• State Federal Judge Strikes Down Maine Law for Violating First Amendment Consumer-Rights

    In a precedent-setting decision with nationwide implications, on January 8, 2019, Judge Lance E. Walker of the United States District Court for the District of Maine ruled that Maine’s 36-hour ban on public adjusters’ solicitation of customers is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.

    National Fire Adjustment Company, Inc. (NFA) filed this lawsuit challenging Maine’s longstanding ban as a violation of the First Amendment. NFA has licensed, expert public adjusters who level the playing field for consumers by representing victims of fires and other property losses to ensure they receive fair value from their insurance companies.

    Attorney Valerie Z. Wicks and the law firm of Johnson, Webbert & Young, LLP, represent NFA in this lawsuit. JWY has offices in Portland and Augusta, Maine. For over twenty years, public adjusters in Maine have been required—under threat of financial penalties and loss of their license—to wait 36 hours after a fire or other loss to communicate with potential customers who may want help dealing with their insurance company.

    During that government-imposed and one-sided waiting period, important evidence may be destroyed and insureds may settle their claims too quickly for less than full value.

    Judge Walker upheld the important consumer-advocate role of public adjusters in ruling that “the ban on all solicitation activity, temporary as it may be, is an excessively paternalistic prior restraint on speech.”

    Ronald J. Papa, President of the Plaintiff National Fire Adjustment Company, called the ruling a major victory for consumers: “The first 36 hours after a fire or other loss is the most important time for protecting the rights of the victims. To deprive the insured of appropriate counsel during that critical time-period is anti-consumer, government overreach. We are pleased that our adjusters will now be able to advise clients on equal footing with adjusters who represent insurance companies," said Ronald J. Papa, President of the Plaintiff National Fire Adjustment Company.

    NFA has an office in Alfred, Maine and its adjusters perform work throughout Maine and the United States.

    “Judge Walker’s First Amendment ruling protects Maine consumers who want and deserve help recovering from an unexpected tragedy like a fire or a wind storm. Judge Walker hit the nail on the head when he ruled that the government should not be standing in the way of the public’s right to the expert services of public adjusters," said NFA’s attorney Valerie Z. Wicks.

    Wicks added that this ruling in Maine may lead the way for similar anti-consumer bans in other states to be struck down under the First Amendment.

  • Restore the State Planning Office to help ONE MAINE grow

    While we're thinking about the next economy, we might be missing something else.

    Driving home to Winthrop from holiday shopping in Farmington this weekend, I was again awed by how much Maine is out there north of Brunswick and 10 minutes in any direction off Interstate 95. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my work or in seeking news and connection on social media that it’s easy to forget how much beauty, life and community one can find on the roads running deeper into the state.

    Most of my friends and associates — developers, planners, professors, municipal employees, and artists — and I live and work in Maine’s urban areas, and on most days my head is full of things like 5G broadband, “Search Engine Optimization,” and “Block Chain” — technology miracles that are supposed to boost our economy, even if we’re not sure how. I wonder if I’m thinking too little about the places and people and ways of living that have traditionally defined Maine.

    We’re often reminded that Maine is a proudly rural state. But talking rural and walking rural are two different things. Our drive up to Farmington through Livermore Falls and back down through Mount Vernon surprised me — a self-proclaimed rural economy advocate and ex-patriated southern Appalachian person living here in what my wife and I call Appalachia North.

    Most of what I saw on Route 41 has not changed since before the road was paved: buildings both solid and characteristic, but some maybe leaning a little bit on their foundations, and sitting too close to the road to feel like home anymore.

    But there are clear signs of struggle — blue tarps on the roof, coarse plywood airlocks built on the doorways of mobile homes in the yard where grandma’s victory garden used to grow, and a row of failed vehicles in various states of rust.

    I’ve worked alongside Maine business people and government representatives on indoor agriculture, new technology expansion, old technology business revitalization, and knowledge-worker attraction initiatives. These initiatives are great for “Highway Maine” but don’t leave much for rural communities other than entry-level and service jobs that still require people to drive hundreds of miles a week on cracking roads to workplaces with different measures of success than rural residents might otherwise prioritize.

    Should we measure success solely in terms of transactions, dollars, inventory turnover, resolution times and bonus checks? Or should we look closer at how Maine families feed and support themselves and their neighbors when we measure the state’s economic health?

