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  • Press freedom groups that deserve support in age of Trump

    DONALD TRUMP HAS BEEN A BLESSING, albeit a mixed one, to some First Amendment and media law organizations. Since the election, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has received more than  $3 million in support, including $1 million from Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos. Meryl Streep gave the Committee to Protect Journalists a shout-out during her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards in January, resulting in a flood of donations. And the Freedom of the Press Foundation has stepped up its crowdfunding efforts and its digital security training for journalists.

    The work those organizations do is increasingly important because of the threats posed by Trump’s rhetoric and the economic challenges the news industry is facing, especially at the local level. A study last year reported that 53 percent of US newspaper editors agreed that “news organizations are no longer prepared to go to court to preserve First Amendment freedoms,” while 27 percent said they had been unable to bring a case at their own outlets because of the cost. More journos are working as freelancers, too, and new platforms are less likely to have in-house counsel or the resources to hire trial lawyers.

    So the work the big organizations like the RCFP, CPJ, and FPF do is more and more necessary (and routinely excellent). But they’re not the only players in this space.

    Just a few weeks ago, The Washington Post published a story about the lesser-known Student Press Law Center, which advocates for student journalists. It’s deserving of support, but hasn’t benefited from the recent financial and publicity groundswell. (Disclosure: I’m a volunteer attorney for the SPLC.)

    Groups like the SPLC—dedicated to First Amendment and media law, and doing impactful work, but not as well known as some of its bigger brethren—deserve attention. Many provide niche services or tailored expertise; some are also vulnerable to economic challenges, or risk being overlooked. With that in mind, I recently conducted short interviews with representatives at 10 such organizations. I’m sharing them here in the hope that CJR readers will find the information helpful—or perhaps even consider one of the groups worthy of support.

    I left out many good organizations, some because they’re already well known (the Sunlight Foundation, the Knight First Amendment Institute, and the First Amendment Center), and others because they do First Amendment work but have broader missions ( the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Press Photographers Association, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation), and still others because of space constraints.

    That said, here are some First Amendment and media law organizations that deserve attention:

    Our work strengthens First Amendment and related rights for all citizens by ensuring that the attorneys who defend those rights are equipped to do so.

    Media Law Resource Center (Jeff Hermes, deputy director)

    What does the organization do? Our primary focus is on providing the lawyers who represent media organizations and First Amendment interests with the information and resources they need to carry out that role. We also have a charitable sister organization, the MLRC Institute, whose mission is to educate the public [about] First Amendment rights.” Has the main organization’s work changed under Trump? “Certain issues have taken greater prominence: press access to the executive branch; protection of journalistic sources and reporters against retaliation for reporting on the government; and maintaining the strong protections…for media organizations in defamation and other content-liability lawsuits in the face of public statements attacking the press. When the…attacks [began], we asked our members whether they might be available for pro bono help in cases where the administration attempts to use litigation to chill speech, and a large number responded positively.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Most directly, we support our members who receive our benefits…Some MLRC resources are available to the public, too. And more broadly, our work strengthens First Amendment and related rights for all citizens by ensuring that the attorneys who defend those rights are equipped to do so.

    There has been more discussion and a deeper interest among students and teachers about free speech rights.

    First Amendment Law Clinic at Michigan State University College of Law (Nancy Costello, director)

    What does the organization do? “[We] provide pro bono legal [services] to [student] journalists grappling with censorship and other First Amendment issues, …and [we] offer workshops to high school journalists and their faculty advisors…to teach them about student press rights. (Law students teach the workshops, which have visited 40 schools since 2011.) The law students also submit FOIA requests [for] information about policies at Michigan schools to monitor whether they restrict protected speech.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “There has been more discussion and a deeper interest among students and teachers about free speech rights. Much of the class discussion led by [our] law students focuses on current events.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Mostly [student journalists] and their faculty advisors. In the late fall, [we are] launching the McLellan Free Speech Online Library…to provide a cache of legal answers to often-asked questions about student speech and press rights. It will also offer a general guide to news sources [and] a Q&A section for students to send in questions and receive answers in a short period of time. The website will be geared for people between 14 and 21.” 

    We have taken on many new matters dealing with executive branch accountability and potential conflicts of interest in the new administration.

    Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School (Hannah Bloch-Wehba, Stanton First Amendment Fellow)

    What does the organization do? “[We are] a law student clinic dedicated to increasing government transparency, defending the essential work of news gatherers, and protecting freedom of expression. We provide pro bono representation to…news organizations, freelance journalists, academics, and activists…[We’ve] litigated FOI cases that compelled the release of information about the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership [and] the rules for closing the military commissions at Guantanamo.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Government accountability, national security, and newsgathering rights have been at the core of [our] work since…2009. The election confirmed the need for our [work], and…we have taken on many new matters dealing with executive branch accountability and potential conflicts of interest in the new administration.” Who benefits from the organization’s work?“Our clients benefit most directly [but not exclusively]…Last year, for example, the clinic obtained a federal court order recognizing a constitutional right of…access to all phases of an execution. We also obtained a court order requiring the Department of Defense to release statistics about the…personnel stationed at its Guantanamo Bay detention center. These are wins not just for our clients…but also for the public.”   

    The president’s negative statements pertaining to US news media create an atmosphere of distrust for our nation’s largest distributor[s] of information about their government.

    National Freedom of Information Coalition (Daniel Bevarly, executive director

    )What does the organization do? “NFOIC and its 45 state affiliates make sure state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies, and procedures to ensure the public’s access to their records and proceedings.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “There is much more attention being focused on…the freedoms of speech and press. The president’s negative statements pertaining to US news media create an atmosphere of distrust for our nation’s largest distributor[s] of information about their government.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “While our organization is dominated by journalists and media lawyers…our programs and work help citizens, journalists, attorneys, businesses, (and anyone who seeks public information).”

    Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? ‘No.’

    Scott & Cyan Banister First Amendment Clinic at UCLA School of Law (Eugene Volokh, director)

    What does the organization do? “We file friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of various organizations and academics in First Amendment cases throughout the country, in state and federal court.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “No.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “The courts, which get useful perspectives; nonprofits such as the Reporters Committee [for Freedom of the Press]…and Electronic Frontier Foundation, whom we represent pro bono; and students, who work on all of the cases.” 

    The highest elected office in the land has set a tone of hostility to free speech and access.

    First Amendment Coalition (David Snyder, executive director)

    What does the organization do? “[Our] mission…is to protect and promote freedom of expression and the people’s right to know…Our activities include free legal consultations for journalists; educational and informational programs; legislative oversight of bills affecting access to government; and public advocacy through writing of op-eds and public speaking.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Our core mission and activities remain the same, but the focus and emphasis have changed…The highest elected office in the land has set a tone of hostility to free speech and access. This…has made much more difficult the work of journalists and others seeking to gather facts in order to understand and critique their government…[W]e see more questions from reporters about the ‘disappearing’ of information from websites…, and the need for litigation that pushes back against the executive branch has increased.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “The public, including the media,…for whom the acquisition and understanding of the government is an essential component of their business model.”

    Trump’s blocking of people on Twitter sparked me to write an op-ed about whether that violated a First Amendment right of citizens to access his account.

    Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida (Clay Calvert, director)

    What does the organization do? “The project analyzes current First Amendment issues—from whether rap music lyrics constitute true threats of violence to the constitutionality of regulating fake news—by filing friend-of-the-court briefs, writing scholarly articles, publishing op-eds, and providing testimony if needed to legislative bodies.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Trump’s blocking of people on Twittersparked me to write an op-ed about whether that violated a First Amendment right of citizens to access his account. His obsession with fake news directly led to three of my graduate research fellows…co-authoring a paper on the First Amendment aspects of regulating fake news. [And] I field more media calls now that Trump is in office. [He] is truly lifetime employment for those of us who comment on [media law] issues. Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Hopefully the public benefits most. That’s why going beyond writing academic articles and amicus briefs is so important. Responding swiftly and thoughtfully to great questions posed by journalists’ calls and emails really is key in the public education process.” 

    Free expression has been a core value of the internet since its earliest days, and it faces increasing pressures from a range of sources, beyond President Trump’s suspicion of the media.

    Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (Vivek Krishnamurthy, instructor)

    What does the organization do? “[We] provide pro-bono legal services…in areas related to law and technology, including First Amendment and media law. Our work…ranges from counseling freelance journalists threatened with defamation claims to representing amici in litigation on state anti-SLAPP laws.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Free expression has been a core value of the internet since its earliest days, and it faces increasing pressures from a range of sources, beyond President Trump’s suspicion of the media. As…more content comes under the control of a few large entities, it’s key to track the consequences and hold those organizations accountable. Policies aimed at reducing online harassment and combating ‘fake news’…may have significant impacts on free speech if not…narrowly tailored.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Ideally, both our clients and our students: the clients in that they receive free, high-quality legal services, and the students in that they develop their knowledge and professional skills.”

    Because of the administration’s anti-press…public persona, I have gotten a lot of calls from media.

    Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University (Roy Gutterman, director)

    What does the organization do? “[We] educate students and the public on…First Amendment values. We host events [and] speakers, and [give] the Tully Free Speech Award to a journalist who has faced significant turmoil in performing journalism…Last year, we honored Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who was in prison in Iran, …and a student told me afterward that meeting him changed her life.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Because of the administration’s anti-press…public persona, I have gotten a lot of calls from media. On campus, I have…participated in a number of speeches and teach-ins to help people understand the role of the First Amendment.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? “Students and the campus community are the primary beneficiaries…[We] have hosted some of the biggest events on campus [featuring] Daniel Ellsberg, Larry Flynt, and Mary Beth Tinker.”

    "I can’t explicitly relate requests to President Trump, but one wonders if there is a greater willingness to make more specious requests in a culture where the president is regularly caught misleading the public.

    New Media Rights at California Western School of Law (Art Neill, founder and executive director)

    What does the organization do? “We work primarily on the effect that overreach by rights-holders in the copyright and trademark space has on…freedom of speech. We provide legal services, education, and policy advocacy for creators—including journalists, startups, and consumers.” Has the organization’s work changed under Trump? “Anecdotally, we have seen an uptick in content takedown defense requests. In addition to that uptick, there is a significant uptick in the amount of [takedown] requests that are baseless. I can’t explicitly relate [those] requests to President Trump, but one wonders if there is a greater willingness to make more specious requests in a culture where the president is regularly caught misleading the public.” Who benefits from the organization’s work? Creators [and others] who need intellectual property, privacy, and media law expertise.And with the proliferation of nonprofit journalism projects, they…need the services any other new nonprofit or business needs. We [draft] contracts for [them], distribution agreements for their clients, and terms of use and privacy policies for their apps and websites. They also need to know how to form and structure the business.”

    Jonathan Peters is CJR’s press freedom correspondent. He is a media law professor at the University of Georgia, with posts in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Law.
  • Journalism is a public service. We should fund it like one

    LOCAL NEWS IS IN DIRE STRAITS.

    In a quest for profit, publishers have gutted newsrooms and hollowed outcoverage of local communities. As the industry struggles to build the business model of the future, it’s missing an opportunity to embrace a funding mechanism that can enshrine journalism as a public service: the special service district.

    The United States currently hosts more than 30,000 special service districts, which fund everything from local fire departments and water infrastructure projects to sanitation services and hospitals. Special service districts are paid for by taxes or annual fees assessed in a geographic area; and, in turn, they deliver services to the communities that fund them. They can be created by town councils or voted into existence via referendum.

    During the past year, my colleagues and I at Community Information Districts worked to lay the foundation for a special service district model for local journalism. Journalists we spoke with were intrigued by the idea, though some become apprehensive when asked to view the proposal as a taxpayer. But we also spoke with taxpayers, who were generally receptive.

    At a series of New Jersey community forums on improving local media across the state, those residents in attendance understood the model and supported the mission. The community news and information needs raised at these events can be met, but not every community can currently support viable business models to meet those needs. That’s where a community information district (CiD) comes in.

    MY HOMETOWN OF FAIR LAWN, New Jersey, has a population of 32,000 people. An annual $40 contribution per household could deliver a $500,000 operating budget to a newsroom devoted to understanding and serving the local news and information needs of its community.

    That budget could support print or online newspapers, or livestreaming town council meetings. A special service district for local journalism could convene community forums or media literacy classes, launch a text message and email alert system, or pay for chatbots that answer locally relevant questions, like “Is alternate side parking in effect?”

    Access to news and information is key to democratic governance. The CiD model offers a financial engine for sustainable and radically local journalism.

    Each community could shape its own information district through a needs assessment or a targeted engagement campaign. To prevent political interference, a board of trustees made up of residents and community stakeholders, could oversee their local CiD. Communities could allocate funding through a participatory budgeting process, and hold regular referendums to determine whether or not it should reauthorize the CiD.

    Community information districts are not a cure-all, and there are obstacles to establishing them. Some communities might resist the notion of an additional tax. Others may not have the tax base to support such services in the first place. We are still looking for solutions to these issues, but they are not insurmountable. Next year, my colleagues and I plan to release a guide to help communities establish their own CiDs and navigate variations in state law. The guide will also establish good governance guidelines, offer samples of legislative language, and outline best practices in local journalism and community information for CiDs.

    Access to news and information is key to democratic governance. The CiD model offers a financial engine for sustainable and radically local journalism, which supports the regional and national press in turn. It provides a direct financial incentive for journalists to leave the coasts, deeply engage their communities, and prioritize the impact of their work above pageviews. CiDs could revitalize and sustain local news, rebuild trust, and increase civic engagement across the country.

  • Maine built boat tangos with Mississippi barges

    Every day I wake up shortly after the sun rises and pore over the charts and notes I made the night before as the Marine VHF gives the weather report in the background, to make sure we are ready for the day. Actually that’s not true. I usually try to disentangle myself from the mosquito net, somehow hop over Emily without waking her up (Emily is more of a night owl), usually trip over something (a rogue fender, cooking pan, water bottle, what not, shanty boat objects), I steady myself, crawl through a small opening in the canvas onto the fore deck, blink a couple of times, take in where am at, feel that nice cool breeze coming off the Mississippi, then I go in search for coffee (still haven’t figured out the cool Swedish stove Dale lent us that runs on ethanol alcohol). After all of this I finally take a look at the charts.

    Navigating the big muddy is a combination of planning, cross referencing Army Corps of Engineering charts with the Navionics app (a handy little app that acts like a GPS and shows the different depths of the river), treasure hunting for buoys (green cans and red nuns mark the channel, the green cans are on the right descending bank and the red nuns are on the left descending bank), and mile markers, checking things out with binoculars, improvising when unexpected things take place, yelling out commands, and a whole lot of dancing with barges. My tools are binoculars, charts, phone hooked up to a solar panel, Navionics app, Marine Traffic app, a goofy hat to keep the sun out of my face, a pen to continually record the time when we pass certain mile markers (good for calculating our speed and in case we lose Navionics) and where our gas level is at (handy for burn rate and knowing when we will need to anchor), and a blow horn in case s$%t really hits the fan.

    Me, Morgan Rogers, on the lookout

    I am always looking at barge traffic upriver and downriver. I’ll call out the names of the different barges heading our way: George King, A. Steve Crowley, Poindexter, Lil Charley, and so on. It usually goes something like this:

    Me: “Hey Emily, Poindexter is coming down river and looks like he will be on our port side, traveling at 6 knots and is 43m in length, we will likely run into them around that bend. We can pull in over there. The depth looks good.”

    Emily: “What?”

    [The engine is loud and wind is whipping around us. I need to yell louder.]

    Me: “Huge ass barge coming down river. Poindexter. Over there is a spot we can pull into.”

    [Emily gives the thumbs up and pulls Michi Zeebee in between the two wing dams where I have confirmed that the depth is okay (wing dam: a dam or barrier built into a stream to deflect the current – or as the way I see it, a good way to bang up the hull of your boat). Emily radios the barge and bounces back and forth with ease, knowing the limits of the boat. We do this little dance until the huge barge passes by then we motor back into the channel and continue on.]


    Captain Emily du Houx

    I then go back to looking for green cans, red nuns, and mile markers, while watching barge traffic, calculating our time to possible docking areas for every stretch of the river, and looking for escape routes for tough areas where the channel narrows and we might encounter a barge. On the long lazy stretches I will search for Eagles and spot them. We once saw a bald eagle fly right over the river across an American flag. Can’t get more American than that.


    Red nun buoy

    Now I sit here with a local brew writing to you all and poring over my notes for tomorrow. I have our anchor spots marked out, potential hazardous areas with points where we can pull into, and of course my dancing shoes for those barges out there. I might even look up how to operate that fancy Swedish stove tonight.

  • Waterville's Camp Ray of Hope for grieving families

     

    Anyone observing Camp Ray of Hope for the first time would never guess it’s a place for grieving families. They would see people of all ages participating in outdoor activities like boating and swimming, getting massages, eating treats around a campfire, and attending activities like cooking class and art centers.  Most important is that the viewer would see lots of laughter, hugging, and love.  What brings everyone together at Camp Ray of Hope is the common experience of the death of a significant person in their lives.

    Camp Ray of Hope is a weekend retreat held annually for those who have lost someone they love.  It was founded in 1995 to give grieving individuals and families a place to come together and learn new ways to cope with their loss, to meet others with similar circumstances, to remember special times, to make new friends, and to have fun.  Participants come from all over the state to spend time with their families as they process the death of their loved one.  Along with spending special time together, family members also participate in bereavement groups with others their own age.  Adults will be with adults, teens with teens, and children with children. For example, children of the same age gather together with trained bereavement group facilitators to write stories about their loved ones, draw pictures, participate in arts & crafts, and go on nature hikes all with the focus of finding healthy ways to express their confusion and anger.  The outcome is always healthy self-care techniques to help with understanding the loss.

    Camp Ray of Hope is also a safe place for individuals to participate in a weekend retreat to meet others who have lost someone dear to them.  Tears and talking about the loss of a loved one are welcomed and encouraged at the camp.  In fact, everyone at Camp Ray of Hope comes for the same reason: a broken heart from the loss of a loved one.  We are here to walk the path together in this serene and lovely environment where fresh air and healthy surroundings support inner peace and healing.  It’s a great place to remember your loved one and to spend some time healing with others.

    This year’s Camp Ray of Hope is from Friday, September 15 through Sunday, September 17 and is held at the beautiful Pine Tree Camp in Rome.  For more information please contact Jillian Roy, Bereavement Coordinator at Hospice Volunteers of Waterville at 207-873-3615

  • The Open Arts 8th Annual Rural Studio Tour 2017 - Central Maine

    Saturday, August 12th, 2017 

    Studios and Galleries open 10am to 6pm

    There's much more than mosquitos in Maine north of Route 2. In the rolling hills and farmlands surrounding Skowhegan, Maine is one of the most unique opportunities to visit the amazing home studios of fabulous artists at over 20 Central Maine locations. It's the 8th annual tour, hosted by Open Arts in association with The Wesserunsett Arts Council. The event is free of charge.

    August 12th from 10am to 6pm. See wonderful works in abstract, classical, pastel, mural, folk, metal, wood, pottery, sculpture, hand dyes, quilting, photography and more. Combined with many spectacular summer gardens, it promises to be day of art and beauty that shows that the Central Maine art community is like no other.

    Rural Open Studio 2017 artists: 

    Smithfield, Mercer, Norridgewock, Anson

    • David Ellis' Japanese-inspired pottery studio at the old Mercer Grange 

    • Kevin James, lakeside setting, beautiful paintings, wood works, custom floor cloths, "objet trouve"

    • Steve and MaryAnn Anderson He: whimsical metal work, blacksmithing. She: intricate quilting and fine stitchery

    • Lynne Harwood and Faith Gilbert, country inspired folk art, quilting and stitchery

    Solon and Wellington

    • Amanda Slamm and Mimosa Mack's Sprig Woodwork, A cut above ordinary. One-of-a-kind handmade bread boards, spoons, tongs, and more. 

