LATEST NEWS

Community
  • Maine's Cape Neddick Center for Wildlife Education and Outreach 2018 Holiday Bazaar

     

    The Center for Wildlife is excited to be presenting their annual Holiday Bazaar. 

    "Bring family and friends up to the place that you love, or visit for the first time and spend some time connecting with your community and wildlife. One of our favorite events of the year...we invite you to step through the doors of our magical gift shop in the forest. Participants can browse nature-inspired gifts like wild-crafted hemlock wreaths, wildlife holiday cards, wildlife baby blankets, Ambassador Series books, photographs of nature, goats milk soap from Jenness Farm, crafts from local artisans and so much more. Participants will also get the chance to meet our owls, hawks, falcons, and other ambassadors up-close, tour their outdoor enclosures, and support the Center while doing their holiday shopping," said Sarah Kern.

    In November – December the Holiday Bazaar will be held on Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm at the Center for Wildlife at 385 Mountain Road, Cape Neddick, ME 03902. 

    We will also have a soft opening on Friday, November 23rd or “Green Friday” as we call it. 

    Skip the crowds and hustle and bustle and spend your time in the woods instead with your family and community," added Kern. "Each weekend we will have fun activities for the whole family including local authors, crafts, and even a visit from some special individuals from the North Pole! "

    For more information on the Holiday Bazaar - website at www.thecenterforwildlife.org or call 207-361-1400.

    About Center for Wildlife

    Center for Wildlife is a local 501C3 out of Cape Neddick, ME.  Since 1986 the Center for Wildlife has been providing medical treatment for wild animals in need. We currently admit over 2,000 wild animals a year and are regional leaders in conservation medicine. For the last 20 years we have been proud to offer high quality environmental education programs to our community.  We currently present over 375 programs a year and reach over 12,500 individuals in schools, nursing homes, community centers, libraries and universities.

  • Maine's Tabulation of CD2 ranked-choice election scheduled at noon today

    Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Maine’s top election official, has confirmed that election results from all the municipalities in the Congressional District 2 race in the Nov. 6, 2018 General Election are now uploaded and the verification process is complete. The Elections staff will now proceed to run the ranked-choice voting tabulation to determine the winner of the election.

    The tabulation is scheduled for noon today, Thursday, Nov. 15 at the centralized tabulation site in the Elkins Building (on the former AMHI campus), 19 Elkins Lane, Augusta. The results will be made public at that time. The tabulation is expected to take only a few minutes to process and the results grid will be displayed for public viewing.

    Following the verbal results announcement, the results data will be posted as an Excel file on the Election Results page, and marked as “unofficial.” As always, official results for all races will be available and posted 20 days after the election when the final tabulation is submitted to the Governor.

    General Courier of South Portland began collecting ballots and memory devices from all of Maine’s municipalities beginning Thursday, Nov. 8. (Hand-count towns submitted their ballots; municipalities that use tabulators submitted their memory devices). Secretary of State Department staff members began the public processing of that material on Friday, Nov. 9 and continued Saturday, Nov. 10 and Monday, Nov. 12 through today. The process includes unlocking and unsealing each ballot box to scan those ballots; unsealing and uploading all the memory devices; and then verifying the results to ensure accuracy before all the votes can be loaded into the tabulation program.

     

  • Speaker of Maine's House says, ready to get to work for all Mainers

    Maine State Capitol, photo by Ramona du Houx

    Novemeber 10, 2018

    OP-ed by Maine Speaker of the House Sara Gideon 

    This week, hundreds of thousands of Mainers turned out to help shape the future of our state by exercising their right to vote. Now, with the election behind us, we can truly get to work improving the lives of Maine people.

    Our incoming House Democrats are teachers and entrepreneurs, tradespeople, parents and volunteers in their communities. I’m also incredibly proud to announce that 49 of them – more than half of the incoming Democratic caucus – are women.

    These individuals stepped forward because they care deeply about the wellbeing of their neighbors and about our shared future. For months, they have worked tirelessly to run positive, grassroots campaigns and personally connect with those they aspired to represent.

    Now, Maine House Democrats turn our focus to an agenda that prioritizes what we heard on the campaign trail, again and again, from voters all across our state. An agenda that recognizes the choices working families make every day and an agenda that moves those families closer to prosperity.

    Conversation after conversation, we heard from our neighbors about the issues that make an impact on their lives each and every day. Now it’s time to take the message we heard from you with us to the State House.

    We pledged to increase access to affordable and quality health care, to alleviate the crippling burden of student debt and to finally make the critical investments that will build the high-paying, sustainable jobs of both today and tomorrow. 

    And we’ve promised to make state government more transparent, more accountable and more responsive to you, the people we serve. 

    We are excited to work in partnership with Governor-elect Janet Mills and all our newly elected colleagues to chart a path for Maine that grows our economy, capitalizes on our greatest resources and moves every family closer to prosperity.  

    There is a great deal of work to do to ensure the bright future I know, in my heart, Maine has ahead of us. The extraordinary women and men of the incoming House Democratic majority are ready to get to work to deliver the results Mainers have long deserved.

    Their dedication, enthusiasm and optimism are truly inspiring. I’m eager to serve alongside them.

  • Advocates of new program to protect kids from lead poisoning hail Maine State Rep. Golden's leadership

    Initiative will make hundreds more Maine homes lead-safe

    Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden joined housing advocates and community leaders Thursday to mark the rollout of a new program to protect young Mainers from lead poisoning.

    “Lead poisoning costs Maine communities millions of dollars each year,” said Golden, D-Lewiston, who championed bipartisan legislation to create the new program. “And that doesn’t even begin to account for the human toll, costs that cannot truly be measured. Its effects are long-term and often irreversible. The best and most cost-effective way to address the problem is to prevent it in the first place. That’s why this initiative is so important.” 

    The new $4 million program will help homeowners perform expensive lead abatement to protect their own families or families renting from them. The initiative, which is overseen by the Maine State Housing Authority, aims to encourage homeowners to address the presence of lead proactively before children are exposed.

    Advocates say there is a critical need for the program in Maine, citing newly released data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Those figures show 322 cases of lead poisoning identified among Maine kids between September 2017 and September 2018.

    “This new lead abatement initiative is going to make hundreds of Maine homes safe for kids at a time when we’re clearly still struggling to prevent lead poisoning statewide,” said Greg Payne, director of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition. “We’re grateful to Rep. Golden and the bipartisan coalition of legislators who stepped up and provided the leadership to make it happen. Both our kids and our state’s finances will be healthier for it.”

    Homes built prior to 1978 are at risk of containing lead paint. Lead is a known neurotoxin that can cause developmental delays, learning disabilities, behavioral issues and, in severe cases, convulsions, coma or death. Research has determined there is no safe blood lead level for children.

    For more information and to seek program funds, homeowners and landlords should contact MaineHousing directly at 626-4600 or visit www.mainehousing.org.

    Golden is running for the 2nd District U.S. Congressional Seat.

  • Thursday, Nov. 1 is deadline to request absentee ballots for General Election in Maine

    Absentee ballots for the Nov. 6, 2018 General and Referendum Election are available to request through this Thursday, Nov. 1, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap reminded voters today.

    Any registered Maine voter may choose to vote absentee, either via mail or in person at their town hall prior to Election Day. Voters do not need to provide a reason to vote absentee. Voters can request an absentee ballot by completing and submitting their request form online athttps://www1.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/AbsenteeBallot/index.pl Alternatively, the form can be printed out and mailed or hand-delivered to the municipal clerk. Absentee ballots can also be requested by phone or in person at the clerk's office.

    The November 2018 ballot will include one citizens' initiative question and four bond issues. Additionally, Maine voters will elect one of Maineâs two United States Senators, Maineâs Governor, two Representatives to Congress, members of the Maine Legislature, and certain county officers. More information is available on the Upcoming Elections page athttps://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/upcoming/index.html of the Department of the Secretary of State website.

    The online absentee ballot request service provides an email notification with a confirmation number. When the request is processed and accepted by the municipal clerk, the voter will be sent an additional notification and the ballot will arrive by mail. All Maine municipalities are required to accept electronic requests for absentee ballots.

    All ballots must be returned to the clerk no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day to be cast, so voters are advised to account for mail delivery delays. In-person absentee voting is available through Thursday, Nov. 1. After Thursday, any voter who has not yet requested an absentee ballot would only be able to vote on Election Day, Nov. 6, unless they submit a qualifying special circumstances application to the clerk.

    If you have questions about the absentee voting process, visit the Absentee Voting page athttps://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/voter-info/absenteeguide.html or call the Division of Elections at 624-7650.

  • Maine Lewiston Law Firm and Attorney Honored by Pine Tree Legal Assistance for Pro Bono Work

     

    Hardy Wolf & Downing 1967 Commitment to Justice Award 2018 - L-R: William C. Herbert III, Michael Welch, Cailley Bonti, Sheldon Tepler, Christian Lewis, Leana Amaez, Stacy Stitham, Nan Heald. Photo by Nicole Pelonzi 

     Pine Tree Legal Assistance honored Lewiston-based law firm Hardy, Wolf, and Downing and one of its partners, Sheldon Tepler, Esq., at an event in Lewiston, Maine. 

    When Pine Tree Legal Assistance first opened its doors in 1967, it was a result of hard work by many private attorneys in Maine who had recognized that poor people in Maine were being excluded from the American promise of “justice for all.” For the past 51 years, Pine Tree has operated in partnership with Maine law firms and lawyers around the state to level the playing field for low-income individuals and to help move Maine closer to the promise of justice for all.

    On the evening of October 23, 2018, at a reception in Lewiston, Pine Tree presented two awards to local heroes: Board President Stacy Stitham presented the “1967 Commitment to Justice Award” to Hardy, Wolf, and Downing and Executive Director Nan Heald presented Pine Tree’s individual “Pro Bono Award” to firm partner Sheldon Tepler, Esq. 

    The “1967 Commitment to Justice Award” was created to recognize a law firm, agency or organization that has made an extraordinary contribution to the legal needs of a specific client community or to address a particular legal challenge. 

    This year’s award celebrates an historic milestone in pro bono service: the 2017 decision of the firm to create a new full-time associate position with the understanding that the attorney will spend 50 percent of their time on pro bono work in partnership with the Lewiston office of Pine Tree Legal Assistance. 

    The attorney’s salary and benefits will be paid by the firm, but half of their time will be spent at Pine Tree. Attorney Cailley Bonti, a 2017 graduate of Maine Law, has been hired to serve in this unique role. At Hardy, Wolf & Downing, she will be learning the ropes of personal injury litigation from an amazing team of attorneys. At Pine Tree, she will be initially focused on a wide range of complex public benefits cases, many requiring administrative hearings to secure or retain a needed benefit.

    “To our knowledge, this is the first such program to launch in a Maine law firm and may also be unique on a national level,” said Nan Heald, executive Director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance. “We can’t imagine a more worthy recipient of our 1967 Commitment to Justice Award than the law firm of Hardy, Wolf & Downing.”

    Sheldon Tepler Pro Bono Award and 2018 10 24.jpg L-R: Cailley Bonti, Sheldon Tepler. Photo by Nicole Pelonzi 

    Pine Tree Legal Assistance also recognized attorney Sheldon Tepler, a partner at Hardy, Wolf & Downing, with its annual award to an individual for exceptional pro bono service.  This year’s award recognizes his career-long dedication to pro bono work and advocacy to expand justice for all low-income Mainers. 

    In the 1990’s, Sheldon helped Pine Tree establish its credentials as a community partner agency with United Way of Androscoggin County; in the early 2000’s, his experience at New Beginnings helped inform Pine Tree’s development of Kids Legal as a statewide legal resource for low-income children and youth. 

    For more than a decade, Sheldon has also volunteered as a ‘lawyer of the day’ for low-income individuals facing eviction during the bimonthly docket calls at the Lewiston District Court, working on their behalf to enforce legal protections and prevent homelessness.

    This work is especially important given the high rate of eviction in Lewiston. According to the Eviction Lab Project at Princeton University, Lewiston Maine has an eviction rate of 4.79 percent, significantly higher than Maine’s overall eviction rate of 2.26 percent.

    A study in Massachusetts by the Boston Bar Association demonstrates that “extensive assistance from lawyers is essential to helping tenants preserve their housing and avoid the potential for homelessness, including all of the far-reaching tangible and intangible costs to tenants and society generally that are associated with homelessness.”

    Research shows that tenants facing eviction are more likely to avoid homelessness as a result of legal assistance, saving thousands or tens of thousands of public dollars in shelter costs for each eviction averted.

    In addition to his own pro bono work throughout his career, Sheldon is the architect of the firm’s new experiment in pro bono.

    “There are few opportunities for public recognition of the essential support provided to Pine Tree Legal Assistance’s clients by other groups and individuals, but the American Bar Association has designated this week as a National Celebration of Pro Bono.  We had to showcase the incredible contributions of Hardy, Wolf & Downing and its partner Sheldon Tepler as part of that national effort, knowing that this Maine law firm and its staff stand out on both a statewide and national level,” said Ms. Heald.

    Pine Tree Legal Assistance is non-profit law firm whose mission is to ensure that state and federal laws affecting poor people are upheld, while also addressing the systemic barriers to justice faced by Mainers with low incomes. Last year, Pine Tree Legal celebrated its 50th anniversary as Maine’s oldest and largest civil legal aid provider. 

     

  • $50,000 to combat child hunger donated to Full Plates - Full Potential

    On October 24, 2018, Hannaford Supermarkets announced their contribution of $50,000 to Full Plates Full Potential to support their work to combat child hunger. 

    “When children have the nutritious food they need, they learn more effectively and can meet their full potential,” said Maile Buker, vice president of Marketing for Hannaford Supermarkets.  “Hannaford is committed to partnering with schools and community organizations to make sure our children can access healthy food. By supporting Full Plates Full Potential in this work, we are investing in our community.”

    Full Plates Full Potential is Maine’s only statewide non-profit working to end childhood hunger. The work is accomplished, in schools and nonprofits, by fully utilizing the reimbursable USDA child nutrition programs; breakfast, lunch, afterschool and summer meals. Additionally, Full Plates works with a statewide network to ensure best practices are being implemented and awards grants directly to schools and nonprofits.

    “Hannaford Supermarkets has been an incredible partner in our work to end child hunger in Maine,” said Former State Senator Justin Alfond, co-founder of FPFP. “We are thrilled with Hannaford’s ongoing support. We’re going to be able to feed a lot more children.”

    The $50,000 will support Full Plates Full Potential grant work, directly investing in critical infrastructure upgrades that enable schools to use best practices and feed more students. In 2018, Full Plates Full Potential invested in more than 30 schools and nonprofits, helping students access thousands of additional meals.

    Today’s donation is part of the Hannaford Chef’s Table program. The Chef's Table is a partnership between Hannaford and four local chefs who maintain the same passion for building community and helping home cooks make fresh, affordable meals. The program features affordable recipes using quality and fresh ingredients created by the participating chefs in local Hannaford stores. Hannaford has played a critical role supporting child nutrition programs across Maine, New England and upstate New York.

    The event was held at Westbrook Middle School, a Full Plate Full Potential grantee. Westbrook has fully embraced making food access a priority for their students. “Last year, 57 percent of our students qualified for free and reduced lunch,” said Mary Emerson, Westbrook’s Nutritional Food Director. “Food security is a definite issue for families in our community.”

    About Full Plates Full Potential

    Started in 2015, Full Plates Full Potential is Maine’s only statewide child hunger organization. Full Plates Full Potential does its work by partnering with other hunger relief organizations, granting funds and providing technical support to schools and nonprofits and working with chefs, businesses and others to end child hunger. Learn more at www.fullplates.org.

     

  • Documentary on Forced Removal of Maine Native Children from Families

    Member of Penobscot Nation to introduce film & lead Q&A —

    “Dawnland,” a full-length documentary that follows the nation’s first government-sanctioned investigation into the removal of Native children from their families and culture, will be shown at the Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta on Wednesday, October 10, at 2 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. As recently as the 1970s one in four Native children nationwide were living in non-Native foster care, adoptive homes, or industrial boarding schools.
    The screenings will occur all accross the state this week. Preview HERE> 

    Penobscot Nation member Dawn Neptune Adams, one of those children, shares some of her personal story in the documentary, and she will be in attendance to introduce the film and facilitate audience questions and comments at the film’s conclusion. Joining Adams for the two shows will be Tom Reynolds and Erika Bjorum, representatives of Maine-Wabanaki REACH, the organization that established and supported the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission process. 

    Tickets for the program are $8 or adults, $6 for age 18 and under. The first 30 high school students who present a student ID at either performance will be admitted free.
  • Eastern Maine Medical Center Nurses Reach Landmark Tentative Contract Agreement

    Registered nurses at Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) have reached a tentative three-year contract agreement with the hospital, featuring breakthrough staffing language, the Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (MSNA/NNOC/NNU) announced on September 17, 2018.

    If approved, the deal, which covers 872 nurses at the hospital, would run through September, 2021.

    We are so proud that nurses stood together with the community, to achieve this major victory for our patients and our colleagues,” said Cokie Giles, RN, bargaining team member and President of MSNA/NNOC/NNU. “We did spend many days at the bargaining table, but the real work was done by nurses organizing in their departments and in our community: to raise awareness, to find consensus on our priorities and to press management to seriously address our issues in negotiations. We are confident the improvements in this new contract, once ratified by the nurses, will directly benefit our patients.”

    RNs say a recent candlelight vigil brought nurses and community members together, showing solidarity and setting the stage for winning the new tentative agreement, which features strong protections for patients and RNs, including language protecting the role of the “charge nurse.”

    “The charge nurse is responsible for coordinating the unit, so we are critical to patient safety,” said union bargaining team member and relief charge nurse Karen Greenlaw, RN.  “We must be available to lead our teams, mentor newer nurses and handle crises as they come up. Our new language ensures that we can protect our patients and be the vital resource that our teams need.”

    The tentative agreement also features economic gains to keep up with inflation, and protections for nurse benefits—all of which help strengthen the recruitment and retention of experienced nurses for the community. In addition, the tentative pact protects the “complement unit” system that EMMC nurses have fought for and won over several contract cycles.

    “The complement unit provision in our contract makes sure that our patients receive care from  nurses who are trained and experienced to meet their specialized needs,” said Dawn Caron, RN, bargaining team member and Chief Union Steward at EMMC. “This is one of the foundational principles of our union contract. We always have and always will fight to protect our patients by keeping this system in place.”

    The nurses, who have been in negotiations since May of this year, will vote on the agreement September 21.

    MSNA represents 2,000 nurses in the state of Maine. NNOC/NNU represents over 150,000 RNs nationwide, and is the largest and fastest growing union of RNs in the nation. NNU has won landmark health and safety protections for nurses and patients in the areas of staffing, safe patient handling, infectious disease and workplace violence protection.

  • RiverWalk in Waterville, Maine open to the public, made possible with Land and Water Conservation Funds

    The Two Cents Bridge in Watervile, Maine got it's name from the toll charged to workers who had to cross the river to work in the factories. It's construction is unique in wire bridges and give thrills to those who cross over as the wind sways the structure. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramone du Houx

    Colorful paths at the RiverWalk at the Head of Falls have transformed the disused waterfront near the Two Cents Bridge in Waterville, Maine.

    The pathways circle around connecting Waterville back to it's historic past of life along the riverfront. There is even a conduit for electricity to an outdoor amphitheater, which will host performances of locals as well as invited entertainers and speakers. The theme of the RiverWalk is “Waterville’s Return to the River.”

    The RiverWalk was designed by Mitchell & Associates of Portland, was funded with many differnt donations and grants. The Waterville Rotary Club in 2015 gave the lead gift of $150,000 for the RiverWalk project as a way of celebrating its centennial. City councilors accepted $50,000 from the Waterville Development Corp., and that funding was part of $300,000 the city raised locally to match a $300,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Then other donations came in. 

    "Without the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) projects that are vital to communities around Maine might never be funded. The LWCF is often used to get matching funds. We, as veterans, owe it to our country to stand up and defend LWCF for future generations," said State Rep. Robert Alley who recently signed a letter with 80 lawmakers who are veterans to help reauthorize the LWCF. "Our lands are our cultural heritage. Maine's economy depends on our wonderful natural places, that have received funds from LWCF. I'm proud to stand with my fellow brothers and sisters to ensure the fund is reauthorized. Waterville's creative economy is growing, in part, because of LWCF funds."

    The city several years ago installed water, sewer, electricity and parking at Head of Falls, which is off Front Street. With the aide of community block grants, the Department of Economic and Community Development's help during the Baldacci administration, the city, and private donations in 2010 the city built a plaza west of the Two Cent Bridge that includes benches, an informational kiosk, a walkway and landscaping.

    Though the RiverWalk is open to the public, workers are still completing some work. A dedication ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. on October 6, 2018 featuring former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell, who lived in Waterville when he was a young, as he principle speaker at the ceremony.

    Waterville owns 14 acres at Head of Falls, and officials believe that the RiverWalk will be the catalyst for more development on the riverfront, which connects with Kennebec Messalonskee Trails. Features will include interpretive signs along the boardwalk for people to read about the river, native Americans and the log drive which ended in the late 1970s along the Kennebec.

    Mountians in Maine near Waterville, photo by Ramona du Houx

  • Horse in York County Tests Positive for West Nile Virus (WNV)

    The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (Maine DACF) announced today that a horse showing neurological signs last week in York County tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV).

    The horse is currently undergoing supportive veterinary care and does not pose a threat of infection to any other animals or humans. The horse was unvaccinated against the disease.

    WNV is a virus that is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. One pool of mosquitoes has tested positive for WNV in York County this year. This is the first confirmed case of WNV in horses in Maine on record. WNV has been diagnosed in horses this year in nearby states such as New York.

    “WNV and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), which are carried by mosquitoes, are viral diseases that cause similar signs, and are often fatal in unvaccinated horses. Both viruses can affect human beings if they are bitten by mosquitoes that carry the viruses,” said Dr. Michele Walsh, Maine state veterinarian. “People cannot acquire WNV or EEE infection from sick animals, only from the bite of an infected mosquito.”

    The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) and Maine DACF suggest Mainers take the following steps to protect themselves and their animals from EEE and WNV:

    • Wear long sleeves and long pants
    • Use an EPA approved repellent on skin and clothes
    • Take extra precautions at dusk and dawn
    • Use screens on your windows and doors
    • Drain artificial sources of standing water where you and your animals live, work, and play
    • Vaccinate horses against WNV and EEE

    Both WNV and EEE viruses are carried by mosquitoes, which pick them up from infected wild birds.

    The viruses replicate in birds, which act as natural reservoirs for the diseases. Signs of the diseases in horses may include: stumbling or poor balance, unusual behavior and lethargy. Other symptoms include head pressing, circling, tremors, seizures and eventual coma.

    “WNV and EEE are preventable in horses through vaccination,” Walsh advised. “If more than six months has elapsed since a horse has been vaccinated, a booster vaccination may be needed.”

    While EEE has not been detected in Maine so far in 2018, it has been detected here in recent years, and has been detected in neighboring states and provinces this year. Horse owners should contact their own veterinarians to decide if booster shots are needed. Revaccination is recommended if more than six months have passed since the last vaccination when exposure to infected mosquitoes is likely. Vaccinating horses regularly is the best way to protect them against these dangerous diseases, and is safe, effective and essential.