    And how much are we flatlanders who come to Maine for “new economy” jobs willing to recognize and incorporate the value of traditional products made in Maine’s rural places into our sense of connection and belonging? If we don’t know and never interact with rural people, how can we know the value of personal connections made at high school choir concerts, sports events, hunting lodges, ice fishing shacks, and the county fair? Do we know how much those activities weave into people’s cash-and-barter relationships?

    Recent news reports about traditional craft businesses like a Christmas wreath maker that’s struggling from flat prices and increasing shipping costs, and the increasing costs and flat pay for independent plowing businesses, concern me. These seasonal jobs — driven by weather, nature and culture — are being replaced by Amazon gift boxes offering similar wreaths, maybe even cut from our same trees. It seems time-stressed folks are more attracted to convenience, packaging, and price than engaging a potentially awkward face-to-face conversation with an unfamiliar person.

    We have a lot to learn about resiliency from rural communities. Perhaps the new gubernatorial administration will better understand than the last how Maine’s communities and their economies are inseparable. I hope that the state’s development agencies will refocus on communities and the desperate need for jobs and sector development to save our traditional lifestyles and places.

    And maybe Gov.-elect Janet Mills will restore the State Planning Office that was eliminated in the last administration, and focus it on sustainable development and infrastructure.

    I hope that as we rethink the role of the state government in preserving Maine’s rural character and economies, we also ask ourselves what we can do with our buying power to support our friends and neighbors, weave connection in our communities, and build stronger places by keeping our money local.

  • Maine's Dept. of Labor Rapid Response team to help laid off workers of Barclays call center

    By Ramona du Houx

    Barclaycard US, operated by UK-based Barclays bank, in Wilton, Maine announced on January 8, 2019 that they will be closing operations in Wilton, Maine.

    On March 31, 227 workers at the call center in Wilton will be laid off.  Governor Janet Mills directed the Department of Labor to use all available resources to support the employees, their families, and the Wilton community. 

    Under the direction of Mills and the Acting Commissioner of the Department of Labor (DOL), the rapid response team will be deployed to the area.

    “This is deeply disappointing news that will have a profound impact on the community, the employees and their families,” said Governor Mills. “We will marshal the resources of the Department of Labor and other government agencies to support the employees, their families, and the community, beginning by deploying a rapid response team to meet with the employees to provide reemployment services and help evaluate their health insurance and severance options.”

    Back in 2008 Barclays announced  they were going to open the call center and would create 200 jobs. As of July, Barclaycard US employed up to 500 employees at the Wilton call center. (photo taken by Ramona du Houx in 2008 with the CEO of Barclays announcing the opening of the center)

    “The Department of Labor will help these employees seek every possible benefit to which they are entitled to help support their families while they seek new employment and will identify additional services the greater Franklin County can offer in partnership with the Department,” said Laura Fortman, Acting Commissioner of the Department of Labor and former DOL Commisioner during the Baldacci administration.

    “Wilton is a beautiful lakeside community, a great place to live and raise a family, and already has a willing and productive work force,” Governor Mills added. “I am confident other employers will see this change as an opportunity and will power their businesses with the hard workers of Franklin County.”

    Barclaycard opened in Wilton with 50 employees. Jobs at the time started at $26,000 annually with full health, dental and retirement benefits.

  • Maine's Gov. Mills encourages Statewide Day of Service January 5, 2019

    Augusta, MAINE – As a capstone to her inaugural week in office, Governor Janet Mills is encouraging the people of Maine to participate in a statewide “Day of Service” this coming Saturday, January 5, 2019.

    The Day of Service is intended to be a call to action to foster community and civic engagement as part of leading Maine in a new, better direction -- the promise of the Governor-elect’s campaign. As part of this effort, the Mills Transition Team has partnered with the Maine Commission of Community Service and various agencies and non-profits to identify specific projects and activities that volunteers can participate in across all sixteen counties.

    “Services comes in many forms – whether running for office, stepping up to volunteer, or working for the public good,” said Governor-elect Mills. “This Saturday, I hope people across Maine will join me in coming together to demonstrate that we are willing to roll up sleeves and get to work in leading Maine in a new, better direction by engaging in community service projects that will make us a happier, healthier, more prosperous state for today and tomorrow.”