    • Stu Silverstein’s never predictable abstracts 

    • Bernie Beckman “reinvention of the figure” abstract paintings, wood-cut prints 

    • South Solon Meetinghouse - spectacular frescoes in an historic and much beloved community building

    Canaan & Palmyra

    • Heather Kerner's  fiber arts, hand made and dyed wool felt and silks 

    • Barbara Joseph  making the ordinary “extra-ordinary” via photography 

    • Kathleen Perelka's pastel paintings of Maine in Canaan 

    • Doug Frati unique carvings giving new life to antique wood

    Ripley & Hartland 

    • Wally Warren’s  found object art whimsy, bright and bold, an unforgettable campus of color 

    • Joe Kennedy's plumbing parts, glass and metal blended, reinvented

    • Olena Babak - classical works and contemporary pleinair, award winning  

    • Russ Cox, illustrator extraordinaire

    Downtown Skowhegan artists & galleries: 

    • Rama Crystal Brown’s Water Street studio creating “balance through chaos”

    • Central Maine Artist's Gallery, River Roads Artisan's Gallery and OpenStudio@14 Madison Avenue. Artists include C. Abbott Meader, Forrest Meader, Linda Swift, Mary Burr and more. 

    Don't miss: The Skowhegan stretch of the Bernard Langlais Art Trail while you’re downtown.

    Mobile tour map at www.OpenStudioMaine.org. 

    Printed maps at various locations in Skowhegan and Waterville including River Roads Artisan’s Gallery, Central Maine Artist’s Gallery and OpenStudio@14 Madison Avenue. 

     (Please note: The artist studios are located in rural locations; your preferred online mapping systems may not be accurate.)

     For more information, message us or write openstudiomaine@gmail.com or call 207-696-0857. 

  • Maine built boat is tested by waves on Lake Pepin in the Mississippi

    Morgan first heard about Lake Pepin from a tugboat captain who worked on the river all his life (this was not mentioned in our post “Words of Advice,” but it really should have been). He told her she should just get a boat to tow Zeebee across Pepin. We also read about the lake on various Mississippi blogs. It was often mentioned as the “most dangerous part of the Upper Mississippi” or “no joke.” This is why we spent much of yesterday docked and hanging out for another night at Muddy Waters getting free dinner and drinks with Jim Toner and his buddy Joey and all the nice people of Prescott, Wisconsin. My friend Rebecca, who was visiting from Nebraska and who keeps popping up at the places we dock after having her own land-based adventures, joined us again as we waited out the tornado warnings with conversation, even though there were no tornadoes, and as we waited out the hail warnings, even though there were clear blue and pink skies. The next morning we felt pretty confident about the forecast. I saw a low-lying cumuloniumbus on the horizon but shrugged it off. I figured it was yesterday’s storm clearing. Also — mistake #2: we didn’t gas up before heading out. And we were a day behind and trying to make up time.

    About halfway across Pepin, where the waves were just starting to whitecap, we found ourselves almost on E trying to round a strip of land to get to calmer, shallower waters and drop anchor to gas up. Twenty minutes later, gas full and anchor up, I turned the key in the ignition just as the barge George King rounded the corner behind us, and nothing happened. The motor didn’t start. Not even a cough or a sputter, and we were drifting into the channel. Morgan radioed King “we’re dead in the water on your port side and drifting” and King sputtered something back that seemed like “copy.” The barge was moving slowly so I ran around squeezing the gas uptake, checking the lines, unscrewing wingnuts from the battery to check the connection, doing all the obvious things I remembered from my days of owning cars that broke down regularly in the hope that tinkering would reveal an obvious answer to our problem; nothing did. Remembering her experiences with motorcycles, Morgan thought the engine could be flooded, so, drifting ever closer to the King, we re-anchored, emptied gasoline from the tank, gunned Zeebee in neutral, turned the key, and she came to life just as King passed us in the channel. We turned to take her wake. Some small disaster averted, but all this meant that we lost an hour and the goal was to cross the whole lake in one go, not only for the sake of making our next stop on time but also because we didn’t want to have to anchor in a potentially dangerous area. So we pushed on with the night falling.

    For a stretch the water was nothing but beautiful. Lake Pepin was surrounded by hills that alternated from chiseled, shining slabs of what looked like light brown clay and thickly forested, lush greenery that continued right to the water, where massive pieces of driftwood bore their root systems skyward. Some places, where a single tree stood on an outcropping of rocks backed by pastel shades, looked tropical, and others, where the hills billowed and crested with lines of naturally manicured trees, seemed Mediterranean. In the distance we saw boats with their sails full. As we pushed on with the motor blatting I wished we also had a sail.

    When we neared the other side of the lake the light dropped from clear to gold, and the wind picked up so that by the time we were almost across there were 60% whitecaps. The wind was North-west, meaning it was at our backs, but if it had been coming straight for us our hull would have been pounded. Even so, I could see Zeebee rising and dipping more than I ever expected our small raft to rise and fall. Morgan said she was plastered to the front of the boat as the bow dove into each successive trough, holding on and waiting for the Big Wave that would take her out. She later said she heard me singing above as I captained and that’s when she knew things were getting hairy. They were. We moved some cargo to the aft to raise the bow so it wouldn’t duck under, and to put the propeller further in the water because it was popping up on some waves.

    Earlier in the day we had to pass a barge and another oncoming houseboat in a very narrow stretch of the Mississippi with an wing dams on one side and shallow water on the other—we took Zeebee out of the channel and just bounced back and forth between two wing dams as the traffic passed us—and that felt like an obstacle overcome, but the increasingly darkening and deepening waters on the border of Pepin made me all but forget that incident.

    We eventually spotted a marina where we could take shelter, but getting beyond the breakwater that protected it and into its narrow entrance, where a sailboat and a motor boat were exiting, seemed all but impossible. Still, I couldn’t stop. We would completely lose control of our steering, and then either drift onto the breakwater, which was nearby, the marina entrance, which was also nearby, or another boat. As I turned the boat portside the wind was no longer at our backs; it was pushing us sideways, so I turned in at an angle to maintain some control, but still we shot into the harbor where all the yachts were neatly docked. As we entered the marina Morgan put out fenders on both port and starboard just in case. I spotted the first free space that was out of the wind, reduced speed a little, kept the dock at an angle to portside, and went for it. It was a hot landing, but not so hot that it burned the side of the boat or any other boat for that matter. Morgan hopped out with a dock line and hooked it around a cleat and I cut the engine. We guided her in with lines next to another houseboat. We later found out that the wind was at 10-13 knots as we entered the marina, a litte higher than the forecast predicted and a little higher than Zeebee should take.

  • Top Maine City to Start a Business - Bangor

    A 2017 analysis by national finance website WalletHub compared the business climate of over 1,200 small cities, and Bangor came out as the top place in Maine to start a business.

    Using 16 key metrics including average growth in number of small businesses, real estate and labor costs, number of startups per capita, and access to capital, Bangor ranked ahead of other Maine cities with a total score of 40.6 and ranking of 434 out of 1261 cities.

    "Bangor has worked diligently to make ourselves an ideal small city for economic development and business activity," said Bangor Mayor Joseph M. Baldacci, a local small business owner himself. "Our City's efforts to focus on both the entrepreneurial ecosystem and quality of life assets have made Bangor a location of choice. We expect to see even more of this growth in the future, as more businesses prioritize location and quality of life as critical factors in their location decisions."

    Additional information about business resources can be found on the City's website: www.bangormaine.gov/ced.

  • The Launch of the Michi Zeebee

    First thing’s first: we are not the first. We are following a long historical line of adventurers, workers, escapees, romantics, knuckleheads, and fortune-seekers, everyone from farmers in the early days of Westward expansion, to heroes of alternative living, the Hubbards, a couple who lived on the river in a shanty boat for more than a decade. The artist SWOON and her flotilla of river rats put in (we found out to our glee) at the very same yacht club where we put in, the St. Paul Yacht Club in Minnesota. So did a Russian man who made his vessel out of a bunch of soda bottles and chain link fence.

    According to one of the people who run the yacht club this soda bottle pioneer was stopped by the coast guard, and despite the fact that his craft was registered, he was indefinitely dry-docked because his boat was bleeding soda bottles up and down the river. He apparently tried to argue that it was okay because he had a ready supply of extra bottles to replace each one that drifted away in his wake.

    Anyway. We hope we’re a little more equipped than that. A close look at our vessel, for those who have done the trip or built similar shanty-style vessels usually yields supportive responses, encouragement, even admiration. We’ve even heard from one or two people that we’ve inspired them to take a trip of their own.

    Even so, people regularly—daily, actually—come up to us as if we were the first ones with this crazy idea (we’re not), or even the first ones to go down the river on a shanty boat (we’re not), or even the first ones to go down the river on this particular design of shanty boat (we’re not even that).

    So we are used to the ensuing advice, which usually starts in the form one of a dozen or so questions that we now have stock responses for, questions that include, almost always: where will you poop (in a toilet), do you have a radio (yes, VHF, yes, handheld), are you going to kill one another (no, we agreed to donate limbs to a collective meat stew if we run out of food on that lower Mississippi stretch), do you have a generator (yes, 1,000 watt something-something we bought on Amazon), what kind of motor is this (Tohatsu 25 horsepower), you steer from up there (yes! and the steering wheel is a solid bronze stick that Morgan pounded flat), do you have mosquito netting (yes, and soon we’ll get mosquito net masks, and we have UPF rated hats, and Esmeralda-meets-ninja-style face masks), do you know that there are bad people in the world (…), do you have flares (yes, and they can double as weapons—refer back to question regarding bad people), have you heard of wing dams (we have! they are often submerged, man-made structures that control the flow of the river, and you can get stuck on them, which is bad), do you read charts (we have a physical copy of the Army Corps maps, plus Navionics, plus a Quimby’s guide and a barge-tracking app), have you thought about barges, did you know that barges can kill you, did you know that barges suck forty-foot logs under them as if they’re no bigger than toothpicks, did you know you that barges flipped a buddy of mine right over when he was anchored at night, did you know that barges are the kraken of the river, the devils of middle America, the scourge of the United States’ central waterway, the great, mile-long, boat-swallowing, monsters of the locks—and, again, where will you poop?

    We know that the advice-in-the-form-of-a-question almost always comes from a place of concern, and that there are a lot of things both positive and negative that play into that—we seem young, we seem naive—maybe we are a little of both—we’re not particularly tough-looking; I wear a big candy-striped red and white hat; we look more like we belong with the Saturday afternoon yoga paddle board crowd than the country-traversing explorer crowd. And there’s our boat. One guy said he’d seen a lot of “P.O.S-es” (Piece Of Shit-ers, for those out of the P. C. acronym loop) but ours was his favorite. A manager for the St. Paul Yacht Club, who had to endure our anti-yacht in the club lot for over a week, said it was the “Kon Tiki,” a description that I took as a compliment, but then followed it with “that motor is the smartest thing on this boat.” He has since shared our project with his friends and his community with supportive commentaries, and the yacht club as a whole embraced the project.

    Anyway, the nice thing about all this advice-giving is that it usually generates conversation. We once found ourselves in a parking lot surrounded by ten cars that spontaneously pulled up in a circle around us as we were working on the deck. People were shouting out windows to strike up conversations. We’ve seen people from all over the country gather at rest stops on the freeway as we trailered the boat west. All types and backgrounds give advice and question, everyone from fiddlers to state senators, kids to octogenarians.

    Advice-questioning is an entrance, a starting point. We got advice from day one, advice on building, advice on packing, advice on leaving, and occasionally it felt territorial, sometimes patronizing, once-in-a-while brilliant, often heartfelt, even touching, and when it felt useful, we used it. We raised our combing. We put in drop-down windows. We added snap buttons to our canvas. We got extra gasoline tubs. We got a generator. And maybe the best result of a piece of advice: we monitor channel 13 to talk to the river kraken.

    At this point I am a little weary of advice. I’m ready to move beyond it. I hope that conversations open up beyond advice. I wrote the original part of this entry sitting in a dock not more than ten feet from where Michi Zeebee’s bottom paint first touched the Mississippi’s muddy waters; Morgan was sitting on the fore deck; the canvas walls were rolled up up, the daylight was splitting the dusking evening with artificial light from the Twin Cities. We were waiting for a storm to pass so we could begin the journey south.

    The storm passed, we headed out at 7.30 am the next morning, and now we’re tied up to a public dock outside of Hastings, day one on the river successfully completed. We passed three river monsters. They were all exceedingly nice and stayed as far away from us as possible. Polite monsters. We passed through a lock, talking to the lock masters as we held onto ropes and were lowered down the water elevator, craning our necks more and more upward as the boat moved downward and we attempted to keep talking about wooden boats and mini houses. The conversation physically stretched.

    Later we met a group of people on the water where the LaCroix empties into the Mississippi. They told us to follow them so they could help tie us up. As we stepped off our decks we were initially asked us the same set of questions that we’re overly prepared to answer, but then the conversation stretched as well, it moved into other territories. To make a sweeping statement based on just the first day of travel and the interactions that come with that, it seems that just being on the water–not preparing to get on the water–has caused our conversations about the project and the boat to move beyond beginning questions and advice. It moves, stretches as we physically move forward.

  • Maine public comment period now open on proposed wording of referendum questions

    Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is now accepting comments on the proposed wording of the two citizens’ initiative questions that will appear on the Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017 Referendum Election ballot. Below is the title of each initiative, as it is drafted to appear on the ballot:

    •  An Act To Allow Slot Machines or a Casino in York County. “Do you want to allow a certain out-of-state company to operate table games and/or slot machines in York County, subject to state and local approval, with part of the profits going to specific programs?”
    •  An Act To Enhance Access to Affordable Health Care. “Do you want Maine to provide health insurance through Medicaid for qualified adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line (which is now about $16,000 for a single person and $22,000 for a family of two)?”

    The full text of each initiative is available for viewing on the Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions’ Upcoming Elections webpage.

    State law requires Secretary Dunlap to present the question “concisely and intelligibly.” He will be accepting public comments regarding the questions’ form and content for a 30-day period, beginning today, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017 until 5 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2017. Comments should be related specifically to the wording of the question, rather than the merits of the proposed law. Those who wish to comment on the wording may do so via email, mail or in person:

    •  Email sos.office@maine.gov and please use “public comment” and the name of the ballot question in the subject line
    •  Mail comments to the Secretary of State, Attn: Public Comment, 148 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0148
    •  Drop off written comments to the office of the secretary of state at the Nash School Building, 103 Sewall St., 2nd floor, Augusta, Maine.
  • Legislature Fails to Override LePage Solar Bill Veto; Big Loss for Maine Economy

    by Ramona du Houx

    On August 2, 2017, the Maine House of Representatives voted to keep Governor LePage’s veto of the solar bill, despite the fact that the bill passed the House and Senate initially by more than a two-thirds super majority.

    Seven Republican legislators changed their position from their prior support and today voted to sustain LePage’s veto of the measure. The Senate voted 28-6 to override and the House voted 88-48, falling three votes short of two-thirds.

    The vote leaves intact the Maine Public Utilities Commission (P.U.C.) changes to the state’s net metering policy, gradually drawing down incentives and leaving a bigger fight over the net metering to the future.

    Net metering allows customers with solar panels to get credits for the times they generate more power than they consume, using those credits for up to a year to reduce their power bills. Those customers get credits worth the full electricity charges and the transmission and distribution charges. Come January of 2018 that ends.

    “Gross metering will take effect in January, adding costs and taxing behind-the-meter generation. This expensive, invasive PUC rule helps no one except the corporate monopolies whose profits depend on overbuilding the grid, and has not been tried anywhere in the world,” said Rep. Seth Berry, the House Representative Chair of the Energy Committee. “Today's vote will have serious economic and electoral consequences, but the struggle to support solar in Maine will go on. In the short run, the vote will be very negative for solar jobs in Maine and for all Maine ratepayers.”

    Small-scale distributed solar also helps to lower peak power demand, particularly on the hottest summer days, and that allows utilities to defer big transmission and distribution upgrades for which all electricity customers pay.

    “The broad coalition of farmers, businesses, solar advocates and others whom we have worked with are committed to making Maine a leader in clean, distributed generation. They are not going away, and neither is the bipartisan majority who voted yes today and will do so under the next Governor as well,” added Rep. Berry.

    “Today, too many lawmakers turned their back on jobs of the future for Maine and bowed to pressure from the Governor's office, Central Maine Power (CMP), Emera, and other utility and fossil fuel industry groups from across the nation. They failed to support the small businesses that are struggling to create and sustain jobs from Kittery to Fort Kent, and they ignored the need and desire to transition to cleaner, renewable energy sources," said Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “At the strong urging of the governor, lawmakers today voted to raise electric bills, deny Mainers good jobs, generate more pollution, stall Maine’s transition to clean energy, and make it harder for Maine people and businesses to generate their own solar power."

    While Maine leads in new wind farm energy production in New England, since 2009, the state remains the bottom of the list for solar power production. This bi-partisian legislation could have been an answer to that problem but the fear of LePage taking Sen. Collins seat in D.C., if she runs for governor, has many Republicans playing it safe.

    “This vote allows the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to begin its extreme, nationally unprecedented new tax on self-consumption of power. That’s a bitter pill for a state whose forest products industry has long depended on the right to consume the power they produce without penalty, and bad news for a state trying to catch up on a revolutionary technology that allows every home and business to affordably produce their own power, too," said Sierra Club Maine Director Glen Brand.

    NRCM and allies including the Conservation Law Foundation, ReVision Energy, the Industrial Energy Consumers Group, and Insource Renewables, have previously filed a lawsuit in the Maine Supreme Court challenging the PUC’s rule. That case should be decided by the end of the year.

    The following legislators voted FOR LD 1504 when it passed, but voted AGAINST it after the governor vetoed the bill: 

    Rep. Cebra of Naples

    Rep. Kinney of Limington

    Rep. McElwee of Caribou

    Rep. Wadsworth of Hiram

    Rep. Seavey of Kennebunkport

    Rep. Skolfield of Weld

    Rep. Bradstreet of Vassalboro

    The full roll-call of votes can be found here: 

  • 17th Century Encampment - July 29 & 30 at Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site

    Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site in New Harbor is hosting a 17th Century Encampment on July 29 and 30. Visitors are invited on this special weekend to take a step back in time and explore 17th century life on Maine’s coast at the 12th annual living history encampment on the site of one of New England’s earliest English settlements. The encampment is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, with a special musical performance from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday evening, July 28. Admission is free.

    Re-enactors will portray the lives of the English, French and Native people who lived, worked, and fought on these lands. Demonstrations will include fish processing, blacksmithing, coopering, rope making, cooking, and provincial militia firearms drills.

    To open the weekend, the celebrated local duo Castlebay will present a program of music and songs popular in 17th century New England on Friday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Contented Sole, located dockside at Colonial Pemaquid: 2 Colonial Pemaquid Drive.

    Listen to the history of the Salem witch trials and their connections to Pemaquid and the Maine Frontier through a talk by renowned historian and historical archaeologist Emerson “Tad” Baker on Saturday, July 29 at 11 a.m. in the Colonial Pemaquid Museum. Drawing from his recently published book, A Storm of Witchcraft and the American Experience, he will explore the many connections between the Salem witch trials and the Maine frontier.

    FMI: Call Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site at 207-677-2423; or visit the webpage www.maine.gov/colonialpemaquid.

  • Maine Masonry School needs your help

    Chandler Ellis works on his brickwork at the Maine School of Masonry in Avon. Chandler is signed up to take the Historic Renovation and Preservation program in the fall.

    A plead for community help from the Maine School of Masonry to keep their Historic Preservation and Restoration courses, that train students for lifelong professions, on course. Go to their GOFUNDME campaign here to help!

    By Ramona du Houx 

    Driving on the road to Rangeley some passengers may wonder what The Maine Masonry School is as they zip past the building with an iconic sign. If they took the time to stop they’d discover the country’s only private non-profit masonry school. That’s right, the only one.

    Since 2005 hundreds of students have learned the fundamentals of laying brick and stonework from instructors who bring out the talents of individuals as they build different projects in the workshop or on location.

    “They bring out a students creativity, giving us the freedom to express ourselves. Going there paves the way for a multitude of career opportunities,” said Chandler Ellis, who graduated in 2017.

    Every year the school has been fighting an ongoing battle, as masonry is tragically becoming a lost skill, while the demand for masons is ironically incredibly high. But the school is making a difference as students become skilled craftspeople after a nine-month 1,200-hour certificate program and are placed in jobs every year or start their own business.

    “The school gave me the knowledge and skill I needed to go into business. I learned so much about masonry and with each project my confidence grew. It’s a great school,” said Tyler Kachnovich, class of 2016 whose business is T&T Landscape and Masonry.

