond proposal that could upgrade all Maine public higher education campuses and will benefit every town. The bond will pay for improvements to bring both the University and Community College systems into the 21st century, where they can provide an even bigger benefit to Maine’s economy.

    Last year we provided critical support for science facilities at the University of Maine. This new bond extends that work, providing carefully targeted investments at the other university campuses and in our community colleges.

    The UMaine system has emerged from a period of hard choices, staff reductions, and belt tightening, and is now seeing higher enrollments due to increased out-of-state recruitment.  This is very good news for our state.

    The story of our community colleges is equally impressive. They are serving more students across the state while keeping costs in check.

    Both systems ensure Maine provides a quality education at a very good price. But keeping tuition flat, while critical for students, has made it harder to pay for major improvements.

    The bond would be matched at least 1 to 1 with other funds – both private and federal – multiplying our buying power and ensuring our campuses teach the skills that Maine businesses say they need most in the workforce.

    For the University part of the bond, highlights include doubling engineering teaching capacity at USM, as well as cybersecurity and computer science labs. U Maine Farmington will get a new child development and education center in Farmington. There will be a four-year nursing education program in Central and Southern Aroostook County through a UMaine Fort Kent and UMaine Presque Isle partnership. There will be educational support centers for new and nontraditional students at UMaine Augusta’s Augusta and Bangor campuses. It will purchase desperately needed marine science classrooms in Machias. University of Southern Maine will get a new student and career services center, which will transform the Portland campus.

    To keep our kids in Maine and attract those from out of state, our college and university facilities must be competitive. Maine’s public higher education system draws nearly six-thousand young people from elsewhere to Maine each year - those are future workers and taxpayers. But while out-of-state recruitment adds considerably to the bottom line of these campuses, in-state students also have expectations for facilities that are up to date.

    This bond is an investment that will cost less than a single new high school, but it’s one that will surely bring more students, jobs, investment and opportunities to our public university and community college campuses.  Economic development requires a well-trained workforce, and these campuses are our primary tool for creating that workforce. By passing this bond, we would be investing in Maine's future economic success.

  • Maine lawmakers enact Riley Amendment, holding utility shareholders – not customers – responsible for investigation costs

    Measure comes in response to record billing complaints from CMP customers in recent months

    The Maine Legislature enacted a bill on June 21, 2018 that allows Maine’s Public Utilities Commission to hold a utility’s shareholders responsible for the costs of investigating problems. The measure, known as “the Riley Amendment,” cleared the House and the Senate unanimously and now awaits the governor’s signature.  

    “If a for-profit electric company like CMP erroneously overcharges its customers, Maine people shouldn’t have to pay for the investigation,” said Rep. Tina Riley, D-Jay, who authored the amendment. “The cost should be on the utility’s shareholders, so that they will pressure management to make sure it never happens again.”

    Under current law, if Maine’s Public Utilities Commission audits a public utility, customers are automatically responsible for the costs – even if the audit concludes the utility is at fault for any problems.

    Riley’s amendment – the product of extensive discussions in the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee – would also allow the PUC to establish random independent audits of an electric utility’s entire billing system, including meters. At present, the utility checks the accuracy of its own meters. This is a sharp contrast to gas pumps, which are independently regulated by the state’s Bureau of Weights and Measures.

    When the committee first considered the Riley Amendment in April, all six Republicans on the committee voted to kill the bill. After that vote, members of the public, including a citizen ratepayer advocacy group, CMP Ratepayers Unite, contacted members of the committee urging them to reconsider.

    Throughout the year, the committee had held extensive public hearings, work sessions and discussions on the electric utilities’ response to the October 2017 windstorm. Members also discussed a recent rash of Central Maine Power customer complaints outlining problems with their electric bills, including major discrepancies between the amount of electricity used and the amount they were billed.

    The legislation is a rewrite of LD 1729, An Act To Restore Confidence In Utility Billing Systems, which originally dealt with other electricity transmission and distribution regulations.

    Riley, a member of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, is serving her first term in the Maine House. She represents Jay, Livermore Falls and part of Livermore.

  • Maine lawmakers enact Gatttine’s bill to treat opioid addiction for homeless

    Bill sets up pilot treatment program for the homeless

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine State Legislature enacted Rep. Drew Gattine’s proposal June 21, 2018 to help homeless gain access to addiction therapy. The vote was unanimous in the House and 16-15 in the Senate.

    This is a civil rights issue.

    “Opioid addiction has unique and particularly devastating impacts on Mainers who are already vulnerable and at risk, like the homeless,” said Gattine, D-Westbrook. “In spite of the important things we’ve tried over the past few years, things are getting worse for homeless Mainers.”