    The Governor-elect will participate in a project that will be announced this coming Friday, January 4th. Mainers can visit to search for and sign up for community service projects and activities near them. Projects range from serving meals, to supporting food drives, to coaching youth basketball, to clearing snow, and installing fire detectors, among many other worthy activities. Events are being hosted in all sixteen counties.

  • Maine's Governor Mills To Re-Nominate Keliher, Head and Farnham to Cabinet Posts

    January 3, 2019

    Augusta, MAINE – Governor Janet Mills announced today that she will re-nominate Commissioners Patrick Keliher, Anne Head, and Major General Douglas Farnham to their posts at the Maine Departments of Marine Resources, Professional and Financial Regulation, and Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management, respectively.

    “Maine’s success depends on a state government led by qualified and experienced public servants,” said Governor Mills. “That’s what we have  in Commissioners Keliher, Head, and Farnham. They have led their departments ably, are well-respected, and their collective knowledge and decades of experience are incredible assets to our state. I look forward to working with them in the years ahead.”

    Commissioner Head has served since 2011, Commissioner Keliher has served since 2012, and General Farnham has served since 2016. They were all appointed by Governor LePage. Keliher’s nomination will be considered by the Marine Resources Committee. Head’s nomination will be considered by the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. Farnham’s nomination will be considered by the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. All three will then be subject to the approval of the Maine Senate.

    The nominations are the latest of Governor Mills’ cabinet selections, which include Jerry Reid to lead DEP, Mike Sauschuck to lead DPS, Randy Liberty to lead DOC, Heather Johnson to lead DECD, Pender Makin to lead DOE, Laura Fortman to lead DOL, Jeanne Lambrew to lead DHHS, Kirsten Figueroa to lead DAFS, Judy Camuso to lead MDIFW and Bruce Van Note to lead MaineDOT.

  • Maine's Governor Janet Mills' full progressive inaugural address

    By Ramona du Houx

    Governor Janet Mills delivered her inaugural address January 2, 2019 shortly after being sworn in as Maine's 75th and first female governor.

    Gov. Mills' said she'd build a clean energy economy, take on climate change, health care, the opioid epidemic, the economy, education, attracting young people, mental health services, innovation, bipartisanship and several other topics.

    She also acknowledged being Maine's first governor from Franklin County. Her warmth and tener she spoke about how Maine's diversity is a strength.

    Her address was poetic, and personal, promising progressive change.

    The length of Mills' address was 23 minutes, 30 seconds.

    Read the address as prepared for delivery, in full, below:

    Madam Chief Justice, Mr. President, Madam Speaker, members of the 129th Legislature, members of the state and federal judiciary, former Governors, Tribal chiefs, members of the military, friends, and family, honored guests, and those 4,346 friends of mine on Facebook!

    I also draw your attention to the empty seat in the military section which honors and recognizes all Maine Service members currently deployed.

    It is with humility and gratitude that I stand before you this evening.

    I welcome you to a ceremony that represents both a change in the individual who occupies the office of the Chief Executive and the peaceful passing of the torch of progress.

    There are many in this state who are “the unsung” as poet Wes McNair has called them.

    They are the firefighters and teachers, the techies and hotel workers, the farmers and fishermen, the waiters and loggers, and the barbers and millworkers of our towns.

    They are our friends, our neighbors. They are immigrants. Laborers. Veterans. People with disabilities. People from away. People we rely on every day. And many who rely on us.

    This governorship is about them — the men and women of Maine.

    This year, for the first time in our state’s 198-year long history, after 74 men from York, Cumberland, Penobscot, finally you have elected a governor… from Franklin County!

    I am from the foothills of Maine, which bred Margaret Chase Smith and Carrie Stevens.

    And Cornelia Crosby — known as Fly Rod Crosby — who became Maine’s first registered guide in 1897, and who famously said, “I would rather fish any day than go to heaven.”

    In recent weeks I have received many letters. Eight-year old Lucy wrote, “Now I feel like I could become governor someday!”

    The morning after the election, one mother left a note in her daughter’s lunchbox, “Janet Mills won last night!” it said. “She is the FIRST woman to be the governor in Maine EVER! Think about all the things you can do! love, Mom.”

    I do think about all the things they can do, along with their brilliant brothers, uncles and fathers.