    When there is a need to add new material to the curriculum they have always been on the cutting edge. Just last year the school answered the need for Historic Preservation and Renovation with new program. 

    All across the country historic buildings are in need of renovation because there is a shortage of trained quality craftspeople to do the needed repairs and restoration work.

    This unique Renovation and Preservation program has been extremely well received and the demand for space in the classes is high.

    “Historic buildings surround us in New England but most people don’t realize there is a shortage in skilled craftspeople that can renovate and preserve these majestic monuments. Each building represents an important time in our history and needs to be preserved for future generations,” said Stephen Mitchell, Maine School of Masonry founder.

    “Our classes give a new generation the skills needed to keep our history alive, as well as high paying jobs. Richard Irons, of Irons Masonry, has been an advisor for our program and on site specialist. With 38 years of experience under his belt working along side him gives our students instruction they can’t get anywhere else.”

    Andrew Ryba is a professional landscaper in Mass., who graduated from the school this year. Now he wants to take the Historic Renovation and Preservation course.

    Richard was awarded the Maine Historic Preservation Award in 1998 for "his excellence in historic restoration, his craftsmanship and dedication to the preservation of Maine's irreplaceable architectural history.”

    In partnership with the owners of historic landmarks and with the state’s approval, these classes have already begun work on restoration and preservation projects at the Kennebec Arsenal, and Fort Knox.

    But there is an obstacle to overcome to successfully continue the program.

    After twelve years, the school is in need of its own renovations to accommodate these new classes with upgrades to its facilities. In addition, last winter was brutal on the school’s buildings and vital repairs are needed.

    With the new classes set to start this fall work needs to begin refitting the school immediately.

    Tyler Garnett took a few building courses in Portland but wanted a more comprehensive program in masonry so he enrolled at the Maine School of Masonry and graduated this spring.

    The school needs immediate help with:

    • Donations to help with the school’s renovations for our new classes.
    • Materials can also be donated and are tax deductible.

    Materials needed to upgrade our facilities for our renovation/preservation classes:

    • Insulation
    • Sheet rock
    • White paint
    • Wooden flooring
    • A new furnace or a new heating source (they really want to use a more clean energy source)
    • A mobile home (As students will be working on site at the locations listed above some historic locations are far from Avon and having a mobile home will save the classes the commute.) 

    Donated materials can be dropped off at the school any time.

    Some students have already signed up for the fall classes, including Ellis, knowing once their trained in historic renovation and preservation they could earn over $75,000 per year.

    “And they’ll be able to tell their grandchildren they took part in saving a piece of American’s history,” said Mitch.

    William Ellis, an instructor with a professional engineering background, and Andrew Ryba work on “pointing” renovations at the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta.

    Key supporters of our Historic Renovation and Preservation coursers are Richard Irons, Maine Preservation, Greater Portland Landmarks , Main Street 1 and Niemann Capital.

    The Maine School of Masonry is a non-profit 501(c)3.

    Their email is masonryschool@tds.net

    The school is located at: 637 Rangeley Road, Avon, ME 04966

    website: masonryschool.org

    Richard Irons is the school’s Mason Consultant, with 38 years of experience. Here he’s working at the Kennebec Arsenal showing students the skills that have taken him a lifetime to learn.

  • Maine ranks last in New England for new solar power development but leads in wind power since 2007

    By Ramona du Houx

    On July 27, 2017 Environment Maine Research & Policy Center released a report that says that Maine lags on solar power development, ranking 41st in the nation for solar power generation added since 2007. However, Maine did much better on wind power; which grew 16-fold in the decade compared with a seven-fold increase nationally.

    “Maine has always been a leader on clean energy" said Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling. “But, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to make the kind of energy transformation that is needed to meet our energy needs with clean, renewable energy. Protecting our long term environmental health involves hard work, collaboration, foresight, and creativity, but it's not a choice, it's a necessity. Here in Portland we continue to work on updating our Climate Action Plan and toward our goal of achieving 100 percent clean energy for municipal operations by 2040."    

    The report, Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Positions America for a 100 percent Renewable Future, provides a state-by-state assessment of the growth of key technologies needed to power the nation with clean, renewable energy, including wind, solar, energy efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles. Maine ranked 10th on increase in energy storage capacity and 14th on increase in electricity efficiency savings. The report also showed that the state lags behind on electric cars ranking 35th in the number of electric cars on the road. 

    “Maine has always been a leader on clean energy" said Gesensway.  “But, we have a long way to make the kind of energy transformation that is needed and to fulfill our potential to meet our energy needs with clean, renewable energy.” 

    The report describes the factors' rapid growth in each category since 2007, including policies, improved technologies and lower costs, all of which suggest the potential for continued rapid growth in the years to come. However, Governor LePage and his regulators have been hostile to solar energy and he recently vetoed a bill that would have restored important solar programs. LePage and other Northeast Governors are poised to decide whether and how to strengthen the best regional climate program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI); which limits carbon from power plants.

    “We’ve seen some progress,” said Gesensway. “But, we’re slipping and missing huge opportunities to protect our health and our environment. We need a Governor who believes in clean energy's potential and acts on it."

    Maine's previous governor, John Baldacci, did everything he could to position Maine to become energy independent and increased wind, wave and solar power in the state. He also brought Maine into RGGI and enacted programs to help weatherize homes and businesses, making them more energy efficient.

    The report also comes as a growing number of U.S. cities, states, corporations and institutions consider commitments to 100 percent renewable energy. Currently 37 cities have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, including Portland. Nearly 100 major companies have made a 100 percent renewable commitment, including Apple, Walmart and LEGO. Hawaii is committed to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045. California and Massachusetts are currently considering legislation. And, bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress.

    City Councilman and Chairman of the sustainability and Transportation Committee, Spencer Thibodeau, spoke on the important work he is doing to ensure Portland reaches 100% renewable energy by 2040. 

    “The reality is inescapable: fossil fuels pollute our air, water and land, threatening our health and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” said Gesensway. “We need to seize the moment, build on recent progress and lean into a future powered by clean, renewable energy.”

  • Grants from Full Plates/Full Potential for Maine School breakfasts

    Full Plates Full Potential, an organization dedicated to ending child hunger in Maine, just granted over $26,000 to Maine Public Schools and nonprofits addressing student hunger and increasing access to nutritious school breakfast.

    The grants are funding breakfast models called ‘breakfast after the bell’, which have increased the number of children  participating in the healthy School Breakfast Program. Teachers who have implemented the ‘breakfast after the bell’ models have also seen fewer disciplinary issues, less visits to the nurse's office and better results academically.

    The traditional breakfast in the cafeteria offered before the bell isn’t meeting the needs of all Maine students. Many students arrive at school just as the bell rings or later and don’t have the time to get breakfast before starting their day. Models such as Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab N’ Go allows all students the opportunity to eat a healthy breakfast before starting their school day.

    “Besides meeting their nutritional needs, a full belly allows students to focus on their academics and to reach their full potential,”  according to Michelle Lamm chair of the FPFP breakfast sub-committee and supervisor at the Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative.

    Research by Feeding America shows that when kids lack proper nutrition, they’re less able to live up to their full potential in the classroom—and later in life, too, when they join the workforce and raise families of their own. In 2016, nearly 87,000 kids in Maine — 47 percentof all public-school students—lived in “food insecure” households (homes where there is often not enough nutritious food to eat). 

    About Full Plates Full Potential

    Full Plates Full Potential is a 501(c)3 organization that is dedicated to ending child hunger in Maine. Every day, thousands of Maine children don’t get enough good, nutritious food to eat.

    Full Plates Full Potential believes it’s possible to increase the number of children enrolled, participating, and consuming nutritious meals available through the safety net of child nutrition and school-based programs, eliminating child hunger in Maine within five years.

    Full Plates Full Potential funds best practices to increase access and participation in USDA child nutrition programs, which include: breakfast, lunch, child and adult care food programs and the summer food service program. FPFP was established in 2015 and has built a strong track record of providing technical assistance to schools and nonprofits, creating a five year plan to end childhood hunger and giving grants to support best practices. Their website www.fullplates.org 

  • Maine's Secretary Dunlap assures citizens of protections for voter registration information

     In response to voter concerns regarding a high-profile request for voter registration information, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is reminding voters that Maine law protects their information in multiple ways.

    On Wednesday, June 28, 2017, Secretary Dunlap received a letter from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, on behalf of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Secretary Kobach serves as vice chairman on the commission, of which Secretary Dunlap is also a member.

    In his letter, Secretary Kobach states: 

    “… in order for the Commission to fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting, I am requesting that you provide to the Commission the publicly available voter roll data for Maine, including, if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information. … We would appreciate a response by July 14, 2017. Please be aware that any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.” 

    Secretary Dunlap, in consultation with legal counsel at the Office of the Attorney General, is currently reviewing this request for access to Maine’s Central Voter Registration (CVR) information. If the commission is determined to be eligible for access to the CVR information under Maine law, that access would be limited in both scope and use based on Maine’s CVR statute.

    “Maine citizens can be confident that our office will not release any data that is protected under Maine law, to the commission or any other requesting entity,” said Secretary Dunlap.

    For government use, Maine law allows the release of the voter's name, year of birth, residence address, mailing address, electoral districts, voter status (active or inactive), date of registration or date of change of the voter record if applicable, voter record number and any special designations indicating uniformed service voters, overseas voters or township voters.  (Please note that the “voter record number” is a unique number created in the voter registration system and is not inclusive or reflective of a person’s driver license number or Social Security number.)

    A CVR report provided to a government entity does not include the voter’s party affiliation, full date of birth (only the year), voter participation history, social security number, or felony conviction information (as Maine does not restrict voting based on felony convictions).

    The CVR statute is clear that the recipient of voter data is not allowed to share it or make it public. Additionally, data made available to requesters may not be used for solicitation or for purposes other than their own activities and may not be redistributed.

     

  • Maine voters overwhelmingly voted for Research and Development bonds

    The official tabulation of votes from the June 13, 2017 Special Referendum Election show that the bond issue was approved overwhemingly by Maine voters.

    The Elections Division has certified the results and Gov. Paul LePage signed the official vote proclamation.

    The certified election results show a total of 63,468 votes in favor of the bond issue, and 39,549 votes in opposition. Voters cast a total of 104,213 ballots in this single-question statewide referendum, with 1,196 blanks.

    Question 1 asked: “Do you favor a $50,000,000 bond issue to provide $45,000,000 in funds for investment in research, development and commercialization in the State to be used for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades that enable organizations to gain and hold market share, to increase revenues and to expand employment or preserve jobs for Maine people, to be awarded through a competitive process to Maine-based public and private entities, leveraging other funds in a one-to-one ratio and $5,000,000 in funds to create jobs and economic growth by lending to or investing in small businesses with the potential for significant growth and strong job creation?”

    The funds will support job growth in Maine’s high tech industries, creating good-paying jobs, new products and new services. Mainers will benefit from innovation in biotech, forest products, marine resources and information technologies. New construction projects will create additional jobs for building contractors, tradespeople, equipment suppliers, and professional service providers, increasing economic activity throughout the State.

    The funds will be administered by the Maine Technology Institute (MTI)www.mainetechnology.org and applicants will be selected through an independent, review process to select projects with the greatest potential for return on investment. Applicants are required to match dollar-for-dollar, the amount of the grant award -increasing private sector investments and accountability.

    The Elections Division will post the results online this week at http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/results/index.html.

    The legislation will become law 30 days from the date of the official proclamation (July 21, 2017).

  • Maine House advances measure to train educators on youth mental health first aid

    A bill to ensure health educators in secondary schools receive youth mental health first aid earned initial approval from the Maine House of Representatives Monday.

    “I appreciate the bipartisan support this bill has received,” said Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, the bill’s sponsor. “It makes sense to make sure our secondary school health teachers, who are already teaching a mental health curriculum, have access to training that provides them with the most up-to-date, non-judgmental information about mental health and substance use disorders.”

    Youth Mental Health First Aid, or YMHFA, is a national, best-practice, evidence-based certification course that empowers people with the information they need to recognize, respond to, and have the information to guide someone with mental health needs to the appropriate help. The standards for the program have been set by the National Council for Behavioral Health and target youth ages 12 to 18. 

    Providing training in Youth Mental Health First Aid for educators who teach health education to secondary school students would ensure that they have access to accurate, un-stigmatized information about what mental illness is and what resources and supports are available locally.

    During the public hearing, McCreight cited data from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, the annual, self-report tool used in public schools to track trends in student behaviors and functioning.

    “Only 22 percent of Maine youth report having support from an adult,” said McCreight. “However, one proven way to help youth who are struggling with mental health issues is a relationship with at least one adult who understands what mental illness really is and who can provide adequate support that connects them with help.”

    Funding for YMHFA training would be available through Now Is The Time federal grant monies through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration administered by Maine’s Public Health Regional System, Project Aware grant.  The grant would provide for trainers, materials, payment for substitute teachers and subsidies for teachers who do the training on their own time.  National Alliance on Mental Illness, Maine is currently receiving funding through the federal grant until 2018 and has already trained 105 health educators of the estimated 380 health educators statewide.

    “The goal of this bill is to make sure that every health educator in our secondary schools, and all of their students, have access to the benefits gained by this training,” said McCreight.

    The measure, LD 1335, faces further votes in both the House and Senate.

    McCreight, a member of the Legislature’s Judiciary and Taxation Committees, is serving her second term in the Maine House and represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick. She is also the House Chair of the Task Force to Address the Opiate Crisis.

     

  • Students welcome spring with orchard plantings across Maine

    Hundreds of students at eight Maine public schools got their hands dirty in orchard plantings this spring. Thanks to the nonprofit ReTreeUS, these grade school, middle, and high school students are leaving their mark for years to come. The organization, in its fifth year of planting, is dedicated to promoting an environmentally sustainable, socially-just food system through education, practical resources and mentorship. It lives up to its mission: before each planting is a lesson.

    “We believe that by engaging students in the process of growing their own food and caring for trees, we can create lasting change,” says Richard Hodges, ReTreeUS Program Manager. This spring, a variety of 128 apple, peach, plum and pear trees were dispersed among the eight school orchards: Manchester Elementary, Oxford Hills, Walker Elementary, Ellsworth, Pownal, Connors Emerson, Newport, and Bath Middle School. Schools become eligible for their own orchard by applying to participate through ReTreeUS, and at no expense.

    The trees provide shade, look better, provide a habitat for animals and birds, and provide food for the cafeteria,” said Pam Lanz, school garden coordinator at Manchester Elementary. In about five years, these trees will start to produce fruit. For now, it’s an education in sustainability and understanding where your food comes from.

    “I really like educational experiences like this. I've learned a lot already!” says a Bath Middle School student. Twelve varieties of apples and pear trees were planted among the orchards. “Often these kids think that the apples they see in grocery stores are the only varieties,” Hodges explained. “We are teaching them that types like Liberty, Enterprise, and Wolfe River also exist, and can be grown right here in Maine.”

    The mornings began with the dormant trees soaking in water while students dug holes. They then mixed compost into the piles of soil from each hole and pushed the mixture over the roots to plant. “These are your trees,” Hodges says to the students at the end of each planting. The orchard is made complete with ReTreeUS signs about apple history, pollination, and its environmental impact to make the space accessible for self-guided tours.

    The eight schools that participated in this spring’s planting have ended their day with a new orchard for all to enjoy. “Each orchard is a legacy in the school,” Hodges says. “Fruit trees take awhile to come into production, students watch the trees grow over time and know that they will be giving back to future generations.”

    Apply for an Orchard Planting: ReTreeUS is now accepting applications for Spring 2018 school plantings. If your school is interested, learn more at retreeus.org or by emailing richard@retreeus.org.

  • House advances measure to establish an additional Veterans Treatment Court in Maine

     

    House advances measure to establish an additional Veterans Treatment Court

     Photos and article by Ramona du Houx

    The Maine House gave initial approval May 31, 2017 to a bill that would establish a second Veterans Treatment Court in Maine.

    There is currently one veterans treatment court in Maine, located in Kennebec County. Participants of the treatment court are required to meet weekly with the judge and their assigned case manager. They also undergo outpatient treatment, including substance and mental health counselling as well as drug and alcohol testing.

    Rep. Bettyann Sheats, D-Auburn, submitted the legislation after seeing the success of the Kennebec Court. While recidivism rates for people convicted of crimes is averaged above 65 percent, graduates of the veterans treatment court in Kennebec have a rate of nearly zero.

    “The Veterans Treatment Court connects veterans with the treatment they need, the services they have earned and the support they deserve,” said Sheats. “I’m very appreciative of the support that this bill received.”

    The legislation, as amended, relies on current law to direct the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court to establish an additional Veterans Treatment Court where it is most needed. It also provides the funding for the court as well as the services to be provided.

    “Most members of our military coming home from active duty do not need this type of court,” said Sheats. “But for those who do, we must do our part to continue to honor their service by helping them avoid incarceration, get the treatment and counselling they need and once again contribute to society as we know they can.”

    The measure, LD 111, faces further votes in both the House and the Senate.

    Sheats, a member of the Legislature’s Committee on Transportation, is serving her first term in the Maine House. She represents Minot and part of Auburn.

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

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

     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     

    Article and photos By Ramona du Houx 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    See a slide show of all the photos HERE.

  • West Virginia journalist arrested after asking HHS Secretary Price a direct news question

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

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

    By Samantha Schmidt May 10 - article in the Washington Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Nonprofits essential to improve Maine communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Navy Seal from Falmouth, Maine killed in action

    Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Editorial by Lori Moses is executive director of Catherine Morrill Day Nursery in Portland

    As the director of a licensed child care facility in Portland, I know first-hand that our existing child care system is fundamentally flawed. The ways our families live and work have changed dramatically over the past few decades, yet our caregiving policies are stuck in the 1950s.

    This is one of the reasons why so many families today are struggling in ways that their parents did not. While we once could rely on women’s unpaid labor at home to care for children, that is no longer the reality, as more women are in the workforce than ever before.

    Child care is the backbone of a healthy economy. Without it, many parents wouldn’t be able to work. Yet we are one of the few countries where child care is almost exclusively left up to the private market, and where the entire cost of child care is paid for by families. This has serious consequences for everyone involved, from families, to the owners and operators of child care facilities, to the child care professionals who keep them running.

    I know first-hand how difficult it can be for parents to afford quality child care. The private tuition for infants in my program is $15,236 a year, which is far out of reach for most residents of Maine. The state’s reimbursement rates for federal vouchers are about 20 percent lower than our private tuition, which is why so many child care providers can’t afford to accept them, resulting in limited access to child care for families who qualify for a voucher. My program is fortunate to have gap funding through various grants and contracts, or many of our families would not be able to access our program either.

    Ironically, even as most families cannot afford the cost of child care, providers like myself are faced with the slimmest of margins and can barely cover our own costs. While we do our best to pay fair wages to the child care professionals at our center, and are fortunate to be able to offer benefits for full-time work, the truth of the matter is that wages are still way too low.

    Essentially, the low wages of our child care staff subsidizes the entire child care system. This is a moral problem, in that those who care for others should be paid dignified wages, as well as a pragmatic one, as it makes it difficult to attract and retain qualified teachers. The high turnover in our field, especially in this tight labor market, isn’t good for workers, it isn’t good for families and certainly it isn’t good for the children.

    We are on an unsustainable path right now that benefits no one. Because of the high cost of care, many families are forced to make impossible choices between work and caring for their loved ones. Many Mainers end up leaving the workforce, losing income and affecting their future retirement security, as well as hurting our state’s economy. Some parents are forced to make child care choices in the informal, underground market that may actually do harm to the children. Clearly, our children are not our priority.

    It’s time we address this new reality and modernize our social safety net to meet the needs of families. It’s up to states like ours to lead the way.

    This is why I support the universal family care bill introduced by Rep. Drew Gattine, which would provide universal child care, support for stay-at-home parents and universal home care for seniors and people with disabilities. This would all be paid for by ensuring that the wealthiest of our residents contribute their fair share in taxes. It would also address the low wages currently being paid to child care and home care professionals by guaranteeing a living wage, which would go a long way toward attracting the workforce that our children and our seniors need and deserve.

    If we really want all of our children to reach their potential, we must find a different way to support them, their families and our economy. That solution for Maine is universal family care.