     This bill, LD 1711, directs the Department of Health and Human Services to create programs to provide a bundle of services specifically designed to meet the challenges faced by people who are of extremely low income and homeless. It recognizes that people in this vulnerable situation need more than just medical treatment but also social supports, including housing assistance and intensive case management.  As a pilot program, enrollment will be limited to 25 individuals.

    “These are people who struggle every day to meet their most basic needs of food and shelter, and simply offering traditional treatment in traditional settings is an inadequate approach to helping them manage and maintain recovery,” Gattine said. “We need to meet them where they are to have a chance to really help them.” 

    The bill now goes to the governor, who has 10 days to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

    Gattine represents part of Westbrook and is in his third term in the Legislature. He serves as the House chair of the Appropriations Committee.

     

  • Maine lawmakers give final approval to “fair chance” hiring measure

     

    The Maine Senate gave final approval June 21, 2018 to a measure that would change the way state government employers ask job applicants about their criminal records. The vote was 30-2.

    “Allowing for a real conversation around an applicant’s qualifications as well as his or her past not only benefits those with an arrest or conviction record but also their kids and families, our economy and our state as a whole,” said Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross,  the bill’s sponsor. “An arrest or conviction record has devastating consequences for employment. This is a step toward making the process fairer for qualified job seekers who want to work.”

    The measure will delay questions about a job applicant’s criminal record until later in the hiring process. State government employers will still be allowed to ask about past convictions, but applicants will have the chance to first present their qualifications as well as the opportunity to give additional contextual information about any conviction.

    Thirty states already have statewide laws or policies to “ban the box,” and 10 of these forbid the inclusion of conviction history questions on job applications for private as well as public employers. More than 150 cities and counties nationwide have adopted similar policies.

     At a public hearing on the bill, Kenney Miller, executive director of the Health Equity Alliance, testified that changing the hiring process will help individuals recovering from addiction.

    “Employment is key to giving people the sense of purpose, a reason to struggle on. It gives them a livelihood that can sustain their recovery, and support their independence,” Miller told lawmakers. “However, many people in recovery struggle with the dual stigma of the label of drug user or addict and that of felon. This permanent label is incredibly disruptive. It prevents them from being able to truly leave their past behind, from rebuilding their lives in the wake of drugs.”

    LD 1566 now heads to the governor’s desk. He has 10 days to sign, veto or allow the measure to become law without his signature.

    Talbot Ross is serving her first term in the Maine House. A member of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, she represents part of Portland, including the neighborhoods of Parkside, Bayside, East Bayside, Oakdale and the University of Southern Maine campus.

     

  • Full Plates Full Potential awards summer grants to feed hungry Maine children

    Twenty-one programs and over $53,000 invested

    By Ramona du Houx

    During the school year too many children from low income families rely on school meals being their one meal of the day. Federal and state cuts to programs have made states like Maine food insecure. What do these kids do during the summer months for food?

    In 2014, Full Plates Full Potential got underway. It is Maine’s only statewide child hunger organization. FPFP does it’s work by partnering with other hunger relief organizations, granting funds to schools and nonprofits  providing technical support to grantees and working with chefs, businesses and others to end child hunger. 

    Full Plates Full Potential (FPFP) has just awarded twenty-one statewide summer food service program grants totaling over $53,000. Summer sites will run from the end of June until the end of August and serve free meals to anyone 18 years old and younger. Summer grants range from $500 to over $6,300 and fund critical investments to feed more kids such as: equipment for sites, transportation, enrichment activities, outreach, staffing and food costs.    

    This summer an unprecedented amount of applications and funding requests were received. Thirty one applications were reviewed, requesting over $100,000. There are over 400 summer food service program across the state that served just over 750,000 meals last year.  

    “Summer time is a frightening period for a hungry child,” said Anna Korsen, Program Director for Full Plates Full Potential “these summer sites will potentially serve 43,893 additional meals to children whose bodies and minds need nutritious meals. Additionally, many of our summer sites will pilot best practices that could help many more children in 2019.”

    FPFP collaborated for the third year in a row with Good Shepherd Food Bank to run the summer grant program. Additionally, FPFP partnered with the Horizon Foundation and many FPFP Feed Kids Vendors like Bissell Brothers, IDEXX Laboratories, Big Tree Hospitality, and the Brew Bus to raise critical additional funding.

    “Full Plates Full Potential is so grateful to our partners. Their generosity means we can reach so many more kids and families this summer” said Justin Alfond, a director at Full Plates Full Potential. “Summer sites are playing bigger and bigger roles in our communities. They serve great nutritious meals, and offer fun programing for children allowing kids to have fun.”

    "The grant funding will allow us to take the next step in our summer program, said Wendy Collins, School Nutrition Director at Kittery School Department.. “We purchased a hot oven with the grant -- the oven will allow our program to offer a larger variety of food, kids will be happier and it will increase our participation. I can’t thank Full Plates Full Potential enough for supporting communities address food insecurity."