    But truly, this year’s milestone will one day be commonplace, like drinking milk or eating toast. When future generations read of this day, they will wonder what the fuss was about.

    Sometimes our culture moves slowly in the stream of change.

    Streams, like the people of Maine, change direction on occasion to find the best way forward.

    Many days I awake to see the mist rising from the Sandy River as it steers its course to the Kennebec, the winter’s breath unveiling a new day in my hometown, a new day in this state.

    Then I hear the familiar sounds of chickadees, church chimes and Jake brakes.

    This is home in Maine.

    The Sandy River pours out of Rangeley Lake, meanders through town, and gains momentum on its way to the Kennebec.

    There it joins other tributaries to become a powerful waterway, a loud home to eagles and salmon, stripers and sturgeon, on its course to Merrymeeting Bay.

    The Sandy River connects my town to those up and downstream.

    We become one with the rest of Maine, linked by water, woods, and land.

    Former Governor Joshua Chamberlain described this link back in 1876:

    “This great and wide sea…these beaches and bays and harbors…these things invite the brave, the noble…Thought comes here and dwells…They will love the land, and the land will give back strength.”

    The Wabanaki people know this bond. Their wisdom was passed along by people like Joseph Attean, legendary Governor of the Penobscot nation, a brave, open-hearted and forbearing individual, who guided Henry David Thoreau in his first moose hunt, through the vast and primitive wilderness to Chesuncook Lake.

    The plaque that overlooks Attean Lake -- named for him - reads,

    “Rise free from care, before the dawn, and seek adventure.”

    Today we rise, a new day before us, and seek adventure.

    But today our connection to the land is endangered.

    After 80 years of studies warning that carbon emissions are destroying our environment, the danger is now at our doorstep.

    The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost any other saltwater body in the world, driving our lobsters up the coast.

    Our coastal waters are growing acidic; temperatures are fluctuating, and sea levels are rising, endangering our shellfish industry.

    Our forests are less suitable for spruce and fir and more suitable for ticks.

    Climate change is threatening our jobs, damaging our health and attacking our historic relationship to the land and sea.

    Tonight I say, enough. Enough with studies, talk, and debate. It is time to act!

    Our new Administration will embrace clean energy; change our modes of transportation; weatherize homes and businesses, and reach a goal of 50 percent of our electricity coming from Maine renewable resources.

    These actions will create good-paying jobs, preserve our environment, and welcome young people to build a green future here in Maine.

    And, by the way, when you drive by the Blaine House in the next few weeks, look for the new solar panels that we are going to install!

    We need a healthy environment. And we need healthy people.

    Maine voters agree – which is why they voted to expand Medicaid. Hospitals, nurses, doctors and businesses all agree as well.

    Health care is for everyone, not just the well to do.

    It is for the small businesses struggling to pay high health insurance bills.

    It is for the family on the brink of bankruptcy because of one illness, accident or medical mishap.

    It is for the community that takes up collections in a jar at the corner store to pay for a neighbor’s medical costs.

    It is for people like Patty.

    My friend Patty was a vibrant, intelligent and charitable woman, an athlete, a mother of three wise children, loved by all… and uninsured.

    She died needlessly from breast cancer, a disease that could have been diagnosed early, treated, and cured.

    Patty’s story is not unique. Many of you have friends like Patty. It is unacceptable.

    In the memory of Patty and thousands of others, our new Administration will expand Medicaid - and pay for it sustainably; work to ensure that every person has primary care; control the cost of health insurance; and rein in the cost of prescription drugs.

    A major part of the health care crisis is the opioid epidemic.

    History will note that we have abandoned an entire generation of people to this preventable disease.

    The allure of opiates can fill a hole in the human heart caused by loneliness, stress, and hopelessness.

    Even as I speak, there is someone within the sound of my voice about to consume a deadly drug, jeopardizing themselves, their friends, their families, and their communities.

    If that person is listening, please know that I–and many others -- are here for you.

    You are not alone.

    We will confront this disease together.

    We will offer a helping hand, not pass judgment.

    We want you to survive, to succeed.

    We want to welcome you home again.

    It is time for action — Narcan widely available, medication assisted treatment, recovery coaches. These things will be a reality.