    “This WNV activity in mosquitoes and horses should serve as a reminder to the public that humans are at risk from this disease as well, and should take the appropriate steps to protect themselves,” said Dr. Siiri Bennett, State Epidemiologist for the Maine CDC.

    Although many persons infected with WNV have no apparent illness, those who develop symptoms do so usually three to 10 days after the bite of an infected mosquito. One in five people infected develop a fever with symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, and most recover completely.

    Less than 1% of people develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis, and approximately 10% of those may die. Maine’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory performs arboviral testing for mosquitoes, large animals and humans. Submission information can be found at www.mainepublichealth.gov/lab.

  • Eastern Maine Medical Center nurses hold candlelight vigil on critical safe staffing concern in Bangor

    Bangor, MAINE Registered nurses with the Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) held a candlelight vigil August 30, 2018 in the evening to shine a light on a critical safe staffing concern at the medical facility in Bangor, Maine.

    The vigil was sponsored by the Maine State Nurses Association (MSNA), the union that represents the 850 EMMC nurses.

    The nurses gathered with concerned community members and former EMMC patients to highlight the importance of a key safe staffing proposal currently under negotiation with EMMC management. Registered nurses are demanding that charge nurses no longer be assigned patients so they can devote their attention to their specific and critical assignment: mentoring newer nurses, addressing emergencies as they arise and assisting other nurses.

    “It is critical that charge nurses be focused on their own duties, their expertise and input are vitally important to maintain the highest level of care,” said MSNA President and EMMC nurse, Cokie Giles. “This is a critical safe staffing issue. Charge nurses must be available to assist other nurses on the floor, mentor newer nurses and handle emergencies as they come up. When our charge nurses have to take patient assignments, they are not available to do the job they’re assigned to do, and that can potentially compromise the safety of our patients.”   

    EMMC forces charge nurses to take patient assignments regularly, when it is convenient for management, and in a manner that is not consistent with safe staffing, say nurses. 

    “Safe patient staffing, with the mentoring of an experienced charge nurse is best for patient care,” said Lisa Oliver, co-chair of the union’s professional practice committee and member of the union bargaining team. “The hospital administration must adequately staff the hospital so we can better protect our patients and give them the care they deserve.”

  • Rockland Receives $830,000 Federal Grant to Repair and Update Its Fish Pier

    Rockland Harbor, photo by Ramona du Houx

    The City of Rockland would receive an $830,000 federal grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), enough funding to move forward with plans to repair and update its aging Fish Pier.

    “The Rockland Fish Pier is a critical piece of working waterfront infrastructure that’s in great need of repair and updating. I’m grateful that Rockland will receive this federal grant so it can move forward with this long-awaited project,”Congresswoman Chellie Pingree . “The EDA is an important source of investment for Maine, which is why I have been proud to work with Appropriations colleagues from both sides of the aisle to protect its funding from being eliminated as the Trump Administration has proposed the last two years. The jobs this project preserves and creates shows why it’s so important to keep defending it and other programs.”  

    EDA estimates that the project will allow the retention and creation of 86 jobs.

    The $830,000 EDA grant is matched by a $350,000 federal grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission as well as funding from the Maine Department of Transportation and City of Rockland.

    Project Summary Provided by the EDA: 
    This EDA investment supports the construction of components, repairs and upgrades to the City of Rockland's commercial fish pier, to ensure that it remains available as a key resource to the Mid-Coast fishing and lobstering community.  The project includes repairing and resurfacing the pier, replacing fendering piles and camels, stabilizing the storage area, upgrading the electrical system and adjacent dredging to an approximate depth of eight feet at all tides.  The investment will support retention and creation of jobs in the region.

  • John Willey brings a boatyard to life in a memoir unique to Maine’s boat building history - booksignings

     

    John Willey brings a craftsman’s day to life in A Winter’s Apprentice as he shares insights into a Maine boatyard, where he worked and kept a journal from 1978 to ’79 in his book, A Winter’s Apprentice. John's perspectives are unique coming from being a scholar and private investigator. He knew he was working among a group of outstanding craftsmen and involved in a dying art that he has now preserved in his writings.

    “Before it ever leaves its building shed, a yacht will take its makers on unimagined journeys. This one only begins in East Boothbay, Maine,” said Willey.

    As the historian John Gardner confirms, until relatively recently boatbuilding was not recorded—the life of the yard crew even less so. Here is a rare and vibrant narrative from a winter apprentice.

    “It’s great, it really is great. I can see it, and see it all—smell it, taste it, and feel it. The shop and crew and Paul came through life size. I was there with you, every blessed, excruciating, wonderful minute…“Last night after supper, I sat down with it and didn’t get up until I had finished, about 2 a.m,” endorses John Gardner on the book’s back, historian, designer and builder of wooden boats, author of books including Building Classic Small Craft.

    John Willey enthusiastically recommends others to become apprentices of the trade.

    “The practice has worked well for more centuries than we can count. In every one of the great scholarly traditions, including but not limited to law and medicine and teaching, the best of us get that way by first attaching ourselves to the principles of what we want to know, and to the men and women who use and exemplify those principles to grow beyond them.”

    He has a special affinity to crafting wood. As a teen growing up at Good Will-Hinckley in central Maine, he made his first boat with a friend, in his free time when he wasn’t avidly reading. Working in a boat yard seemed to be a natural course to take.

    “As soon as I began work at Paul's yard I was dazzled, smitten, and wanted to preserve what I learned as completely as I could. After about four or five weeks it dawned on me I had something close to chapters for a book, along with detailed letters I’d written to my dad,” said John.

    Willey sought advise from professionals before completing his book.

    “John Gardner answered my first letter to him, and was so enthusiastic and reassuring I thought I actually had a book under way. He was always there, encouraging, and I knew he knew what he was talking about, even when I did not.” 

    Willey’s stories and sage insights will resonate with any reader who has had to leave one career and transition into another.

    Sherman’s Bookstores of Maine will host booksignings with John Willey the following dates:

    1. Sat. Aug. 11th –1:00: Sherman's of Boothbay Harbor, 5 Commercial St., Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538
    1. Sat. Aug. 18th – 1:00: Sherman's of Portland, 49 Exchange St., Portland, ME 04101
    1. Sat. Aug. 25th –1:00: Sherman's of Damariscotta, 158 Main St., Damariscotta, ME 04543
    1. Tues. Sept. 10th – 1:00: Sherman's of Bar Harbor, 56 Main St., Bar Harbor, ME 04609

    More about the author:

    John had been an independent private investigator in San Francisco when he was told by his doctor to find less hectic work in a more peaceful setting if he wanted to live longer. So, at midlife, he and his wife returned to Maine.

    John has been a farmhand, janitor, jackhammer operator, U.S. Marine, choir member (bass), sailor, private investigator, electrician, boat builder, cabinetmaker, mason, and long served on the board of his beloved Good Will-Hinckley. In the summertime, he paddles an eighteen-foot sea kayak he built and launched in 1997.

    Published by Polar Bear & Company, of Maine, an imprint of the non-profit Solon Center for Research and Publishing – head office: PO Box 311, Solon, ME  04979. In town location: 20 Main Street, Rockland, ME  04841.

    Available online including Barnes&Noble.com, Amazon.com, and at local bookstores by request, or directly from the publisher.

    $14.95

    ISBN 978-1-882190-45-4882190812

  • John Willey brings a boatyard to life in a memoir unique to Maine’s boat building history - booksignings

     

    John Willey brings a craftsman’s day to life in A Winter’s Apprentice as he shares insights into a Maine boatyard, where he worked and kept a journal from 1978 to ’79 in his book, A Winter’s Apprentice. John's perspectives are unique coming from being a scholar and private investigator. He knew he was working among a group of outstanding craftsmen and involved in a dying art that he has now preserved in his writings.

    “Before it ever leaves its building shed, a yacht will take its makers on unimagined journeys. This one only begins in East Boothbay, Maine,” said Willey.

    As the historian John Gardner confirms, until relatively recently boatbuilding was not recorded—the life of the yard crew even less so. Here is a rare and vibrant narrative from a winter apprentice.

    “It’s great, it really is great. I can see it, and see it all—smell it, taste it, and feel it. The shop and crew and Paul came through life size. I was there with you, every blessed, excruciating, wonderful minute…“Last night after supper, I sat down with it and didn’t get up until I had finished, about 2 a.m,” endorses John Gardner on the book’s back, historian, designer and builder of wooden boats, author of books including Building Classic Small Craft.

    John Willey enthusiastically recommends others to become apprentices of the trade.

    “The practice has worked well for more centuries than we can count. In every one of the great scholarly traditions, including but not limited to law and medicine and teaching, the best of us get that way by first attaching ourselves to the principles of what we want to know, and to the men and women who use and exemplify those principles to grow beyond them.”

    He has a special affinity to crafting wood. As a teen growing up at Good Will-Hinckley in central Maine, he made his first boat with a friend, in his free time when he wasn’t avidly reading. Working in a boat yard seemed to be a natural course to take.

    “As soon as I began work at Paul's yard I was dazzled, smitten, and wanted to preserve what I learned as completely as I could. After about four or five weeks it dawned on me I had something close to chapters for a book, along with detailed letters I’d written to my dad,” said John.

    Willey sought advise from professionals before completing his book.

    “John Gardner answered my first letter to him, and was so enthusiastic and reassuring I thought I actually had a book under way. He was always there, encouraging, and I knew he knew what he was talking about, even when I did not.” 

    Willey’s stories and sage insights will resonate with any reader who has had to leave one career and transition into another.

    Sherman’s Bookstores of Maine will host booksignings with John Willey the following dates:

    1. Sat. Aug. 11th –1:00: Sherman's of Boothbay Harbor, 5 Commercial St., Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538
    1. Sat. Aug. 18th – 1:00: Sherman's of Portland, 49 Exchange St., Portland, ME 04101
    1. Sat. Aug. 25th –1:00: Sherman's of Damariscotta, 158 Main St., Damariscotta, ME 04543
    1. Tues. Sept. 10th – 1:00: Sherman's of Bar Harbor, 56 Main St., Bar Harbor, ME 04609

    More about the author:

    John had been an independent private investigator in San Francisco when he was told by his doctor to find less hectic work in a more peaceful setting if he wanted to live longer. So, at midlife, he and his wife returned to Maine.

    John has been a farmhand, janitor, jackhammer operator, U.S. Marine, choir member (bass), sailor, private investigator, electrician, boat builder, cabinetmaker, mason, and long served on the board of his beloved Good Will-Hinckley. In the summertime, he paddles an eighteen-foot sea kayak he built and launched in 1997.

    Published by Polar Bear & Company, of Maine, an imprint of the non-profit Solon Center for Research and Publishing – head office: PO Box 311, Solon, ME  04979. In town location: 20 Main Street, Rockland, ME  04841.

    Available online including Barnes&Noble.com, Amazon.com, and at local bookstores by request, or directly from the publisher.

    $14.95

    ISBN 978-1-882190-45-4882190812

  • Former DOC Commissioner Patrick McGowan's modern day Robin Hood page-turner, One Good Thing — booksigning schedule

     

    Patrick McGowan weaves the spirit of adventure and social justice into his first novel in a twenty-first century Robin Hood story—with a twist. Our avengers take to the skies over the wilds of northern Maine and remote Canada risking everything in a mad-caped scheme to kidnap a couple of crooked, greedy billionaires.

    McGowan was on Bill Green's Maine, TV show, June 23rd. Green traveled to Rangeley, Maine to interview the author. Patrick entertained Maine audiences with unique stories about Maine and personalities he has known.

    Sherman’s Bookstores of Maine will host booksignings with Patrick McGowan the following dates:

     Sat. Aug. 11th –1:00: 158 Main St., Damariscotta, ME 04543

     Sat. Aug. 25th –1:00: Sherman's of Boothbay Harbor, Commercial St., Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538

     Sat. Sept 15th – 1:00: Sherman's of Portland, 49 Exchange St., Portland, ME 04101

     Sun Sept. 16th: Sherman's of Bar Harbor, 56 Main St., Bar Harbor, ME 04609

     Sat. Sept. 22nd – 1:00: Sherman's of Camden, 14 Main St., Camden, ME 04843

    Patrick McGowan’s descriptions of flying over the northern woods and fishing are awe-inspiring. His gripping novel is hard to put down. A great summer read. 

    One Good Thing brings Patrick McGowan’s public service, floatplane adventures, and love of storytelling to the public. McGowan campaigned for single-payer health coverage in a congressional race in 1990 and has never given up on this bold idea for America.

    “During the winter of 2014-15 we lost power over the entire Christmas holiday. Luckily I had this story in my head for a book. I started writing," said McGowan. “It’s an adventure story with purpose.”

    More about the book:

    Mac McCabe, the owner of Allagash Air, flies wealthy customers into the wilderness to unforgettable and often life-changing experiences, camping, fishing, and hunting. When the man behind the deal to close the local paper mill forces Mac’s airplane into a deadly spin with his jet, Mac dreams up a plan to get even. He recruits the military discipline of his brother-in-law, the skills of a journalist and a beautiful computer expert to form his band of thieves.

    The personal motives of Mac McCabe’s merry band often put them at odds, raising the tension level with nail biting situations. But McCabe never wavers from his goal to do one good thing—correct an injustice to a Maine community and create a universal health care system for America.

    More about the author:

    Patrick K. McGowan was born in Bangor, Maine, and raised in Somerset County. He learned to fly at the age of sixteen and began a lifetime of adventure and backcountry bush flying. Inspired by his home state, a place of magnificent beauty, he began a public service career, which included being a legislator, presidential appointee, and member of a governor’s cabinet as the Commissioner of the Department of Conservation. 

    He has owned and operated many small businesses over four decades.

    His drive for continued adventure included ten years as a skydiver, forty years as a floatplane and backcountry airplane pilot and multiple Maine canoe trips. McGowan is an accomplished conservationist.

    Published by Polar Bear & Company, of Maine, an imprint of the non-profit Solon Center for Research and Publishing – head office: PO Box 311, Solon, ME  04979. In town location: 20 Main Street, Rockland, ME  04841.

    Available online including Barnes&Noble.com, Amazon.com, and at local bookstores by request, or directly from the publisher.

     $17.95/Pages: 260 .  ISBN-13: 978-1882190812

  • Owner of an established bookstore in Waterville asks Sen. Snow if she will vote for Kavanaugh and she respond

    Owner of an established book store in Waterville asks Sen. Snow if she will vote for Kavanaugh and she responds.
    The letter written by Robert Sezak:

    I cannot in good conscience support, let alone consider, Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court.  Kavanaugh has espoused a severely misguided belief that the president is essentially above the law.
    In his article in the 2009 Minnesota Law Review, Kavanaugh expresses the belief that a president should be immune from “civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecutions” during their time in office. And in 1998, Kavanaugh wrote, “Congress should give back to the President the full power to act when he believes that a particular independent counsel is ‘out to get him:
    The result the Supreme Court reached in Clinton v. Jones27 — that presidents are not constitutionally entitled to deferral of civil suits — may well have been entirely correct; that is beyond the scope of this inquiry. But the Court in Jones stated that Congress is free to provide a temporary deferral of civil suits while the President is in office.28 Congress may be wise to do so, just as it has done for certain members of the military.29 Deferral would allow the President to focus on the vital duties he was elected to perform.
    Congress should consider doing the same, moreover, with respect to criminal investigations and prosecutions of the President.30 In particular, Congress might consider a law exempting a President — while in office — from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel. Criminal investigations targeted at or revolving around a President are inevitably politicized by both their supporters and critics. As I have written before, “no Attorney General or special counsel will have the necessary credibility to avoid the inevitable charges that he is politically motivated — whether in favor of the President or against him, depending on the individual leading the investigation and its results.”31  The indictment and trial of a sitting President, moreover, would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic arenas. Such an outcome would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis.
    Even the lesser burdens of a criminal investigation— including preparing for questioning by criminal investigators— are time-consuming and distracting. Like civil suits, criminal investigations take the President’s focus away from his or her responsibilities to the people. And a President who is concerned about an ongoing criminal investigation is almost inevitably going to do a worse job as President.
    This appeal may sound good and be well intentioned but is in fact more of an emotional appeal than one founded in law.   "A President who is concerned about an ongoing criminal investigation is almost inevitably going to do a worse job as President” states Kavanaugh. Yet to delay justice will surely increase any persons concern and cause one to do a worse job as the inevitable is put off and put off.  The legal maxim "Justice delayed is justice denied” means that if legal redress is available for a party that has suffered some injury, but is not forthcoming in a timely fashion, it is effectively the same as having no redress at all.  If there is to be a plaintiff and a defendant and the President is to be the defendant, does not denial of the right of trail to the plaintiff  harm the plaintiff as much if not more than the defendant?  Should the President bring suit upon another party than may that party have the right to postpone legal actions until such time as the President is out of office?   This is not jurisprudence.
    That Kavanaugh has  encouraged such an dire and hazardous opinion and such an alarming notion that the president is essentially above the law leads me to the conclusion that Kavanaugh has no place on the United States Supreme Court.  
    To place any person above the law, for any reason, strikes at all laws to be null and void.
    Sincerely,
    Robert Sezak
    18 Bunker Ave
    Fairfield, ME 04937
    Sen. Collin's letter to Sezak:

    Dear Mr. Sezak,

              Thank you for contacting me regarding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the United States Supreme Court. I appreciate your taking the time to do so.

              Over the past thirty years, the handling of Supreme Court vacancies has become increasingly contentious, and this time is no exception. It is the constitutional duty of senators to give our advice and either give or withhold our consent for judicial nominations. As with all judicial nominees, but especially for a Supreme Court Justice, I will consider carefully Judge Kavanaugh’s intellect, integrity, qualifications, experience, temperament, and respect for precedent, the rule of law, and the Constitution. This is the approach I have taken with every judicial nominee who has come before me, including Supreme Court Justices nominated by Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump.  

              I do not, however, disqualify or approve judges because of their personal beliefs. As a result, the nominees I have voted to confirm span the ideological spectrum. For example, I supported the nominations of both Justice Sotomayor, the Court’s most liberal member, and Justice Alito, who is among the Court’s most conservative justices.  

              I look forward to Judge Kavanaugh’s public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and to questioning him in a meeting in my office.

              Again, thank you for contacting me.

    Sincerely,

    Susan M. Collins
    United States Senator

    P.S.  If you would like to receive weekly updates about my work on behalf of Maine in the United States Senate, you can subscribe to my e-newsletter by clicking here.

  • Maine's Oxford Water District to receive a USDA Water and Waste Disposal Loan

    By Ramona du Houx

    Maine's Oxford Water District will receive a Water and Waste Disposal Loan in the amount of $500,000, adding a 15-horsepower well pump and an aeration system. The District also will modify the well pump and interior/exterior piping, make electrical upgrades, and add integration controls to reduce acidity levels. These upgrades will help reduce corrosiveness, decrease lead and copper levels, and provide for redundancy in the event of extended power outages. This funding will help the District to provide safe clean drinking water to its 398 users.

    USDA Rural Development State Director Timothy P. Hobbs said, “USDA Rural Development is a major partner in ensuring that Maine’s rural communities have access to clean drinking water and properly working wastewater infrastructure. I am pleased that we could assist Oxford Water District with key upgrades to its infrastructure, helping it to continue to provide reliable quality drinking water for the community.”

    Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.

    USDA is providing the funding through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. It can be used to finance drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems for rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.

    Meanwhile cities like Flint, MI are still suffering from lead posioning that could have been avoided. But Flint doesn't have funds for loans.

  • Maine's Merrymeeting Bay Rare Mud Plant Walk

    Join Friends of Merrymeeting Bay (FOMB) on Saturday afternoon August 18th from 1:30-3:30 pm for walk amongst the rare mud plants of Merrymeeting Bay at Choice View Farm in Dresden.

    The walk will be led by Justin Schlawin, ecologist with the Maine Natural Areas Program. Merrymeeting Bay is home to a dozen rare mud plants, some like Eaton’s bur-marigold (Bidens eatonii) and Parker’s pipewort (Eriocaulon parkeri) considered globally rare.

    This spectacular site, near the mouth of the Eastern River was protected by FOMB in 2001 from development of a five-home subdivision. It was purchased with funds from Land for Maine’s Future, Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, the North American Waterfowl Conservation Act, The Nature Conservancy and a variety of other grantors along with individual donations.

    Choice View Farm offers one of two excellent Bay views from a numbered state road (the other from Rte. 24 in Bowdoinham) and ownership was transferred from FOMB to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Shortnose sturgeon, an endangered species have been known to winter in the lower Eastern River just off the Farm and when doing a phase 1 archaeology survey (a condition of LMF grants) of the property, an important prehistoric camping site was found. This triggered a substantial archaeological dig, in a joint venture between Maine Historic Preservation Commission and FOMB. Choice View turned out to be quite a hot spot for rare mud plants.

    Along with the globally rare species cited above, the following rare plants have also been found in the 9 acres of wetland below Choice View’s 16 acres of upland: mudwort (Limosella autralis), pygmyweed (Crassula aquatic), estuary bur-marigold (Bidens hyperborean), horned pondweed (Zanichellia palustris]) spongy arrowhead (Sagittaria calycina), and stiff arrowhead (Sagittaria rigida).

    Event:             Merrymeeting Bay Rare Mud Plant Walk
    When:             Saturday August 18th, 1:30-3:30 pm
    Where:           Choice View Farm, Dresden
    Registration:  Ed Friedman, 666-3372

    Leading this walk is Justin Schlawin, ecologist with the Maine Natural Areas Program, now part of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. FOMB’s Summer Outside! Series is the warm weather counterpart to their popular Winter Speaker Series.

    This event is free and open to the public. Pre-registration with Ed Friedman at 666-3372 is required. The next FOMB Outside 2018! event will be the ever-popular Swan Island outing, September 7th from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm with Friends of Swan Island president, Jay Robbins. Pre-register with Jay at 737-2239. This outing requires an $8 Island fee.

  • Democrats in Maine stood up for electricity customers-Rep Seth Berry

    Op-ed by Rep. Seth Berry, House chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. Rep. Berry represents House District 55: Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Swan Island and most of Richmond. He previously served from 2006-2014, the final two years as House majority leader.   

    When it comes to our electricity bills, Mainers deserve to be treated with fairness and honesty. It’s a matter of basic trust.  And when that trust was broken several months ago, the Legislature fought back on your behalf.

    I’m Representative Seth Berry of Bowdoinham, and I’m the co-chair of the Energy Committee, which oversees all the utilities in our state.

    Shortly after the big windstorm last October, Central Maine Power customers began to complain about unusually large bills. Many people’s bills doubled or tripled – even the bills of some people who were without power for over a week because of the storm.

    As my colleagues and I began to investigate, hold hearings and ask questions, it became clear that something had gone very wrong. State regulators backed up our conclusion when they opened a formal investigation, and now there is a class action lawsuit alleging that nearly 300,000 homes and businesses may have been overcharged.

    We also discovered something else strange and disturbing – the law on the books said that you, the electricity customer, had to pay for regulators to investigate the electric companies, even if that investigation found the company at fault.

    To understand how unfair that is, imagine someone robs your house, and then you get a bill in the mail from the police after they catch the suspect.   