    Website: www.fullplates.org;

  • Rep. Alley’s bill for longtime Maine Downeast employees approved by Appropriations Committee

    By Ramona du Houx

      Rep. Robert Alley’s bill to protect longtime employees of the Downeast Correctional Facility earned unanimous approval on June 11, 2018 from the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, Appropriations.

    The bill LD 177, will allow employees with over 25 years of service but who have not yet reached retirement age to retire without a penalty.

    “There are a number of employees who have worked there for more than 25 years, yet have not attained the state minimum age of retirement,” said Alley, D-Beals. “They have set down strong roots in their communities and have few options. This bill would allow them to retire without having to pay the substantial penalty for early retirement.”

    Alley’s bill is now part of the compromise spending package included in LD 925, which earned unanimous support from the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. 

    The bill will be considered by the full Legislature during the special session on June 19,2018.

    “I hope when the Legislature meets we will  finally pass this bill,” Alley said. “We are only talking about a few people, and we owe these loyal, long-term employees who have given the best years of their working lives in service to the state at least this much.”

    Alley is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents Addison, Beals, Cherryfield, Columbia, Columbia Falls, Harrington, Jonesboro, Jonesport, Marshfield, Milbridge and Whitneyville. He serves on the Marine Resources Committee and the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

     

  • Maine Legislature to Convene for Special Session June 19

    The Maine Legislature will return for a Special Session Tuesday, June 19 at 10:00 am. 
    "I am pleased we will be returning to the State House to finally address the many critical issues outstanding and I am optimistic that we will complete our work efficiently and responsibly," said Speaker of the House Sara Gideon.
    "House Democrats are eager to take votes that will assist access to healthcare for 70,000 Mainers, maintain pay for our direct care workforce, fund our county jails, and fulfill our obligation to public schools across Maine. We have remained steadfast in our commitment to moving Maine forward and we are pleased that all of our colleagues are joining us at the table.”
    There were nurmous issues still left undecided. Too many to address in this special session.
    But advocates for healthcare are hopeful.
  • Senate Farm Bill the Right Approach For Tackling Maine’s Growing Hunger Issues

    During the markup of the Senate Farm Bill, introduced as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, on June 13th, anti-hunger advocacy groups including Good Shepherd Food Bank, Preble Street and Maine Equal Justice Partners praised the bill’s bipartisan effort to strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program, which is critical for hungry Mainers.

     Unlike the highly partisan House Farm Bill, H.R. 2, which failed to pass in the House in early June, the Senate’s bill could help stem Maine’s growing hunger problem. More than 16 percent of Maine households are food insecure, placing the state 7thin the nation overall, and the trend is worsening.

    “Maine should insist on a Farm Bill that strengthens and protects SNAP because it’s the single most effective tool we have for feeding hungry Maine families,” said Clara McConnell, director of public affairs at Good Shepherd Food Bank. “Food banks like ours offer essential food assistance, but cannot substitute for SNAP, which provides a regular source of nutritious food at a scale far greater than what charities do, and in a more accessible way. This is about families being able to put enough food on the table, and kids having enough breakfast in their bellies to learn and grow.”

    The Senate bill strengthens SNAP by testing new tools to further improve program integrity, supporting states like Maine that want to try innovative solutions to helping SNAP participants get and keep a job, and enhancing access and reducing burdensome paperwork for older Mainers and people with disabilities. 

    Advocates expressed support for the bill as drafted by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow and urged US Sen. Susan Collins and US Sen. King to support the bill without any harmful amendments that could weaken SNAP.

    Preble Street’s executive director Mark Swann added, “We encourage Maine’s senators to follow the committee’s lead in protecting SNAP by opposing any amendments that would cut SNAP or make harmful changes that would take away food assistance from struggling families in Maine.”  

    While the Senate bill provides adequate funding and promotes program integrity in SNAP, the advocates expressed a desire to work with Maine’s Senate delegation to improve funding levels for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), a critical source of food for millions of individuals and families across the country. 

    The organizations applauded the Senate for not following the House’s lead on harsh and unworkable time limits and work requirements for SNAP recipients, a policy which Maine has tested unsuccessfully since 2014. In Maine’s experimentwith work requirements, thousands have lost benefits without finding work, leaving them hungrier and with few or no places to turn.  

    Chris Hastedt from Maine Equal Justice Partners cautioned, “Partisan changes to the SNAP program along the lines of Maine’s failed model wouldn’t alleviate hunger or help people find work. They would only make it harder for parents, people with disabilities, older workers, low-wage workers and people temporarily in between jobs to get enough to eat. The Senate is taking the right approach by providing more work-supporting policies and maintaining benefits for people in need.”