    And in sad memory of the 418 Maine people who lost their lives to drug overdose in 2017, our Administration will create a Director of Opiate Response, a person who will marshal the collective power and resources of state government to stem the tide of this epidemic

    Part of that effort will be to fully engage with people in our own communities — to “take it outdoors,” as one of our favorite retailers puts it, renewing a healing bond we have with the land.

    In addition to protecting the medical health of our people, we will also advance the economic health of our people.

    To employers, entrepreneurs and innovators, with new ideas for forest products, aquaculture, recreation, renewables, and everything in between, I say, “You are welcome here!”

    Fewer than half of Maine adults now hold a postsecondary credential – either a college degree or a professional certification. Yet two out of three jobs require such credentials.

    This imbalance is why we have – at the same time —employers saying they can’t find workers, and workers saying that they are stuck in dead-end jobs.

    Education is the key to helping our people achieve their full potential.

    Attracting talented young people to move here and make Maine their home will be a top priority of my Administration.

    From now on, a sign will greet all those arriving in our state at the Kittery line.

    It will say, quite simply: “Welcome Home."

    I will work with the new Legislature to achieve the best education for our people, from preschool through college and beyond, beginning with full and fair funding for schools, including our Career and Technical Centers.

    And we will treat our teachers with the respect and dignity they deserve.

    There is no higher priority than our children.

    And with so many young people at Long Creek, with children waiting for critical mental health services, and some even losing their lives to violence in their own homes, it is high time we put children’s health and safety first.

    I will start with one simple step — calling together the Children's Cabinet for the first time in years, to tackle these issues.

    These are the challenges we know about. But we must also be prepared for the unexpected.

    We know that a recession is possible in the next few years.

    We know that someday, robots, drones, driverless cars, broadband, and 3-D printing, will radically alter the way Maine people live, learn, and work.

    We need to be ready.

    I made my own predictions back at the turn of the century.

    In the year 1999, I wrote down in a journal a list of what I thought would change and what I thought would stay the same in the new millennium.

    I predicted that in 50 years there would no longer be the following things: cash, paper bags, spare tires, lint, dust, or panty hose.

    But in 50 years I said there would likely still be: Stephen King bestsellers, Baxter State Park, people from away, and … Strom Thurmond.

    As you can see, I cannot rely on myself to predict the future.

    That’s why I am enlisting help.

    I am following the advice of writer Kurt Vonnegut, who said “Every government ought to have a Department of the Future.”

    And so my administration will create an Office of Innovation and the Future.

    This office will dive into major policy challenges, foster collaboration and propose concrete, workable solutions.

    Now here’s how I want to govern.

    We are all in this together. We all want Maine to have a beautiful environment; happy people; and prosperous communities.

    Though we all agree on the goal, we differ about how to get there.

    We are Republicans, Greens, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, and many more besides.

    This is something I know well myself.

    I mean, every Mills family reunion is like a meeting of the United Nations – everyone has an opinion and wants a microphone.

    But these differences are what make my family strong. They make every family strong. They make Maine strong.

    Our diversity is a virtue – one that we should harness to advance good public debate and good public policy.

    We welcome the voices of newcomers to the public conversation — the young, immigrants, people of different cultures, people of color, people of different orientations.

    All are important members of the Maine family.

    My town has always had a commons, where everybody could graze their sheep and cattle, sell produce and where we would enjoy a concert on a summer evening.

    Now our state must find its own common ground, expand our horizons and become one Maine again.

    From the tree streets of Lewiston to the rolling fields of the County, from the Bold Coast to the Height of Land, from Cross Rock in Allagash to Portland’s Promenades, our people will once again find unity of purpose.

    We will bring back Maine’s tradition of civil discourse, expressed by Governor Israel Washburn, a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s, in his 1861 inaugural:

    “Waving aside petty schemes and unseemly wrangles…let us rise, if we can, to the height of the great argument which duty and patriotism so eloquently address to us.”

    You know, I have fallen in love a few times in my life. And there are those in this audience whom I have loved for long and for years including friends and family and some newly loved.

    But it is the bond we all share for our state, for children longing for security, for newcomers seeking to belong, for all of those who feel left behind, who long for respect and dignity.

    One thing we all love is our great state.

    And when a family, a community, a state believe in each other, help each other, love each other, great things can happen.

    Maine people have greatness within them.

    Maine is our home.

    We are connected by the rivers and the land, the forests and the mountains.

    We are connected by love.

    We are strengthened by our connections.