    That’s why my committee got to work on changing the law. Democrats worked hard to convince our Republican colleagues that this was the right thing to do.

    And I’m proud to say that – after a long negotiation – we were successful. The new law – called “the Riley Amendment” after Representative Tina Riley of Jay – allows Maine’s Public Utilities Commission to start charging power company shareholders – and not customers – for investigations when the company is at fault.

    It also allows the PUC to establish independent audits, so that we can keep a close eye on the power companies’ meters and billing systems to make sure you’re not being overcharged. 

    When it comes to consumer protection, there’s still a long way to go. But I’m proud of the steps we took, and I’m looking forward to doing more. 

    Maine families and small businesses watch every penny, whether we’re trying to cool down our homes in the summer or keep the furnace going in the winter. Those efforts to save money should be respected – not wiped away by a computer glitch.

    As we look ahead to a new legislature and a new governor next year, we need to make sure our incoming leaders are people who will stand up for you when a large corporation treats you unfairly. Democrats will be there fighting to make sure all utilities put their customers first.

  • LePage veto puts 70,000 at risk - healthcare advocates encourage sign up despite LePage actions

      By Ramona du Houx

    Maine Equal Justice Partners today encouraged Mainers who believe that they are eligible for health care coverage under the state’s Medicaid expansion law to file an application with the Department of Health and Human Services.

    “Medicaid expansion – and coverage for more than 70,000 Mainers – is the law,” said Kathy Kilrain del Rio, policy analyst for MEJP. “People who believe that they might be eligible for health care coverage should file an application, which will help to protect their rights to coverage.”

    Under the Medicaid expansion law, newly eligible Mainers can begin to apply for coverage beginning July 2, 2018. 

    Despite court orders to the contrary and funding from the Legislature, Gov. Paul LePage and his administration have not taken steps necessary to implement Medicaid expansion. 

    LePage’s willingness to ignore the law means that it is unlikely that newly eligible applicants will receive health care coverage immediately, but by filing an application they may become eligible for retroactive coverage.

    Maine Equal Justice Partners has developed an online tool available at www.mejp.org to help people determine if they are eligible for coverage through expansion.

    Mainers who believe they might be eligible can also call Maine Equal Justice’s hotline at 1-866-626-7059 for help with applying and to understand their rights.

    “Today, by law, more than 70,000 Mainers should have new access to health insurance and to the promise of a longer and healthier life that goes with it. My job, with each patient, is to help them achieve health. Health insurance saves lives,”Dr. Renee Fay-LeBlanc, chief medical officer at Greater Portland Health said.

    Here’s where the process stands.

    In November, voters overwhelmingly approved Medicaid expansion, but LePage refused to implement it. In April, a group of advocates and impacted individuals sued to force the LePage administration to implement the law.

    On June 4, the Maine Superior Court agreed with the people and ordered the LePage administration to begin the process of implementation by filing a State Plan Amendment, which allows the state to draw down federal funding, 90 percent of the total cost, to support expansion.

    On June 20, The Maine Supreme Judicial Court put that order on hold until July 18, when it will hear oral arguments on the administration’s request to hold off on submitting the state plan until the appeal is decided. That order does not impact the July 2 date in the Medicaid expansion law. 

    Also on June 20, the Legislature passed legislation to fund the full cost of expansion based on the cost estimated by the governor, taking away his last excuse for blocking access to health care. 

    Despite LePage’s promised veto of the funding bill, the funds are available to provide health coverage to people who are eligible until at least May 2019. The law the voters passed is still binding.

    Importantly, the Legislature will have an opportunity to override LePage’s veto.

    For more information about the Maine Equal Justice Partners, visit: www.mejp.org.

  • 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 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;

  • 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.”

  • ‘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.

  • Free park entry day, June 17, 2018 for all Maine Residents

    Free park entry day, June 17, 2018 for all Maine Residents! All vehicles bearing Maine license plates will be allowed free entry to Maine State Parks and Historic Sites; From 9:00 A.M. until Closing.

    No rain date will be available.

    Learn more about Maine State Parks at: www.parksandlands.com

    Free park entry includes: Androscoggin Riverlands, Aroostook, Birch Point, Bradbury Mountain, Camden Hills, Cobscook Bay, Colburn House, Colonial Pemaquid, Crescent Beach, Damariscotta Lake, Eagle Island, Ferry Beach, Fort Edgecomb, Fort Kent, Fort Knox, Fort McClary, Fort Point, Fort Popham, Fort Pownall, Fort O'Brien, Grafton Notch, Holbrook Island, Lamoine, Lake St George, Lily Bay, Moose Point, Mt Blue, Owls Head Light, Peaks-Kenny, Popham Beach, Quoddy Head, Range Pond, Rangeley Lake, Reid, Roque Bluffs, Two Lights, Sebago Lake, Shackford Head, Swan Lake, Vaughan Woods, Warren Island, Wolfe's Neck Woods

    *The open admission does not apply to Acadia National Park, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Baxter State Park, Peacock Beach, Scarborough Beach State Park, Swan Island, the ME Wildlife Park, the Penobscot River Corridor, or the Penobscot Narrows Observatory in Prospect, though admission to Fort Knox State Historic Site will be free that day.

  • Court Rules LePage Administration Has To Follow Medicaid Expansion Law


    By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine Superior Court today ruled that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the LePage administration must follow the voter-passed Medicaid expansion law and submit a State Plan Amendment. 

    The court set a deadline of June 11, 2018 for DHHS to comply.

    “Today is a victory for the 70,000 Mainers who stand to gain coverage from Medicaid expansion and for everyone who believes that health care should be a right for all, not just a privilege for a wealthy few. Thanks to today’s ruling, Governor Paul LePage will finally be forced to respect the will of Maine’s voters who voted overwhelmingly to expand Medicaid last November,” said the Democratic National Chairman Tom Perez. “It’s time for Republicans like LePage to stop playing political games with the health care of their own constituents and start getting serious about joining Democratic efforts to make it easier, not harder, for every family to access the care they deserve.”

    Maine Equal Justice Partners, (MEJP) Consumers for Affordable Health Care, Maine Primary Care Association, Penobscot Community Health Care and five individuals sued the Maine Department of Health and Human Services on April 30, 2018.

    “The governor cannot ignore the law,” said Robyn Merrill, executive director for MEJP. “Maine voters did not make a request at the ballot, they passed a law, and laws are not optional. Today’s ruling is good news for more than 70,000 Mainers who the law says can sign up for health care on July 2, 2018.” 

    The law Maine voters passed in November of 2017 required the state to file paperwork – a State Plan Amendment – with the federal government on April 3, 2018 so that Maine can draw down federal matching funds that will cover most of the costs for Medicaid expansion.  

    The LePage administration refused to file the State Plan Amendment. 

    The pro bono legal team in the expansion case is led by James Kilbreth and David Kallin of Drummond Woodsum, and includes Jack Comart of Maine Equal Justice and Charlie Dingman of PretiFlaherty.

    Maine Equal Justice Partners is a civil legal aid organization that represents Maine people with low income in areas of economic security, including access to health care. 

    Photo: Concerned citizens protested outside the Maine State Capitol when Governor LePage was giving his State of the State address. Their message: obey the law Governor and implement the healthcare we the people voted for.

  • Maine's Brooklin Boat Yard launches custom 91-foot Sloop

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Brooklin Boat Yard of Brooklin, Maine, has completed construction and launched a 91-foot custom cold-molded sloop. Built for a repeat customer, SONNY III is a high-performance cruising yacht designed for daysailing and blue-water passages. Construction on SONNY III took 18 months; the finished yacht launched last month and was christened in May 2018. She is just completed sea trials.
    "We're proud to provide SONNY's owner with a yacht that performs to his high expectations and accommodates his unique needs," said Steve White, president of Brooklin Boat Yard. "He's been a great collaborator on every boat we've built for him. This was a true challenge that required a lot of teamwork - a highly customized, 91-foot yacht built in only a year and a half."
     
    Designed by Bruce Johnson and the Brooklin Boat Yard design office, SONNY III is a larger replacement for the owner's current 70-foot yacht, also built by Brooklin Boat Yard. The owner is a retired senior with limited mobility who requested a yacht with more accessibility. SONNY III provides numerous solutions to the owner's mobility concerns, including chair lifts at each companionway, a power reclining chair in the master cabin, a side-boarding ladder and a transom-boarding platform.
     
    SONNY III has classic styling, including a completely flush deck. The yacht has an aggressively raked bow and reverse transom, a teak deck and a varnished teak toe rail. Her twin cockpit configuration keeps guests safe in the center cockpit while all sail handling is in the aft working cockpit. Low, varnished-teak cockpit coamings and canvas dodgers protect each companionway opening.
     
    "I consider SONNY III a great accomplishment," said designer Bruce Johnson. "I would expect a design process of six months for a yacht of this size and complexity before the yard could even begin to cut wood. Due to the aggressive build schedule we began construction six weeks after we started working with the owner. This project could not have been possible without Brooklin Boat Yard's in-house designers who were invaluable, producing exceptional construction drawings."
     
    SONNY III has a double headsail rig operated by hydraulic furlers that were built by Harken. The non-overlapping headsail configuration with chainplates pushed outboard greatly reduces loads and allows for a smaller mast section, winches and hardware. The mainsail has hydraulic in-boom furling. The carbon mast is from Offshore Spars with 3Di sails by North Sails.
     
    The interior layout includes a crew cabin forward with private head and stall shower, two guest staterooms forward of the mast, one with ensuite head and stall shower and the other with a day head, also with separate shower. The interior is finished in Herreshoff style with white and cream paintwork offset by American cherry joinery, leather upholstery and a teak and maple cabin sole.
     
    SONNY III's hull and deck have carbon reinforcements in specific high-load areas. The ballast keel is a steel foil with integral tanks and a lead bulb. The rudder is a carbon spade design.
     
    Due to the tight build schedule and other construction commitments, Brooklin Boat Yard subcontracted the hull and deck construction to Rockport Marine of Rockport, Maine. Brooklin Boat Yard has had similar arrangements in the past, including the construction of the composite deck for SONNY II by Front Street Shipyard and the construction of the hull for the 76-foot sloop GOSHAWK by Rockport Marine.
     
    "This project wouldn't have been possible without the collaboration and support of many partners," said White. "We achieved our high standard of craftsmanship within a consolidated time frame through teamwork and a shared vision."
  • Maine School of Masonry has 12 businesses ready to give grads jobs, open house is the 25th

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    Masonry is a lost art but in high demand. The Maine School of Masonry has twelve businesses ready to give MSM graduates jobs once they’ve completed the courses. The school helps line up the positions if students so desire.

    The Maine School of Masonry will hold an open house on May 25th from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There will be information about the school’s Masonry certificate program and the Historic Restoration & Preservation courses. MSM offers an unique opportunity to work on historic sites like Fort Knox during the course.

    The MSM open house welcomes everyone who has an interest in the school or attending classes. Personal at the school look forward to answering any questions

    The following are the businesses looking for skilled masons who graduate from MSM courses.

    Job Placement Opportunities:

    In Maine:

    • Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland -Restoration of churches, year round
    • Ed McGarrity, Maine Masonry - Steady Work, Competitive Pay Rates, Affordable Health/Dental Insurance
    • Doug Sanford - Eastland Construction and Development, Biddeford. Lifetime of masonry employment, Repointing, rebuilding, restoration
    • Gottlieb Landscape Design -Mount Vernon.
    • Dawn Pauley Hodsdon -North Monmouth
    • Hall Landscaping – Rockland.
    • S&S Masonry - Levant
    • Dimillo Construction & Masonry. Chimney rebuilds and repairs, retaining walls, stone work etc. North Yarmouth.
    • Freshwater Stone & Brickwork Inc., Orland.
    • G. Drake Masonry INC., Looking for Masons and tenders

    Out of state:

    • Rustic by Design – Fire Place & Patio, Morgantown, W.V. Jim does very high-end fireplaces
    • John Fabb, Twin Fork Landscape Contracting - Cutchogue, NY 11935

    This historic building needs a lot of love and attention. The MSM class in Historic Renovation and Preservation has started work on the project, thereby helping to save a national treasure.

  • Maine names the 32 communities selected to participate in the federal Opportunity Zones program

     

    The Maine State Capitol in Augusta in spring. Augusta has been identified as an Opportunity Zone. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    Governor Paul LePage has named the 32 Maine communities selected to participate in the federal Opportunity Zones program

    The Opportunity Zone is a new economic development program established under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

    Here's the list, by county, of Maine communities selected to be Opportunity Zones:

    • Androscoggin: Auburn, Lewiston
    • Aroostook: Washburn, Limestone, Madawaska and a contiguous low-income tract encompassing Caswell, Stockholm and Connor.
    • Cumberland: Portland (port area), Westbrook, South Portland, Brunswick.
    • Hancock: Ellsworth.
    • Kennebec: Augusta, Waterville.
    • Oxford: Rumford, Paris.
    • Penobscot: Bangor, Brewer, Old Town, Lincoln, Enfield, Millinocket, East Millinocket.
    • Piscataquis: Greenville.
    • Sagadaoc: Bath.
    • Somerset: Hartland, Madison.
    • Waldo: Belfast.
    • Washington: Calais; the eligible non-low-income contiguous tract encompassing Baileyville, Whiting and Dennysville; and the contiguous low-income tract encompassing Pembroke, Baring and Meddybumps.
    • York: Saco. 

    The designation provides a federal tax incentive for taxpayers who invest unrealized capital gains into so-called "Opportunity Funds," dedicated to investing in established "Opportunity Zones."

    Federal law allows governors from each state to nominate 25 percent of a state's eligible low-income census tracts to be designated as Opportunity Zones. Of the 128 eligible tracts in Maine, LePage was limited to select a maximum of 32 for designation into the program.

    LePage selected tracts based primarily on identified investment opportunities where such investments would likely be met with success. 

    "Opportunity Zones will help attract otherwise wary investors to underserved communities. With an estimated $2.3 trillion in underutilized capital gains, certain investments will no longer be subject to capital gains tax to incentivize long-term investor commitment," said George Gervais, DECD commissioner.

    In February, the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) began accepting public input regarding the designation of Maine's Opportunity Zones. 

    "We received feedback from across the state," said Gervais. "In many communities, this program could be the catalyst to moving development projects forward by attracting much needed capital and ultimately benefiting not just that community but the entire state."

  • Broadband Survey in Belfast Maine needs local input by John Arrison

    May 20, 2018

     

    Dear Residents and Businesses in Belfast,

    I invite all of you to participate in a City Broadband Survey, which can be accessed at www.cityofbelfast.org/broadband.

    A few years ago, Belfast City Council inaugurated a Broadband Committee to study the needs and opportunities for internet broadband service in our community. We have met with most all of the current Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to determine their present levels of service and their plans for expansion of service, both geographically and in terms of speeds offered.
    Last year, the City of Belfast received a Maine ConnectME grant to go the next step to determine individual and business needs for broadband. Axiom Technologies was contracted to design and implement surveys to better determine how best to encourage broadband development in the City. For example, the City is aware that there are many parts of Belfast that have little or no access to any broadband service at all, and this must be changed. Broadband access is a necessity for education and business, as well as entertainment and basic communications, and will be even more so in years to come. It is already harder to sell a house that does not have good broadband available than one that does. We as a community must do something about this, and you can help.
    To help us help you, the Committee asks that every residence and every business in Belfast take just a few minutes to fill out the online survey applicable to them at www.cityofbelfast.org/broadband . If you do not currently have online access, we encourage you to pick up a hard copy of the survey, available at City Hall and the Belfast Free Library. If you both live in and have a business in Belfast, we ask that you fill out both surveys. The survey site will be active until Monday, June 4, so please take this opportunity to participate in the assessment and planning for broadband in Belfast today.
    Thank you,
    John Arrison
    City Councilor and member of the Belfast Broadband Committee
  • Maine Talk on Sailing a Viking Ship May 23

    “In the Wake of Leif Erikson” –

    (Photo courtesy Terry Moore)
    (Photo courtesy Terry Moore)
    Terry Moore will talk about his experiences as captain of a replica Viking ship on Wednesday, May 23, at 6 p.m. at the Apprenticeshop, 655 Main Street in Rockland.

    The ship, built by Apprenticeshop graduate Rob Stevens, set out in the summer of 1997 and again in 1998 to retrace Leif Erikson’s voyage of discovery to the New World. 

    Moore is Waterfront and Seamanship Director at the Apprenticeshop. He became an avid sailor during his junior year in college when he participated in a semester at sea aboard a faro-cement brigantine square-rigger. It was the opportunity to study seamanship with Long Island University’s SEAmester that galvanized his career path. After graduating from William and Mary with a degree in chemistry, he served two years in the Peace Corps as a marine fisheries volunteer stationed on a coral atoll in Micronesia. He returned to the States, obtained his USCG (100 TNC) captain’s license, and went on to work with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, WoodenBoat School, and later ran the Eagle Island mail boat on Penobscot Bay before going to the Apprenticeshop. 

    There is a suggested donation of $10. For more information, visit apprenticeshop.org, call 594-1800 or email info@apprenticeshop.org.
  • Winners of 2018 Maine Student Constitution Essay and Poster Contest

    Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has announced the names of the winners of the 2018 Maine Constitution Essay and Poster Contest. The annual contest allows Maine students from grades kindergarten through 12 to participate, with older students submitting essays regarding the Maine Constitution, voting and democracy; and younger students creating posters reflecting Maine history or symbols. 

    “The essay and poster contest is a great opportunity for students to reflect on the wide spectrum of Maine’s identity, from our traditional industries to the iconic animals that roam our woods and waters,” said Dunlap. “We congratulate the winners and hope that all of the students gained a deeper appreciation for their state through their participation.”

    The essay contest is for students in middle school and high school. It is divided into two categories:

    The theme for grades 6-8 is “The Maine Constitution.”  Damon Wilson, a seventh-grade student in Helen Beesley’s class at Windsor Elementary School in Windsor, received top honors in this category for his essay entitled “The Right to Bear Arms: The Bond.”

    The theme for grades 9-12 is “The Importance of Voting and Democracy.” Teona Sok, a 12th-grade student at Gorham High School in Gorham, took first place in this category for her essay titled “Why Voting and Democracy is Important.”

    The poster contest, open to students from kindergarten to grade 5, includes two categories, with a theme of “Maine Symbols” for grades K-3 and “Maine History” for grades 4-5.

    Abby Wood, a third-grade student at Belgrade Central School in Belgrade, received top honors for her symbols poster, which depicts a singing chickadee, a moose with textured antlers, pine trees and a “super-fruit” blueberry, complete with a cape.

    Rowan Keller, a fourth-grade student in Susan Hasson’s class at Holy Cross School in South Portland, took first place for his poster depicting two ships engaged in the naval Battle of Machias.

    These students and their classmates are invited to view the state's original 1820 Constitution at the Maine State Archives in Augusta – a special honor, as it is not regularly removed from the storage vault for viewings.

    The posters were judged on April 18 by three members of the Maine Legislature who volunteered their time: Sen. Rebecca J. Millett (D-Cumberland), Rep. Matthew G. Pouliot (R-Augusta), and Rep. Matthew A. Harrington (R-Sanford). To learn more about student programs and view winning entries from this year’s contest and past contests, visit the Secretary of State’s Kids’ Page. 

  • Maine’s Growing Hunger - Farm Bill needs to add to SNAP not take away

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    The federal Farm Bill (H.R. 2) that would increase hunger and hardship in Maine and throughout the nation by cutting the effective anti-hunger Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program.

    Maine’s failed experience with similar policies increased hunger in the state, hurting children. Maine now has the 7th highest rate of food insecurity in the nation, dropping from previous year’s ranking even as other states are making progress in alleviating hunger.  

    The Farm Bill is expected to be marked up on Wednesday, April 16, 2018.

    “Partisan changes to the SNAP program along the lines of Maine’s failed model won’t alleviate hunger or help people find work. They’ll 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. We look forward to working with members of our Congressional delegation to advance proven work-supporting policies and reducing the number of Mainers who are hungry,” said Chris Hastedt, policy director for Maine Equal Justice Partners (MEJP) .

    US Rep. Bruce Poliquin has pushed for including some of the harshest provisions in this bill, such as unrealistic work requirements modeled after Maine’s own failed policies.  

    In a statement last week, Poliquin mischaracterized the real experience of Maine following the institution in 2015 of similar policies under the LePage administration.  Data reveal a starkly different picture of how harmful and ineffective these proposals actually are. 

     MEJP urges Poliquin to take an honest look at Maine’s real experience with these SNAP benefit restrictions. 

    “Maine is absolutely a cautionary tale for the nation because we have already seen that people in our state lost food assistance by the thousands and most didn’t find work,” said Chris Hastedt, policy director for Maine Equal Justice. “Instead, they were left with empty dinner plates and no wages. The promise of how these policies will work and story of what really happened to Maine people are vastly different.”

    MEJP recently published a report, which shows that in the one year period following implementation of this policy, only 4 percent more of the 6,866 people who lost their SNAP benefits for failing to meet the work requirements found jobs (30 percent compared with 34 percent). Even this small gain was likely due to the improving economy. At the end of the year, 66 percent of these individuals remained unemployed, but were also without needed food assistance.

    “Beyond the data, the stories we’ve heard from Mainers who have run up against this complex system tell us that more restrictions in SNAP just add more layers of red tape and bureaucracy. We should be helping to make these programs work better for all of us – not adding hoops to jump through for people who have fallen on hard times," said Robyn Merrill, MEJP’s executive director. 

    The Farm Bill is historically a bipartisan piece of legislation, which addresses hunger and supports farms and rural communities, but the radical changes to SNAP in H.R. 2 threaten to derail bipartisan cooperation and prospects for passage.   

    “Partisan changes to the SNAP program along the lines of Maine’s failed model won’t alleviate hunger or help people find work. They’ll 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. We look forward to working with members of our Congressional delegation to advance proven work-supporting policies and reducing the number of Mainers who are hungry.”

  • Maine Organizations Urged to Apply for USDA Technology Grants to Expand Access to Health Care and Education in Rural Areas

    Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett has announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to use broadband e-Connectivity to improve access to health care and educational services in rural communities.

    “Under Secretary Perdue’s leadership, USDA is tackling e-Connectivity as a foundational issue for rural communities because it affects everything from business opportunities to adequate health care access,” Hazlett said. “These grants are one of many tools USDA provides to help ensure that people who live and work in rural areas can use broadband to gain access to essential services and economic opportunities.”  USDA Rural Development State Director Timothy P. Hobbs said.

    “This critical funding can help put the tools in the hands of healthcare and educational institutes so they can make a real difference in the lives of rural Maine citizens who struggle with opioid addiction- through telemedicine equipment for treatment, recovery, and adult education. In addition, the grants can be used to help our schools incorporate STEM curricula into the learning experience, preparing Maine’s youth for bright and promising futures.”

    USDA is awarding grants ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program. Grants can finance projects such as those to provide job training, academic instruction or access to specialized medical care.

    Proposals for projects whose primary purpose is to provide opioid prevention, treatment and recovery will receive 10 priority points when applications are scored. USDA is approaching the opioid misuse crisis with a dedicated urgency because it impacts the quality of life, economic opportunity and rural prosperity.

    USDA also will provide priority points for grants that offer access to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses.     

    Grants are available to most state and local governmental entities, federally recognized tribes, nonprofit groups, for-profit businesses or a consortia of these.  