  • Adam Cote is in the race for ME Governor saying he'll bring new leadership and build a strong economy

     

    A decorated veteran Adam Cote first ran for office in 2008 against Chellie Pingree for Senate in democratic primary. He also served in Bosina negociating the peace. He runs a renewable energy business and has shown he can work with everyone, while keeping to his objectives. He's popular in the 1st and 2nd districts of Maine. That is major to win the Governor's race.

      Veteran, small businessman and renewable energy attorney Adam Cote released the following statement today after filing to run for Governor.  A formal campaign kick-off will come later this year. 

    “I was born and raised in Sanford, Maine, where Paulina and I are raising our own young family today.  I love Maine and I believe deeply in service. I have not spent much time in Augusta, but I have learned leadership through 20 years as a soldier in places like Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and 16 years in the private sector as both a small businessman and a renewable energy attorney.

    I am running for Governor because I believe we need to make sure change starts in Maine in 2018.  With new leadership grounded in Maine values like hard work, innovation, a welcoming spirit and a belief that every person is deserving of respect, we will grow a strong economythat works for all of us, with good paying jobs in every part of Maine

    I know we can turn the page from the dead-end politics of division, strengthen the state we love, and leave it stronger and better for our kids and future generations. I hope you will join our campaign by signing up for news and updates at www.CoteForMaine.com and inviting your friends and family to be part of our team as well.” 

    Cote’s action today is in line with Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices guidelines for any candidate who has clearly decided to run for an office, in order to track and report costs and expenses associated with reaching out to voters.  

    “My service has not been in political office to this point in my life,” said Cote, “but I am determined to get started today building a strong, statewide, neighbor-to-neighbor campaign that will win in 2018.” 

     

    Background on Adam:

    • Born, raised and lives with his family in Sanford, Maine
    • 44 years old 
    • Graduate of Colby College and the University of Maine Law School
    • Married to Paulina Cote with five children, three girls and two boys
    • Awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his service in Afghanistan, after taking over leadership of and turning around a dysfunctional, undisciplined company from another part of the country
    • Awarded the Combat Action Badge for his leadership after surviving and caring for fellow soldiers after the December 21, 2004 suicide bombing in the chow hall in Mosul, Iraq
    • Awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for his exceptional service while assigned to the 52nd Troop Command 
    • Received the “White House Champion of Change” award from President Obama’s White House in 2013, recognizing his work as “a veteran working to advance clean energy and climate security”
    • Honored as the 2015 “Distinguished Alumni of the Year” by Colby College

    Cote’s 2008 congressional campaign performance:

    • Won 15,706 votes (26percent) as a first-time candidate and earned a strong second place finish in a six-way first district congressional primary, among many more established state politicians
    • Raised over $650,000 
    • Won York County, Maine’s 2nd largest, by over 1,000 votes, came within 377 votes of winning Kennebec County (4th largest) and came in second in all five of the other first CD counties
    • Won 25 towns in the First Congressional District – and came in second in all but three or four towns
    • Won every mill or former mill town located in the first CD, including several that are among the largest communities in the state, such as: Biddeford (Mane’s 6th largest city), Sanford (Maine’s 7th largest city), Saco (Maine’s 11th largest city), Augusta (came within 20 votes in Maine’s 9th largest city), Westbrook and Gardiner 

    For more information, visit www.CoteForMaine.com, a temporary webpage. 

  • Holocaust Day of Remembrance at the Klahr Center in Augusta, Maine

    The Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine [HHRC] will host its annual Yom HaShoah: Holocaust Day of Remembrance program at the Michael Klahr Center at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 30, 2017. 

    This year's program will include a screening of the film “Disobedience: The Sousa Mendes Story,” the incredible true account of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese Consul who defied the orders of his government and granted thousands of visas to “undesirables” during the Holocaust. The program will also include a Q & A with Mona Pearl Treyball, the daughter of Sousa Mendes visa recipient, Sara Tanne. 

    Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches was one of the great heroes of the Second World War. As the Portuguese consul stationed in Bordeaux, France, he found himself confronted in June of 1940 with the reality of many thousands of refugees outside the Portuguese consulate attempting to escape the Nazis.

    Though Portugal was officially neutral as a nation, Portuguese diplomats were told to deny safe haven to refugees, including Jews, Russians, and stateless individuals who could not return to their countries of origin.

    Sousa Mendes defied that order and issued thousands of visas over a 12-day period. “I would rather stand with God against Man than with Man against God,” he declared.

     This program is presented in conjunction with the HHRC’s exhibit “Heroism in Unjust Times: Rescuers During the Holocaust,” on view fromWednesday, April 24 - August 11, 2017.

    For more information about Disobedience and Sousa Mendes, visit the Sousa Mendes Foundation at http://sousamendesfoundation.org.

    The program is free to attend, though donations are gratefully accepted. Light refreshments will be provided, and all are welcome and encouraged to join the HHRC on this special day of commemoration and reflection.

    For more information on this year’s Yom HaShoah: Holocaust Day of Remembrance program or to learn about more events hosted by the HHRC, visit hhrcmaine.org, call (207) 621-3530, or email infohhrc@maine.edu.

  • Barry Hobbins nominated to become Maine's Public Advocate

    Governor Paul R. LePage nominated the Hon. Barry J. Hobbins of Saco on April 12, 2017 to serve as the Public Advocate, a position that represents the interests of Maine ratepayers in proceedings before the Maine Public Utilities Commission, including issues regarding electricity and natural gas prices. The Office of the Public Advocate also supports Mainers on matters related to telecommunications, including accessibility to broadband internet.

    Hobbins, a lawyer in private practice for 39 years, has concentrated in telecommunications law, real estate, municipal and administrative law, land use planning, business and corporate law, criminal and family law.

    “Maine's Public Advocate plays a critical role in protecting the interests of consumers and ratepayers before the Public Utilities Commission, the Legislature and elsewhere. Tim Schneider has done an outstanding job leading this office, and will be sorely missed,” said Rep. Berry, D-Bowdoinham.

    “Barry Hobbins has extensive experience as a legislator, legislative leader, and as my predecessor in co-chairing the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities & Technology.  Having served with Barry for eight years, I have seen firsthand his commitment to public service. I look forward to holding a confirmation hearing soon, and learning more about how Barry hopes to stand up for consumers and ratepayers.”

    A well-known and respected legislator, Hobbins was first elected in 1972 as the youngest member of the 106th Maine Legislature. He also served in the 114th Legislature, then the 122nd through 125th Legislatures. During his time in the State House, he was a member of many Committees, including Business Legislation, Labor and Judiciary, and served as both House Chair and Senate Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.

    While serving on the EUT committee, he developed a thorough knowledge of energy issues and was in charge of overseeing the Office of the Public Advocate as it related to wholesale electricity markets, interstate electricity transmission and interstate gas transportation. He also became familiar with the workings of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates interstate communications of radio, television, satellite and cable systems.

    A lifelong resident of Saco, Hobbins is a graduate of Thornton Academy. He earned a B.A. degree from University Maine Orono and his law degree from the Franklin Pierce Law Center, now known as the New Hampshire School of Law.

  • Greenlight Maine gives greenlight for start-ups TV exposure


    Thirteen startup companies moved on to the semifinals, and will compete in the final stage of the Greenlight Maine competition in June, 2017.

    Greenlight Maine is a   TV competition on WSCH6 on Saturday evenings at 7:30. After various rounds where new businesses pitch their ideas to panels of different experts every week the best pitch is given a $100,000 cash purse. The semi finalists also recieve mentoring as the panel widdles down who should move forward in the competition.

    It's really the first time start ups have recieved media attention on TV in Maine to this extent.

    "In our first two seasons, over 140 prospective companies have been vying for the coveted prize purse as well as received priceless mentoring from some of the most admired corporate and community leaders in our state," Brian Corcoran, a partner in Portland Media Group, which created the show.

    Portland Media comprises Corcoran's company Shamrock Sports & Entertainment; Nat Thompson, former producer/owner of WCSH-6; and Con Fullam, an executive TV producer and music composer.

    The Season 2 semifinalists are:

    • American Unagi, Sara Rademaker, Thomaston
    • McDermott Shapes, Ryan McDermott, Scarborough
    • Tip Whip, Spencer Wood, Bangor
    • Bluet Maine, Michael Terrien, Jefferson
    • Mobility Technologies, Ryan Beaumont, Brunswick
    • Izzy's Cheesecake, Jim Chamoff, Portland
    • Herbal Revolution Farm, Katheryn Langelier, Union
    • Switchdown, Jon Hanson, Durham
    • Foodwise, Leland Stillman, Portland
    • Surge Hydro, David B. Markley, Belfast
    • Springpoint Solutions, Troy Locke, Portland
    • Wag Rags, Chris Voynik, Readfield
    • Truck Task, David E. Grant, Brewer.

    Corcoran noted that more than the winner benefits. Millions have been invested in companies that have appeared on the show. In the first two seasons more than 140 prospective companies signed up to compete for the prize and mentoring. Corcoran's P.R business isn't doing to bad, eaither.

  • All Aboard Sprint Event Kicks Off 25th Season at Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad

    The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum begins its 25th operating season this weekend, April 8th, 2017 in Portland. 

    To celebrate the start of their anniversary year, the museum will be offering a new event called “Spring Aboard”on Saturday and Sunday, April 8th and 9th, and Saturday and Sunday, April 15th and 16th.  Children can decorate an egg inside the museum and all visitors can enjoy tasty treats along with a train ride. The museum will be open weekends in April, April 15-23 for April school vacation week and daily beginning May 6th.

    In addition to the event, the museum is offering a membership special the entire month of April.  All new members can enjoy 10 percent off the regular membership price. 

    “This is a great time of year to become a member of the museum,” said Director of Finance and Marketing, Allison Tevsh Zittel, “Members can enjoy the train ride, museum and many special events during the year free of charge.  It’s an incredible savings.” 

    Individual memberships cost just $40 ($36 during the month of April) and Family memberships are $100 ($90 during the month of April).

    Founded in 1992, the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company & Museum is a non-profit museum with a mission to educate the public and preserve historic equipment related to Maine’s two-foot gauge railways. 

    Five two-foot gauge railroads operated in Maine from the 1870s through the 1940s, serving as an important part of the economic development of the interior of the state.  

    The museum has become a popular visitor attraction for the greater Portland area drawing over 42,000 visitors annually, including tourists and area residents, to experience a remarkable piece of history unique to the state of Maine. 

    The museum is open daily from early-May through late-October and seasonally for events. The museum is located at 58 Fore Street in Portland, on the waterfront, just a short walk from the Old Port.  Directions and more information can be found on the museum’s website at www.mainenarrowgauge.org or by calling 207-828-0814.

  • Sen. King Opposes Judge Neil Gorsuch and will join Filibuster with Democrats

    Basing his decision on a close study of judicial record, King concludes with no ‘do-overs,’ he cannot support nomination

     U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today announced his opposition to the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Senator King also announced that he will oppose a procedural motion to end debate to move the nomination forward.

    In his statement, Senator King said that, while he approached this nomination with an open mind, attended Judge Gorsuch’s hearing, and heard from Maine people on all sides of the question, several issues ultimately convinced him to oppose the nomination – from Judge Gorsuch’s glaring refusal to answer questions about his judicial philosophy during the confirmation hearing, to an appellate record that constrains the ability of the government to respond to national priorities and elevates the rights of corporations over their employees, to the unchecked flow of dark money that has gone into pushing his nomination. Given those concerns, and the significance of the lifetime appointment, Senator King said that he will oppose his nomination and vote ‘no’ on cloture.

    Senator King’s statement is as follows:

    +++

    “I am announcing today my opposition to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court. This has not been an easy decision; I have read many of Judge Gorsuch’s opinions, met with him personally, attended a portion of his hearing before the Judiciary Committee, watched other parts of the hearing, listened to the people of Maine on both sides of this question, and read all I could find on his background, judicial philosophy, and temperament.

    “I started this process with an open mind and an inclination to support a nominee with this judge’s educational and judicial experience. I know that many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle shared this initial impression. But as I got further into my research, and especially after watching his interactions with the Committee at his hearing, my opinion changed. Here is why –

    “First – While at first coming across as sincere, personable and thoughtful, over time I found that his answers seemed, at best, increasingly evasive, and, at worst, simply not forthright. I fully understand that a nominee in this situation cannot opine on matters likely to come before the Court, but Judge Gorsuch’s steadfast refusal to answer reasonable questions as to his thinking on important legal issues and prior Supreme Court cases went far beyond this ‘future issues’ limitation. I found it particularly striking that he was willing to discuss some precedents (Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer or Brown v. Board or Education, for example), but not others (Citizens UnitedRoe v. Wade). If Youngstown was fair game for discussion and analysis (he likes it), why not Citizens United (does he like it or not)? At the end of the hearing, he left us with no real conclusions about his judicial philosophy and some confusion about where he stood on just about anything. As the hearing wore on, it became clear to me that this was a deliberate strategy to reveal as little as possible about what kind of justice he would be.

    “Second – The nature of any Supreme Court nomination puts it into a different category than any of our other votes in the Senate; most of our votes are in some sense temporary – laws can be amended or repealed at any time, but a Supreme Court Justice is for life (in this case probably at least 30 years). There are no do-overs or second chances on this vote, which makes it all the more important to understand as specifically as possible who or what we are voting for.  

    “Third – From reading his opinions and analyzing his work as an appellate judge, however, a picture does emerge, not of an independent judge, but of a judicial activist well to the right of the current members of the Court, except perhaps Justice Thomas, on fundamental issues of constitutional structure. In short, a careful reading of his decisions and writings over the years has convinced me that he would favor a return to pre-1935 jurisprudence whereby the federal government (including Congress) was severely constrained in its ability to address urgent national priorities. 

    “This is the judicial version of ‘deconstruction’, a term now much in use within the current Administration. Although there are certainly examples of regulatory overreach, few of us would support eliminating laws and regulations which protect Maine air and water, insure safe workplaces, or rein in the excesses of the financial system which brought us to the brink of world-wide depression less than ten years ago.

    “Fourth – Hobby Lobby. In this case which involved whether a corporation was a ‘person’ whose religious principles were abridged by its employees receiving insurance coverage for contraceptive services under the ACA, Judge Gorsuch began his concurring opinion with these astounding words, ‘All of us face the problem of complicity. All of us must answer for ourselves whether and to what degree we are willing to be involved in the wrongdoing of others.’

    “Aside from the dubious proposition that a for-profit corporation can have a religion, consider the implications of the phrase ‘the wrongdoing of others’ – that a woman choosing how to manage her reproductive life is ‘wrongdoing’ which her corporate employer can limit or control, regardless of her religious or moral principles. (Note that we’re not talking about abortion here, but about contraception). I find it very hard to support a judge who would so easily elevate a corporate employer’s values over those of its workers, particularly women, in a case of this importance.

    “Striking down an integral part of a major piece of legislation on such questionable grounds, by the way, is the definition of ‘judicial activism’.

    “Fifth – aside from these concerns, my final decision has been driven in part by the expenditure of more than $10 million on behalf of this nominee by people who are purposely concealing their identities (on top of $7 million spent last year by what appear to be the same groups to stall and defeat the nomination of Merrick Garland, a judge of equal distinction and experience). My thinking is that while the hearing may have left many of us uncertain as to Judge Gorsuch’s philosophy and likely conduct on the Court, the sponsors of this campaign are not uncertain at all. They are not spending this huge sum on speculation; they know what they are getting, and that, in itself, raises serious concerns, particularly given the judge’s reluctance to discuss the Citizens United decision.

    “Sixth – Finally is the question of how to vote on the cloture motion which the Majority Leader will file in connection with this nomination. Under current Senate Rules, it takes 60 votes to end debate on the nomination of a Supreme Court justice and proceed to a simple majority up-or-down vote on confirmation, just as it does on substantive legislation. On the one hand, this can be viewed as simply a procedural vote to end debate, but by consistent practice (I’ve had to vote on more than 350 cloture motions during my four years here), the 60 vote threshold is THE operative vote; if sixty votes are not obtained, the bill (or nomination) is dead.

    “Although I came here deeply skeptical of this practice, I have come over time (even when I was a member of the majority caucus) to appreciate its role in forcing a modicum of bi-partisanship in connection with important issues. While I still believe in reform of the institution so that we can stop the logjam in Washington, it seems to me that for major policy decisions, like a lifetime appointment, it is not unreasonable to require 60 votes in order to garner broader, more sustainable bipartisan support, which I think is in the interest of the nation.

    “Although there could be circumstances where it might be appropriate to support cloture and then vote against the nomination, the current status of this procedure does not strike me as such a case. If I am opposed to this nomination, it seems logical to oppose cloture because under the current rules, this would defeat the nomination. To support cloture in the current circumstance would make me guilty of ‘complicity’, to borrow Judge Gorsuch’s memorable term. 

    “If Judge Gorsuch is ultimately confirmed, I sincerely hope my concerns and fears will be proven wrong; I would be delighted if this is the case. But in good conscience, I must vote my convictions and not my hopes – and my convictions in this case tell me ‘no’.”

  • 96 Maine Attorneys Sign Letter to Collins and King Opposing Confirmation of Gorsuch to Supreme Court


    Ninety Six Maine attorneys have signed a letter to Maine Senators Collins and King today opposing the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and urging the two Senators to filibuster the nomination. Senator Collins has already endorsed Gorsuch, while not taking a position on the filibuster rule, while Senator King is still deliberating both issues.

    The letter, organized by Mainers for Accountable Leadership, expressed the lawyers’ concern about Gorsuch’s extreme, conservative views and about the wisdom of confirming a lifetime appointment to the Court while the President is under federal investigation.

    “Gorsuch would shape our jurisprudence for generations and his opinions show that he is not a normal candidate, but an activist judge with an extreme agenda,” said Jackie Sartoris, an attorney in Brunswick. “He consistently sides with corporate interests, and against the least powerful. His opinions on administrative agency decisions, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, show that he is even more willing to overturn federal regulations than was Justice Scalia​. He treats corporations as people. And our Senators should support regular order in the Senate, which requires 60 votes to allow a confirmation vote for a Supreme Court nominee.”  

    “Russian intrusion in the 2016 US election and Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign have compromised the integrity and legitimacy, of this White House. Nobody should get a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court while the investigations are underway,” said Theressa Harrigan of Cornish, an MFAL member.

    The letter was drafted by Sartoris, a MFAL member who is also a leader of Brunswick Area Rising, two “Indivisible” affiliate groups. It was a direct response to a letter from 49 Maine lawyers endorsing Gorsuch released last week days before Collins endorsed Gorsuch. MFAL’s analysis of that letter revealed it was signed by a veritable who’s who of Maine’s Republican Party establishment, including attorneys connected to Collins, Governor Paul LePage and other Republican operatives and donors.

    “The 49-lawyer letter seems orchestrated to provide political cover for Collins’s decision to back the extremist Gorsuch,” said April Humphrey of Yarmouth, an MFAL Leader. “Collins support of such an extreme candidate raises doubts about her moderation. And Sen. KIng needs to come off the fence and speak for Mainers in defending the filibuster rule and opposing Gorsuch”

    “Over 10 million dollars have been spent by corporate-backed interests to secure Gorsuch’s seat,” said Dini Merz of Falmouth, an MFAL leader. “Regular Mainers have to work hard just to be heard against this sort of big money. This letter, from experienced professionals, reflects a broader concern Mainer’s have about this appointment.”

    ##

    The Text of the Letter:

    The Honorable Susan Collins                                                                                                       United States Senate 413                                                                                                                 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510

    The Honorable Angus King                                                                                                                   United States Senate 133                                                                                                                 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, D.C. 20510

    Dear Senators Collins and King:

    We, the undersigned Maine attorneys, oppose the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. We have reached a decision to make this request independently. We view your vote on the nomination to this lifetime appointment to be of enough gravity that we come forward publicly and urge you to vote against confirmation of Judge Gorsuch.

    Our reasons for opposing the nomination of Judge Gorsuch are varied. In an effort to inform your understanding of concerns raised by this group of your constituents, this letter will touch on issues that have been raised but should not be assumed to characterize the views of each of the signers on all points.

    The influence of each Supreme Court nominee on our system of justice typically continues long after a President leaves office. The decisions of the Court collectively reach into every corner of the experience of United States citizens, affects much of our nation's public policy and even touches on intimate aspects of our personal lives. The Court, to a significant degree, shapes who we are as a nation for generations to come. We, as attorneys and officers of the court, have both professional and personal investments in maintaining and strengthening respect for the rule of law and for the Judiciary. For this and other reasons, we are invested in the choices of the Justices of the Supreme Court and the Senate's "advise and consent" role.