    We are one Maine, undivided, one family from Calais to Bethel, from York to Fort Kent.

    We meet this evening, free from care, the heirs of Joseph Attean, Joshua Chamberlain, Fly Rod Crosby, and Israel Washburn.

    Tomorrow we rise before the dawn — like the mist over the Sandy River — and seek adventure, with hope in our hearts and love in our souls for the brand-new day.

    To all of you, and to the people of Maine, I say, Welcome Home.

    Welcome Home.

    Thank you.

  • Maine's sardine/maple leaf New Year's Eve drop

    Eastport, Maine, the country's easternmost city, can be a cold, dark place to spend the New Year. Hoping to bring life to its downtown during the holiday, the city decided to try something new for New Year's in 2004—a wacky New Year's drop including a sardine and a maple leaf, the first as a nod to the town's fishing industry, the second as a celebration of their neighbor across the bay, with whom they share both a political border and a time zone border.

    The maple leaf is dropped at midnight Canadian time—11 p.m. in Eastport—and the sardine is dropped at midnight in Eastport. The sardine, which measures eight feet long, even gets some New Year's kisses after it descends from the third story of the Tides Institute & Museum of Art (a local tradition). This year marks the drop's 14th anniversary. 

  • What the Trump US Government shutdown means

    Services that will stay open:

    Social Security checks will go out and troops will remain at their posts. Doctors and hospitals will receive their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. The U.S. Postal Service, busy delivering packages for the holiday season, is an independent agency and won’t be affected.

    Virtually every essential government agency, including the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, will remain open. Transportation Security Administration officers will staff airport checkpoints.

    The air traffic control system, food inspection, Medicare, veterans’ health care and many other essential government programs will run as usual. The Federal Emergency Management Agency can continue to respond to disasters. Nearly 90 percent of the Department of Homeland Security’s 240,000 employees will be at work because they’re considered essential.

    Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which is investigating potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, is unaffected by a shutdown.

    But hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be forced off the job, and some services will go dark.

    Federal workers are exempted from furloughs only if their jobs are national security-related or if they perform essential activities that “protect life and property.”

    According to a report by Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee, more than 420,000 federal employees deemed essential will continue to work without pay, including about 41,000 law enforcement and corrections officers. The Homeland Security employees who will keep working include about 150,000 from the Coast Guard, TSA and Customs and Border Protection.

    More than 380,000 employees will be furloughed — including nearly all from NASA and Housing and Urban Development and 41,000 from the Commerce Department. About 16,000 National Park Service employees — 80 percent of the agency’s workforce — will be furloughed.

    Also among those who will furloughed: 52,000 staffers at the Internal Revenue Service, slowing analysis and collection of hundreds of thousands of tax returns and audits.

  • Ode to Marshall Fields of Chicago

    by Lee Heffner

    Writing is about memory, personal truth and the never-ending river of change. A recent scan of Flipboard had the following headline: Christmas at Macy’s Walnut Room. To most, this is an innocent lede about an annual holiday celebration in Chicago. To me, it is a stain on Christmases past.

    Childhood Christmases are redolent of my grandmother’s cherry, almond body cream, fresh pine, and the sweets served in Marshall Field’s Walnut Room. We had a special, annual date, just us, tea at the base of the storybook Christmas tree seemingly trimmed by elves. Our trays of dainty sandwiches, shimmering sweets, and warm scones were a personal fairy tale beyond my multicultural and blue-collar neighborhood. Each sip equaled the special love we shared, each cucumber sandwich harkened the possibility of future travel and the sweets spoke of creative aspirations. One Yellow cab ride took me to a magical kingdom that Disney could never replicate.

    Fields was the place to spend tips earned from my Kresge’s lunch counter job. I saved and saved to buy a special dress for a high school dance. Fields sold me my first pair of expensive shoes as a young career woman and it became the place for my special annual Christmas date with my children who found it old fashioned. Sadly, I failed at translating the magic it held and still holds for me today.

    Marshall Fields is an echo of Chicago history, a Phoenix fertilized by the ashes of a historic fire, stately on its full city block, accessorized by giant verdigris clocks, stocked with wonders including the celestial Tiffany mosaic above the grand gallery, all impressive to my young self. It continued to be magical as I returned through all phases of my womanhood.