    The application deadline is June 4, 2018. Applications can be submitted via paper or electronically. For details on how to apply, see page 14245 of the April 3 Federal Register.

    A recent example of a Maine project is MaineHealth, in Portland, which received a grant in the amount of $398,692. Rural Development funds were used to install telehealth videoconferencing carts at six rural medical clinics in rural Maine.  This project helps to provide healthcare to those in rural communities and prevent the need for lengthy travel for healthcare consultations.

    For more information, please contact Robert Nadeau, Community Programs Director at (207) 990-9121 or Robert.nadeau@me.usda.gov.

       

  • Legislation to amend Pharmacy Board Rules concerning Narcan Distribution goes to Maine Governor to sign

     By Ramona du Houx

     An Act To Clarify the Prescribing and Dispensing of Naloxone Hydrochloride by Pharmacists is headed to Governor LePage’s desk after it passed unanimously in the Senate. Earlier in the week it passed the House with a strong, bipartisan vote of 132-7.

    The bill will allow for people under the age of 21 to have access to the life-saving drug Narcan. The governor has 10 days in which to take action, by either signing, vetoing or letting go into law without his signature.

    “Overdoses can strike anyone at any time and in every opportunity, we should be trying to save every life possible. My colleagues in the legislature are well aware of this,” said Speaker Gideon. “While the hold-up of narcan dispensation has been beyond frustrating, I want to thank them for advancing this piece of legislation. We can no longer ignore the impact of this epidemic, disregard the underlying causes or the lack of access to needed treatment and clearly, we can no longer delay access to life-saving medicine. I urge the governor to take immediate action.”

    In March of 2018, after an unexplained six-month delay, the Board of Pharmacy finally took action on proposed rules related to the original legislation, LD 1594, An Act Regarding the Dispensing of Naloxone Hydrochloride by Pharmacists. However, due to a last-minute request by Governor LePage, the Board amended the proposed rules to raise the age the anti-overdose drug could be dispensed to 21, from 18 as originally written. Gideon immediately began working on legislation to override this action. 

    The Board of Pharmacy’s public comment period on the rule change closes April 15, 2018. A public hearing on the change was held April 5, with many speaking against the over-21 restriction including the Health Equity Alliance, the Maine Medical Association and number of certified drug and rehabilitation experts. In addition, members of the Legislatures Health and Human Services Committee, the Opioid Task Force and Preble Street Resource Center all submitted written comment in favor of lowering the age of dispensation. 

    “This legislation seeks to redress the previous actions, which had no basis in medical research or expert opinion and directly contradicted legislative intent,” said Gideon. “To truly start combatting this epidemic, we need cooperation and leadership from all branches of government, including the Executive Branch. Every aspect of Maine’s economy, community safety and family stability will continue to suffer if we do not make progress on this crisis.”

    BACKGROUND ON PHARMACY DISTRIBUTION OF NALOXONE

    Lawmakers initially approved making naloxone available without a prescription in April 2016 (LD 1547, An Act To Facilitate Access to Naloxone Hydrochloride). At the request of the Board of Pharmacy, the Legislature clarified the language with an amended bill with the intent that dispensation would begin soon after rulemaking. LD 1594, An Act Regarding the Dispensing of Naloxone Hydrochloride by Pharmacists, was passed by the Legislature in May of 2017.

    The Maine Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously August 3, 2017 to approve rules related to LD 1594. For six months, the rules were stuck in uncertainty due a lack of action from the Executive Branch. Speaker Gideon issued a joint letter with Senator Troy Jackson urging the Board to take action on January 27, 2018. In February 2018, the rules were finally published and a period of public comment began that will close April 15, 2018.

  • Maine Legislation would discourage misuse of personal information on internet

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine House, photo above, voted April 13, 2018 to strengthen internet privacy and review the state’s legal authority to restore net neutrality to Maine. The bipartisan vote was 82-63.

    LD 1610, co-sponsored by Sen. Shenna Bellows, and Rep. Seth Berry ensures that the state will not do business with internet service providers who misuse users’ personal data and asks the Maine Attorney General’s office to review the state’s authority to address net neutrality under the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act.

    It prohibits an internet service provider that does business with or receives funding from the state from using, disclosing, selling or permitting access to customer personal information unless they expressly agree to those actions.

     “Maine shouldn’t be doing business with companies who misuse our personal information or who reserve the right to choke off free and open access to the internet,” said Rep. Seth Berry, House chair of the committee and a sponsor of the bill. “This bill is an important way for Maine to stand up to the big telecommunications companies and demand that they act in the public interest.”

    In December of 2017, the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission repealed internet or net neutrality rules that were adopted in 2015. That repeal is scheduled to take effect April 23.

    Net neutrality is the notion that all data should be treated equally, regardless of what the data contains, where it originates or what its destination is.

    “Think of your relationship to your phone company. The phone company lets you call anyone anywhere in the world, but we have laws in place that prohibit it from recording what you say and selling that information to the highest bidder,” said Rep. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland, a member of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “We should have the same rules for your internet service provider, ensuring that the personal information that you have to transmit over the internet cannot be skimmed off and sold without your knowledge. Maine should not be spending any tax dollars on companies who break those rules.”

    The vote on the proposed law, which the Legislature first took up in 2017, comes on the heels of the latest in a string of internet privacy breaches. Last month, news outlets reported that a whistleblower at the embattled data firm Cambridge Analytica alleged that the company misused data it acquired through Facebook to influence election results in the U.S. 

    Rep. Berry represents House District 55. He previously served from 2006-2014, the final two years as House Majority Leader.   Sen. Shenna Bellows is serving her first term in teh Maine State Senate, she previously ran for US Senate.

  • H.O.U.S.E. opioid legislation receives initial support in Maine House

    by ramona du Houx

    Rep. Drew Gattine’s emergency legislation responding to the opioid crisis, LD 1711, Resolve, To Save Lives by Establishing a Homeless Opioid Users Service Engagement Pilot Project (H.O.U.S.E.) received initial support in the Maine House of Representatives on April 9, 2018.

    The vote was 94 - 52.

    The legislation will provide treatment for substance use disorders and stable housing to support recovery for opioid users who are among the most vulnerable in Maine.

    “We have received absolutely appalling and horrific news - in 2017 we lost 418 Mainers to the opioid epidemic,” said Rep. Gattine. “This crisis is only intensifying and it clear that our response is woefully inadequate. While I appreciate the initial support of this legislation from my colleagues and I will be doing everything I can to see it passed, I hope it is only the beginning of serious action.”

    H.O.U.S.E. is a pilot project that provides low-barrier treatment for substance use disorders and stable housing to support recovery and create stability for 50 opioid users who are among the most vulnerable and unstable in Maine (homeless, uninsured, underinsured, unemployed polysubstance users) and are among the highest utilizers of inpatient hospital services and criminal justice system.

    Homeless individuals will have access to a “medication first” system of low-barrier Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and rapid housing with a creative menu of options to best meet the individual’s need and ensure paths to recovery. 

    “The stress this epidemic is putting on treatment resources, and on law enforcement and on every aspect of our social fabric is crippling,” said Gattine. “We need to increase access to treatment. We need to meet people where they are. To do anything less is a death sentence.”

    The legislation was one of the specific unanimous recommendations of the Opioid Task Force.

    Recommendations put forward by the Task Force include improved youth prevention programs, better prevention of prescription drug diversion, access and awareness of affordable treatment options, expanded specialty courts and pre-diversion programs among more than a dozen other areas of focus.

    The measure, LD 1711, faces further votes in Senate. Gattine, chair of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, is serving his third term in the Maine House.

  • Female veterans need lawmakers to support the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope in Maine

    The Augusta organization helps female veterans in dire straits, but is running out of money.

    Here in Maine the Legislature has an opportunity to fill one of these gaps by passing L.D. 792, “An Act to Authorize Funding for Transitional Housing for Women Veterans and Their Families”.

    This bill would give a one-time, $150,000 appropriation to the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope (BARHH) in Augusta — a transitional home for in-need or homeless female veterans and their children. While many factors may contribute to female veteran homelessness, these veterans face unique challenges that may increase their vulnerability to homelessness. Privacy and safety concerns, lack of accessible and affordable child care, and barriers to employment all contribute to our veteran homelessness problem. For some female veterans with dependent children, asking for help isn’t an option out of fear of losing their kids.

    All too often we hear of female veterans “couch surfing” with family or friends in hopes of staying out of “the system.” It isn’t unusual for women to stay in an abusive relationship just to keep a roof over their heads. While it’s difficult to identify each and every homeless female veteran, we know Maine has a problem — a problem made evident by BARHH reaching occupancy limits since opening last fall.

    Some veterans find us via word of mouth, while others are referred by various agencies. By simply asking the question, “Have you ever served in the military?” organizations around the state have assisted us in reaching more female veterans.

    Far too many female veterans do not self-identify as such, nor do they know they are eligible for benefits. For those who qualify, the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope is designed to give female veterans a safe place to live with their children while receiving job training, education assistance, physical and mental healthcare, and financial counseling. Many of those who have turned to the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope are suffering from military sexual trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder.

    The House is a haven for them and their children as they work through the difficult process of recovery. But the only way to ensure our veterans get the assistance they need, is if we appropriate this vital and necessary funding to keep it going.

    It’s a common misconception that federal dollars are allotted for these types of programs, but that is simply not the case. It’s an unfortunate reality that not all veterans are awarded benefits through the VA system. Factors such as length of service and character of discharge contribute to a veteran’s eligibility, which leave some veterans out in the cold.

    Thus far, all money used to purchase, refurbish, and furnish the home has been donated entirely by local people, charities, veterans groups, and a few grants. We have been responsible stewards of the money generously donated to us, but the coffers are getting dangerously low.

    The $150,000 proposed in L.D. 792 would pay for additional work on the house to make room for three more veterans and their kids, plus one year of operating costs for the house. We can only sell so many flowers and have so many spaghetti dinners to make this program work. The proposed funds will give the volunteer board of directors an opportunity to apply for more grants and research more long-term funding streams while still providing services.

    Without legislative assistance, the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope may not survive, forcing veterans and their children back on the streets. The Legislature needs to act in the next two weeks in order to fill the funding gap. There is a large surplus in the current budget, and while there are many programs the Legislature would like to fund, none are more important than female veterans and their children.

    In the future, we also recommend the Legislature enact a mechanism for a state grant program that has the flexibility to offer gap funding to programs like the Betsy Ann Ross House of Hope.

    Yes, the federal government should be taking care of our veterans better, but when they don’t, the state should be willing and able to step in and do the right thing for the right reason.

  • Maine State Rep. Golden’s bill to help prevent youth suicide becomes law

     

     By Ramona du Houx

    A bill sponsored by Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, to require public schools to adopt protocols to prevent youth suicide became law on April 3, 2018. It had earlier passed both the Maine House and the Senate unanimously.

    The idea for the bill was brought to Rep. Golden by Matt Graham, who lost a daughter, Anie, to suicide in May 2017. 

    “I am grateful that the Legislature saw the importance of this bill,” Graham said. “I am hopeful that this will help schools deal with at-risk kids and lower the incidence of teen suicide.”

    The bill, LD 1694, requires the state Department of Education to develop rules mandating that school districts adopt suicide prevention protocols based on the most up-to-date best practices. Current rules recommend that schools have these protocols, but only about 25 percent of school districts have done so. The law will go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

    “I am proud to work with the Graham family on this important legislation as we continue to try to prevent youth suicide,” said Golden D-Lewiston. “We need to continue to update our practices and policies to make sure we are doing all we can to reduce these tragedies.”

    Rep. Golden is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents part of the city of Lewiston. He is also running for Congress in the 2nd District and faces a primary this June.

  • Maine Energy Committee votes to advance Devin’s microgrid bill

    Legislation would open the door to a more resilient power grid

    The Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee voted 8-5 Tuesday to recommend passage of Rep. Mick Devin’s bill to let towns make local power grids more resilient and independent.  

    Devin’s bill, LD 257, would allow Maine’s Public Utilities Commission to hear proposals from towns to build microgrids – smaller, localized, quasi-independent power grids that can temporarily disconnect from the statewide power grid while continuing to generate and transmit power.

    “Microgrids are well suited to withstand weather events and more likely to prevent outages,” said Devin, D-Newcastle. “I want to thank my colleagues on the committee, and our own local energy expert Paul Kando and other Lincoln County residents who have worked closely with me on this bill. As weather events become more frequent and more extreme, we're going to need to keep trying new ideas if we want to make sure everyone's lights stay on. Over the long run, this could even lower our electric bills.”

    Microgrids could improve grid resiliency, decreasing the number and length of outages, reducing economic losses and potentially saving lives. Utilities could benefit as well from reduced peak power and transmission costs, improved cyber-security, lower regional network charges, demand management and more.

    Microgrids may also be an especially good fit for areas near a hospital and other vital facilities. 

    By establishing microgrids, municipalities, communities and neighborhoods could gain improved control over their electricity supply.  The internal energy source of a microgrid may be fossil fuels, biomass, solar, wind, hydro, tidal, locally produced methane, hydrogen fuel cell, or others.   

    Devin’s bill next faces votes in both the Maine House and Senate. 

    Devin, a marine biologist and a member of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee,  is serving his third term in the Maine House and represents Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Newcastle, part of Nobleboro, part of South Bristol, Monhegan Plantation and the unorganized territory of Louds Island.

  • Talk about Food Safety for Maine Midcoast Farmers

    March 29 from 5:30-7pm

    Knox-Lincoln Extension, 377 Manktown Rd, Waldoboro

    A major reason that farmers commit their lives to producing food is to provide healthy sustenance for their communities. Yet there are a number of ways disease-producing organisms can enter the food stream.

    On Thursday, March 29 from 5:30-7pm, join Jason Lilley at Knox-Lincoln Extension office (377 Manktown Rd, Waldoboro) to learn about on-farm hazards that may lead to food-borne illness as well as the practices that all farmers can implement to minimize risks. Lilley will also discuss the basics of the Food Safety Modernization Act and who must comply, but this program does not meet required FSMA training standards.

    This is the second in a series of free programs for farmers and gardeners presented by Knox-Lincoln Soil & Water Conservation District, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and Midcoast Farmers Alliance.  FMI about future programs and to register: 596-2040, cathrine@knox-lincoln.org, or www.knox-lincoln.org/beginning-farmer.

    Jason Lilley is the Sustainable Agriculture Professional with UMaine Extension in Cumberland County. His work focuses on farm safety as well as soil health, cover cropping, and nutrient management for vegetable production. He is currently involved in a multi-regional project to research the benefits and food safety risks of manure use on organic vegetable farms.

  • Rep. Fay’s K-9 emergency treatment bill signed by Maine's governor

    Rep. Jessica Fay’s bill to ensure working and service dogs have more access to emergency care was signed into law by the governor last week.

    The bill clarifies existing Maine law governing treatment of animals by extending Good Samaritan liability protection to cover trained emergency personnel who treat working and service animals in emergency situations.

    “I’d like to thank Governor LePage for signing this common sense piece of legislation,” said Fay, D- Raymond. “These dogs and the people who work with them are absolutely dedicated to each other, and this law will give these specially trained dogs a better chance to survive a serious injury in the field.”

    The bill, LD 1716, “An Act to Protect Persons Who Provide Assistance to Law Enforcement Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs and Service Dogs” was proposed by law enforcement personnel, and it enjoyed wide bipartisan support.  It will go into effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

    Fay is serving her first term in the Maine Legislature and represents part of Casco, part of Poland and part of Raymond. She serves on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

  • Maine judge grants temporary injunction against LePage's shut down of Downeast prison

     By Ramona du Houx

    “I am very relieved that Judge Murphy saw that the governor overstepped his authority when he shut down the facility without legislative approval,” said Rep. Anne Perry, D-Calais. “Downeast was a model for how to reintegrate prisoners into society. They were getting confidence and hope to prepare for life outside of prison. There is a lot of damage to undo from the governor’s action.”

    Perry was talking about the temporary injunction that was granted by Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy against Governor LePage’s attempt to close the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport, Washington County, Maine. When the facility shut its doors by order of LePage the community was shocked. The action was done in the night without any consultation with local authorities.

    “The governor was wrong to close the facility, especially in the underhanded way he did it, and I am glad the judge recognized that,” said Rep. Robert Alley, D-Beals. “Lots of local businesses counted on Downeast employees, but more than that, local businesses and other organizations counted on the prisoners and the work they did in the community.”

    Justice Murphy’s ruling in part noted that: “Given the statutory language requiring the establishment of DCF in Washington County, the Legislature's decision not to continue to delegate the authority to close facilities to the DOC, and the Legislature's language in the biennial budget, the Court finds that the Legislature's intent was to retain the authority to decide which facilities should remain operational and which facilities should close. While it is within the Commissioner's discretion to determine how to operate the DCF program, only the Legislature has the authority to decide not to fund DCF and rescind the requirements set out in 34-A M.R.S. § 3901.”

    Legislation to fund Downeast Correctional Facility for an additional year is still pending in the House of Representatives after an initial vote of approval.

    LD 1704 "An Act To Fund the Downeast Correctional Facility" sponsored by Representative William Tuell, R-East Machias, was passed in the House by a vote of87 to 59 and in the Senate by a vote of 31 to 3.

    The bill awaits final enactment in both chambers and action by Governor LePage. 

  • Maine job committee supports three year extension of job creating Pine Tree Development Zone Program

    Maine Pine Tree Zones helped coastal businesses as well as inland communities. Photo of Portland, Maine's harbor by Ramona du Houx 

    By Ramona du Houx

    Lawmakers on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development (LCRED) Committee gave initial support to LD 1654, An Act To Protect Economic Competitiveness in Maine by Extending the End Date for Pine Tree Development Zone Benefits. The committee increased accountability by requiring annual reports and amended the program to expire in 2021. The amendment also accepted other recommendations made by the OPEGA report to assess its true capacity to create jobs.

     Close to 400 companies have been certified under the Pine Tree Zone program, bringing good jobs and benefits to the state. The PTZ model helped grow Maine's economy until the great recession. Without PTZ's the state would be suffering economically worse than it is. Governor LePage has not managed to raise Maine out of the recession, even though every other state in New England is doing better since the great recession. LePage has held back important research and development bonds, which helped grow the economy as well as helped companies that set up here as PTZ businesses. Much of their R&D was conducted at the University of Maine, using voter approved bonds.

    “Whenever the Legislature directs taxpayer dollars towards incentives for businesses to create jobs, it’s incredibly important we demand transparency, accountability and benchmarks to make sure the tax breaks are doing what they’re supposed to do,” said Rep. Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford), chair of the LCRED Committee. “Pine Tree Development Zones are important for many rural Maine communities and I’m proud of committee members for working together to strengthen accountability before voting to renew the program.” 

    LD 1654 as originally drafted extended the Pine Tree Development Zone Program for five years with no additional accountability measures. The committee changed it to three years.

    The Pine Tree Development Zone Program (PTZ), established by the Maine Legislature in 2003 under the Baldacci administration, allows eligible businesses the chance to significantly reduce or eliminate state taxes for up to ten years while creating quality jobs in certain professions or by moving existing jobs in qualifying industries to Maine. Quality jobs are defined as those that meet certain income thresholds, offer healthcare coverage and access to retirement plans among other provisions.

    Eligible industries include biotechnology, aquaculture and marine technology, composite materials technology, environmental technology, advanced technologies for forestry and agriculture, manufacturing and precision manufacturing, information technology and financial services. Approximately 200 businesses statewide currently qualify.

    LD 1654 faces further votes in the full House and Senate.

  • Maine's Ranked-choice voting people's found valid with 66,687 signatures

    By Ramona du Houx

    Certification of the people's veto of "An Act to Implement Ranked-choice Voting in 2021" is complete and Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap confirmed today that the effort has enough valid signatures to move forward to a vote.

    “The people of Maine have once again spoken loudly and clearly: they want ranked choice voting. We are confident that the Secretary of State’s office will move forward in a responsible manner to implement RCV for the upcoming primary, and we hope that Republicans in the Legislature will drop their senseless opposition to the peoples’ will and, instead, join with Democrats to provide the tools and funding necessary to fully support a smooth implementation of RCV in the coming months,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett.

    The proponents of this veto effort submitted 14,026 petitions with 77,305 signatures to the Elections Division of the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Elections Division staff have completed the process of certifying the petitions and found 66,687 valid signatures, while 10,618 were not valid. Petitions for this effort were issued on Nov. 6, 2017 and a minimum of 61,123 signatures from registered Maine voters is required.

    The veto question will now go before voters at the primary election on June 12, 2018 and the primary elections for U.S. Senate, Governor, U.S. Congress, State Senate and State Representative will be decided by a system of ranked-choice voting.

    The Secretary of State's office has prepared an implementation plan outlining all the steps necessary to conduct the June 12 primary election using ranked-choice voting. Implementation of that plan will begin immediately. 

    This people's veto effort would repeal parts of Public Law 2017, Chapter 316 http://legislature.maine.gov/legis/bills/bills_128th/chapters/PUBLIC316.asp , which was passed by the Maine Legislature in October 2017. Ranked-choice voting was initially approved by the voters in November 2016; legislators voted for the delay/indefinite postponement due to constitutional conflicts in the ranked-choice voting law. The law would delay the implementation of ranked-choice voting until December 1, 2021 unless, prior to that date, the voters of the State ratify an amendment to the constitution of Maine; and would indefinitely postpone implementation if the constitutional change is not made. 

    The people's veto seeks a partial implementation of ranked-choice voting, as permitted by the Maine Constitution, for Maine's primary elections and for federal elections. If the ballot question is approved in June, ranked-choice voting would be used for the offices of U.S. Senate and U.S. Congress for the general election in November. If it is not approved, PL 2017, C.316 http://legislature.maine.gov/legis/bills/bills_128th/chapters/PUBLIC316.asp will take effect and ranked-choice voting will not be implemented, unless the voters amend the constitution as provided therein.

    Visit http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/citizens/index.html to view the proposed legislation in its entirety.
  • Maine's Rep. Blume’s coastal hazards commission bill due to climate change progresses

    Flooding in Maine at the seacoast town of Lincolnville across RT 1 after the March 2nd storm.

    Maine Rep. Lydia Blume’s bill to create a commission to examine the threats posed by weather and climate-based hazards to Maine’s coastal communities was approved by the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee last Friday and will come before the House for an initial vote this week.

    The bill adapts a model successfully used by New Hampshire to set up a commission consisting of a wide array of stakeholders and experts to assess the coastal risks and hazards brought about by the changing climate. The New Hampshire efforts resulted in a detailed recommendation report to help coastal communities prepare for, and deal with, future conditions.

    “The recent storms along the coast, and particularly the storm this last weekend, have highlighted to me the need for this commission,” said Rep. Blume, D-York. “I hope that my colleagues in the Legislature recognize the timeliness and importance of this bill to our crucial coastline.  This is a matter of public safety and protecting our coastal economy.  The more we are able to do now, the more we can save money and lives in the future.”

    The bill, LD 1095, creates a broad-based working group with representatives from municipalities, state agencies, regional planners, legislators and other coastal stakeholders. It will report back to the Legislature with findings detailing the hazards faced by coastal communities and the plans and resources needed to deal with them.