    Concerns over the Gorsuch nomination arise over a number of points ranging from the context of the current moment in American governance and the integrity of our democratic republic to various aspects of the nominee's record. Concerns arise from the following: 1) the unprecedented events that presaged this nomination; 2) the reasoning underlying a number of judicial decisions written by the nominee; and 3) other indicators from the nominee's speeches, interviews and extra-judicial writing of an agenda out of step with the mainstream of American jurisprudence.

    Judge Gorsuch’s nomination takes place against an unprecedented backdrop. Just last month, F.B.I. director, James B. Comey publicly confirmed an investigation into interference by agents of the government of Russia into the presidential election and whether associates of the president were in contact with Moscow. With evidence showing, for the first time in our nation’s history, that the Presidency is occupied by a person elected with the benefit of foreign interference in our election process. Given the gravity of these concerns and the credibility of the officials and sources raising them, the issue of whether it is appropriate for the President, while an investigation is ongoing, to fill a vacancy to the Court that stands to be the final arbiter in matters arising from these events.

    Concerns also center around the President's open admission that the selection process involved vetting by ideologically skewed interests groups, including specifically the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. During the campaign Trump explicitly stated that if he were elected president, his judicial nominees would “all [be] picked by the Federalist Society.” He later added the Heritage Foundation to the list of vetters. These two organizations have rigid ideological views. It is reported that Judge Gorsuch is a Federalist Society member who has spoken and been honored at society events. These connections and how they could control or influence the nominee's decisions if confirmed to the Court were not laid to rest during the confirmation hearings.

    In a similar vein, where prior presidents have made plain that they do not apply litmus tests to judicial nominees, candidate Trump pledged to only choose "pro-life judges" who would overturn Roe v. Wade and nominees with expansive views of Second Amendment rights. Given that this nominee was apparently chosen based on a litmus test, Judge Gorsuch needed to adequately assure us that he did not provide the assurances expected by the official who nominated him. As with other questions, Judge Gorsuch declined to go into detail on the matter.

    A leading point for many of those concerned about the nominee's record of jurisprudence is concern that Judge Gorsuch too consistently demonstrates a bias in favor of business interests over the rights and interests of powerless individuals. Judge Gorsuch has written eloquently about impingement on the rights of corporations. In contrast, Gorsuch has expressed direct and explicit disapproval of individuals who in his view too readily turn to the courts to protect their civil rights and other interests. In 2005, Judge Gorsuch wrote in an essay entitled “Liberals’N’Lawsuits" published in the National Review: “American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom . . . as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage” to other issues. He went further in the same essay to say that individuals bringing cases and controversies of public concern to the courts is “bad for the country.”

    Concern also arises over Judge Gorsuch's narrow view on deference to be given to scientists and policy experts during judicial review of administrative actions. In Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, Judge Gorsuch wrote not only the majority opinion but a separate concurrence to challenge the Supreme Court ruling in in the case of Chevron v. NRDC. In Chevron, the Supreme Court held that where federal law is unclear or vague, the courts should defer to interpretations by the agency experts that implement the law, except where the agencies clearly get it wrong. Chevron is a common-sense approach to judging voluminous, complicated regulations. Gorsuch disagrees with such "Chevron deference" arguing instead for judges, like himself to draw their own conclusions with far less knowledge on detailed, technical regulations. Judge Gorsuch's approach is frequently favored by regulated business entities who are more confident in their ability to convince judges instead of true experts in the field. Some people feel his hostility to Chevron deference also aligns with Steve Bannon's expressed desire to see “the deconstruction of the administrative state.”

    Another concern over the Gorsuch nomination arises in connection with the issue of campaign finance. In Judge Gorsuch's concurring opinion in the case of Riddle v. Hickenlooper he wrote “[n]o one before us disputes that the act of contributing to political campaigns implicates a ‘basic constitutional freedom,’ one lying ‘at the foundation of a free society’ and enjoying a significant relationship to the right to speak and associate—both expressly protected First Amendment activities.” Here and elsewhere, Gorsuch makes plain that he believes that political money and free speech rights are inextricably linked. He supports a higher standard of review for any limits to political campaign contributions. This approach again benefits corporate interests over ordinary citizens who are not high donors.

    Many observers raised concerns over what they see as Judge Gorsuch's narrow view on civil rights. His jurisprudence reveals a deep skepticism even hostility towards important civil rights that are not explicitly set forth in the Bill of Rights. Many are concerned that he will not uphold rights to privacy, autonomy and self-determination, rights to be a parent, to reproductive freedom, to engage in private consensual adult relationships, and to marry. His opinions, for example, regarding access to birth control, including in the case of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius, put great emphasis on corporate personhood and business “religious freedom” while shortchanging rights of privacy and access to health care, particularly for women.

    In short, Judge Gorsuch conveys a consistent bias towards powerful business interests over individuals and entities with less power and influence. These are among the concerns raised by Maine attorneys like those whose signatures appear below. We urge you to oppose the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

  • Protesters demand Maine’s elected leaders stop Gorsuch confirmation but Collins might break filibuster

    By Ramona du Houx

    After shoveling out of a spring snow storm that dumped up to a foot about a hundred Brunswick area residents gathered for an outdoor rally organized by two indivisible groups: Mainers for Accountable Leadership and Brunswick Area Rising. The looming vote on Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was one focus of the citizen's protest.

    The rally was part of the growing political movement in Maine and across the nation that recently blocked Republican’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    “Make no mistake, rallies and protests just like today were responsible for stopping Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” said April Humphrey, a leader of MFAL and a small business owner who relies on the ACA for health insurance.

    “A lot of commentators pointed to the Freedom Caucus, saying they sank the Trump/Ryan repeal bill. The fact is, it was too moderate for the Freedom Caucus from the get go because we pushed moderate lawmakers to oppose outright repeal. We are going to keep mobilizing, keep calling our Senators, keep showing up at their offices to put a stop to the extreme agenda Republicans are trying to push through.”

    Participants called on Maine’s elected leaders in Washington, D.C. to halt the confirmation process for the Supreme Court nominee, saying that no decision should be made on his appointment until there is an independent, impartial investigation of Trump’s ties with Russia.

    On Friday March 31st an MFAL delegation delivered a petition to Senators Collins and Kings offices signed by 600 Mainers opposing the Gorsuch nomination and McConnell’s plan to change senate rules to make it possible to confirm Gorsuch by only 51 votes.

    “A Supreme Court Justice is forever. Judge Neil Gorsuch is only 48 years old. His past opinions show that he is no normal candidate, but an activist judge with an extreme agenda,” said Jackie Sartoris, a Brunswick attorney and leader of Brunswick Area Rising.

    “He consistently takes the side of corporate interests, and against the least powerful. His opinions respecting the work of agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and others indicates that he is more extreme in his willingness to overturn their regulations even than was Justice Scalia​, giving even more power to corporate interests.

    "He thinks that corporations are people, and that they should be able to impose their religious beliefs on employees​, including on a woman's right to access birth control and make health care choices. Judge Gorsuch is an extreme, activist nominee, and he must be rejected. Our Senators must oppose any change to Senate rules that would bypass the normal process requiring a 60 vote threshold for Supreme Court confirmations.”

    The groups were adamant about the need for a thorough investigation of the ties the Trump campaign and transition had to Russian intelligence officials involved in illegal manipulation of the 2016 election. Both Senators Collins and King support the ongoing Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, but the groups say that investigation cannot be independent.

    “Russian intrusion into the 2016 US election and intimate ties between the Trump campaign and transition have compromised the integrity, even the legitimacy of this White House. The House investigation is fatally compromised and, despite promises, the credibility of the Senate investigation is doubtful,” said Gordon Adams, former White House official and a leader of MFAL.

    “Only an independent commission and Special Counsel can credibly get to the bottom of this crisis. Maine’s delegation, particularly our two senators who sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee, should be demanding such a commission and counsel. Moreover, as long as this investigation and any subsequent prosecution are incomplete, Senators Collins and King ought to vote against confirming Judge Gorsuch, a conservative activist, to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”

    The groups also took aim at administration threats to reproductive rights and environmental protections, and called for continued vigilance against renewed efforts to repeal the ACA and replace it with an even more extreme version of the doomed ACHA.

    “Education funding and policy are being challenged at the federal and state levels as never before, and placing an extraordinary burden on our towns.  Education is a public good - yes, it benefits individuals, but it also benefits our communities, and is a critical foundation of our democracy.  This foundation is undermined when we do not provide educators with the support needed to work with the complex reality for each child in each classroom.  That reality is sometimes wonderful, sometimes messy, and is rarely measured by test scores,” said Joy Prescott, Brunswick School Board Member.

    “So what can we do?  Support our schools locally, make our voices heard in Augusta and Washington, and stay engaged to make sure our leaders understand the issues - complicated, nuanced, and yet critically important issues - that will affect both our children and the everyday fabric of our communities.​”

    “Corporate money and power has shifted the Republican party, with its longstanding history of conservation, into one that stands up only for short-term profits. The Trump administration, like the LePage administration, places no value on what can't make a quick profit, no matter the future cost, said Stephen Walker, Brunswick Town Councilor and wildlife biologist.

    “The cost is to our natural resources, and it will be borne by our children and grandchildren. Our natural resources and our Maine values are under attack, and we need to stand up now and organize to turn this around.”

  • Support rural Maine by investing in schools, broadband

    Editorial by Representative Dave McCrea from Fort Fairfield in Aroostook County

    It’s easy for an elected official to promise the world during a campaign. It’s another thing entirely to deliver on your promises and honor your word in a divided government.

    You may have heard Democrats promising a lot this past election. We told voters we’d fight to lower taxes for every Maine family, create better schools by finally ensuring the state pays its fair share,

    invest in safer infrastructure and the workers of Maine who build it, and bring high-speed internet access to rural areas to help our families and businesses compete.

    I’m proud that since day one of this session we’ve been pushing to do just that, because we know that Maine’s success depends on investing in our families and communities.

    Two examples of the ways we put our money where our mouth is happened this month in fact.

    Believing that the zip code you grow up in shouldn’t dictate the type of education you receive, voters supported Question 2 last fall, which created a funding stream that would make the state’s contribution to public education the full 55 percent as is current law. That referendum identified a 3 percent tax increase on the wealthiest in Maine as the source of funding.

    Despite the governor’s budget proposal, which seeks to ignore the new law, and a handful of other bills seeking to roll back Question 2, Democrats have stood strong, refusing to defund our schools to give yet another tax break to the wealthy. 

    The other example that makes me proud this week is the widespread support of my bill to expand rural access to high-speed internet. 

    Much has been said about the need to improve Maine’s business climate. If passed, LD 421 will spur Maine’s rural economy by supporting existing businesses as well as attracting new businesses that need high-speed internet to compete. 

    For those that don’t understand how important high speed internet access is to our communities, I suggest you try to complete a task using slow, or non-existent internet.

    For example, I am a recently-retired school teacher. At my school, due to dependable high-speed broadband internet, I could post a set of twenty Human Anatomy and Physiology grades into a  large program used by my school system in about a minute.

    If I were to attempt that same task at my residence in a more rural area of Fort Fairfield, it would often take me fiveminutes or more before I could upload one grade for one student.   

    When the weather is warm and when school is out for the day or for the summer, you can’t drive by our public library without seeing kids on the steps doing their homework I’m sure. There are also adults parked in their cars along the street, taking advantage of the dependable, high-speed internet access available at this location.

    My bill will go to the committee work session, likely pass through committee and then face a vote in the full Legislature. 

    Investing in our communities by protecting the quality of our public education and the tools our families need to succeed like high speed internet will strengthen Maine’s rural economy, its families and its businesses. 

    That’s a fight Democrats will lead and it’s fight we can proud of.

  • Climate change is bad news for Maine’s lobster fishery — Trump made it worse

    Maine lobster ready to be eaten, with pleasure. photo by Ramona du Houx

    Editorial by David Cousens, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association 

    On the day President Donald Trump was sworn in, all references to climate change disappeared from the White House website. The Trump administration’s proposed budget would reduce funding for NOAA’s science and weather satellites and eliminate the Sea Grant program. Why does this matter? Sea Grant is to the fishing industry what the Cooperative Extension is to the farming industry.

    In 2015, the lobster fishery was the most valuable wild-caught fishery in the U.S. Yet we receive very little help from Maine or the U.S. government to support research, marketing or enforcement. Fortunately, we receive some research assistance from Maine Sea Grant. Maine Sea Grant has supported many lobster research projects over the years, including funding to monitor newly settled lobsters, a program to predict future landings and the impacts of warmer ocean temperatures on the fishery. This information is vitally important to lobstermen. 

    Cutting funding for NOAA is very short-sighted, considering the volatility of the weather and severity of recent storms. Fishermen depend on the agency, which oversees the National Weather Service, for accurate forecasts. This is a matter of safety for the thousands of people who work on the ocean for their livelihoods. 

    The NOAA satellite program also is important for our understanding of environmental trends. Satellite imagery tells us many important things, such as surface water temperatures over time, areas of cool or warm water and how freshwater runoff from major rivers affects the marine ecosystem. Satellites also have shown how fast the Gulf of Maine is warming, which is at an alarming rate.

    One might wonder why anyone would propose to cut funding for such valuable scientific programs. The answer might be that if the current administration doesn’t want to admit that climate change is real — and what better way to do that than to make the science that points out that it is real go away. If the federal government doesn’t pay for the satellites that show how fast the environment is changing, then the data are not available to scientists or to anyone else. 

    It is clear that the new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, does not believe in climate change. He rejects the science behind climate change research, and he said earlier this month that “ there’s tremendous disagreement [on the science] about the degree of [human] impact” on the warming climate. We cannot allow the personal views of government leaders to set our country back by blocking funding for good programs and good science.

    There seems to be a disconnect between what is science and what is a belief. Science is based on facts and evidence gathered in an unbiased fashion. Beliefs are based on what you hear or want to believe. When I was growing up, science was king. It was based on facts, and it was not debatable. Now if you don’t like the science, you hire a so-called “expert” to argue about its validity and cast doubt on the facts. 

    Climate change has been the poster child for this practice. When nearly every country concurs that human actions have changed our climate and that those actions are having negative effects on the planet’s future, we are still debating whether that’s true, despite the fact that a strong consensus exists among the scientific community that human activities have made the planet warmer.

    Who are the doubters? For the most part, it is the fossil fuel industry that has spent millions of dollars to question the role of carbon emissions in climate change. Carbon dioxide is the byproduct of burning fossil fuels. So if the world starts turning to renewable energy, then the fossil fuel industry will no longer have a monopoly on the world’s energy needs.

    I’m not impressed with the total disregard for proven science and lack of respect for our environment shown by the new administration. As someone who depends on a clean environment to make a living, I’m worried we are trading the long-term health of our planet for short-term economic gains.

     

     

  • LePage Proposes Bill that would Directly Increase Maine Kids living in Poverty



    By Ramona du Houx

    Governor LePage, Commissioner Mayhew, and Rep. Ken Fredette rolled out the draft idea of a proposed bill that would plunge Maine children, and their families, further into poverty. The governor needs the bill to codify some changes to welfare programs that his administration has already made by executive action. Many of the proposals outlined by LePage have been introduced as bills in the past but died in the legislature.

    Since LePgae's so called reforms have been put in place the number of children living in deep poverty and the infant mortality rate has risen. According to the 2016 Kids Count Data Book, more Maine children live in poverty than before the recession. Now, over 82,000 children in Maine — more than the entire populations of Bangor, Augusta and Biddeford combined - live in poverty.

    The USDA estimates that 15.8 percent of Maine households, or more than 209,000 individuals, are food insecure.
     
    “These so-called ‘reforms’ by the administration have created lasting damage. We’ve driven children and families deeper into poverty, increased childhood hunger, and removed basic health care from struggling families," said Health and Human Services Chair, Dr. Patty Hymanson. 
     
    "I believe that true reform means improving people’s lives, not driving them deeper into poverty. True reform should be based on a vision that would reduce child poverty by creating real opportunities for Maine families. I propose stabilizing families so that they can meet their basic needs, breaking down barriers to work, eliminating the welfare ‘cliff,’ expanding access to education for better paying jobs, making child care and transportation more accessible and affordable and holding government accountable to administer programs that truly reduce poverty."

    Trying to promote the package that would potentially endanger thousands of children LePage has the audacity to call his proposed changes — the Welfare Reform for Increased Security and Employment Act.

    "If we want Maine children to thrive, we need to reduce the number of children living in poverty. That starts with supporting and properly administering effective anti-poverty programs, while creating an economy that works for everyone," said Rita Furlow is senior policy analyst at the Maine Children’s Alliance.

    LePage's Draconian measure will:

    Shorten the lifetime limit for Maine families under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program from five years to three years, also codifying a work requirement for the same program and establishing a $5,000 asset test on certain households that get food stamps. It will also:

    — Place photographs on electronic benefits cards
    — Ban or suspend parents not cooperating with child support services from receiving food assistance
    — Disqualify lottery and gambling winners of $5,000 or more from receiving food assistance
    — Require education programs paid for with TANF money to be for jobs with average or better outlooks
    — Ban repeat felony drug offenders from receiving food assistance
    — Disqualify all adults in a household from receiving TANF if an individual is convicted of welfare-related theft or fraud

    While the Republicans declare they want less government LePage continues to propose more government invasion into the lives of Maine citizens.

  • Maine House Democrats champion real efforts to lower property taxes

     

    Two measures would expand the homestead property tax exemption

    Many Mainers could see a reduced property tax bill thanks to two proposals that seek to expand the Maine Homestead Exemption.

    Rep. Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, introduced legislation Monday to increase the statewide homestead exemption in 2018. 

    “Of all the taxes we use to fund state and local government, the property tax has become the most regressive,” said Rep. McLean. “Homeowners who are trying to make ends meet, particularly the elderly who are on a fixed income, are seeing more and more of their dollars going to pay property taxes. The homestead exemption is a beneficial tool that has alleviated the burden faced by too many Mainers when they pay their property taxes.”

    Under current law, the homestead exemption is set to increase from $15,000 to $20,000 on or after April 1, 2017. Rep. McLean’s bill would increase the total exemption to $30,000 for property tax years beginning on or after April 1, 2018.

    A second measure, submitted by Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio, D-Sanford, raises the homestead property tax exemption for Maine’s seniors.

    LD 73 would increase the homestead property tax exemption to $50,000 for persons who are 75 years of age or older. 

    Mastraccio submitted the bill to enable all Mainers, regardless of income, to stay in Maine or age in place.

    “The increase in exemption would kick in at a time when life changes may be impacting a Mainer’s income in a negative way,” said Mastraccio. “This legislation would reward people who choose to stay in Maine as well as help seniors on fixed incomes remain in their homes.”

    Both bills will be scheduled for work sessions in the coming days.

    Rep. Mastraccio is serving her third term in the Maine House and represents part of Sanford. She is the House chair of the Government Oversight Committee and also serves on the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee. 

    Rep. McLean is serving his third term in the Maine House and is the House chair of the Transportation Committee. He represents parts of Gorham and Scarborough.

  • Maine could and should be energy independent

    Imagine if we could keep in-state the $6 billion we spend annually on energy?

    Maine has lots of energy, or the potential for it. As I sat through the interesting E2Tech conference on “Aligning Energy Challenges with Compatible Policies,” I kept staring at the beautiful wood fireplace in the Governor Hill Mansion, in Augusta, thinking a wood fire should probably have been burning that morning.

    After all, many of us use wood to generate heat in our homes, and new energy opportunities, from pellets to biomass, do exist here in Maine.

    E2Tech says that it is a catalyst, a change agent, and a resource center that strives to promote Maine companies, support their robust and sustainable acceleration and help them compete in national and global markets.

    The E2Tech objectives of what they call their “road map” are as follows. Achieve energy and cost savings in the residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors. Reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Support the growth of a robust state and regional energy market and workforce. And facilitate stakeholder and interagency discussions (electric power sector, natural gas supply and transport, renewable energy, and energy efficiency).