    For me, Macy’s is New York, malls and overstocked floors more jumble than art. I can hear New Yorkers protest and rightly so because Macy’s is their memory. Macy’s acquired Fields in 2005. For months they teased the city about whether they would keep the historic name or change it to Macy’s. Chicagoans held out a helium balloon of hope that suffered a massive coronary with the name change. Is it a coincidence that I left Chicago in 2006?

    What does a name change have to do with writing? Everything. It is the human condition to hunger for reconstructed memory while society strives for change. It is the meat of an idea that a writer serves as the main course of personal truth. I write about the many memories I carry of the grand emporium in my creative arsenal. It is tied to my education, my accomplishments, my hopes, my dreams, and my losses. Perhaps the writing of my memory-truth will spark a memory in you or another reader. This is why I write.

  • Bipartisan Elected Officials, Veterans and Conservation Champions Rally to Save LWCF by end of year

     By Ramona du Houx

    Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) champions in the House and Senate rallied on the steps of the U.S. Capitol with conservation leaders on November 29,2018 calling on Congress to reauthorize and fully fund America’s most important conservation and recreation program before the end of the year.

    "Two months ago, America lost one of its best conservation tools,” said Lynn Scarlett, Former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior and head of External Affairs at The Nature Conservancy. "It’s too important to continue leaving its future in doubt. Now more than ever, we have the bipartisan momentum to get LWCF the permanent reauthorization and full funding it deserves. For the protection of our lands, waters and the benefits their conservation bring to communities and our economy, now is the time to save LWCF.”

    The Land and Water Conservation Fund helps protect national parks, expand outdoor recreation opportunities and bolster local economies, all at no cost to the American taxpayer.

    "Since it was enacted 54 years ago, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped protect many of the nation’s most popular national parks, forests, and public lands,” said Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “LWCF has pumped billions of dollars into the outdoor economy and provided millions of good jobs."

     “The Land and Water Conservation Fund remains the single most successful conservation program in American history,” said Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). “Nearly every congressional district in the country benefits from its funding – at no cost to the taxpayer – and millions enjoy the parks, ballfields, and landscapes it maintains every day. My colleagues and I will continue to push for a permanent reauthorization of this important program.

    A national poll released in September showed that 74 percent of Americans support reauthorization and funding of the LWCF. The historically bipartisan program has received widespread support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

    The Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands also weighed into the effort to get LWCF permanently funded by the end of the year.

    “As veterans who are elected officials, the freedom to recreate in our public lands is something we continue to fight for—for all Americans. Failure to permanently reauthorize the bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Fund will be a self-inflicted wound that jeopardizes livelihoods connected to the multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry it generates, and more importantly, for our children who rely on these funds to protect the outdoor spaces we all love.” said Alex Cornell du Houx, President of the Elected Officials to Protect America’s Lands,  Marine veteran and former state representative. 


  • Libertarian Party loses party status; members now unenrolled

     The Libertarian Party is no longer recognized as a qualified political party in the State of Maine, due to a failure to meet the enrollment threshold outlined in the party status requirements of Maine law.

    To retain party status, qualified political parties must have at least 10,000 registered voters who are enrolled in the party cast ballots in the General Election, among other provisions in Maine law. As of the Nov. 6, 2018 General Election, only 6,168 voters were enrolled as Libertarians.

    All voters who were registered as Libertarians are now listed as “unenrolled” in a party, as of Dec. 4, 2018. The Libertarian Party was originally qualified in July of 2016 with 5,150 enrollments.

    The Libertarian Party has filed a renewed declaration of intent to form a party and must collect at least 5,000 enrollees by Jan. 2, 2020. A voter may enroll in the Libertarian Party by completing a new Maine Voter Registration Application. The voter must check the box next to “other qualifying party:” and write in “Libertarian” or “Libertarian Party.” The Libertarian Party will not be pre-printed on the Maine Voter Registration Application unless it becomes a qualified party. Once a voter has enrolled in the Libertarian Party, the voter must remain in the party for three months before the voter can file an application for either a withdrawal or change in enrollment.

    Only three political parties are officially recognized in the State of Maine: Democratic, Green Independent and Republican. Any voter not belonging to one of these three parties is considered “unenrolled.” Qualified parties can certify their presidential and vice-presidential candidates’ names for the November 2020 General Election ballot and can nominate candidates in the primary elections.


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