    “The commission is going to be critical to help us be proactive concerning the kinds of changes that are now so evident,” Blume said. “Its work can provide us with the necessary guidance, coordination, direction and best practices to help all our coastal communities prepare for the hazards they face.”

    Blume is serving her second term in the Maine Legislature and represents the coastal part of York.  She serves on the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee.

  • Maine Community Forestry Grants Available

    Project Canopy, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s community forestry program, will award $75,000 in grants to local governments, municipalities, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations that support efforts to develop and maintain long-term community forestry programs.

    Funded by the USDA Forest Service, Project Canopy grants are available in two categories: planning and education grants and tree planting and maintenance grants. Typical grants range from $6,000 to $8,000 and require a 50-percent cost-share with cash or in-kind services. Since 2005, Project Canopy has awarded more than $1.5 million in funding for community forestry projects.

    Project Canopy is a program of the Maine Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. It encourages communities to develop project proposals that support sustainable community forestry management, increase awareness of the benefits of trees and forests, and increase the health and livability of communities through sound tree planting and maintenance.

    Project Canopy Director Jan Ames Santerre provided recent examples of community projects that can benefit from Project Canopy grants. Projects of note in 2017 include Auburn ($9,000), Camden ($10,000), and Biddeford ($10,000) for shade tree inventory and management planning for street trees; and Machias ($8,000), Alfred ($8,000), and Standish ($8,000) that allowed those towns to plant trees in downtowns and town parks. “In addition to helping communities with general maintenance planning, these grants allow towns to respond to threats from invasive pests such as the emerald ash borer. They can also support community beautification through street tree planting,” said Santerre.

    Planning and education grants have a maximum award of $10,000, while planting and maintenance grants have a maximum award of $8,000. To be eligible to apply for a 2018 assistance grant, all applicants must attend a grant workshop before submitting an application. The grant workshop will be held on March 13, 2018 via the web. The workshop will cover such topics as grant writing, project development, sustainable community forestry management and grant administration.

    Grant applications are due by 5:00 p.m., Friday, April 6.

    To learn more about the Project Canopy Assistance program and to sign up for a grant workshop, contact Project Canopy Director Jan Ames Santerre at (207) 287-4987.

    More information is available on the web at http://www.projectcanopy.me.

  • Sloop skeleton emerges on York Beach, Maine after March 2nd Storm


    By Ramona du Houx

    A shipwreck  of a sloop, that emerges from time to time on Short Sands Beach in York, was uncovered by rough seas that pounded the shore March 3rd and 4th. She's believed to be more than 160 years old.

    The 51-foot-long hull is from a late colonial or early post-colonial sloop, dating back to around 1750 - 1850, according to the Maine Preservation Commission.

    A sloop, a sailing vessel with a single mast, like this one would have been common along Maine’s coast during that time. They were used for fishing and hauling cargo such as dried fish or lumber.

    Based on the type of construction, marine archaeologist Warren Riess has hypothesized that the vessel is a sloop of about Revolutionary War age. The remains have been mapped and identified by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission as archaeological site ME 497-004.

    In Kennebunk, the vague outline of another vessel was visible March 4th at the eastern end of Gooch’s Beach. Just a few ribs protruded from the sand in front of the bathhouses. Longtime residents said they remember the same wreck being briefly uncovered several times in the last 75 years. Its identity is uncertain, but two Kennebunk-built vessels are known to have been lost near the sandbar at the mouth of the Kennebunk River before the entrance was altered; one in 1818 and the other in 1820.

    The 139-ton brig Merchant was built upriver by Kennebunk shipbuilder Nathaniel Gilpatrick and launched Oct. 13, 1804. After a West Indies trading career, she was cast away on the Kennebunk sandbar upon her return from Havana, Cuba, at the beginning of April 1820. All her cargo, sails and rigging were reportedly saved.

    “In beating into port, to windward of the Fishing Rocks, the wind took her aback, and not having room to wear, she struck on one of the rocks, but immediately floated off — no danger was apprehended, but shortly after a Spanish passenger, who was confined to the cabin by sickness, came running on deck and informed that the vessel was half full of water — the people had just enough time to take to the boats losing all their clothes etc. before she sunk, leaving only the ends of her topgallant masts out of water.”

    Capt. Lord managed to save one small bag of coins, but it was reported in contemporary newspapers that up to $1,000 in specie went down.

    There are 1,595 known shipwrecks along Maine’s coast, including 66 in York and its coastal waters. This skeleton, which looks like the bones of a whale, surfaced in the 1950's. It's last appearence was on Patriots Day in 2007 after a massive store and again in March of 2013.

  • Maine Democrats Turn Out to Rally Efforts for 2018 Elections

     

    Thousands of Democrats attended caucuses, representing highest turnout for a non-presidential year ever recorded by the party

    From Kittery to Madawaska and Fryeburg to Eastport, Democrats across the state turned out in record numbers yesterday to officially kick-off the 2018 campaign season during the Maine Democratic Party Caucuses. 

    Uniting under the banner “Victory Starts Here”, Maine Democrats joined together in their towns and cities for their local caucuses to organize in support of Democratic principles and candidates. As of this morning, local caucuses have reported a total turnout of more than 3,000 Democrats, representing the highest turnout for a non-presidential year ever recorded by the party – and that number is expected to only grow as more towns continue to report their attendance. 

      “Democrats across the state turned out in record numbers to stand up and demand change – to say there is a better way,” said Phil Bartlett, Chairman of the Maine Democratic Party. “We came together at the grassroots level to show that we are organized and that we are determined to elect Democrats at every level of government who will fight for economic opportunity, affordable health care, and stronger schools. Together we will build a thriving, forward-looking economy in Maine that will support and empower our hardworking families. I am proud of the work we accomplished yesterday and look forward to continuing to build on this momentum all the way to victory in November.”

    The caucuses are the organizational foundation of the party. Attendees yesterday elected delegates to the upcoming Democratic State Convention, elected Municipal Officers and County Committee members, heard from Democratic candidates for office and elected officials, and discussed local, state, and national policy issues affecting Maine people. 

    This year, the caucuses also functioned as a statewide virtual rally, in which caucus attendees described what Democratic victory means to them and shared their message on social media through #VictoryStartsHere.

  • Mainers input needed to get important community economic funds for Opportunity Zones

    By Ramona du Houx
    The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) is seeking input from communities and local economic development entities in identifying possible Opportunity Zones across Maine.  The program designed to bring jobs and growth to localized areas.

    The DECD says the creation of an Opportunity Zone could bring tax benefits to help attract new investment and stimulate growth.

    The state is taking public comments until March 9th. Interested parties are asked to submit tracts for consideration. Please include why you think your area would be a good candidate for an Opportunity Zone. Submit your proposals to the DECD to the attention of deborah.johnson@maine.gov.

    Federal law requires all designations to be completed by March 21, 2018; or, states could file a 30-day extension. One quarter of Maine's 123 low-income community census tracts may be designated an Opportunity Zone. Additionally, five percent of the tracts designated may come from tracts contiguous to the low-income tracts; however, Maine's total cannot exceed 31 tracts in total. 

    Opportunity Zones could help attract otherwise wary investors to underserved communities through the creation of Opportunity Funds. With an estimated $2.3 trillion in underutilized capital gains, certain investments will no longer be subject to capital gains tax to incentivize long-term investor commitment. 

    Deadline for submission is March 9, 2018. 
  • Emotive open letter to students thinking about walking out of school by former teacher

     

    “Dear Students,


    I know you. I am a retired teacher of 24 years. I have taught you as 7th graders all the way through 12th grade. This is not a tweet or a text. It’s called a letter; lengthy and substantial. Do you really want to make a difference? Are you sincere about making your schools safe? Don’t walk out, read this instead.Walking out of school is easy compared to what this letter will challenge you to do.

    First of all, put down your stupid phone. Look around you at your classmates. Do you see the kid over in the corner, alone? He could likely be our next shooter. He needs a friend. He needs you. Go and talk to him, befriend him. Chances are, he won’t be easy to like, but it’s mainly because no one has tried to like him. Ask him about him. Get to know him. He’s just like you in that respect; he wants someone to recognize him as a fellow human being but few people have ever given him the chance. You can.

    Next, see that kid eating lunch all alone? He could likely be our next shooter. Invite him to eat lunch with you. Introduce him into your fold of friends. You’ll most likely catch a lot of flack from the friends you eat with because they don’t want him upsetting the balance of their social order. After all, who you hang out with is critical to your status, is it not? If status is important to you, don’t you think it’s important to him also? The only difference being that he has no status because generally, shooters have no friends. Are you serious about wanting to make your school safe? Invite him to your lunch table and challenge your friends to do something meaningful with thirty minutes of their lives each day.

    Lastly, are you completely frustrated by that kid who always disrupts your class and is consistently sent to the principal’s office? He could likely be our next shooter. Do you know why he causes so much trouble? He initiates disruption because that’s the only thing he does that gets him attention, and even bad attention is better than the no attention he receives from you and your classmates. You secretly wish he would get kicked out of school or sent to the alternative disciplinary school so that he wouldn’t disrupt your classes anymore, that somehow, he would just disappear. Guess what? He already feels invisible in a school of thousands of classmates, you included. So, before he acts out in your next class, why don’t you tell him you’d be willing to help him with the assignment that was just given? Or why don’t you ask him to join your study group? If you really want to blow his mind, ask him for help on the assignment. He’s never been asked that. Ever.

    If you’ve read this far, you probably really do care about the safety of your school. Don’t trust that walking out of school will bring an answer. Gun control or more laws is not, and will not, be the answer. You are the answer. Your greeting, your smile, your gentle human touch is the only thing that can change the world of a desperate classmate who may be contemplating something as horrendous as a school shooting. Look past yourself and look past your phone and look into the eyes of a student who no one else sees. Meet the gaze of a fellow human being desperate to make contact with anyone, even just one person. You. If you really feel the need to walk, walk toward that person. Your new friendship can relieve the heartache of one person and in doing so, possibly prevent the unjustifiable heartache of hundreds of lives in the future.

    I know you. I trust you. You are the answer.

    And teachers, my fellow guardians of our youth, I know you too. I know the desire of wanting to make a difference in a young person’s life. I know the thrill of stepping in front of a classroom of students but simultaneously intimidated by the trust bestowed upon you. I also know the crushing, sometimes unbearable responsibility that your shoulders are asked to carry.

    But that’s why you got into teaching, because you have big shoulders. And a big heart. You’re overworked (I would add underpaid, but you didn’t get into teaching for the pay, so it needn’t be said), underappreciated and exhausted. May I add one more item to that list? You’re also a miracle waiting to happen in the life of your worst student. He could likely be our next shooter. The next time (and there’s always a next time) he’s ready to wreak havoc in your classroom, I challenge you to pull him aside and ask him if he’s ok, if there is something bothering him and is there anything you can do to help? Your genuine concern for him may be just the miracle he’s looking for. The miracle we’re all looking for. I know you. I trust you. You are the answer.

    A former teacher who is as heartbroken as you and trusting you not to walk out on the real answer,

    David (yes, teachers really do have first names) Blair

  • RGGI is a model for regional strong bipartisan climate action - cutting carbon pollution works

    By Ramona du Houx

    Environment Maine Research & Policy Center released a new report delcaring the success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s best regional climate program that has dramatically cut carbon pollution.  The report, Cooler Together: The Benefits of Cooperative Action Against Global Warming in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Beyond,  concludes that the newly strengthened program has the potential to provide$7.3 billion in funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas reductions over the next 13 years. 

    On February 28,2018 a bill passed unanimously by the Maine Legislature became law, reauthorizing Maine to remain part of the RGGI through 2030, and ensuring deeper pollution cuts from power plants. 

    Since RGGI’s inception Maine has brought in $91,909,096.27 for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. Many of these programs and projects are managed through the Efficiency Maine Trust, set up by the Baldacci administration in 2007. 

    Maine is showing that we can work together across party lines to cut carbon pollution, clean our air, and protect our climate, in sharp contrast to the climate denial at the federal level, ” said Andrea McGimsey, Sr. Director of Global Warming Solutions with Environment Maine.
     
    The report celebrates the region’s leadership in implementing effective solutions to climate change. Building on the progress of the program’s first decade, the report finds that a stronger Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with more participating states would:

    • Cut carbon pollution from power plants in the Northeast to less than a third of their 2005 levels by 2030 – a dramatic reduction in emissions that positions the region for meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
    • Prevent a further 125 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and provide $7.3 billion in funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas reduction projects over the next 13 years, if funding trends continue on historic patterns.

     
    “To address global warming, we need to set strong limits on pollution, invest in clean energy, and build widespread, bipartisan support for bold action," said Tony Dutzik, senior policy analyst with Frontier Group, which co-authored the report. "This program hits all those marks, and shows that change is possible."
     


    Nine states have participated since the program’s beginning: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  Five of the states are led by Republican governors and four by Democratic governors.  In late January 2018, New Jersey announced it would rejoin RGGI.  Cooler Together estimates that by joining the program now, both New Jersey and Virginia could generate as much as $4.2 billion in revenue by 2030 that could speed their transition to clean energy, while reducing as much as 88 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions cumulatively.
     
    Other states, especially those in the Climate Alliance, can look to the RGGI program as an effective model of climate action. Every state can adopt the strategies that have made the program successful: capping carbon pollution, putting a price on carbon emissions, and reinvesting revenue in the clean energy transition.
     
    The report reviewed the impressive benefits RGGI has achieved for Maine since it was created in 2005. Key benefits include:

    • Contributing to cutting the region’s carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants in half since 2005, according to an analysis by Natural Resources Defense Council, with plans to cut emissions to two-thirds of 2005 levels by 2030;
    • Saving consumers more than $773 million on their energy bills;
    • And $3 billion in net economic benefits, including the creation of more than 30,000 jobs in the region.


    “We congratulate the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states for their climate leadership,” said McGimsey. “The success of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative shows that bipartisan action on climate change is possible and can lead to dramatic progress and significant benefits.”

  • Maine DECD Seeks Input from towns in Identifying Possible Opportunity Zones

    By Ramona du Houx
    The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) is seeking input from communities and local economic development entities in identifying possible Opportunity Zones across Maine.  The program designed to bring jobs and growth to localized areas.

    The DECD says the creation of an Opportunity Zone could bring tax benefits to help attract new investment and stimulate growth.

    The federal government wants designations of Opportunity Zones to be completed by March 21. 

    The state is taking public comments until March 9th. Interested parties are asked to submit tracts for consideration. Please include justification for any criteria and/or tracts in your submission.

    These proposed Opportunity Zones are simalar to Governor John Baldacci's Pine Tree Zones (PTZ's) that revamped rural communities by giving tax incentives to areas in need of investments. Close to 400 companies used Pine Tree Zone cirtification bringing jobs and investment to the state from lumber products to composit manufacturres and innovators. The PTZ companies helped Maine get through the recession. But without investment from the LePage administration the state's economy still hasn't recovered from the recession of 2008, while the rest of New England is booming. These new proposed Opportuntiy Zones depend on federal funds, not on the LePage administration. They are similar to Empowerment Zones that former President Bill Clinton put into use based upon former President Jimmy Carter's law.

    Federal law requires all designations to be completed by March 21, 2018; or, states could file a 30-day extension. One quarter of Maine's 123 low-income community census tracts may be designated an Opportunity Zone. Additionally, five percent of the tracts designated may come from tracts contiguous to the low-income tracts; however, Maine's total cannot exceed 31 tracts in total. 

    Opportunity Zones could help attract otherwise wary investors to underserved communities through the creation of Opportunity Funds. With an estimated $2.3 trillion in underutilized capital gains, certain investments will no longer be subject to capital gains tax to incentivize long-term investor commitment. 

    Those willing to submit input can direct it to the attention of deborah.johnson@maine.gov. Deadline for submission is March 9, 2018. 
  • Traditional Indian Birch bark canoes in Maine

    The bow paddler in this birch bark canoe is Bill Haviland; in the stern is Steve Cayard, its builder. The place is Long Pond on Mount Desert Island, and the occasion was the launching of another bark canoe built in August 2013 at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor by Steve and Passamaquoddy David Moses Bridges.

  • RGGI's Northeast regional states agree on new joint pollution limits-vote in Maine was unanimous


     By Ramona du Houx

    On February 28,2018 a bill passed unanimously by the Maine Legislature has become law, reauthorizing Maine to remain part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) through 2030, and ensuring deeper pollution cuts from power plants. 

    Since RGGI’s inception Maine has brought in $91,909,096.27 for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. Many of these programs and projects are managed through the Efficiency Maine Trust, set up by the Baldacci administration in 2007.

    LD 1657, sponsored by Rep. Ralph Tucker, was prepared by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection after the nine northeast states agreed last fall on the new joint pollution limits for 2021-2030.  It became law without Governor Paul LePage's signature at midnight last night.

    “Cutting carbon pollution is essential to protect the Maine we love, and RGGI shows it is also a ticket to prosperity,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. 

    RGGI is a cooperative market-based effort among nine northeastern states to reduce climate-changing carbon pollution from power plants and spur money-saving investments in energy efficiency and clean energy. 

    “The Legislature’s unanimous vote to continue and increase RGGI’s pollution reductions and energy savings is great news for our environment, our economy, and reducing energy bills,” said Voorhees. “RGGI is saving money for Mainers by improving the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses, and spurring clean energy investments  that create quality Maine jobs. Since 2012, RGGI funds have saved Mainers $277 million on energy bills.” 

    The RGGI states are home to one-sixth of the population in the U.S. and one-fifth of the nation’s gross domestic product. If the nine RGGI states were a single nation, it would be the 13th largest carbon emitter in the world. This demonstrates the global significance to Maine’s climate pact at a time when the Trump Administration is withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. Virginia and New Jersey are now taking steps to join and rejoin RGGI, too, further indication of its success. 

    The initiative, which began in 2009, requires power plants in the nine states to abide by overall limits to carbon pollution. That “cap” is reduced each year, currently by two percent per year and by 2.5 percent per year after 2020 under the new plan and LD 1657. Maine invests funds raised by auctioning carbon credits to support energy efficiency improvements, overseen by Efficiency Maine. (This approach is sometimes called “cap and invest.”)

    Between FY 2012 and FY 2017, Efficiency Maine used $54 million in RGGI funds to leverage $88 million in private investment and achieve $277 million in energy savings for Maine homes and businesses. Independent economic analysis of RGGI has shown that it has a net positive impact on the economy of Maine and the entire region.

    The clean air and health benefits of RGGI have also been analyzed in detail, finding at least $5.7 billion in quantified public health benefits,300 to 830 lives saved, and more than 8,200 asthma attacks avoided.

    Climate change is one of the single greatest threats to Maine’s environment. A failure to reduce carbon pollution swiftly threatens our industries from marine fisheries to tourism. Climate change will also attack our health with more polluted air and insect-borne diseases like Lyme. That’s why large, cooperative, innovative policies like RGGI are so critical.

    “We applaud the Maine DEP for its cooperative approach to RGGI within the region, and the leadership of Commissioner Mercer for shepherding through this important legislation. We also congratulate the Environment and Natural Resources Committee co-chairs, Rep. Ralph Tucker (D-Brunswick) and Sen. Tom Saviello (R-Franklin), for continuing the bipartisan legacy of RGGI,” says Voorhees.

    RGGI History —

    The first pre-compliance RGGI auction took place in September 2008, and the program became effective on January 1, 2009.

    In 2003, governors from Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont began discussions to develop a regional cap-and-trade program addressing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

    On December 20, 2005, seven of those states announced an agreement to implement RGGI, as outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Governor's of Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. The MOU, as amended, provides the outlines of RGGI. New Jersey is the only state to opt-out of the program under Governor Christie’s leadership, missing out on millions of revenues.

    When RGGI was adopted by the Maine Legislature in 2007, the votes were 35-0 in the Senate and 130-7 in the House.

    Throughout 2016 and 2017, the participating RGGI states conducted a thorough, transparent “Program Review” of RGGI, the second such review to date. They found that the program was working well to lower carbon emissions and providing economic benefits. In fact, the states found that emissions were going down faster and at lower costs than expected, allowing them to accelerate RGGI and capture those cheap carbon cuts.

    Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2 allowance auctions exceed $2.8 billion dollars

  • Stonington’s lobstering focus of short documentary

    by Faith DeAmbrose

    “It’s not just work, it’s a way of life,” said fisherman John Williams part way through a recently released documentary chronicling the history of the lobster fishing industry in Maine.

    Produced by French Filmmaker Anaïs Le Guennec, the 13-minute film features local fisherman Williams and historian Bill Haviland, along with cameo appearances from many island fishermen (or their boats in the harbor) and extensive footage of the town of Stonington and Penobscot Bay.

    Guennec spent time on Deer Isle last August conducting interviews and taking in the sights. She was aided also by Walter Reed who provided transport around Stonington Harbor and Genevieve McDonald who allowed filming on her boat as well as from Cathy Billings of the Lobster Institute who provided additional historical context.

    The film does not focus on the business of lobstering, an industry that brings in roughly $40 million in direct and likely more in indirect revenue to Stonington on an annual basis, but instead focuses on the people and the place they call home.

    To see the film in its English version, visit vimeo.com/254868628.

  • Portland Maine needs input from local citizens about pier development

    by Ramona du Houx

    Officials with Maine’s largest city are reaching out to residents to discuss possible redevelopment plans for an ocean terminal building on the city’s waterfront. The building in question is the Portland Ocean Terminal facility on the Maine State Pier.

    It's a key postion that could define the area. What the public thinks is critical to any city planning.

    Every cruise ship will dock next to it. The skyline will be dominated by it.

    It’s located in the city’s working waterfront in an area of high commercial traffic. Portland staff presented the idea of a public market within the building last year. The city held its first outreach meeting about the building’s future on Feb. 15, 2018.

    More sessions are coming up on Feb. 27, 2018 with the seafood industry, Feb. 28, 2018 with the food and beverage industry, March 7, 2018 with the Peaks Island Council and March 12, 2018 with the public.

  • Maine House passes resolution requesting that President Trump exclude Maine from new offshore drilling

     

    In Rockland, Maine classic wooden boats are dry docked for the winter. They still cruze the coastline in the summer giving folks from away vacations of a lifetime. Oil rigs would ruin all that, and hurt the state's fishing industries. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    by Ramona du Houx

    On February 15, 2018 Maine House unanimously passed a resolution asking President Trump to exclude Maine from any future offshore oil and gas drilling and exploration.

    Rep. Michael Gilbert Devin submitted the resolution after Trump announced he was lifting a moratorium on such activities earlier this year.

    “Offshore drilling could be an economic disaster for Maine,” said Rep. Devin, a three-term member of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee. “Over 45,000 jobs are associated with our coastal economy, which includes over 5,000 commercial fishermen. The risks are too high to place that many jobs in jeopardy. Maine must protect one of the world’s premier natural resources – the Gulf of Maine. Nobody comes to our coast to eat a chicken sandwich. We need to close the door on offshore drilling immediately, and I hope the president will agree.”

    In April 2017 President Trump signed an executive order reversing a ruling by former President Obama that banned drilling and leasing in the Atlantic and Arctic Outer Continental Shelf regions. President Trump's order further directed the U.S. Department of the Interior to open the Atlantic and Pacific OCS regions to new offshore drilling and exploration.