    The E2Tech conference was both entertaining and informative. The speakers were John Cornell, of Central Maine Power; Dan Brennan, of the Maine State Housing Authority; Peter Mills, of the Maine Turnpike Authority; Maine Public Advocate Tim Schneider; Michael Stoddard, of the Efficiency Maine Trust; and Jeff Marks, of E2Tech.

    Here is some of what I learned.

    We must reduce carbon production generated by transportation — it is five times more than the carbon produced by electric production. Some predict that in 25 years we’ll all be driving electric cars.

    Maine has the highest per capita consumption of petroleum in New England and our economy is very consumptive. We must encourage low-carbon energy sources — not natural gas. Yes, bring on the wood, wind, water and sunshine. As I’ve written many times, Maine could be energy independent. And just imagine what would happen if we could retain in Maine the $6 billion we now send out of state to pay for our energy.

    I was particularly interested in Stoddard’s report on efforts to make our homes and buildings energy efficient. I got up and told the story of how, about a decade ago, we had an energy audit performed at our house, did everything recommended, and cut our heating oil consumption from more than 1,500 gallons to less than 500. We got our money back in less than three years in the savings on oil. Given the quick and substantial return, I encouraged everyone to work faster to make all Maine homes and buildings energy efficient. Efficiency Maine is doing a great job, but we need to do more.

    Next we heard about opportunities and strategies.

    One was to improve home “envelopes,” particularly basements, and get the next generation of heating systems (heat pumps and pellet stoves) along with LED lights and efficient appliances. Efficiency Maine’s program has installed 16,000 heat pumps in Maine homes, and “not just south of the Volvo line,” Stoddard says. Yes, rural Maine is getting these too. He also reported that we have the highest per capita use of LED lights in the country.

    Mills is always entertaining and he certainly was at this event. But he also asked a serious question: Why haven’t we been able to raise the gas tax for the last 20 years, while our roads and bridges continued to deteriorate? Good question.

    Peter noted that the internal combustion engine transformed our lives, but “it’s done.” He predicted electric cars will take over the marketplace, and said they’re already very popular elsewhere, including Boston. He’s going to build a charging station on the turnpike to serve all of us, especially people visiting Maine.

    He also predicted that self-driving cars will be popular and will enhance safety and reduce energy use. And he predicted that ride sharing, and more mobility via bikes, buses, and taxis, are in our future and would be our biggest public source of transportation. Yes, his talk was thoughtful and provocative.

    For all the great ideas, it was repeatedly noted that we lack the funding to get to where we need to be. For example, there are still 480,000 homes that are not energy efficient. And the level of complication with federal funds make the use of those funds difficult.

    The E2Tech plan includes these initiatives. Accelerate progress to lower heating costs in the residential sector. Consolidate/streamline renewable energy policies to improve their cost-effectiveness and provide market certainty. Support the growth of innovative technologies. Continue pursuit of a regional solution to natural gas capacity constraints. Increase efforts to assist low-income households with high energy costs. Develop a plan to pursue cost-effective energy improvements in state government.

    There are a lot of impressive people working on a plan and timeline to achieve all of this. If you’d like to learn more, several of the talks are now available on the E2Tech website, along with information about their work. Check it out.

  • Bayside Bowl: Maine's best bowling center just got better with new expansion

    New development features new lanes, new bars, new amenities

    On March 16, 2017, Bayside Bowl officially cut the ribbon on its new expansion.

    “This is a great day for Bayside Bowl, our staff, and our customers,” said Charlie Mitchell, managing partner. “We’ve had tremendous partners in the city, the neighborhood, and in the bowling community. There’s no place in the world I’d rather do business than in Bayside and in Portland.”

    The expansion contains 8-new bowling lanes, a mezzanine overlooking the lanes, an old school arcade and a one-of-a-kind rooftop bar and taco truck. In addition to the new amenities, Bayside Bowl now has a 422-panel roof-mounted solar electric system that will offset an estimated 34 percent of its current annual electric consumption.

    The expansion took ten months to complete, and over that time, more than 350 Mainers from 76 different Maine companies worked on the project. The increased capacity will also allow Bayside Bowl to grow its staff from 28 employees to 38 employees over the coming year.

    “Seven years ago, we had a vision for building the best bowling center in Maine,” said Justin Alfond, co-owner. “With this expansion, we now have three additional bars, an amazing rooftop deck, and stand among the best bowling venues in the country. We are setting a high bar for bowling and for our community.”

    Justin Alfond and Charlie Mitchell - proud co-owners of Bayside Bowl. It's become more than a bowling alley - it's a community center for fun and relaxation for Portland's Bayside.

    Bayside Bowl opened its doors in 2010 as Maine’s premier bowling entertainment center. Since then it has become a community center and the focal point in Bayside to have fun.

    Bayside Bowl is now home to twenty lanes, four full bars, an award-winning kitchen, old school arcade, live music, rooftop bar with taco truck, and Maine’s best bowling league, Bowl Portland.

    In April, Bayside Bowl will host the L.L.Bean PBA League Elias Cup and the MaineQuarterly.com Roth/Holman Doubles Tournament. The entire event will take place from April 9th to April 16th.

    The MaineQuarterly.com Roth/Holman Doubles Championship will start on Monday, April 10th with 32 teams and will culminate with a live ESPN show on April 16, 2017 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm.

  • Over $77 Thousand USDA Renewable Energy Grants for Seven Maine Businesses

    By Ramona du Houx

    Seven Maine businesses have been selected to receive Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants totaling $77,500 for the purchase and installation of renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements.

    The following Maine businesses have been selected to receive REAP grants: 

    • FEDCO Seeds, Inc., in Clinton, has been selected to receive $20,000 to purchase and install a 54.6 kWh ground-mounted solar PV system to benefit their storage facility for seeds, plants and gardening supplies. This system is projected to produce 70,793 kWh annually (replacing 96 percent of their energy demands), or enough electricity to power six homes.
    • Solar Center, LLC., in Arundel, has been selected to receive $19,391 to purchase and install a 26.1 kW solar PV system on three ground-mounted trackers to benefit a newly constructed greenhouse for organic farmers. This system is projected to produce 44,620 kWh annually (replacing more than 140 percent of their historical energy demands), or enough electricity to power four homes.
    • Wilbur B. Bradbury, dba Bradbury Maple, in Bridgewater, has been selected to receive $3,567 to purchase and install a new reverse osmosis system for this maple syrup farm which will concentrate the sap, resulting in decreased fuel oil use for boiling. The system is anticipated to reduce energy demands by 46 percent, saving 11,392 kWh annually, or enough energy to power one home. 
    • Trippcrest Farm, LLC., in Harrison, has been selected to receive $8,081 to purchase and install a 14.85 kW roof-mounted solar PV system to benefit their horse farm. This system is projected to produce 13,961 kWh annually (replacing 100 percent of their business energy demands), or enough electricity to power one home.
    • Harpswell Freezers, LLC., in Harpswell, has been selected to receive $2,534 to purchase and install a 26.5 kW roof-mounted solar PV system at one of their commercial rental real estate properties. This system is expected to produce 29,885 kWh annually (replacing 17 percent of their historic business energy demands), or enough electricity to power two homes.
    •  Power Gripps, USA, Inc., in Sorrento, has been selected to receive $13,228 to purchase and install an 18.4 kW roof-mounted solar PV system to benefit the owner’s business. This system is projected to produce 19,544 kWh annually (replacing 100 percent of their energy demands), or enough electricity to power one home.
    • Waldoboro Environmental Park, Inc., in Waldoboro, has been selected to receive $10,699 to purchase and install a 12.48 kW building-integrated solar PV on a proposed new structure in the business park. This system is predicted to produce 15,622 kWh annually, or enough electricity to power one home.

        REAP provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements. Eligible applicants include tribal business entities, cooperatives and electric utilities. Renewable energy sources include wind, solar, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydro-electric, ocean, geothermal or hydrogen derived from these renewable resources. Energy efficiency projects could include upgrades to more efficient motors, adding insulation, HVAC units, and lighting upgrades, among others.

        For more information on this program please contact Cheryl Pelletier, Business Programs Specialist, at (207) 764-4157 ext. 4, or at cheryl.pelletier@me.usda.gov.

  • MPUC's anti-solar rules that would raise rates on solar power users - lawmakers need to take action

     Lawmakers could stop extreme anti-solar rules, save ratepayers money and help grow jobs

    By Ramona du Houx

    The amount of solar power added worldwide soared by over 50 percent in 2016, according to data compiled by Europe’s solar power trade body.

    New solar photovoltaic capacity installed reached more than 76 gigawatts just within 2016.

    Most of the increases took place in the US and China. Globally there is now 305GW of solar power capacity, up from around 50GW in 2010 and virtually nothing at the turn of the millennium.

    The dramatic shift in installment has a lot to do with technological advances in the industry coupled with the urgency the climate change threat poses to the world. Add that to the fact — it makes business sense to install solar power as it save consumers and businesses money — and you have a clear path forward for the solar power industry.

    But there is one hitch in Maine—the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s (MPUC’s) new net metering rules include some of the most extreme anti-solar elements in the nation. They will go into effect at the end of the year if the Legislature fails to put a stop to the onerous rules that would make rate payers with solar installments pay more.

     “Under the PUC’s extreme anti-solar rules, for the first time utilities would charge Maine homes and businesses for solar power they produce and consume themselves on site,” said Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine. “In the wake of the PUC’s decision, it is essential that Maine lawmakers pass an effective bill that overturns these rules and puts Maine on track to increase our production and use of solar power. But, if allowed to take effect, these new rules will threaten existing and potential new jobs and guarantee that we remain in last place in New England for solar jobs and energy production.”

    Rep. Seth Berry in 2008 at work in the Maine House of Representatives. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    In an expensive new requirement, new solar customers will be forced to install, and ratepayers will pay for, an extra meter for their solar panels — forcing them to pay utilities a fee for solar power they generate, power that never will enter the electricity grid.

    “This rulemaking only underscores the need for the legislature to move quickly to protect jobs, ensure market stability and keep Mainers in control of their energy future,” said Rep. Seth Berry, who is the House chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “The finalized rule by the MPUC takes us in the wrong direction by making major and disruptive changes — despite overwhelming public input regarding risks to our energy and jobs markets.”

    Studies show that solar power delivers valuable benefits to society, the environment and all energy users. Solar is pollution-free, has no fuel cost and eliminates the need for dirty power plants and expensive transmission lines.

    “Clean renewable energy sources are the best pathway our state has to lower energy prices, create more good-paying jobs and lesson our carbon footprint,” said Rep. Berry.

    The MPUC failed to conduct any costs and benefits analysis of this new net metering, so they cannot say with any authority whether these rules will help or harm ratepayers. However, previous studies by the MPUC clearly indicate that increased use of distributed solar in Maine leads to lower electric rates.

    "This rulemaking only underscores the need for the Legislature to move quickly to protect jobs, ensure market stability and keep Mainers in control of their energy future. We urge the legislature to act swiftly to restore good solar policy for Maine’s future," said Environment Maine campaigns director Laura Dorle.

    The best and swiftest solution is for the Legislature to enact an effective law to move Maine forward this session, before these extreme rules take effect at the end of 2017.

    “The Legislature should be setting solar policy in Maine, not the MPUC. With others, NRCM is also likely to file a ‘motion for reconsideration’ with the PUC, giving them one last chance to set aside these extreme changes,” said Voorhees.

    The Office of the Public Advocate, which represents ratepayers, testified last year that it had “significant concerns with the rules,” noting they “include provisions that are unclear, unworkable, and potentially unlawful.”

    Public opposition to this policy included more than 4,000 comments received by the MPUC. Polling shows that a strong majority of Mainers from all counties and political affiliations oppose this rollback.

     

  • Former CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project will lead MECA

    The Maine College of Art’s (MECA) Board of Trustees has announced the appointment of Laura Freid, Ed.D., as the 18th president of the 135 year-old institution.

    Freid comes to MECA as a passionate and proven advocate for the arts and education, most recently serving in partnership with internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, as CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project, a global cultural arts organization based at Harvard University.

    Silkroad works to connect the world through the arts, presenting musical performances and learning programs, and fostering radical cultural collaboration around the world to lead to advancing global understanding.

    Her prior leadership experience includes serving as Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations at Brown University and Chief Communications Officer at Harvard University where she was publisher ofHarvard Magazine.

    Led by alumnus Brian Wilk ’95, incoming chair of MECA’s Board of Trustees, and Vice President at Hasbro Toys, MECA’s presidential search process officially started in August  2016, when a search committee composed of a diverse group of representatives from within the MECA community convened to discuss and understand the most essential attributes needed in the College’s next leader.

    In announcing the choice, Wilk remarked on the thorough and extensive nature of the selection process. “It was clear to the entire search committee that we needed someone who has the skills, experience, and appetite to continue building our mission of educating artists for life while expanding our reputation as an international destination for world-class arts education. After carefully considering our impressively deep pool of seasoned candidates from all over the world, our search committee unanimously agreed that Dr. Laura Freid was the right person to guide MECA through our next critical period of growth.”  


    Debbie Reed, chair of the MECA Board of Trustees, described Freid as “an exceptional leader who understands MECA’s mission and the importance of creativity.” According to Reed, “From the moment we met Laura, we were interested in learning more about her demonstrated track record of engaging multiple constituencies while serving in senior leadership roles at multiple institutions. The Board of Trustees looks forward to an exciting future under Laura’s leadership as we move the College forward.”

    “I am grateful for the dynamic leadership that has guided MECA to date and to the entire College community and the city of Portland for creating such an exciting American center for the arts, culture and entrepreneurship,” Freid said. “In times as rife with international, political, and economic tensions as we are experiencing today, I believe investing in the arts has never been more imperative. Art gives us meaning and identity, helping us reflect on and shape our lives; it is fundamental to our well-being. That is why I believe providing artists with the education they need to succeed is such a critical and vital mission.”

    Freid’s educational background is rooted in the philosophy of aesthetics and in the history of reputation in higher education. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Washington University, an MBA from Boston University Graduate School of Management, and an Ed.D. from University of Pennsylvania.

    Freid will take office on or before July 1st, replacing Interim President Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine’s Poet Laureate and former Director of the Haystack Mountain School of Arts. Kestenbaum stepped in to lead during a transition year after Don Tuski, Ph.D. accepted the position of President at Pacific Northwest College of the Arts in Portland, Oregon, on the heels of six years of continuous enrollment and endowment growth at MECA.

  • Let’s take up Rachel Carson’s challenge

    Human evolution shows that our emotions such as fear, anger and sadness should not rule us if we want to maintain the ties that are critical to our survival. 

    By Martha Freeman of Portland, a former Maine state planning director for eight years in the Baldacci administration and the editor of “Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952-1964.”

    Rachel Carson was a friend of mine, although she died when I was only 11 years old.

    If you’re not a baby boomer or older, you may not know her name. You may not know that she was a best-selling author in the 1950s and 1960s, or that her work as a scientist and writer led to the nationwide banning of DDT and the beginning of the environmental movement.

    Recently, the Public Broadcasting System’s “American Experience” aired a film about Rachel Carson’s life and work. If you view it, you’ll learn that the most important revolution she engaged in involved more than stopping pollution by pesticides. She was as concerned with halting heedless interference with interrelationships in the natural world, including those among humans. She was concerned about government’s relationship with the public, businesses’ responsibility toward consumers, the contamination of human discourse by falsehood. Sound familiar from the headlines, posts and tweets of today?

    Rachel Carson came into my life when she built a summer place near my grandparents’ cottage on the Maine coast. She and my grandmother became dear friends. As a youngster, I was along for parts of their journey. As an adult, through reading the letters to each other these friends saved, Rachel Carson became closer to me.

    I saw, as she did, that the web of human relations, embedded in human nature, is as crucial to our world’s well-being as any other set of environmental links. To pollute that web is as toxic as pouring poison into a river.

    And that web is being fouled today. Self-righteousness, the outlook of might making right, grandiosity in the face of humbling challenges are ascendant. These responses took root in the soil of economic turmoil and human dislocations.

    It’s natural for people to fear unsettling change. We’re as motivated by our biology as any plant or animal experiencing a threat. Our brains wire us to feel fear, anger, and sadness as we cope. But it’s stupid, and human evolution shows this, for those emotions to rule when we’re challenged.

    Modern humans best overcome threats when deploying empathy, whether toward allies or adversaries. If you can’t put yourself in the other fellow’s shoes, you’re missing out on rational and emotional intelligence. It’s intelligence that forms coalitions in the home, at work, across all forms of human relations and leads to progress.

    Brittle and brute tactics are not a mature, or ultimately successful, response to human problems. These approaches may appear to bring success in the short term. Using them may generate feelings of slights vindicated. But in their wake, the whole of which we each are a part will eventually wither. The long term will not be healthful for our children and other living things.

    Having empathy, valuing the intricate web of human relationships, is not the stance of cowards. It’s the essence of courage. Rachel Carson faced disparagement from private enterprise, media and public officials. A gentle and petite woman, she stood with backbone against detractors, employing her most effective tools: facts, understanding, caring, calmness.

    In 1962, in one of her last public presentations before her death, Rachel Carson spoke at the Scripps College commencement. Her groundbreaking book, “Silent Spring,” had just been published. She continued its theme of environmental interdependence in her remarks, but broadened the context:

    “Your generation must face realities instead of taking refuge in ignorance and evasion of truth. Yours is a grave and a sobering responsibility, but it is also a shining opportunity. You go out into a world where mankind is challenged, as it has never been challenged before, to prove its maturity and mastery — not of nature but of itself.”

    It’s time to take up Rachel Carson’s challenge again.

    We must reward mature behavior and remove our attention from immature distractions, as mothers do when their kids are acting out. We must expand our circles of affection, as young people have done. We must prove the masters of our fear, anger and any anxious interest in belittling others.

    Humans naturally advance in community. Our sense of community evolves. As it has, life has become better for the human family. Only a short-sighted, impulsive and immature perspective seeks to break rather than strengthen our bonds.

    As Rachel Carson taught, everything in nature is interrelated and interdependent — including all of us. As we care for our environment, so must we care for all humankind. It’s a fact that we can’t escape being on this earth together.

  • Maine Democrats try and address opioid crisis within supplemental budget

    On February 24th, members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee voted unanimously in favor of LD 302, "An Act To Make Supplemental Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2017." This bill will now proceed to the full legislature for a vote.  

    After a push from democratic leaders, specifically an amendment offered by Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, the supplemental budget bill now contains nearly $5 million in state and federal funds to provide opioid addiction treatment to Mainers most in need of help — the uninsured and those with low incomes.

    “Drug addiction strikes without prejudice and is affecting every community in our state. Overdose deaths are happening in our cities, our small towns and our rural communities,” said Sen. Breen. “We have to work together to address this crisis. I’m pleased to see bipartisan support for expanded treatment, and I’m hopeful we can continue to work together to save Mainers’ lives.”

    This $29 million dollar spending package also contains:

    • $7.1 million in funding to keep tuition low at the University of Maine,
    • $7 million to the Maine Military Authority in Aroostook county, and
    • $4.8 million to rehabilitate fish hatcheries in our Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Department.

    Additionally, the package moves $35 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund. 

    “The problems we need to solve are bigger than this supplemental budget, but I am heartened that we are moving forward with a unanimous vote from this committee,” said House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, Rep. Drew Gattine. “We will remain steadfast in our focus on long term solutions that strengthen middle class families, schools, and seniors, while growing good paying jobs and a strong economy.” 

  • Legislation in Maine could help keep children out of harms way of led in water

    By Ramona du Houx

    Citing growing evidence of pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Environment Maine launched a new Get the Lead Out campaign in February of 2017.  

    An analysis by Environment Maine Research and Policy Center gave Maine a grade of F to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. The Maine Public Health Association, Prevent Harm, and State Senator Rebecca Millett all joined Environment Maine in calling for swift action to ensure lead-free water in Maine’s schools and daycares.

    “Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but state is failing/not doing enough to protect our kids from lead in drinking water said Laura Dorle “Kids’ developing brains are especially susceptible to highly toxic lead so it’s time to get the lead out.”

    As more Maine schools test their water, they are finding lead.  For example, last year officials in the Yarmouth School District found lead levels above the EPA’s standard of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

    Yet a new report Get the Lead Out: by Environment Maine Research and Policy Center shows that such confirmed cases of lead-laced water are likely just the tip of the iceberg.  For example, the report cites new data from Massachusetts, where half of more than 40,000 tests conducted last year showed some level of lead in water from taps at school.