  • Yarmouth Grand Trunk Railroad Depot in Maine Under Contract

    The non-profit Maine Preservation announced on June 10, 2018 that the iconic 1906 Grand Trunk Railroad Depot, located on Main Street in the heart of Yarmouth Village, is under contract to Ford Reiche for use as commercial office space. Reiche has an enthusiasm for revitalizing historic properties and has already rehabilitated Halfway Rock Light Station off the coast of Harpswell and the Charles B. Clark House in Portland, both Maine Preservation Honor Award winners. He has also rehabilitated an historic train station on the Grand Trunk Line in Gilead that now serves as the Gilead Historical Society’s headquarters. This will be the fifth building listed on the National Register of Historic Places that Reiche has purchased and restored. All restoration work at the Depot will be coordinated by George Reiche, Ford’s son, who is a board member of Greater Portland Landmarks.

    Reiche’s passion for Maine and its history stems from his family’s many generations in the state. In 1989 he co-founded Safe Handling, Inc., a rail-based shipping and logistics company established to help paper mills and other Maine industries receive bulk shipments of raw materials through the state’s rail network. In 2008 he received both the US Small Business Administration’s Maine Small Businessperson of the Year Award and the MaineBiz Large Company Business Leader Award.

    “We received fourteen impressive and competitive offers on this property and are delighted to be working with the Village Improvement Society and Ford Reiche to ensure a dynamic future for this Yarmouth landmark,” said Real Estate Manager Sarah Hansen.

    The Depot has been owned and maintained by the Yarmouth Village Improvement Society (VIS) since it 1968 when it acquired the property from the Canadian National Railway to save it from demolition. Since the early 1970s until last year the building had been leased as a florist shop. After 50 years of faithful caretaking, the VIS decided the time was right to sell the property to a new steward and began working with Maine Preservation to find a preservation-minded buyer. 

    “Since saving the Depot in 1968 the VIS has been able to maintain and preserve this focal point of Yarmouth’s Main Street. Ultimately, we determined the Depot needed to be sold but only with preservation easements to ensure its future as a unique building,” said Linda Grant, President of the Village Improvement Society. “Maine Preservation has made this possible and we are thrilled the at Ford Reiche, who has previously saved historic buildings will be able to rehab and bring this building back to life on Main Street.” 

    Maine Preservation’s Protect & Sell program was established in 2013 to match owners interested in rehabilitating historic buildings with unique properties across Maine. Preservation easements on the properties allow Maine Preservation to protect them and guide their rehabilitation. The innovative program is operating statewide and has successfully sold significant properties in Buckfield, Pembroke, Bath and Norway. Maine Preservation’s mission is to promote and preserve historic places, buildings, downtowns and neighborhoods, strengthening the cultural and economic vitality of Maine communities.

     

  • ‘Forlorn Hope,’ story of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery in Civil War, to premiere June 18 in Bucksport

    The Maine State Archives, producer Dan Lambert, and the Alamo Theatre are co-hosting the premiere showing of “Forlorn Hope,” Lambert’s documentary film recounting the charge of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment at Petersburg, Virginia, on June 18, 1864. 

    The half-hour documentary will be shown at 2 p.m. at the Alamo, home of Northeast Historic Film, 85 Main Street, Bucksport, on the 154th anniversary of the Regiment’s charge, Monday, June 18, 2018.

    “Dan Lambert’s documentary captures the story of the 1st Maine Heavy’s ‘Forlorn Hope,’” said State Archivist David Cheever. “Matching the care he took in his earlier documentary about the sacrifice of the 16th Maine Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg, he has added a skilled narrative to one of the bravest, and most tragic, attacks in the Civil War.” 

    The 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment is recognized as having suffered the greatest loss of men in a single battle of any Union unit in the war: The regiment arrived on the outskirts of Petersburg on June 16, 1864, and were told to wait there to allow the Army of the Potomac to assemble more fully. The two days the Union force spent waiting allowed the Confederate Army to reinforce its defensive position at Petersburg such that when the order came for the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery to make a full-frontal charge upon the entrenched Confederates, the Maine men were greeted with concentrated weapons fire.

    More than 850 soldiers undertook the charge. In fewer than 10 minutes, more than 630 men had fallen, either killed or wounded, and the Confederates would not allow the wounded to be recovered or the dead retrieved. Afterwards, General George Gordon Meade announced that there would never be another full-frontal assault conducted on an entrenched enemy position.

    The make-up of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery included hundreds of men from the Penobscot River area, extending through Hancock and Penobscot counties.

     

    “The Alamo Theatre is an appropriate choice for the premiere because towns such as Bucksport, Orland, Orrington and Bangor suffered the loss of many men in that charge,” Cheever said.

     

    There is no admission fee for the premiere. A second showing immediately following the first will be held, should the need arise. Producer/director Dan Lambert will be present to discuss the film with attendees.