    At the federal level, all four members of the state’s Congressional delegation have expressed opposition to drilling off Maine’s coast. 

    The resolution’s next and final stop will be the Maine Senate, where it is also expected to pass. 

    Rep. Devin, a marine biologist and a member of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee, is serving his third term in the Maine House.

    Rep. Devin is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and has an MS degree in Marine Biology from the Florida Institute of Technology where he did extensive deep sea work in manned submersibles. He sits on the Sea Urchin Zone Council for the Maine Department of Marine Resources and is a member of the Acquaculture and Marine Technical Board at the Maine Technology Institute. He founded Acadia Seafood International, Inc., a research and development company that was headquartered in Walpole.

  • Great way of engaging students with I Know ME addition to the state's Park Passport Program

    photos and article by Ramona du Houx

    Eleven seventh graders from Mount View Middle School in Thorndike, Maine visited the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) to begin their quest to visit all Maine State Parks in 2018 as part of the Maine State Park Passport Program in partnership with The Game Loft in Belfast.

    "The I Know ME program focuses on learning about the state and learning about oneself," said The Game Loft co-Director Ray Estabrook. "We believe that if you know who you are and you know where you are from, you can find where you are going. The I Know ME program has received generous funding from the Emmanuel and Pauline Lerner Foundation."


    The students plan to visit all Maine State Parks as part of the new "I Know ME" program, which augments the original program started in 2010.

    The Park Passport Program challenges participants to visit all 48 Maine State parks and Historic Sites, have a passport book stamped and earn prizes. It has been one of the most successful promotions that the DACF's Bureau of Parks and Lands has initiated. Since the program's inception families, individuals, schools and tourists have contributed to over 200,000 park passports in circulation.

    "Maine residents have an amazing resource in our state park system," said The Game Loft co-Director Patricia Estabrook. "As people who have visited all 48 state parks we believe that these treasures teach us about our heritage and enrich our lives. Everyone should consider participating in the state park passport program."

    The booklet is a great resource to learn about Maine's state parks and historic sites. Using the passport is fun and easy. Visit any Maine state park or historic site from May 15 through September. Find the brown passport station and unlock the padlock using the secret code (The combination is the park's establishment date, you can find it on the passport page). Stamp your passport. 

    Passport holders receive an award for every 8 stamps they collect. The more stamps collected, the better the award. The passport program was expanded to include 8 geocache's. There is one geocache at a state park in each of the 8 tourism regions. Passports can be obtained for $1 at all Maine State Parks.

    Governor John Baldacci was on hand in May of 2010 to inaugurate the program envisioned by Eliza Townsend his Commissioner of the Maine Department of Conservation (DOC). Baldacci was the first one to get his passport stamped at Range Parks State Park in Poland.

    “It’s a wonderful idea – good for you, good for the economy and good for the state,” said Governor Baldacci at Range Park in 2010. “I often tell people, we don’t appreciate enough the hidden jewels we have in our state. Right in our backyards, we have the Disneyland of natural resources.”

    It’s those backyard parks that have built found memories across the state that last a lifetime.

    “My grandparents, parents and brothers and sisters would go to, what used to be the Dorothia Dix Park, outside of Bangor,” said the Governor at the park. “We’d have a picnic and then play baseball. There was a brick wall that we pretended was the center field wall at Fenway. If we hit a ball over the wall we were homerun kings. Today, Maine has hit a homerun with this program.”

    Passport Program details are available at: http://www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/discover_history_explore_nature/activities/passport_program.shtml


    The Game Loft is an award winning 4-H out of school time program that for the past 20 years has been serving the educational, emotional, and social needs of youth in Waldo County. The Game Loft is a free program open to all youth, 50 weeks a year, between the ages of 6-18 who are in school or are home-schooled.

  • Democrats Stand Firm against Republican Efforts to Cut new Maine Minimum Wage

     

     By Ramona du Houx

    Democratic lawmakers on the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee soundly rejected a rollback of Maine’s minimum wage increase on February 8, 2018. The Republican attempt at a roll back came after a people's referendum increased the minimum wage last month and will continue to do so until it reaches $11 a hour.

    “These efforts to undermine the minimum wage increase will continue to fail because Mainers recognize that people deserve a wage they can live on, and while the cost of living has gone up year after year, for a lot of Maine people, paychecks have not.

    "I refuse to choose winners and losers. We can commit ourselves to ensuring small businesses can succeed without taking money from the paychecks of hardworking families,” said Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development House chair Representative Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford.

    LD 1757 “An Act to Protect Maine’s Economy by Slowing the Rate and Which the State’s Minimum Wage Will Increase and Establishing a Training and Youth Wage” sponsored by Representative Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, was voted Ought Not to Pass on a party line vote.

    “I don’t know how many more times we have to say this: Democrats will not allow a rollback in Maine’s minimum wage increase, period,” said Rep. Fecteau. “Despite the doomsday predictions Republicans still pedal, 59,000 hard-working Mainers got an overdue raise just last month that went directly into their pockets and the cash registers of our local businesses, strengthening Maine’s economy and our communities.”

    Graphic by Ramona du houx

    LD 1757 as originally drafted would cut the current minimum wage of $10 per hour to $9.50 per hour beginning in June of this year, and reduce the annual increases in Maine’s minimum wage from $1 a year to 50 cents per year and cap the increase at $11 per hour instead of the current expected rate of $12 an hour by 2021. The bill also establishes a lower “training wage” for employees under the age of 18.

    Republicans on the committee voted LD 1757 Ought to Pass as Amended. The amended bill would increase the minimum wage to $10.50 starting January 1, 2020 and increase the minimum wage by 50 cent increments until 2023 to $12 an hour. Starting January 1, 2024, minimum wage would increase with inflation instead of the Consumer Price Index as in current law. The bill would also stipulate that employees under the age of 18 would be paid 80 percent of the minimum wage for the first 200 hours of their work. 

    LD 1757 will be considered by the full House and Senate in the coming weeks.

  • Maine's Senators announce 2018 Senate Youth Program Delegates - Baldacci and Hugo-Vidal

    In Janruary U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King congratulated Caroline Baldacci of Bangor and Virginia Jewel Hugo-Vidal of Gorham on being selected as Maine’s delegates to the 56th Annual United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP).  Caroline and Virginia will join 104 other students from across the country in spending a week in the nation’s capital where they will have an opportunity to study the American legislative system first-hand. 

    “The Senate Youth Program is a great way to recognize outstanding young people from Maine and all across the country, and I’m delighted to congratulate Caroline and Virginia on this impressive accomplishment” said Senator King, a co-chair of the USSYP Senate Advisory Committee. “They have demonstrated remarkable leadership and dedication to their communities and the State of Maine, and I look forward to congratulating them in person when they visit Washington.”

    Caroline Baldacci attends Bangor High School where she serves as the president of the National Honor Society, captain of the Congressional Debate Team, and a member of both the Student and Class Councils.  She is also a two-time qualifier for the National Congressional Debate competition.  Additionally, Caroline has volunteered for many political campaigns.  She hopes to earn a degree in history or political science and pursue a career in public service. 

    “Caroline and Virginia are exceptional students who will represent Maine well as delegates to the U.S. Senate Youth Program,” said Senator Collins.  “I have the honor and privilege of being the first delegate to the U.S. Senate Youth Program to have been elected to the U.S. Senate.  As a senior in high school, this incredible program strengthened my commitment to public service.  I am pleased that Caroline and Virginia have been selected to participate in this exciting opportunity, and I look forward to meeting with them while they are in Washington, D.C.”

    Virginia Hugo-Vidal attends Gorham High School and serves in an appointed position to the Superintendent's Policy Focus Group.  She is also an officer for her Thespian Society, Ambassadors Club, and Debate Club and participates in Model United Nations, serving as the head delegate for her school.  Virginia is active in her community, volunteering in the Youth in Government Program, the Maine Youth Court, the Salmon Falls Library, and as an AP United States History tutor.  Virginia hopes to pursue a degree in political science and international relations and aspires to work for the U.S. State Department after graduation.

    The USSYP, founded in 1962, is fully funded by The Hearst Foundations with the goal of raising awareness among young Americans about the role of the federal government and the importance of our democratic process. During their week in Washington, from March 3-10, 2018, the students will attend meetings and briefings with Senators, Congressmen, the President, a Justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, and an Ambassador to the United States, among others. Delegates also receive a $10,000 college scholarship to help them pursue their future endeavors.

  • Quote book called, “great resource and inspiration,” by inaugural poet Blanco

      

    Polar Bear and Company and Highland/Hillside Books Distribution are proud to announce the publication of A Writers’ Compendium: Quotations on the Trade, edited and compiled by author Peter Bollen. Illustrations are crafted by Ramona du Houx.

    Writers often spend hours, days working away on manuscripts. Sometimes in their self imposed isolation they wonder if their experiences are unique. A Writers’ Compendium: Quotations on the Trade allows them to see how their process may or may not be similar to other writers. It brings the writing community together and offers inspiration within unexpected quotes.

    This unique collection of quotes by writers on the process of writing, on journalism, on censorship, poetry, writer's block, and on other writers and critics is a wonderful resource. 

    Bollen is the author of Nuclear Voices, Great Labor Quotations and Frank Talk. He’s currently a contributing columnist for the Bridgton News.

    “As a long time literary book collector, I have concentrated on writers’ memoirs and biographies, as well as interviews and conversations with a wide range of writers working in various fields. This obsession became my education for my own writing and my career in publishing. Gleaning all this literary wisdom fueled my desire to compile a useful and entertaining collection of literary nuggets for readers and anyone who aspires to write. Putting this volume together and reading the words of these lively minds on the craft of writing and the creative process was particularly enjoyable and personally edifying.

    “The chapters in this book include quotations on creativity, censorship, critiques from fellow writers, and the importance of journalism. I hope they convey something about the writing life and the importance of the printed word.

    I intend for this collection to serve as a helpful guide for aspiring and fledgling writers. I have included a chapter on the dreaded “writer’s block” – that familiar malady suffered, at times, by even the most experienced wordsmiths. When I interview and talk with writers personally, I always ask them about “The Block.”

    Writers often refer to and use their favorite quotations by their colleagues and mentors. Many of these quotations are well known and often repeated. In this book, where the actual source of a quote could not be definitely determined, I have added ‘attributed’ following the author citation.

     

    “I hope this compendium is entertaining as well as useful for readers and writers alike. I have tried my best to be accurate and correct in attributing the quotations. Any inaccuracies discovered after publication will be corrected in subsequent editions of this volume.” —Peter Bollen

     

    What others have written about the book:

    “A great resource and inspiration.” —Richard Blanco, Inaugural Poet for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration

    “Entertaining and often illuminating, the incisive and concise quotations go on, page after page. Dipping into compendia such as this can be like eating cashews—it’s hard to stop at just one canful. You keep reading and snacking. Just one page more . . .” —Mike Corrigan, Bridgton News book review

    “Peter Bollen has compiled a magnificent collection of quotes that any writer, editor or photographer can identify with, from dealing with editors to questioning one’s self. Very amusing and informative. Mr. Bollen has gone on a deep search to find the quotes that you can—At one time or another—Find yourself in. —H. Joie Crockett, photojournalist

    “A treasure, a welcome companion for any working writer. In this lonely field, one often feels blocked, stopped, and distracted . . . Refreshing . . . illustrates that so many others, especially the giants of this craft have felt exactly the same and then gone on to publish wonderful stories. It is a source of solace, comfort and encouragement, much needed and much appreciated. It has a permanent place next to my computer keyboard.” —Alan Lapidus, author of Everything by Design. My Life as an Architect

    Please visit Peter’s website at: https://famousquotescom.com/

    And Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/writerscompendium/

    On Amazon herehttps://www.amazon.com/Writers-Compendium-Quotations-Trade/dp/1882190785

    Published by Polar Bear & Company

    ISBN-10: 1882190785

    ISBN-13: 978-1882190782

    Pages: 153

    $14.95

     

     

  • Longstaff’s measure to prevent financial exploitation of elderly endorsed by panel


    Bill aims to ensure final wishes of older adults and other Mainers are carried out

    By Ramona du Houx

    A bill to help prevent financial exploitation of older Mainers by clarifying their intent when opening a joint financial account earned unanimous support Thursday from a panel of lawmakers.

    “Elders very often add a child’s name, or even the name of a caregiver, to their bank accounts for the sole purpose of allowing that person to help with managing finances,” said Rep. Thomas Longstaff, D-Waterville, the bill’s sponsor. “Although the elder may not intend for the surviving party to inherit the entire account balance upon his or her death, that is what current law directs. This legislation simply ensures elders understand the options available to them so that conflicts among family members can be avoided.”

    The measure would require each owner of a joint financial account to answer in writing whether they intend to leave the account to the surviving party in the event of his or her death. Under the bill, financial institutions would have to include the question in simple, straightforward language on the forms required to open a joint account.

    Under current law, any funds in a joint account pass to the surviving account holder instead of becoming part of the deceased individual’s estate. Absent other evidence, the surviving account holder becomes the owner of the property despite what the deceased party stated in his or her last will and testament.

    Canaan resident Wilma Sherman told the Insurance and Financial Services Committee at the bill’s public hearing that her family experienced this firsthand when her daughter lost her battle with cancer and her savings account became the property of the joint owner – contrary, Sherman believes, to her daughter’s intent as stated in her will. Sherman said Longstaff’s measure could prevent other families from the additional pain her family suffered.

    “Losing one you love is never easy,” said Sherman. “Having to stand by and see the wishes of that individual not carried out, to see your family splintered, to lose trust in a person you considered to be part of your family, makes the death even more difficult.”

    According to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, financial abuse or exploitation is a widespread form of elder abuse that can be perpetrated by family members, caregivers, contractors, scam artists and others. 

    “Every year, Adult Protective Services receives 33,000 reports of elder abuse. Approximately one-third relate to financial elder abuse. LD 968 will help prevent some of that,” John Nale, a Waterville attorney specializing in elder law and former president of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging, said at the public hearing.

    Nale urged the bill’s passage Thursday, telling the committee that the question should be presented in simple, clearly understandable language at the time a joint account is opened.

    The measure, LD 968, faces further votes in the House and Senate.

    Longstaff, a former Marine, is serving his fourth term in the Maine House. He is a member of both the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee and the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. He represents part of Waterville.

  • Maine's Rep. Golden’s bill to help prevent youth suicide approved by committee

    By Ramona du Houx

    A bill sponsored by Assistant House Majority Leader Jared Golden that would require public schools to adopt protocols to prevent youth suicide was approved January 17, 2018 by the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee on a vote of 11-1.

    “I am extremely encouraged by the committee’s support for this bill.  This is an appropriate improvement on the rules already in place,” said Matt Graham, who lost a daughter to suicide and brought the idea for the bill to Golden. “Schools need to be informed that help is available.  It is hit or miss right now.”

    As amended by the committee, the bill, LD 1694, requires the state Department of Education to develop rules mandating that school districts adopt suicide prevention protocols based on the most up-to-date best practices. Current rules recommend that schools have these protocols, but only about 25 percent of school districts have done so.

    “We're learning more about this problem and how to deal with it all the time. If schools are to play an effective role in preventing suicide, they must continually examine and discuss how changing times require new practices,” said Golden. “That is the goal of this bill – to make the most up-to-date information on suicide prevention available in all Maine schools.”

    Golden is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents part of the city of Lewiston. He is the Assistant House Majority Leader. 

  • Attorney General Janet Mills Joins Suit to Stop Rollback of Net Neutrality


    Coalition of 22 Attorneys General Files Petition for Review, Formally Commencing Lawsuit

    ON January 16, 2018 Attorney General Janet Mills joined a coalition of 22 Attorneys General in filing a multistate lawsuit to block the Federal Communications Commission's rollback of net neutrality. The coalition filed a petition for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, formally commencing the lawsuit against the FCC and the federal government. 

    The FCC's vote to rollback net neutrality allows Internet Services Providers to slow or block access to certain sites or mobile applications, doing away with "net neutrality" that has allowed ideas and commerce to flourish across the web. Additionally, the vote followed a public comment process that was flawed and tainted by "fake" comments submitted during the FCC's comment process in which nearly two million comments stole the identities of Americans from across the United States. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman reported that over 400,000 "fake" comments from New York, Florida, Texas and California were discovered.

    "The rollback of the net neutrality rule is bad news for consumers, individuals and businesses who use the Internet daily to do banking, pay bills, do schoolwork, and do their jobs," said Attorney General Mills. "Additionally, if we as Americans cannot trust our government to conduct a truthful and legitimate process for one of the most significant regulatory rollbacks in this country's history, how can we trust that this is the right decision? The FCC's decision to vote on this matter during an ongoing investigation sends a bad message about their agenda. I am pleased to join Attorneys General from across the country in this important lawsuit to preserve and promote the public commons," added Mills.

    The multistate lawsuit was filed today in Federal Court and can be found here: 

    https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/petition_-_filed.pdf
  • January 20 at Penobscot Marine Museum —cooking with sea veggies

    Micah Woodcock of Atlantic Holdfast Seaweed Company will discuss the culinary possibilities of Maine’s native sea vegetables and prepare several dishes using local seaweed at Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport on Saturday, January 20, at 2 p.m. The program is free and open to the public. 

    During his Cooking with Sea Veggies program, Woodcock will explain how to distinguish different seaweeds and the uses of each, as well as how the seaweeds are harvested, and their culinary, ecological and economic importance. Atlantic Holdfast Seaweed Company is a small business working to sustainably hand-harvest sea vegetables in Penobscot Bay since 2010. Woodcock’s harvesting operation is based on an island seven miles off of Stonington.

    For more information or to reserve a space, call Penobscot Marine Museum at 548-2529.
  • Senators King & Collins Oppose Drilling Off Maine’s Coast

    On Monday, January 8 2018, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, sent the following letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke expressing their opposition to a recent proposal from the Department of Interior that would allow offshore drilling in the vast majority of federal waters, including potentially off the coast of Maine. 
    Maine's Governor LePage is in favor of Zinke's ruling.

    Dear Secretary Zinke:

    We write to express our opposition to the five-year oil and gas leasing plan released by the Interior Department that proposes opening up vast portions of U.S. waters for possible oil exploration and development, including along the Atlantic seaboard and the coast of Maine. 

    We oppose any effort to open waters off the coast of Maine or any proximate area to offshore drilling, which could negatively affect the health of Maine’s fisheries and other coastal resources, threatening to harm not only the environment but the state’s economy as well.

    Maine’s economic stability—and countless Mainers’ livelihoods—has always depended on the health of the ocean. The Maine lobster industry, for example, has an estimated $1.7 billion impact to the state’s economy annually, not to mention the many other fishing, aquaculture, and coastal tourism industries in Maine that help to support the economy. These critical industries are dependent on Maine’s pristine waters, and even a minor spill could damage irreparably the ecosystem in the Gulf of Maine, including the lobster larvae and adult lobster populations therein. Further, offshore seismic testing exploration has been shown in some cases to disrupt migratory patterns of fish and sea mammals. In other words, we believe the potential harm posed by oil and gas exploration and development off Maine’s shores far outweighs any potential benefit. 

    We oppose the Department’s draft plan, and look forward to working with you to ensure that it is revised to pose no unnecessary threats to the economy and way of life in coastal Maine. 
  • Attorney General Mills joins collation in $45 million settlement with PHH Mortgage Corporation

    By Ramona du Houx

    Attorney General Janet Mills, 48 other state attorneys general, the District of Columbia and over 45 state mortgage regulators have reached a $45 million settlement with New Jersey-based mortgage lender and servicer PHH Mortgage Corporation. 

    The settlement resolves allegations that PHH, the nation's ninth largest non-bank residential mortgage servicer, improperly serviced mortgage loans from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2012. The agreement requires PHH to adhere to comprehensive mortgage servicing standards, conduct audits, and provide audit results to a committee of states. The settlement does not release PHH from liability for conduct that occurred beginning in 2013.

    The harm sustained by some PPH customers includes payment of improper fees and charges, misapplication of payments, dual tracking activity, and loss of homes due to improper, unlawful, or undocumented foreclosures.

    "This settlement holds PHH accountable for threatening to foreclose and foreclosing on Maine homeowners," said Attorney General Mills. "This agreement provides monetary relief to 293 Maine homeowners and requires the company to live up to new standards mortgage servicing."

    The settlement includes $30.4 million in payments to borrowers and a separate payment to state mortgage regulators. 

    Borrowers who were foreclosed on by PHH during the eligible period will qualify for a minimum $840 payment, and borrowers who were threatened with foreclosures that PHH initiated during the eligible period, but who did not lose their home, will receive a minimum $285 payment. A settlement administrator will contact eligible recipients at a later date. 
  • Sen. Bellows declares Medicaid expansion will happen in Maine


    Editorial by Senator Shenna Bellows, from Manchester
     
    In reflecting upon my first year in the Maine Senate, I am proud of what we were able to accomplish amid significant challenges. But I know we still have a lot of work left to do.
     
    Last year, my top resolution to my constituents was property tax relief. For too many Mainers, rising property taxes pose a real threat to their way of life. I will never forget some of the seniors I’ve met who feared losing the homes they have lived in for a lifetime. And they are not alone.
     
    Fortunately, Senate Democrats are on their side. When the Governor, deaf to constituent concerns about rising property taxes, sought to eliminate the Homestead Property Tax Exemption for anyone under the age of 65, Senate Democrats fought back. When the Republicans sought to rollback recent raises to the exemption, Senate Democrats fought back. And we won. We successfully blocked the Governor from eliminating the Homestead Property Tax Exemption and implemented a 33 percent raise to the exemption to $20,000 for every Maine household.
     
    This is good work. But it is just a start. We ought to be problem solving in Augusta, not pitting groups against each other. We must work together in a bipartisan way to get things done.
     
    My top resolution for 2018 is to fight to expand healthcare for Mainers by implementing Medicaid expansion. Last November, voters sent a strong message to leaders in Augusta: Mainers want more access to health care not less. And I agree.
     
    Without health insurance, you cannot afford a doctor when you are sick and risk getting much worse. If you are sick, you cannot go to work, which is both bad for businesses and tough on your wallet. Or, you go to work and risk spreading illness and disease. It is a no-win situation.
     
    Maine lawmakers have passed Medicaid expansion five times only to meet the Governor’s veto pen on every occasion. Now, Maine people have spoken. The Legislature and the Governor have a responsibility to uphold the will of the voters. Senate Democrats resolve here and now that we will do everything in our power to implement Medicaid expansion so more than 70,000 Mainers can get the healthcare coverage they deserve.
     
    I have a few other resolutions for the upcoming legislative session as well. We must do more – in a bipartisan way – to confront the opioid crisis that is killing so many Mainers. I have a bill to regulate and expand access to recovery houses, which is one small part of the solution for families trying to help loved ones get treatment.  
     
    I’m also interested in how we expand access to the Internet to ensure that small businesses in our rural communities can start up and thrive. I have three bills that touch on Internet access and privacy including a bill to restore net neutrality that I will work to move forward this session.
     
    I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues in 2018 to finish what we started and make Maine work for more Maine families, seniors and small businesses. I resolve – we will fight hard for you.
     
  • Collins support of the Senate tax bill is a betrayal of veterans

    December 11, 2017

    Editorial by Alex Luck, who served in the U.S. Army’s infantry, both as a noncommissioned and commissioned officers, from 1967 to 1990. He now resides in Southwest Harbor.

    As a Mainer, I’ve always appreciated Sen. Susan Collins’ independent streak and willingness to listen to other viewpoints. I hope she’s listening now. As a veteran, it pains me to see just how badly the Republican tax bill that the Senate just passed will hurt my fellow veterans.

    What’s worse, I’m heartbroken to see Collins vote for this bill that punishes veterans and threatens millions of families’ health and well-being by dismantling a key part of the Affordable Care Act. I’d expect such cruelty from the far-right fringe.

    I’m shocked to see Collins go along with it.

    First, we need to examine just how badly this tax package hurts veterans. By 2027, the Senate bill raises taxes on the majority of families earning less than $75,000 per year. The median income for a veteran is just half that, meaning the bill will punish many veterans’ families with a higher tax burden.

    With more than 127,000 veterans in Maine, that’s a high cost. Billionaires, however, see a huge windfall, paid for by the higher taxes on veterans and other American families. And what do our children inherit? A deficit that is estimated to explode by another $1.4 trillion.

    Provisions in the House version of the bill that may make their way into the final bill include the elimination of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which encourages businesses to hire veterans. Hundreds of thousands of veterans have found work because of this tax credit, and repealing them will result in fewer veterans finding jobs.

    The House bill would also eliminate the Disabled Access Tax Credit, a credit that helps small businesses comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which ensures that the nearly 32,000 disabled veterans in Maine can live in a safe, inclusive and accessible environment.

    But perhaps nothing is more odious than the bill’s repeal of a key part of the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate — a move that would explode the number of uninsured by 13 million people by 2025 and increase health insurance premiums by 10 percent, or about $2,300 per family in Maine. Hundreds of thousands of veterans gained insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. Gutting the Affordable Care Act would take an extremely heavy toll on veterans in the Pine Tree State.

    Collins is indicating that she would be OK with that if two other pieces of legislation, the Alexander-Murray and Collins-Nelson bills, are passed along with the tax bill. But inclusion of these plans would not mitigate the damage caused by gutting the Affordable Care Act in this budget bill.

    Collins-Nelson would add funds to stabilize markets for the next two years, to stem the damage caused by Trump’s previous sabotage of the program. In short, it would not do anything beyond 2019. And while it could help an estimated 1 million people gain insurance, that hardly makes a dent in the 13 million who will become uninsured by 2027 because of the repeal of the individual mandate in the tax bill.

    And while Collins points to the $10 billion that her plan spends to stabilize the Affordable Care Act market over the next two years, it’s next to nothing when you consider that repealing the individual mandate would reduce federal health care spending by $320 billion.

    So what are we left with?

    Collins already voted yes on a bill that pummels veterans to pay for billionaire tax cuts. On top of it, she’s willing to consign millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured, including thousands upon thousands of veterans, as part of that same bill.

    I have to believe Collins is under great pressure from President Donald Trump and doesn’t want to become a target of his ire. I understand that, and I know Trump can be a bully. But, I’m hopeful that if the bill comes back to the Senate, the Collins I know will stand up to that bullying and say, “No, Mr. President, I will not vote for this bill that hurts Maine’s veterans so badly.”

    Collins, please don’t let us down. Don’t vote for this anti-veteran, anti-Maine tax scam. She is better than that.

  • Maine's Susan Collins and the Duping of Centrists

    By David Leonhardt, December 10, 2017 in the New York Times

    Susan Collins is often called one of the last centrists. She is a classic New England Republican, a senator who mostly votes with her party but is willing to buck it.

    A couple of weeks ago, Collins made a classic Collins deal. It tried to split the difference between Democratic and Republican positions.

    But it sure looks like a bum deal now. It also looks like a cautionary tale for anyone who wants to occupy the political center during the age of Donald Trump and a radicalized Republican Party.

    Here’s the back story: Collins said that she would vote for the recent Senate tax bill so long as Republicans leaders promised to pass other legislation — in the near future — that would reduce the bill’s knock-on damage to health care programs.

    She laid out three conditions. She wanted her colleagues to pass two separate bills that would shore up insurance markets for people who weren’t covered through their job. And she wanted congressional leaders to promise to undo the Medicare and Medicaid cuts automatically triggered by the deficit increase from the tax cut.

    Her colleagues assured her they would pass the bills she wanted — not immediately but soon after the tax bill had passed. Collins decided that was good enough, and on Dec. 2, she became one of 51 yes votes on the tax bill.

    When Collins describes her deal, she makes it sound both ironclad — her word — and substantial. She has spoken of a personal commitment from Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. And she’s emphasized that the deal isn’t merely for show. It will, she insists, protect Medicaid and Medicare — two programs particularly important to Mainers, given the state’s large elderly population.

    “I also got an ironclad commitment that we’re not going to see cuts in the Medicaid/Medicare program as a result of this bill,” Collins said on “Meet the Press.”

    But some of Collins’s fellow Republicans evidently have a different definition of ironclad.

    Within days of the Senate vote on the tax bill, conservative House Republicans started saying that they didn’t care about her deal. She did not make it with them, and they do not feel bound by it as they negotiate the bill’s final language with the Senate. These House members, as Politico put it Friday, have decided to “thumb their nose” at Collins.

    Meanwhile, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, has been undermining Collins in his own way. He has made clear that he will use the new deficits created by the tax bill to justify the very thing Collins opposes: Medicare and Medicaid cuts. Those programs, Ryan told a talk-radio host, are “really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.” Cutting them is a top priority for 2018.

    If anything, Ryan’s snub is more significant. House conservatives might still fold and approve the narrow deal that Collins thought she had. But Republicans will not permit the more meaningful promise she’s made — that the tax bill won’t lead to health care cuts. Tax cuts and health care cuts are inexorably bound.

    So in exchange for her vote, Collins received, at best, a cosmetic fix that she will have to pretend is something more.

    What was her mistake? It was both tactical and strategic.

    The tactical error was to fritter her moment of leverage, when the Senate bill’s fate was uncertain and she had the potential to influence other swing senators. Instead of demanding something real, she accepted vague promises.

    She can still vote against the version of the bill that emerges from House-Senate negotiations, but she doesn’t have the sway she did before. Senators usually don’t switch their vote at this stage, and the tax bill will pass without her if no other Republican flips (with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.)

    Her strategic error is the one that holds lessons for other would-be centrists. Namely, she defined the political center in relative terms rather than substantive terms. Republican leaders — not just Trump, but McConnell and Ryan too — have moved sharply to the right. They are rushing through a bill without the normal procedures. They are making verifiably false claims about it. And they have decided that taking health insurance away from Americans is a core Republican principle.

    Collins made the mistake of chasing after an impossible deal. She wanted to position herself between the two political parties, and she wanted to protect Medicare and Medicaid. When it proved impossible to do both, she claimed otherwise — and put a higher priority on politics than policy.

    In Trump’s Washington, other centrist Republicans are going to face a version of her dilemma, again and again. They are going to have decide which matters more to them: being a loyal Republican or being an actual centrist.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/10/opinion/susan-collins-healthcare-centrists.html

  • Attorney General Janet Mills joins lawsuit against Trump EPA for failing to meet Clean Air Act requirements

    12/07/2017

    By Ramona du Houx Attorney General Janet Mills has joined 14 attorneys general in suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to meet Clean Air Act deadlines.
    According to the American Lung Association there are nearly 25,000 children and 120,000 adults in Maine with asthma. If we don't meet Clean Air standards that number will surely rise, along with other deseases and health concerns.

    "The EPA's failure to act is putting the health of thousands of Maine children and seniors at risk," said Attorney General Mills. "I will continue to hold the EPA's feet to the fire to protect Maine people from the effects of pollution."

    In October 2015, the EPA revised and strengthened the national air quality standards for smog. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to designate areas of the country that are in "attainment" or "non-attainment" with these public health and welfare standards. In this case the EPA was required to issue these designations by October 1, 2017. 

    In June, the EPA announced it would delay making the required designations. In August, Attorney General Mills and other attorneys general sued the EPA for illegally delaying the designations that show what areas of the country are meeting the Clean Air Act standards and which are not. The day after the lawsuit was filed the EPA announced they would not delay making the designations 

    The EPA's own studies demonstrate that pollution from states upwind of Maine contributes substantially to the state's unhealthy ozone levels. The designation of areas with unhealthy levels of pollution plays a key role under the Clean Air Act in triggering requirements for state-specific plans and deadlines to reduce pollution in the designated areas. Maine has been meeting these standards for over a decade. If the states upwind of Maine are not required to meet pollution standards, air quality in Maine could decline. 

    Implementing the 2015 updated smog standards will improve public health for children, older adults, and people of all ages who have lung diseases like asthma, and people who are active outdoors, especially outdoor workers. 

    In fact, the EPA conservatively estimated that meeting the smog standards would result in net annual public health savings of up to $4.5 billion starting in 2025 (not including California), while also preventing approximately:

    · 316 to 660 premature deaths;

    · 230,000 asthma attacks in children;

    · 160,000 missed school days;

    · 28,000 missed work days;

    · 630 asthma-related emergency room visits; and

    · 340 cases of acute bronchitis in children. Smog forms when nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide emitted from power plants, motor vehicles, factories, refineries, and other sources react under suitable conditions. Because these reactions occur in the atmosphere, smog can form far from where its precursor gases are emitted and, once formed, smog can travel far distances. Despite enacting stringent in-state controls on sources of these pollutants, many states are not able to meet federal health-based air quality standards for smog. 
  • Maine State Opioid Task Force Completes Work

    Pending recommendations to be presented to full Legislature in early December 

    by Ramona du Houx

    Maine’s Task Force to Address the Opioid Crisis in the State concluded its work Tuesday, preparing to deliver its recommendations for combating the drug crisis by December 6, 2017 to the full Legislature for action.

    “Every day we hesitate literally means the death of another Mainer,” said House chair of the Task Force Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell. “From infants born drug-affected to jail cells filled with our neighbors in need of treatment, the statewide epidemic requires that we take action.  Every aspect of Maine’s economy, community safety and family stability will continue to suffer if we do not make progress on increasing prevention efforts, expanding access to effective, affordable treatment, and addressing the underlying poverty and inequality that have delivered this crisis.”

    The objective of the 19-member Task Force is for lawmakers and community experts to report back to the Legislature any recommendations, including legislation, that would assist with statewide efforts to combat the opioid crisis. 

    The Task Force will be compiling its recommendations, which have not yet been released, for legislation in the areas of law enforcement, prevention and harm reduction, and treatment and recovery. As a Legislative Task Force, any recommendations in the form of legislation are required to be referred to committees for additional action prior to appearing before the House and Senate. 

    “The legislature has the opportunity to act decisively to combat this emergency.  We cannot ignore its impact or disregard the underlying causes or the lack of access to needed treatment.  Expecting people to pull themselves up by their boot straps just isn’t working.  This is a complex problem requiring broad-based solutions,” added Rep. McCreight. “It’s time to recognize the extreme cost of this crisis, which can be measured in lives lost, families torn apart, a workforce gutted and an economy held back. It’s time to take action to help our neighbors get the help they need.”

    In a revised interim report delivered May 15, 2017, the Task Force identified the current state of the drug crisis in Maine and analyzed treatment options, law enforcement challenges and other topics directly related to the opiate epidemic.

    According to the Maine Attorney General’s office, 185 Mainers died of a drug overdose in the first six months of this year. In 2016, the total number of deaths was 376.

    McCreight, a member of the Legislature’s Judiciary and Health and Human Services Committees, is serving her second term in the Maine House. She represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick.

     

  • Attorney General Mills joins multistate court brief opposing roll back of contraception coverage mandate

    Attorney General Janet Mills (photo left) joined a coalition of attorneys general in an amicus brief opposing the Trump Administration's roll back of the ACA contraception requirement.

    The amicus brief, filed with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, supports the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's lawsuit to stop the federal government from enforcing a new rule that would authorize virtually any employer with an objection to contraception to prevent employees and employees' dependents from having health insurance coverage for contraceptive services. 

    "This Trump administration's proposal is an attack on the health of women throughout our country," said Attorney General Mills. "It is an attack on the right to privacy to allow employers to interfere in the most personal decisions of their employees' lives." Since the ACA was enacted in 2010, most employers who provide health insurance coverage to their employees have been required to include coverage for contraception, at no cost to the employee. As a result of the ACA, more than 55 million women in the United States, including 253,000 women in Maine, have access to contraception without a co-pay, saving an average of $255 per year for oral pill contraceptives.

    For millions of women the ACA contraception coverage rule has reduced healthcare costs, helped address medical conditions and allowed them to make their own decisions about whether to have children. Before the contraception coverage rule, birth control accounted for 30-44% of a woman's out-of-pocket healthcare costs. 

    In the brief, the attorneys general argue that the new rule is unconstitutional because it allows the federal government to endorse certain religious or moral beliefs over a woman's right to make choices about her own health care.

    The attorneys general also argue that the proposed rule denies equal protection under the law by denying critical benefits to women, while leaving coverage for men unchanged. Additionally, they argue that the Trump administration is taking away the right to contraceptive coverage - a right that millions of women rely on - in violation of the ACA itself, and without an opportunity for public comment and without following legal procedures.

  • Fundraiser for Portland Photographer Stretch Tuemmier, Friday December 1st

     By Ramona du Houx

    Gallery Venn + Maker is hosting a fundraiser for Portland photographer Stretch Tuemmier, during this First Friday’s Art Walk, December 1st.

    Venn + Maker is located at 65 Washington Avenue, Portland, ME 04101. During the night there will be a silent auction of donated art works. Free wine, beer, and refreshments will be served.

    Stretch has been a prominent figure in Portland since the 80's and resides in Yarmouth with his lovely wife, Jenny, children and three beautiful dogs. No matter where Stretch goes he’s always involved in his community. But cancer can hit anyone at anytime. Unfortunately his has spread through his lymph system and the medical expenses have skyrocketed.

    “We are raising money to help Stretch out with his medical bills. It’s the time of year for giving, and what better way to give but to a dear colleague and friend who has touched so many of us through his work and presence,” said Shannon Thibodeau of Venn + Maker. 

    Most Portlanders would recognize his distinctive photographic style if they were shown some of his images. He’s one of a handful of very successful photographers in the city.

    “He’s one of the most caring, loving and devoted people that I know. He was the first photographer when I moved to Portland to "throw me a bone" and really help me get my career going,” said Thibodeau. “Through his help I was able to connect with some of the most prominent people in the industry here.”

    His passions are many, first and foremost is his love of food photography. He also enjoys sailing on his beautifully kept wooden boat.

    More about Gallery Venn + Maker:

    The name incorporates decision-making and hand made skills: Venn is for the creator of the Venn diagram, John Venn (Englishman, Yorkshireman, 1834 – 1923); Maker is a tribute to our skilled artisans, friends and colleagues.

    “We design, test and use all of our products and continuously seek the best. Our goal is to stock the useful, the long-lived, the well made, the beautiful; whether an axe or a shawl or a mug or a table.”

  • Maine School of Masonry Exceeds Goal of Capital Fundraiser

      

    Students of the Maine School of Masonry Historic Restoration and Preservation program work on site at the Kennebec Arsenal restoring the historic buildings.

    By Ramona du Houx

    On November 13, 2017 the Maine School of Masonry (M.S.M.) received a $5,000 grant from The Sugarloaf Charitable Trust for their capital campaign to help expand the Historic Restoration and Preservation facilities at the school.

    “We’d like to thank the Sugarloaf Charitable Trust for their generous grant. Our work converting part of the school to accommodate our restoration courses can now be completed,” said Stephen Mitchell, M.S.M. President. “We live in such a blessed community. I’d like to thank everyone who stepped up to the plate and donated. It’s humbling. We’re looking forward to teaching more students in the art of historic restoration and preservation.”

    The new mixing laboratory that was installed with donated funds for the Restoration and Preservation courses at Maine School of Masonry.

    With the expansion M.S.M. will now be able to enroll more students into the Historic Restoration and Preservation courses in the coming years. Anyone interested should contact the school now at 639-2392 or visit their website at masonryschool.org as interest in these classes is high.

    With individuals, non-profits and business giving generously M.S.M raised $9,100 and with the value of the materials donated surpassed their goal of $8,000.

     “Maine students deserve the best, and having a classroom that meets their needs for the restoration and preservation programs is vital to the mission of the Maine School of Masonry, and our community. After 12 years we've expanded in a direction that is unique—preserving our National Heritage, while giving students opportunities for high paying life-long professions.”

    The classes take the students on site to practice what they have learned in the newly expanded facilities in Avon. The buildings that the students work on are listed as National Historic Landmarks and the school has special permission to renovate these historic treasures.

    M.S.M is the only school to offer courses of this kind in America. 

    “Seeing students on site at the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta, and Fort Knox near Prospect makes me so proud knowing they’re keeping our heritage alive,” said Mitchell. “It’s a dream come true for me.”

    Daniel Wuorio at work re-pointing in the Historic Restoration and Preservation course at the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta. Photo by Ramona du Houx

  • Maine Votes ‘YES’ to Expand Medicaid, Provide Health Coverage to More than 70,000 People

    By Ramona du Houx

     On November 7, 2017 the people of Maine voted to expand access to Medicaid to more than 70,000 Mainers, including working moms, small business owners, people with disabilities, veterans and older Mainers, by supporting Question 2 on the statewide ballot.

     “Maine voters have made it clear: They want more people to have access to health care,” said Robyn Merrill, co-chair of Mainers for Health Care!, the coalition that ran the Yes on 2 campaign. “Medicaid expansion will provide health care coverage to more than 70,000 Mainers and bring more than $500 million a year in new funding into the state, helping our hospitals and creating an estimated 6,000 jobs. Tonight is a great night for the people of Maine and our economy.”  

    Maine is the first state in the nation to expand the ACA with a people's referendum.

    Maine's Speaker of the House Sara Gideon said, “One of the most critical pieces of this expansion is the increased access to treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction. For too long, we’ve left federal dollars on the table and Maine families have paid the price. It is now the responsibility and the duty of the governor and the legislature to fully and faithfully implement this law.”

    Maine is one of 19 states whose Republican governors or legislatures have refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Other holdouts like Utah and Idaho are closely watching the initiative, as newly formed committees in both those states are working to get a Medicaid expansion question on next year’s ballot. The outcome may offer clues about the salience of the issue in next year’s midterm congressional elections.

    More than 66,000 Mainers signed petitions to place Question 2 on the ballot and more than 200 businesses and organizations endorsed the campaign, including the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Hospital Association, Maine Small Business Coalition, doctors, nurses and members of law enforcement.

    “We are so thankful for the level of support this issues has received,” said Jennie Pirkl, the campaign manager for Yes on 2. “There are too many people and organizations who were critical to this win to list one at a time, but we particularly want to thank all the people who shared their stories about what Medicaid expansion will mean to them. Their stories and their willingness to share them have helped thousands of Mainers and have inspired us all.” 

    Now, attention immediately turns to implementation of Medicaid expansion.

    “Starting tomorrow, we will turn our focus to the quick implementation of Medicaid expansion. There can be no more delays. More than 70,000 Mainers have waited too long for health care coverage,” said Merrill.

    The Maine State Legislature has tried to pass this Afordable Care Act Medicaid expansion 6 times. But each time that it passed Gov. Paul LePage vetoed it. Now the people have spoken. 

    “Maine has shown the way for the rest of the country,” said Pirkl. “Voters have sent a clear message to Augusta, Washington and the rest of the country that they want more health care, not less. That they want more people to have health coverage, not fewer. Maine has shown if politicians won’t lead on health care, that voters will.”

  • Maine House Republicans Block Marijuana Legislation by Backing Gov. LePage

    The Maine House of Representatives failed to override Governor LePage’s veto of landmark cannabis legislation that would have safely and responsibly implemented the state’s newly passed recreational marijuana referendum during a special legislative session Monday. While the bill originally passed by strong margins, it failed to reach the two-thirds support needed to survive a Governor LePage’s veto (74-62) due to the majority of House Republicans opposing the measure.

    “This was our chance to do our job, to protect the people of Maine and create this new industry. I’m deeply disappointed that this legislation, which was written after six months of work by Democratic, Republican and Independent lawmakers, was successfully derailed by a small group of people,” said Representative Teresa Pierce (D-Falmouth), House chair of the Legislature’s Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee.

    “It didn’t matter how thoughtful this legislation was, certain individuals were set on a predetermined outcome of slowing down this process because they didn’t like the outcome of the referendum. While we received strong bipartisan support, those who voted against this bill voted to ignore public safety concerns, abandon law enforcement officers who asked for more guidance, and ease the path to underage marijuana access in Maine. I sincerely hope the people of Maine voice their opinion on today’s vote to their representatives before we return to the Legislature in January.”

    “I’ve been advocating for safe, responsible and legal recreational marijuana ever since for as long as I’ve been in public service — first as the sheriff of Cumberland County, then as a member of the House of Representatives and now as a state senator,” said Sen. Mark Dion (D-Portland), member of the MLI Committee. The governor’s veto is the latest in a long line of setbacks, but we remain closer than ever before to enacting reasonable drug policy reforms to end the system of black-market profits and needless incarceration. We will continue our work, knowing the people of Maine are on our side. It’s only a matter of time before the voters’ will is fulfilled. 

    LD 1650 An Act To Amend the Marijuana Legalization Act originally passed the House by a vote of 84-52.

    The failure to pass LD 1650 ensures the original referendum takes effect as written, preventing critical safety measures and blocking stronger local control for municipalities that were established by the new bill.

    LD 1650 was drafted by a 17-member bipartisan committee established by the legislature and received a 15-2 vote in committee. The group held hours of public hearings, utilized expert testimony and engaged stakeholders affected by the existing law.

    LD 1650 established a clear regulatory framework for adult-use recreational marijuana. Key provisions of the bill included protections against use by minors by banning marketing practices that targeted underage Mainers, provided funding for youth prevention and public safety campaigns, and established stronger guidance for members of law enforcement.

    LD 1650 established an opt-in for local municipalities to preserve community autonomy in entering the new industry. It also provided answers to questions left by the original referendum.

    The referendum includes less clarity and direction in relation to law enforcement and contains fewer safeguards around youth prevention. 

    The referendum also allows for the possibility of marijuana drive-up windows, internet sales and home deliveries, all of which were banned by LD 1650.   

    The Marijuana Legalization Implementation committee will continue to meet.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

     

  • Break bread and network for a stronger diverse Bangor at Interfaith Dinner Oct 9

     

    By Ramona du Houx 

    Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci has invited his community to an Interfaith Dinner starting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 9, at the Bangor High School cafeteria. It’s an opportunity for community members of all cultures and faiths to break bread and learn more about the Maine Multicultural Center, a network of educational, business, cultural services in Bangor region that are enriching the community with economic growth through diversity. 

    The FREE dinner’s theme is, “Many Faiths, Many Cultures, One Community,” and requires tickets that are available at the houses of worship listed below or by contacting Mayor Baldacci at: joe.baldacci@bangormaine.gov

    When Mayor Baldacci first came up with the idea of the dinner numerous community groups and faith-based organizations immediately embraced the concept and work began planning the event.

    Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci getting the word out about the Interfaith Dinner on Maine's morning news

    “In today’s world, when people of different faiths, different ancestries, different viewpoints can come together and celebrate as one community—that is itself both revolutionary and purely American,” said Mayor Baldacci. “This dinner is but one event that shows our city’s belief in the dignity and value of all people and our deep desire to be a welcoming community for all.”

    Baldacci’s grandparents were immigrants who created an iconic Bangor restaurant that was also known as a community-gathering place, employing many people from the area.

    “I am the grandson of Italian and Lebanese immigrants who came to America to escape the poverty and persecution of the Old World. My father’s parents started a restaurant that ran for 75 years. My mother’s family started a small grocery store on Hancock Street when Hancock Street in Bangor was a melting pot of immigrants and tenement houses. Over the years I’ve seen the kindness and support of so many. I hope our family has returned some positive contributions to our community,” said Mayor Baldacci. “Immigrants strengthen and enrich our country.”

    According to the Small Business Administration, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business in the United States than non-immigrants, and 18 percent of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants. And immigrant-owned businesses create jobs for American workers. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, small businesses owned by immigrants employed an estimated 4.7 million people in 2007, and generating more than $776 billion annually.

    Immigrants are also more likely to create their own jobs. According the U.S. Department of Labor, 7.5 percent are self-employed compared to 6.6 percent among the native-born.

    “Our city is strong and proud, prosperous and progressive. We welcome people of all Nations, all faiths, of all different backgrounds who all share a common love for America and for working and living together in peace and love with each other.

    Immigrants are our engineers, scientists, and innovators of cutting-edge technologies and companies. According to the Census Bureau, despite making up only 16 percent of the resident population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, immigrants represent 33 percent of engineers, 27 percent of mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientist, and 24 percent of physical scientists. Additionally, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, in 2011, foreign-born inventors were credited with contributing to more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities.

    The University of Maine in Orono has numerous professors that have enriched the school’s curriculum.

    “Love Thy Neighbor is a daily reality, here. We come together from all different walks of life and viewpoints and find it in our hearts to work together to build a stronger community for all. We embrace our immigrants. It’s everyone’s home, and it’s the Bangor way to welcome everyone,” said the Mayor.

    Together, the Multicultural Center network participants believe that a successful economic future for the Bangor area is dependent upon the creation of a more culturally rich and ethnically diverse community environment which fosters the growth of new immigrant communities and works to retain and support our existing foreign-national residents.

    Sponsoring faith organizations include: Faith Linking in Acton, All Souls Congregational Church, Congregation Beth El, Hammond Street Congregational Church, Crosspoint Church of Bangor, Islamic Center of Maine, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, St. John’s Episcopal, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Temple of the Feminine Divine, and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor.

    Restaurants supporting the dinner include: Panda Garden, Happy China Buffet, Ichiban, and Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant.

    Due to space constraints, this dinner is limited to 250 guests.

    A collection also will be taken to support the Maine Multicultural Center. To learn more about the Maine Multicultural Center, visit www.mainemulticulturalcenter.org.

  • Attracting Immigrants helps communities

    From the Atlantic

    Immigrants take our jobs. They don’t pay taxes. They’re a drain on the economy. They make America less … American.

    You’ve probably heard all of these arguments, especially with the country recovering from a financial disaster. Indeed, they’ve been heard for a century or two, as successive waves of immigrants to this nation of immigrants have first been vilified, then grudgingly tolerated, and ultimately venerated for their contributions.

    This time, too, there is ample evidence that immigrants are creating businesses and revitalizing the U.S. workforce. From 2006 to 2012, more than two-fifths of the start-up tech companies in Silicon Valley had at least one foreign-born founder, according to the Kauffman Foundation. A report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, which advocates for immigrants in the U.S. workforce, found that they accounted for 28 percent of all new small businesses in 2011.

    Immigrants also hold a third of the internationally valid patents issued to U.S. residents, according to University of California (Davis) economist Giovanni Peri. In a 2012 article published by the Cato Institute, the libertarian (and pro-immigration) think tank, Peri concluded that immigrants boost economic productivity and don’t have a notable impact—either positive or negative—on net job growth for U.S.-born workers. One reason: Immigrants and native-born workers gravitate toward different jobs.

    But immigration, on the whole, bolsters the workforce and adds to the nation’s overall economic activity. Look at the impact on cities that attract the most foreign-born residents. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston are all major immigrant destinations and also economic powerhouses, accounting for roughly one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product. In New York, immigrants made up 44 percent of the city's workforce in 2011; in and around Los Angeles, they accounted for a third of the economic output in 2007.

    Immigrants tend to contribute more to the economy once they’ve learned English and become citizens. A few cities—notably, New York—have a long history of ushering immigrants into the mainstream society and economy. Other parts of the country have less experience with newcomers but are learning to adapt.

    Take Nashville, for instance. As recently as 2009, immigrants living in the Tennessee capital had reason to worry. A conservative city council member proposed amending the municipality’s charter to require that all government business be conducted in English, allegedly to save money. This raised hackles. “Would the health department be allowed to speak Arabic to a patient?” or so The Tennessean, Nashville's leading newspaper, wondered. “Could a city-contracted counselor offer services in Spanish?”

    The voters apparently wondered, too, for they soundly defeated the English-only amendment, which had earned the enmity of businesses, religious organizations, and advocacy groups. “A significant moment in the city’s history when it comes to immigration,” recalls Nashville’s mayor, Karl Dean, a Democrat who had recently taken office. “Since that moment, the city really hasn’t looked back.”

    The foreign-born population in the Nashville metropolitan area has more than doubled since 2000; immigrants accounted for three-fifths of the city’s population growth between 2000 and 2012, and now constitute an eighth of all Nashville residents. When President Obama delivered a speech on immigration last December, he did it in Nashville. The city famed as the nation’s country music capital now boasts the largest U.S. enclave of Kurds, along with increasing numbers of immigrants from Myanmar and Somalia.

    They’ve been drawn to Nashville’s booming economy, which has ranked among the fastest-growing in the nation in recent years. But they’re not only benefiting from the local prosperity—they’re contributing to it. Immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Nashville residents to start their own small businesses, according to data compiled by the Partnership for a New American Economy. They also play an outsized role in important local industries, including construction, health care, and hotels.

    Nashville has welcomed these immigrants with open arms, in ways that other municipalities around the country are trying to emulate. In the forefront is a nonprofit organization called Welcoming Tennessee, started in 2005 to highlight immigrants’ contributions and potential role in Nashville’s future. It put up billboards around Nashville—“Welcome the immigrant you once were,” and the like—in hopes of defanging the political debate. The current race to elect a new mayor next month has drawn questions at campaign forums indicative of the new political tone, about how candidates would handle a diverse school system and assure that city services are available to all immigrants, legal or otherwise.

    The “welcoming” movement that started in Tennessee has evolved into “Welcoming America,” a national network of organizations that preach the economic upside of immigration and help people adjust to life in the United States. Since 2009, 57 cities and counties, from San Francisco and Philadelphia to Dodge City, Kansas, have taken “welcoming” pledges, meaning that the local governments committed themselves to a plan to help immigrants assimilate.

    The private sector, too, has shown an interest in bringing immigrants into the mainstream of American life. Citigroup is promoting citizenship efforts in Maryland, while another big bank, BB&T, has been holding educational forums across the Southeast to explain a federal program that issues work permits to young undocumented immigrants. Retailers such as American Apparel go out of their way to help foreign-born employees learn English and apply for citizenship. Beyond motives of altruism lay considerations of the bottom line. Foreign-born residents now make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, a not-to-be-ignored share of the consumer market. The next generation is more lucrative still: One in four American residents younger than 18 has an immigrant parent.

    Local governments, mindful of their pressing economic needs, have taken the lead. Many cities have created offices devoted to serving “new Americans” locally. Dayton, Ohio, has intensified its efforts to redevelop a neighborhood with a growing Turkish community. Nashville runs a program called MyCity Academy, which teaches leaders from immigrant communities about local government.

    Not every community that dubs itself a “welcoming city” will be able to replicate Nashville’s success. But Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, suggests some guidelines. Teaching immigrants how to speak English is “sort of foundational,” she says, “but it's helpful if the conversation doesn't stop there,” by also including how immigrants can thrive economically and gain access to health care. Muñoz endorses programs to connect ethnic leaders with local movers and shakers, to show the public that helping immigrants assimilate is “about all of us, as opposed to an ‘us and them’ kind of thing.”

    The biggest obstacle to welcoming immigrants may be the usual one: a lack of resources. “Every area, you could probably be putting money into,” says Nashville Mayor Dean. Even so, he’s pleased that another potential obstacle—community opposition—has faded. “I'm sure there’s people who are concerned,” he says, “but they’re quiet about it.”

    He adds, with more than a trace of civic pride: “I call it the happy moment here, how well the city has adjusted to being more diverse… It’s a good story, and you’ve got to be encouraged by it.”

  • Anthem Insurance withdraws from Maine’s A.C.A. Individual Exchange Market

    By Ramona du Houx

    Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield announced on September 27, 2017 that they will not sell individual insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act market in Maine in 2018. In the statement from Anthem, they cite a volatile market and changes and uncertainty in the federal government. “It is critical that all Maine people have access to quality, affordable health care. I am extremely disappointed by Anthem’s decision,” said Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives Sara Gideon. “I hope that this is a clear signal to all members of Congress and President Trump that we need stability and predictability, not to throw the entire industry into chaos every few months on political whims. The responsible course of action is to address existing issues in the Affordable Care Act.”

     Existing customers who purchased Anthem plans through the exchange can renew their current plan in 2018, but only off the exchange and without federal financial assistance. This change will not affect Medicare patients or those enrolled in employer-based insurance.

    “Anthem’s tragic decision for Mainers is a direct result of the flawed effort by Republicans in Washington to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” said Rep. Mark Lawrence, Chair of the Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee. “This is what happens when you turn healthcare into a partisan issue, despite the fact that the public wants the ACA improved, not repealed. Moving forward, we must focus on fixing existing issues and engendering stability.”

    “ObamaCare is continuing to implode and cause significant hardships for Maine’s people,” said Governor Paul LePage. 

    However LePage neglected to site the fact that by not accepting the free Medicaid funding from the A.C.A. he has caused hardships in Maine to hospitals, patients and insurance companies like Anthem. By not accepting the federal A.C.A. funding 10,000 people are still without health insurance and costs have sky rocketed for hospital medical treatment because those who use the emergency room for healthcare make insurance rates increase.

    Governor John Baldacci at a press conference for his Dirigo Health Care Act in 2005, photo by Ramona du Houx

    Governor John Baldacci’s Dirigo Health Care Act made sure costs were shared and quality health care became accessible to all Mainers. Dirigo Health became a model for America and many components were used in drafting the A.C.A. 

    States with governors that never accepted the federal Medicaid funding to implement the A.C.A. have put a burden on the entire A.C.A. system thereby making reforms necessary.

    Harvard Pilgrim has announced it will stay in Maine’s A.C.A. marketplace.

     

  • Maine's New Licensing Rules for Child Care Providers Might Put Children at Risk

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Hymanson: “Regulations need to keep children safe and ensure quality.”

    A new set of licensing rules for in-home child care providers developed by the Department of Health and Human Services took effect Wednesday, September 27, 2017. The new rules potentially put Maine's children at risk.

    “Access to high-quality, affordable child care is critical to early development, and therefore critical to Maine’s future. Many people in our large, rural state have limited choices for their child care providers, so the regulations need to keep children safe and ensure quality by standards set by child-care experts. These, our next generation of citizens and their parents, deserve that,"said Health and Human Services Chair, Dr. Patty Hymanson.

    “Rolling back these regulations has been opposed by advocates, experts and legislators. Parents need to have access to every piece of information about every part of the day care center where they entrust care and education of their child. These rules will negatively impact the quality and standard of care and I will work within the legislative process to ensure the safety of our kids.”

    The new rules allow in-home child care providers to care for more children than the state previously allowed, without having to add staff. They will also lessen the amount of information to which parents receive about the facility and restrict the degree of access parents have to their children while they’re in care. 

    “High-quality, affordable child care is out of reach for too many families in our state. I regularly hear from people in my district who either cannot find care they can afford, cannot find suitable care or cannot find open spots for their children at all," said Sen. Ben Chipman of Portland, the lead Senate Democrat on the Health and Human Services Committee. "The department’s solution to this problem is to impose new rules on childcare providers that diminish the standards of care. But that’s not a solution that works for Maine families. I’m committed to doing what’s necessary to make sure state regulations expand access to safe, responsible and affordable child care.  Our families deserve nothing less.”

  • Concert to Benefit Human Rights Education in Maine

    The Leopard Girls will perform their eclectic blend of jazz, rock, blues, and pop music at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Brunswick next Friday, October 6, at 7:30PM. Doors open at 7:00PM with a $10 suggested donation. All proceeds from the show will benefit the educational programming of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, a nonprofit education center and exhibition space located in Augusta.

    Leopard Girls is a five-piece act from Maine made up of Chris Simpson, Scott Woodruff, and Gary Lawless - formerly of Jimmy Midnight and The Yurtbirds – with Ben Hunsberger (welcomefarmmusic.com) and drummer Hal Ahlers of Blues Buzzards. For more information about Leopard Girls, visit their Facebook page atfacebook.com/TheLeopardGirls.

    The HHRC is housed in the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta.

    In addition to permanent exhibits on Holocaust survivors and liberators in Maine, the HHRC and Klahr Center host rotating historical and art exhibits, events, meetings for Maine social and school groups, and workshops for students and teachers that raise awareness of civil rights and human rights issues in Maine and beyond.

    The HHRC brings free educational programs like “Decision-Making in Times of Injustice,” “Yearning to Breathe Free: The Immigrant Experience in Maine,” “Civil Rights in America,” and others, to Maine high school students across the state with materials from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Facing History and Ourselves, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and other organizations.

    For more information about HHRC, its programs, and its exhibits, call (207) 621-3530, visit hhrcmaine.org, or visit the Klahr Center at 46 University Drive in Augusta.

  • Trump's Budget proposal risks Maine’s communities’ safety from extreme weather

    Photos and article by Ramona du Houx

    After Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma recently pummeled our coasts, Environment Maine warned that pending budget proposals from the Trump administration and Congress threaten key programs that protect our communities from storm- related impacts. 

    “If there is any lesson to be learned from these devastating hurricanes, it’s that Maine deserves better shelter from the storms,” said Jacqueline Guyol from Environment Maine. “Rather than protecting our most vulnerable communities, budget proposals on the table in Washington, D.C.right now threaten coastal resiliency, remove protections for flood-absorbing wetlands, neglect funding for stormwater and sewage treatment, and expose more Americans to toxic chemicals."

    The group documented threats to programs that prevent or curb flooding, sewage overflows and leaks from toxic waste sites.  

    Scientests from the University of Maine concur.

    Our lab studies have shown that although elevated temperatures increase survival and growth in American lobsters, animals in the warmest temperatures show signs of physiological stress and developmental instability, in ways that could predispose them to disease and negatively affect their health. While this is certainly not evidence of an imminent population collapse, the problems we see in the lab raise my concern for the health of our lobster populations if temperatures continue to rise,”said Heather Hamlin, a SEANET Lobster Researcher with the University of Maine.

    Environment Maine’s analysis found:

    • Here in Maine we receive $2.56 million in grants that allow our communities to protect their coasts from storms and rising seas. These funds would be cut or eliminated under both the House and Trump administration’s budgets.

    • The Clean Water State Revolving Fund provided $10.3 million in 2016 for Maine to repair and build stormwater and sewage treatment infrastructure. Nationwide, our wastewater systems face a $271 billion backlog, yet the House and President’s spending bills fail to provide proper funding to this critical program.

    • One in four Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site, the most toxic waste sites in the country. Maine has 16 such sites, and the Superfund program is tasked with cleaning up these sites, responding to environmental crises, and protecting the public from hazardous substances, but the Trump administration has proposed cutting the Superfund program by nearly one-third.Superfund program by nearly one-third.

    Dr. Janis Petzel, Physician with the Physicians for Social Responsibility, Maine Chapter said, “We can’t separate our health from our climate. Once the climate is altered there is only treatment for climate related health problems. In order to prevent these diseases and illnesses, we must work together to support public policy that works to slow climate change and protects our health. Cuts to the EPA will only serve to threaten Maine children’s and other vulnerable population’s health at risk.

    Environment Maine also called for preventing more global warming- fueled extreme weather in the future.

  • Obama Foundation Fellowship program seeks to support outstanding civic innovators

    The Obama Foundation Fellowship program seeks to support outstanding civic innovators from around the world in order to amplify the impact of their work and to inspire a wave of civic innovation.

    The Obama Foundation Fellows will be a diverse set of community-minded rising stars – organizers, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, journalists, and more – who are altering the civic engagement landscape. By engaging their fellow citizens to work together in new and meaningful ways, Obama Foundation Fellows will model how any individual can become an active citizen in their community.

    The inaugural class of 20 Fellows will be integral to shaping the program and the community of Fellows for future years. For this first class, we’re seeking participants who are especially excited about helping us design, test, and refine the Fellowship.

    Our two-year, non-residential Fellowship will offer hands-on training, resources, and leadership development. Fellows will also participate in four multi-day gatherings where they will collaborate with each other, connect with potential partners, and collectively push their work forward. Throughout the program, each Fellow will pursue a personalized plan to leverage Fellowship resources to take their work to the next level.

    WHO THEY'RE LOOKING FOR

    Civic innovators

    We’re looking for individuals who are working to solve important public problems in creative and powerful ways. We are inspired by a broad vision of what it means to be “civic,” one that includes leaders tackling a range of issues, in both traditional and unconventional ways.

    Discipline diverse

    We need people working from all angles and with different perspectives to strengthen our communities and civic life. This fellowship is for organizers, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, journalists, and more. It is for those working within systems like governments or businesses, as well as those working outside of formal institutions.

    At a tipping point in their work

    Successful applicants have already demonstrated meaningful impact in their communities, gaining recognition among their peers for their contributions. Now, they stand at a breakthrough moment in their careers. They’re poised to use the Fellowship to significantly advance their work, perhaps by launching new platforms, expanding to broader audiences, or taking their work to a national or global stage. If you’ve already gained global recognition for your work or if your civic innovation work has just begun, you may not be the ideal candidate for this program.

    Talented, but not connected

    We are committed to expanding the circle of opportunity to include new and varied voices. Thus we have a strong preference for civic innovators who are not currently connected to the networks and resources they need to advance their work. If you’re not sure whether you fit this description, feel free to apply — and make sure to articulate how the resources of the Fellowship would uniquely impact your work.

    Good humans

    We are building an authentic community. A strong moral character is essential for the strength of this community, the integrity of the program, and the longevity of its value. We’re seeking inspirational individuals who demonstrate humility and work collaboratively with others towards shared goals.

  • U.S. Representative Pingree to speak College of the Atlantic


    U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree
     PHOTO COURTESY OF COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC

     U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) will give the keynote address for College of the Atlantic’s annual Farm Day at the school’s Beech Hill Farm on Wednesday, Sept 20, at 1:15 p.m. The free talk is open to the public.

    Pingree, a 1979 graduate of COA, will speak on national and local food policies and the pending 2018 re-authorization of the Farm Bill.

    Following the talk, attendees are invited to take part in a farm-policy panel with Emily Horton, staffer for Pingree; Cindy Isenhour, assistant professor of anthropology and climate change at the University of Maine and facilitator of the legislature’s Stakeholder Working Group to Address Food Waste in Maine – LD 1534; Ryan Parker, farmer and environmental policy outreach coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine; and Betsy Garrold, president of Food for Maine’s Future.

    The panel discussion will be followed by tours of the farm.

    In 2008, Pingree became the first woman elected to Congress from Maine’s 1st Congressional District. She has served on the House Rules Committee, Armed Services Committee and Agriculture Committee. She currently sits on the House Appropriations Committee, serving on the Subcommittee on Agriculture and the Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment.

    Pingree has been an advocate in Congress for reforming federal policy to better support the diverse range of American agriculture, including sustainable, organic and locally focused farming. Many provisions from comprehensive legislation she introduced to make these reforms were passed in the 2014 Farm Bill. She also has introduced two pieces of legislation – the Food Recovery Act and the Food Date Labeling Act – to help reduce food waste in the United States. She has been chosen to receive a 2017 James Beard Leadership Award for her national leadership in food system reform.

    Beech Hill Farm, at 171 Beech Hill Road, is a MOFGA-certified organic farm. The 73-acre property includes six acres of fields in vegetable production, three small heirloom apple orchards, pasture land for pigs and poultry, five greenhouses and open forest. The farm produces food for COA and the Mount Desert Island community, while using methods that maintain the integrity and health of the land and encourage environmental and economic sustainability. Beech Hill Farm is a base for understanding agriculture as a central concern of human ecology for College of the Atlantic students and faculty.

  • Maine Interfaith Dinner Oct. 9, at the Bangor High School cafeteria

    Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci invites the community to an Interfaith Dinner starting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 9, at the Bangor High School cafeteria.

    Based on the theme, “Many Faiths, Many Cultures, One Community,” the dinner is presented as an opportunity for greater Bangor community members of all cultures and faiths to break bread together and learn more about the Maine Multicultural Center.

    Baldacci, a Bangor native and long-time city resident, raised the idea of the dinner, and numerous community groups and faith-based organizations immediately embraced the idea.

    “In today’s world, when people of different faiths, different ancestries, different viewpoints can come together and celebrate as one community—that is itself both revolutionary and purely American,” said Mayor Baldacci. “This dinner is but one event that shows our city’s belief in the dignity and value of all people and our deep desire to be a welcoming community for all.”

    Now under development, the Maine Multicultural Center is a network of educational, business, cultural services in the Bangor region designated to promote community enrichment and economic growth through diversity.

    Together, the network participants believe that a successful economic future for the Bangor area is dependent upon the creation of a more culturally rich and ethnically diverse community environment which fosters the growth of new immigrant communities and works to retain and support our existing foreign-national residents.

    Sponsoring faith organizations include: Faith Linking in Acton, All Souls Congregational Church, Congregation Beth El, Hammond Street Congregational Church, Crosspoint Church of Bangor, Islamic Center of Maine, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, St. John’s Episcopal, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Temple of the Feminine Divine, and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor.

    Restaurants supporting the dinner include: Panda Garden, Happy China Buffet, and Ichiban, all of Bangor. The dinner is free to anyone who wishes to participate, but tickets are required for admission.

    Tickets are available at the houses of worship listed above or by contacting Mayor Baldacci at joe.baldacci@bangormaine.gov. Due to space constraints, this dinner is limited to 250 guests.

    A collection also will be taken to support the Maine Multicultural Center. To learn more about the Maine Multicultural Center, visit www.mainemulticulturalcenter.org.

  • Ancient Native American birch-bark canoe of 1700's on display in Brunswick, Maine

    One of the oldest-known Native American birch-bark canoes will go on display at a Maine historical society museum in Brunswick, possibly as early as this fall.

    Carbon dating by the Pejepscot Historical Society at the museum shows the Wabanaki canoe was likely made in the mid-1700s. Museum Executive Director Larissa Vigue Picard says it could be the oldest birch-bark canoe in existence.

    Native Americans have been making these type of canoes for 3,000 years. But Laurie LaBar from the Maine State Museum says only a few of the earliest ones still exist because the bark is so fragile. They are crafted from a single birch-bark tree.