    “Lead is a potent neurotoxin, affecting the way our kids learn, grow, and behave,” said Rebecca Boulos of the Maine Public Health Association.  “There is no safe level of lead for children.”  

    All too often, schools (and homes) have pipes, plumbing and/or fixtures that leach lead into drinking water.   In some cases, old service lines – the pipes that brings water from the mains in the street into buildings – are made entirely of lead. 

    Unfortunately, current state law does far too little to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school.  Maine law only requires testing of water at schools that draw their water from non-public sources and does not require remediation.  In Environment Maine Research and Policy Center’s comparison of 16 states, these shortcomings gave Maine a GRADE OF F.

    “We were disappointed to find that Maine’s efforts are a GRADE at the back of the class for protecting children from lead at school.  Our kids deserve better,” said Environment Maine Research and Policy Center’s Laura Dorle.

    LD 40: An Act to Strengthen Requirements for Water Testing in Schools, introduced by State Senator Rebecca Millett, who represents South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and part of Scarborough would help to change that by starting a system that would require all schools are rigorously testing for this issue.

    ““All families deserve to know that the drinking water at their children’s schools is safe,” said Sen. Millett. “We cannot have a strong set of standards for some schools and a lesser standard for others. Lead poisoning can have disastrous effects on children, and it is our responsibility to protect all of them, regardless of where they live. We have got to do better than that.  We owe it to our kids.”

    These efforts have wide support including from environmental health advocacy group Prevent Harm, Toxics Action Center, the Maine Academy of Pediatrics, the Maine Public Health Association, and more.   Parents are especially eager to see the bill move.

    (PHOTO: press conference at the state house about LD 40)

    “Do we really want to wait for more tests to show that our kids have been drinking lead?” asked Gretchen Migliaccio, UMaine Augusta student and parent whose daughter attends Laura E. Richards Elementary School in Gardiner.  “It’s time to get the lead out.”

    Parents in other states are demanding action too.  Environment Maine’s counterparts are working with doctors and parents and community leaders in seven other states to advance policies that Get the Lead Out of schools and daycares.

  • Congressional legislation introduced to improve the federal historic tax credit

    Using the Historic Tax Credit, established under the Baldacci administration with the help of developer Tom Niemann, the Hathaway Center in Waterville came to life with it's renovation. Photo by Ramona du Houx 

    The Historic Tax Credit Improvement Act was introduced in both the US House and Senate on February 16, 2017). The bill will simplify the federal historic tax credit (HTC) making it easier for small rehabilitation projects that need this incentive to be feasible, by successfully using the credit.

    Maine passed a companion HTC in 2008. The federal and state historic credits have been used together in 75 projectscompleted or under construction across the state since, with total investment-

    • exceeding $400 million,
    • creating more than 5,000 jobs 
    • 1,200 rental units, 770 of which are affordable housing.

    PHOTO: Tom Niemann's project in Waterville, Maine, restored the Hathaway Center, which was a former shirt factory and a major business in town. Attention to detail and strict adherence to the preservation laws really makes this project stand out as the best in Maine. Niemann helped the state draft the Historic Preservation Act. Photo: Ramona du Houx

    The federal and state credits together have resulted in 5 times as many projects and 9 times the investment as prior to 2008. But the average project size is over $5 million. Many small projects now cannot use the federal credit, which this bill would fix.

    Both the House and Senate companion bills have bipartisan sponsors and co-sponsors. This is Sen. Sussan Collins's bill in the Senate.

    "Senator Collins is spot on with this proposed legislation. Similar to the Maine legislation, these improvements to the Federal Program will make smaller projects on many Main Streets and in rural areas in Maine more feasible. We should do all we can to support this in order to continue the strong revitalization efforts in Maine, create even more jobs, and more economic vitality!" said Tom Niemann developer of the renovated Hathaway Center, in Waterville, Maine.

    660 Congress Street renovation with Maine's Historic Tax Credits. Before and After photos 

    "The historic tax credits have been  an important incentive for Maine communities. These rehabilitation projects have repurposed abandoned schools, mills, inns, and apartment buildings transforming Biddeford & Saco, Norway, Portland, Lewiston, Dover-Foxcroft, Waterville, and many other towns across the state," said Maine Preservation Executive Director Greg Paxton.

    "These projects raise the spirits of Mainers who see these formerly dilapidated buildings put to good use, and help reverse the decline of their surrounds by spurring additional activity. Plus, due to income sales and property taxes paid for to complete and operate these projects, they pay for themselves. But it is currently too difficult for small projects to use the federal tax credit, and Senator Collins excellent bipartisan bill would fix that.”

    Dover Foxcroft renovation - before and after - made possible with historic tax credits.

     

  • Maine's Franco-American veterans community program

    Contact Janet Roberts:  Coordinator, Franco-American Collection USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College 51 Westminster Street Lewiston, ME 04240 janet.roberts@maine.edu or telephone (207_753-6545.

    A program to highlight the archives will include presentations by Colonel Donald Dubay, United States Army-Retired, a native of Lewiston, Maine who grew up in Auburn and Major Adam Cote of Sanford, Maine.. VIP guests will include Ambassador Charles Dunbar of Brunswick, Maine and Severin Beliveau, Esq., honorary French Counsel to Maine, of Portland, Maine.

    Save the date! This program is free and open to the public:

    FRANCO-AMERICAN COLLECTION at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College (USM LAC) Contacts Doris Bonneau dbbonneau1@gmail.com and Juliana L’Heureux juliana@mainewriter.com and Janet Roberts janet.roberts@maine.edu

    USM’s Franco-American Collection preserves and promotes the culture and heritage of Maine’s Franco-American population. It holds a wealth of research materials, and it sponsors a variety of events that celebrate and promote the history and culture of Franco-Americans.

    Join us to recognize 100 years of Franco-American Veterans History.

    When:    Tuesday May 23, 2017 from 5-7:30 PM

    Where:  University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College the Franco-American Collection  51 Westminster Street in Lewiston Maine  https://usm.maine.edu/franco/overview

    What:   Reception, exhibits, recognitions, presentation and panel discussion

    Why:    To capstone the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) project to digitize the history, experiences and artifacts of Franco-American Veterans from all campaigns with a focus on World War I, World War II, Korean Conflict, Cold War, Vietnam, Bosnia, the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan

    Special Guests:  Ambassador Charles Franklin Dunbar of Brunswick, ME, who will introduce the guest and honored speaker Colonel Donald Dubay USA-Ret. They will speak  in both French and in English to briefly describe their shared experiences serving with the United States diplomatic missions in the Middle East. Colonel Dubay will be the guest speaker to describe his historic service with the US Army.  Colonel Dubay is a native of Lewiston, he grew up in Auburn, a graduate of Edward Little High School and the University of Maine in Orono. He and his wife Gail Schnepf Dubay live in North Carolina and visit Maine frequently. During his Army career, Col. Dubay served during the Vietnam War, in the Middle East and during the First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm).

    Panel Discussion will honor Severin Beliveau Maine’s  honorary French consular who will speak about his father’s World War I experience as an officer in France; Major Adam Cote will speak about serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; Bert Dutil- USA veteran, will speak about serving as a French army interpreter in the Korean conflict and Hon. Paul Dionne, former Lewiston Mayor, will speak about his experience in Vietnam.

    Representatives from Edward Little High School and the University of Maine will be among the VIP guests.  This event is free and open to the public.  Please save the date! Merci Beaucoup!

  • Bayside Bowl will host 2017 L.L. Bean PBA League Elias Cup

    “Bayside Bowl is excited to welcome L.L. Bean as the title sponsor of this year’s PBA League Elias Cup. L.L Bean is Maine’s iconic brand,” said Justin Alfond, co-owner of Bayside Bowl, speaking at the press conference.

    Bayside will also host the MaineQuarterly.com Roth/Holman Doubles Championship

    Bayside Bowl announced on February 16, 2017 that it will host the 2017 L.L. Bean PBA League Elias Cup and the MaineQuarterly.com Roth/Holman Doubles Championship this April.

    “Bayside Bowl and the Portland community can’t wait for the Professional Bowlers Association to come back to town,” said Charlie Mitchell, managing partner. “The Elias Cup and the Roth/Holman Doubles Championship showcase the world’s best bowlers, most passionate fans and incredible sponsors that realize what a big deal this event is for our state.”

    The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) is an organization of more than 3,200 of the best bowlers from 27 countries who compete in PBA Tour. The PBA is in its 57th consecutive year of nationally-televised competition, reaching bowling fans around the world who follow PBA activities through the PBA Network which includes Xtra Frame, the PBA’s exclusive online bowling channel, ESPN and CBS Sports Network.

    “Bayside Bowl is excited to welcome L.L. Bean as the title sponsor of this year’s PBA League Elias Cup. L.L Bean is Maine’s iconic brand,” said Justin Alfond, co-owner of Bayside Bowl. “We are also thrilled to continue our partnership with the Maine Office of Tourism. We couldn’t have picked better partners to showcase the best of Maine to the country.”

    Bayside Bowl offers the Portland region an unique place for the community to get together, to bowl, to party or to watch these championships.

    “We’re super excited to be partnering with two great organizations, the PBA and Bayside Bowl, on this fun, unique event,” said Chuck Gannon, L.L.Bean’s corporate advertising manager. “This is a rare opportunity right in our own backyard, so we’re really happy to be involved. Plus, bowling is a great activity for folks of all ages, especially families.”

    “The PBA is fired up to bring the Elias Cup back and to showcase for the first time the Roth/Holman Doubles Championship” said Tom Clark, Commissioner of the PBA. “Bayside Bowl has the best audience in bowling and our players love Portland.”

    The entire event will take place from April 9th to April 16th. The MaineQuarterly.com Roth/Holman Doubles Championship will be aired live on ESPN on April 16, 2017 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. The L.L. Bean PBA League Elias Cup will air on ESPN on four consecutive Sundays from 1:00pm to 3:00pm: April 23rd, April 30th, May 7th and May 14th.

     

    About Bayside Bowl:

    Bayside Bowl opened its doors in 2010 as Maine’s premier bowling entertainment center. Bayside Bowl is home to twelve lanes, a full bar with twelve beers on tap, an award-winning kitchen, live music, and Maine’s best bowling league, Bowl Portland. In March 2017, Bayside Bowl will unveil its expanded venue, complete with eight new bowling lanes, a mezzanine and bar overlooking the new space, and a rooftop deck. For more information, visit www.baysidebowl.com

    About the PBA:

    The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) is an organization of more than 3,200 of the best bowlers from 27 countries who compete in PBA Tour, PBA International Tour, QubicaAMF PBA Regional, PBA Women’s Regional and PBA50 Tour events. The PBA is in its 57th consecutive year of nationally-televised competition, reaching bowling fans around the world who follow PBA activities through the PBA Network which includes Xtra Frame, the PBA’s exclusive online bowling channel, ESPN and CBS Sports Network, and the PBA on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. PBA sponsors include Barbasol, Brunswick, Ebonite International, GEICO, Grand Casino Hotel and Resort, HotelPlanner.com, MOTIV, 900 Global, PBA Bowling Challenge Mobile Game, QubicaAMF, Rolltech, South Point Hotel Casino and Spa, Storm Products and the United States Bowling Congress, among others. For more information, log on to www.pba.com.

  • Bangor and Portland's fight against climate change creates jobs and improves health

    Editorial by Bangor City Councilman Sean Faircloth and Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling

    Climate change is an urgent threat. That fact doesn’t change regardless of who is in the White House.

    In 2015, the U.S. finalized one of the most historic, bipartisan policies to tackle climate change, the Clean Power Plan. In fact, both of our U.S. senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, support the plan.

    Yet, the plan is under threat in the federal court, and the U.S. Supreme Court has put its implementation on hold while the lawsuit plays out. Moreover, one of the people suing the Environmental Protection Agency over the Clean Power Plan is President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

    But climate change cannot be ignored. (the world isn't -close to 200 countries signed the Paris agreement to curb climate change)

    It is an environmental concern and an economic issue.

    Extreme weather and sea level rise fueled by climate change threaten businesses and homes in our communities, and it has a dramatic impact on outdoor tourism, which provides more than $5 billion in economic benefit to Maine every year.

    The majority of Mainers understand this fact, and many people in our communities have experienced the devastating impacts of climate change first-hand from our fishermen who can no longer bring in a catch, children with asthma and farmers affected by drought.

    In fact, the majority of Mainers support bold climate action and solutions like the Clean Power Plan and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a northeastern cap-and-trade program that raises money from selling allowances to emit carbon and uses the money to help businesses and homeowners save energy and money through energy efficiency technologies and weatherization.

    That revenue is a major funding source for Efficiency Maine, which used that money to help save Maine businesses and residents $167 million in energy costs between 2013 and 2015.

    Maine and the eight other member states have shown that carbon pollution can be cut while strengthening the economy. It is an example for how the rest of the country can do the same.

    It would be a big political mistake to rollback these programs nationally and in Maine. But the interests of industry are powerful, and we cannot rely on federal and state governments alone to protect the health and vitality of our beloved communities. It is local governments that are on the front lines of recovery after extreme weather, straining local resources and costing taxpayers billions, and it is local governments that will take the leadership reigns to spur climate action.

    As mayor of Portland and as the former mayor in Bangor, we have made important steps forward on climate change and energy in 2016 and commit to do even more in 2017 and beyond.

    This past summer in Bangor, we implemented EnergySmart Bangor, a program that offers additional savings to homeowners to participate in Efficiency Maine’s Home Energy Savings Program. This makes the programs more affordable for Bangor homeowners, especially low- and moderate-income residents, a segment of the public that often doesn’t have the opportunity to invest in weatherization and renewable energy.

    (Photo: Gov. John Baldacci in 2010 on site at a home his Effciency Maine agency established to help weatherize homes - makeing them energy efficent, saving residents money, creating jobs and improving health outcomes. Photo by Ramona du Houx)

    In fact, the program spurred a 43 percent increase in participation in the program in Bangor between July and September over the same period in 2015. We hope that other cities will take up this model.

    In Portland, we have a climate action plan committing to ambitious goals to reduce our energy usage and clean up our transportation.

    We also have signed on to the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, a commitment spearheaded by the mayors of Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. In the past year, we have taken steps toward our climate action goals, including starting a community solar farm on the Ocean Avenue landfill property, which will generate enough energy to power City Hall.

    The council also passed a benchmarking measure that will require large businesses and residential buildings to track their energy usage to promote greater energy efficiency.

    Despite the challenges that lie ahead, clean energy is cheaper than ever, and no one can change that public opinion strongly favors renewable energy sources over dirty fossil fuels. The election may be long over, but the fight over our clean energy future is only beginning. We must take action, and as elected leaders of Bangor and Portland, we are committed to the leadership of our communities.

    Sean Faircloth is a member of the Bangor City Council, and he completed his term as mayor in November. He served 10 years in the Maine Legislature and founded the Maine Discovery Museum in Bangor. He is author of two books, one about the increased legislative influence of the religious right and an adventure fantasy for children encouraging geography knowledge and a multicultural perspective.

    Ethan Strimling is the mayor of Portland. He is a former state senator and the former executive director of LearningWorks, a community educational nonprofit based in Portland’s West End.

  • Maine urged to take stronger action against power plant pollution with RGGI

    On February 8, 2017, representatives of nine states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic met to discuss taking stronger action to cut global warming pollution. These states, part of a regional program that limits pollution from power plants called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,(RGGI) are preparing to make a decision about how much to cut pollution from 2020 to 2030.

    Across the region, RGGI states have cut power plant pollution in half since 2005, and RGGI states have generated more than $2.5 billion for clean energy investment.

    To date RGGI has brought in $83,612,946.15 to the state of Maine 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 Governor John Baldacci. 

    RGGI is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.

    In January, 2017, NASA announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record for our planet, breaking records last set in 2015 and 2014. We know global warming is happening and we know that we are the cause.

    Maine is already beginning to experience more extreme weather events and sea levels along New England and the mid-Atlantic coast are rising faster than every other region of coast.

    "There’s never been a more urgent time to talk about cutting pollution. So we are glad to see Maine updating the best regional clean air and climate program in America – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative," said Emma Rotner, Campaign Organizer with Environment Maine.

    RGGI cleans the air and improves health outcomes-

    A new analysis last month showed that over its first 6 years, the program saved 600 lives, averted 9,000 asthma attacks, and prevented 260,000 days where people would have had to restrict daily activities, such as exercise, due to air pollution.

    RGGI helps accelerate our country transition away from dirty fuels and toward clean energy.

    "We make power plant owners pay for every ton of pollution they emit. That is driving a lot of great clean energy projects in our communities. For example, from 2013-2015 Efficiency Maine used $25 million to create more energy efficient homes and businesses, drastically cutting down on energy costs (http://www.nrcm.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/RGGI4pagerFINAL.pdf). However, we can and must do more," said Rotner.

    "Over the next three months, we have a chance to double the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Doing so would cut pollution faster, help us live longer and healthier lives, speed our transition to clean energy and strengthen our economy.

    "With leadership unlikely to come from Washington DC, states must show the way forward.

    "We urge Governor LePage to keep Maine leading the charge on climate. We should double the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to cut pollution in half again by 2030 and invest more in energy efficiency, wind and solar power. Together we can build a renewable energy future, and deliver clean air and a safe, healthy climate for us all.”

  • Scientists call on Collins

    The Penobscot is polluted with mercury - we need the EPA

    Editorial by Dianne Kopec and Aram Calhoun,

    As the name implies, the goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect our environment, and it has worked toward that goal since it was created in 1970. That start date is important to the people and the environment of the lower Penobscot River, for in late 1967, the HoltraChem chlor-alkali plant began operating in Orrington on the banks of the river. In the first four years of the plant’s operation, waste mercury was routinely discharged into the river. Much of that mercury continues to contaminate the Penobscot.

    We ask that the community, and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King — who will soon vote on the nominee to head the agency, Scott Pruitt — consider the value of the EPA and the critical importance of appointing a director who embraces the mission of protecting our environment.

    Senator Susan Collins – (202) 224-2523 Senator Angus King – (202) 224-5344

    We are scientists. We examined the impact of the mercury discharges into the river as part of the Penobscot River Mercury Study, an independent court-ordered study of mercury contamination of the Penobscot River from the HoltraChem plant. This work gave us first-hand knowledge of the value of the EPA and of the environmental consequences when regulations are absent or not enforced.

    One of the first actions of the EPA was a thorough revision of water pollution laws and the creation of the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress in 1972.

    For the first time in our history, the government began regulating pollutant discharges into surface waters. It was no longer legal for the Orrington chemical plant to dump its waste mercury into the Penobscot. Instead, HoltraChem began storing the waste mercury in landfills that greatly reduced the amount of mercury entering the river. Yet, roughly 90 percent of an estimated nine tons of mercury that was ultimately released into the Penobscot River was discharged before the EPA began regulating pollutant discharges into our rivers, streams and lakes.

    Today, the evidence of those mercury discharges can be seen in the sediment of the Penobscot River. Buried 16 inches below the surface of the sediment is a layer of extreme mercury contamination, deposited during the early years of plant operation.

    The sediment deposited after EPA was created is less contaminated.

    Yet, buried contaminants do not always remain hidden. River and slough channels can change course, releasing long-buried mercury into the surface sediment that is swept up and down the river with the tide. So in some parts of the lower Penobscot the most contaminated sediment is not buried, but near the surface, where it enters our food web and accumulates in our fish, birds and lobster.

    Now 50 years later, we have mercury concentrations in waterfowl almost four times greater than the Maine action level for mercury in muscle tissue, prompting the state’s first health advisory on the consumption of breast meat from ducks. Migratory song birds arrive in marshes along the lower Penobscot with low mercury burdens, but quickly accumulate mercury concentrations in their blood that exceed levels known to cause reproductive failure. Average mercury concentrations in lobster living near the mouth of the Penobscot River are two to three times greater than the Maine action level, and individual lobster have concentrations over six times greater.

    There is now a state ban on lobster harvesting in that area. Without EPA regulations, the river would be even more contaminated. Finally, mercury concentrations in the surface sediments of the river are seven to 10 times greater than background concentrations in rivers Down East, and we estimate it will take a minimum of 60 to 400 years, depending on the area, for the Penobscot to clean itself.

    Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, has been nominated to head the EPA, despite the fact that he is a leading advocate against the agency. His history of suing the EPA over environmental regulations, the same regulations that now limit discharges to the Penobscot, should disqualify him from service as the agency’s director.

    This is only one example of the positive role the EPA plays in safeguarding public and environmental health. Environmental regulations save our country money, provide jobs, and ensure the health of all animals, plants and the humans who see clean air, water and soil as an American right. The EPA needs a leader who will defend that right.

    Dianne Kopec is an adjunct instructor in the department of wildlife, fisheries, and conservation biology at the University of Maine in Orono. Aram Calhoun is a professor of wetlands ecology at UMaine. Peter Santschi, a regents professor in the department of marine sciences at Texas A&M University in Galveston, and Ralph Turner, a mercury researcher at RT Geosciences Inc., also contributed to this piece.

  • She worked for everyone in Maine and now Lennie needs us to help with her cancer

    Lennie's Medical Fund - GoFundMe 

    My mother, Lennie Mullen, has devoted her life to public service in Maine.  Sadly, she was diagnosed with anal and colon cancer in April of 2016.  The radiation and chemo she received in Maine appears to have put the anal cancer in remission.  Unfortunately, the colon cancer has metastasized.

    In order to take care of my mom I had to move her to San Diego to live with me.  She had to make the hard decision to leave all her friends and family and move.  

    She is presently receiving treatment at Scripp's Cancer Center.  She has undergone so much radiation.  I tease her that she likes to go there so much because the doctor and staff are wonderful.  Chemo has been really hard on her.  We still have not found that "coctail" that is going to work long term.  Mom develops small tumors throughout her body, and a couple in her lungs.  The radiation is helping, but the main goal is to stop anymore from developing.  I lost count at over 20. We are encouraged with the treatment and she has a very positive attitude--refers to treatment as a journey.
    Below is a link that talks about immunotherapy for anyone interested in learning more.
    https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/immunotherapy.html 
    (On Feb, 8 PBS aired a new article on immunotherapy see it HERE. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/cancer-immunotherapy-life-saving-powers-limits/
    There is hope.)

    The money raised will allow us more options with her medical treatment. 

    Mom's professional life has been devoted to helping people. 

    She served as a constituent service advocate for a United States Congressman, and later for the Governor of Maine. She has always been there to help others, and her family.  She does not realize how all her small contributions have left such a large impact on the lives of everyone she helped. 

    I know that any small contribution to help her now, will have a large impact on her recovery. 

    When you loose your job, for whatever the reason, you need to find value in your life.  Mom needs to find her strength and value from the Cancer that has taken over her body.  She needs to be able to go the beach, visit family when she is stronger, and treat herself to going to an estate sale.  She can not do any of these things without my financial help.  She wants to be able to buy groceries or pay for her perscriptions. Her limited income does not allow for any of this.  

    She is now facing her toughest challenge.  Cancer treatment is costly even with insurance.  The co-pays, supplements, insurance premium, medical supplies not covered by insurance, and eating healthy food has created a financial hardship that hopefully GoFundMe can assist.  Could you help?

    Help spread the word!
  • REPA: A new Maine movement against discrimination and hate crimes

    On January 16, 2017 two Maine women launched a national anti-hate movement, which they call REPA: Respecting Everyone for a Powerful America. 

    On REPA's website, co-founders Arlene Kellman and Alexis Sixel, encourage all to sign the REPA pledge, a personal declaration to work toward understanding and respecting all people and promoting a safe and hate-free America.


    The founders state, “In the past year, we have observed a decline in thoughtful, respectful debate and a rise in rhetoric that targets certain individuals and groups of individuals in a manner that promotes hostility and violence. We believe that the majority of Americans do not support this behavior, and we are calling for a nonpartisan effort to stand up against the purveyors of hate and work toward a return to a respectful and unified nation.”

    They invite individuals, as well as businesses and institutions, to sign the REPA pledge with the goal of building a climate of tolerance and assuring targeted minorities of safe places where they will be treated with respect. More information on REPA and the REPA pledge may be found at www.repapledge.org.



    About REPA: The goal of REPA is to create a national movement to counter hate rhetoric and hate crimes and build a stronger country through a shared commitment to mutual respect. At its foundation is the belief that the diversity of the American population is a great strength, and differences among people can be bridged through thoughtful dialogue.

  • Maine can write a new chapter by focusing on better public policy

     

    Editorial by Rep. Craig Hickman:

    Go further and do better.

    My parents, Hazelle and Minnie Hickman, were children of the Great Depression. They were frugal, wise, resilient, and principled people, generous to a fault and strict as all get out.

    They taught me the power of community and self-reliance, to revere public service as a responsibility and a duty.

    They also taught me the values of fairness and equality in the most literal and fundamental sense. Every person gets a life, and every person should have a fair and equal shot at making that life as good and right as she or he can.

    These are Maine values too.

    I’ve learned during my time in Augusta that we need to write a new chapter of Maine’s story. For too long our story has been about shuttered factories, disappearing jobs, and communities struggling to get by.

    We can begin to write that new chapter if we focus on creating real changes through better public policy. We can do a better job protecting veterans, seniors and our natural resources. We can do a better job supporting small businesses and working families and defending personal liberties for every Mainer.

    We know our path forward.

    Maine needs policy that ensures every family can feed itself.

    Policy that gets displaced Mainers back to work creating lasting infrastructure that will rebuild our razed rural communities.

    Policy that supports local food and water systems which will strengthen farming, fishing and forestry -- our heritage industries.

    And policy that ensures liberty and justice for generations of Mainers.

    As a farmer, I know that hard work bears fruit from the bottom of the plant to the top.

    As a farmer, I know that all things thrive in the full light of day. Building consensus and increasing transparency must be the hallmarks of our approach to governance.

    We must always remain civil in the face of incivility, refuse easy scapegoats and choose our words with the care befitting the office to which we have been elected.

    And, if I have my way, we will end hunger once and for all. We will eradicate poverty and we will move Maine toward prosperity.

    The road before us is long, and we will have missteps. But when the going gets tough, I will be inspired by the wise words of my mother, who passed away two years ago this week, that we must go further and do better. We must listen more intently to the voices of those who cry in the dark. And we must always remember that our work in Augusta must ensure that every person has a fair and equal chance to make their lives as good and right as she or he can.

    On this weekend of transition in our nation, in the face of uncertainty and anxiety for many, I remain hopeful and motivated to fight for what is right, and I firmly believe that good will prevail. I hope you do too.

  • Impact of the Affordable Care Act in Maine and how Dirigo Health helped

    By Ramona du Houx

    Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 thousands of Mainers have gained coverage, and hundreds of thousands more have had their coverage substantially improved.

    On January 16, 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an extensive compilation of state-level data illustrating the substantial improvements in health care for all Americans over the last six years.

    The data show that the uninsured rate in Maine has fallen by 17 percent since the ACA was enacted, translating into 22,000 Mainers gaining coverage, some transfered to the ACA from the established state program, Dirigo Health Care. 

    Photo: President Barack Obama came to Maine after the ACA was enacted and praised Governor John Baldacci for his work on the creation of the Dirigo Health Care Act. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    “As our nation debates changes to the health care system, it’s important to take stock of where we are today compared to where we were before the Affordable Care Act,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Whether Mainers get coverage through an employer, Medicaid, the individual market, or Medicare, they have better health coverage and care today as a result of the ACA. Millions of Americans with all types of coverage have a stake in the future of health reform. We need to build on our progress and continue to improve health care access, quality, and affordability, not move our system backward.”

    Photo: Governor John Baldacci with Robin Mills talking about Dirigo Choice in 2007. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Maine was an unusual case, because the state had enacted the Dirigo Health Care Act during the Baldacci administration, and many of the ACA benefits were already apart of Dirigo. Because of Dirigo it was easier to transfer over to the ACA.

    Governor John Baldacci deserves recognition for creating a model for the ACA. Other portions of Dirigo were dismantled by Gov. Paul LePage, who succeeded Baldacci. Never-the-less Baldacci's Dirigo saved thousands of lives by giving people health insurance for the first time, by expanding preventative care, covering more young adults, by eliminating the pre-existing condition and discrimination against women in health coverage.

    Dirigo Choice, the insurance branch of Dirigo Health, insured more than 40,000 Mainers and also became a model for President Obama’s ACA. In 2010 Monique Kenyon said, "We were shocked,” when she found out her husband was suffering from cancer. “Being a middle-income family we didn’t qualify for any assistance. We couldn’t afford all the treatment without insurance, but insurance companies wouldn’t accept him because he has this preexisting condition. He’s still with us because of Dirigo Choice.”

    Signed into law in the 2003 Dirigo Health Care Reform Act was a bold step toward universal health coverage during a time when policymakers in Washington D.C. and in state houses struggled to take even small steps. A few years later Governor Romney of Massachusetts used elements of Dirigo in his health care policies.

    “In many ways, Dirigo was a pace-setter and blueprint to national reform,” said Trish Riley, former director of Maine Governor John Baldacci’s Office of Health Policy and Finance. Riley said the program saved many lives by helping thousands of uninsured gain access to medical care and enabling more than 1,000 small businesses to provide insurance for their owners and employees.

    Baldacci expanded Medicare, covering many more Mainers, but LePage has refused to accept this part of the ACA, so thousands who were on, what the state calls MaineCare were kicked off because of LePage -  too many have died.

    In 2003, Maine ranked 16th healthiest among the states; in 2010 Maine was in the top ten. In 2003, Maine ranked 19th among the states in covering the uninsured; in 2010 Maine was sixth. With Dirigo Health, Maine created an efficient public health system with eight districts that cover the entire state through Healthy Maine Partnerships. During the Baldacci administration the state reached a milestone in healthcare coverage, won awards for Dirigo and became a model for the nation. (photo below taken in 2010)

    The ACA picked up the torch and contained to save the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people in Maine.

    Highlights of theACA  data include:

    Employer Coverage: 702,000 people in Maine are covered through employer-sponsored health plans. 

    Since the ACA this group has seen:

    An end to annual and lifetime limits: Before the ACA, 431,000 Mainers with employer or individual market coverage had a lifetime limit on their insurance policy. That meant their coverage could end exactly when they needed it most. The ACA prohibits annual and lifetime limits on policies, so all Mainers with employer plans now have coverage that’s there when they need it.
    Young adults covered until age 26: An estimated 8,000 young adults in Maine have benefited from the ACA provision that allows kids to stay on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26.

    Free preventive care: Under the ACA, health plans must cover preventive services — like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms – at no extra cost to consumers. This provision benefits 588,281 people in Maine, most of whom have employer coverage.

    Slower premium growth: Nationally, average family premiums for employer coverage grew 5 percent per year 2010-2016, compared with 8 percent over the previous decade. Family premiums are $3,600 lower today than if growth had matched the pre-ACA decade.


    Better value through the 80/20 rule: Because of the ACA, health insurance companies must spend at least 80 cents of each premium dollar on health care or care improvements, rather than administrative costs like salaries or marketing, or else give consumers a refund. Mainers with employer coverage have received $2,507,067 in insurance refunds since 2012.


    Medicaid: 273,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including 115,217 children and 52,077 seniors and people with disabilities covered by both Medicaid and Medicare. The ACA expanded Medicaid eligibility and strengthened the program for those already eligible.

    40,000 Mainers could gain coverage: An estimated 40,000 Mainers could have health insurance today if Maine expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Coverage improves access to care, financial security, and health; expansion would result in an estimated 5,000 more Mainers getting all needed care, 5,700 fewer Mainers struggling to pay medical bills, and 50 avoided deaths each year.
    Thousands of Mainers with a mental illness or substance use disorder could get help: Nearly 30 percent of those who could gain coverage if more states expanded Medicaid have a mental illness or substance use disorder.


    Maine could be saving millions in uncompensated care costs: Instead of spending $40 million on uncompensated care, which increases costs for everyone, Maine could be getting $430 million in federal support to provide low-income adults with much needed care.
    Children, people with disabilities, and seniors can more easily access Medicaid coverage: The ACA streamlined Medicaid eligibility processes, eliminating hurdles so that vulnerable Mainers could more easily access and maintain coverage.


    Maine is improving health care for individuals with chronic conditions, including those with severe mental illness: The ACA established a new Medicaid flexibility that allows states to create health homes, a new care delivery model to improve care coordination and lower costs for individuals with chronic conditions, such as severe mental illness, Hepatitis C, diabetes and heart disease
    Individual market: 75,240 people in Maine have coverage through the Marketplace. Individual market coverage is dramatically better compared to before the ACA:

    No discrimination based on pre-existing conditions: Up to 590,266 people in Maine have a pre-existing health condition. Before the ACA, these Mainers could have been denied coverage or charged an exorbitant price if they needed individual market coverage. Now, health insurance companies cannot refuse coverage or charge people more because of pre-existing conditions.
    Tax credits available to help pay for coverage: Before the ACA, only those with employer coverage generally got tax benefits to help pay for health insurance. Now, 63,896 moderate- and middle-income Mainers receive tax credits averaging $342 per month to help them get covered through HealthCare.gov.

    Women pay the same as men: Before the ACA, women were often charged more than men just because of their gender. That is now illegal thanks to the ACA, protecting roughly half the people of Maine.

    Greater transparency and choice: Before the ACA, it was virtually impossible for consumers to effectively compare insurance plan prices and shop for the best value. Under the ACA, Maine has received $5 million in federal funding to provide a more transparent marketplace where consumers can easily compare plans, choosing among 25 plans on average.

    Medicare: 315,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicare. The ACA strengthened the Medicare Trust Fund, extending its life by over a decade.

    Medicare enrollees have benefited from:

    Lower costs for prescription drugs: Because the ACA is closing the prescription drug donut hole, 18,970 Maine seniors are saving $19 million on drugs in 2015, an average of $986 per beneficiary.
    Free preventive services: The ACA added coverage of an annual wellness visit and eliminated cost-sharing for recommended preventive services such as cancer screenings. In 2015, 165,892 Maine seniors, or 71 percent of all Maine seniors enrolled in Medicare Part B, took advantage of at least one free preventive service.

    Fewer hospital mistakes: The ACA introduced new incentives for hospitals to avoid preventable patient harms and avoidable readmissions. Hospital readmissions for Maine Medicare beneficiaries dropped 4 percent between 2010 and 2015, which translates into 232 times Maine Medicare beneficiaries avoided an unnecessary return to the hospital in 2015. 

    More coordinated care: The ACA encouraged groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to come together to provide coordinated high-quality care to the Medicare patients they serve. 6 Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in Maine now offer Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to receive higher quality, more coordinated care.

    ACA Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)

  • Maine has received $3.3 billion from USDA during Obama years

    By Ramona du Houx 

    Since the beginning of the Obama Administration in Fiscal Year 2009, Maine Rural Development has invested an historic $3.3 billion in Maine’s rural communities through its programs, assisting 18,181 individuals and families to obtain homeownership or make repairs to their homes, constructing 42 Multi-Family Apartment buildings, investing in 250 essential community facilities, including water and waste facilities, assisting 3,505 Maine businesses, and impacting 10,211 jobs. 

    Just last year the USDA invested a total of $402.3 million in Maine communities in Fiscal Year 2016. 

    “Rural Development is a remarkable agency within the USDA that can build rural Maine communities from the ground up, investing in the community infrastructure that lays the foundation for strategic economic development. Rural Development invests in the homeowners, businesses, agricultural producers, and communities that help to make Maine a great place to work and call home,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel.

    The funding was in the form of loans and grants through the agency’s Housing, Community, and Business & Cooperative Programs, and went directly to recipients in rural.

    1. Through the agency’s Housing Programs, a total of $316.8 million was invested in both homeownership and affordable rental housing in Maine.
    2. Through the agency’s Single-Family Housing Programs 1,849 Maine families became homeowners and 130 families were assisted with home repair and rehabilitation, including weatherization of their homes.
    3. Through the agency’s Multi-Family Housing Programs 8,003 families were assisted with quality rental housing throughout Maine’s rural communities.

    Maine communities benefited from a total investment of $55.09 million invested through the Community Programs which was provided to assist essential community facilities, including healthcare facilities, schools, and water and wastewater systems. A total of 36 community facilities were funded, and a total of 16,698 people were provided with improved water and wastewater infrastructure. 

    The Business & Cooperative Programs strengthened Maine’s economy through investments totaling $8.7 million, assisting 411 Maine businesses and creating and retaining a total of 926 jobs in the state. Maine’s agricultural producers and rural small businesses benefited from grants for value-added production and the installation of renewable and energy efficient systems, helping preserve the environment and reduce operating costs.

    USDA Rural Development has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor. There are 52 employees working to deliver the agency’s Housing, Business, and Community Programs, which are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, and farmers, and improve the quality of life in rural Maine.

    Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office 

  • Special Showing of SEED: The Untold Story in Bethel, Maine on Jan 17

    Local Food Connection (LFC) and The Gem are pleased to announce the screening of SEED: The Untold Story on January 14th as part of its Food & Film Series. The collaboration between LFC and The Gem began in the autumn of 2016 and is expected to run quarterly in 2017.

    Following the January 14th Winter’s Farmer’s Market - held weekly from 1:00-3:00 pm at The Gem, 23 Cross Street, Bethel, Maine - an hour spent with the community will happen.

    LFC encourages volunteers and movie goers to bring an appetizer to share for  this social time at 3:30 pm with the film starting at 4:30 pm.

    At 6:15 pm, Taggart Siegel—the film’s director—will be available via Skype to answer audience questions. Will Bonsall—owner of Khadighar Farm, director of the Scatterseed Project and author of Essential Guide to Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening—will be in-person for a book signing and Q&A. Tickets are $6.00.

    SEED: The Untold Story captivates with its attention to irreplaceable seeds nearing extinction, revealing the harrowing and heartening story of passionate seed keepers as they wage a David and Goliath battle against chemical seed companies, defending a 12,000 year food legacy.

    A short synopsis by the filmmakers reveals more.

    “Few things on Earth are as miraculous and vital as seeds. Worshipped and treasured since the dawn of humankind, SEED: The Untold Story follows passionate seed keepers protecting our 12,000-year-old food legacy. In the last century, 94 percent of our seed varieties have disappeared. As biotech chemical companies control the majority of our seeds, farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers fight a David and Goliath battle to defend the future of our food. In a harrowing and heartening story, these reluctant heroes rekindle a lost connection to our most treasured resource and revive a culture connected to seeds. SEED features Vandana Shiva, Dr. Jane Goodall, Andrew Kimbrell, Winona Laduke and Raj Patel.”

    The award-winning SEED: The Untold Story has opened theatrically across USA and Canada to many sold out screenings.

    SEED is executive produced by Marisa Tomei, Marc Turtletaub (Little Miss Sunshine) and Phil Fairclough (Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams).

    SEED is the recipient of numerous awards including winner of the ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD at Sheffield Doc/Fest; GREEN PLANET AWARD at Rhode Island Film Festival; BEST DOCUMENTARY at Nashville Film Festival; BEST IN FESTIVAL at Princeton Environmental Film Festival; ECOHERO AWARD at the Portland EcoFilm Festival; BEST DOCUMENTARY & AUDIENCE AWARD at Lunenberg Doc Fest; HONORABLE MENTION at Cine Eco Portugal; AUDIENCE AWARD at the American Conservation Film Festival; BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the United Nations Film Festival; and, Official Selection of the BEST OF FESTS program at IDFA in Amsterdam.

    About Local Food Connection (LFC)

    The Local Food Connection wants to help carry the Greater Bethel Area into a more sustainable future focused on self-reliance, local economic vitality and healthier food choices for all community members. LFC works to build and to sustain a food system environment that encourages all community members to grow, prepare, serve, purchase and consume local foods.

    About The Gem

    Movies, Art, and Co-working in Bethel, Maine. Their mission is to build community, frame by frame.

    They envision The Gem as a community hub where families go for a fun night out and individuals are able engage with the local arts community.  They offer affordable tickets and diverse programming to make the theater accessible to all ages and incomes.  Ten percent of Gem's yearly profits go back into the community by supporting local arts initiatives.

    Access to many forms of arts and culture is limited in rural areas, yet film is not limited by geography. Gem is committed to keeping the theater open in Bethel because we believe that access to great films and movies can inspire, educate, and bolster the community.

  • Maine's Women’s Walk in Portland and Augusta in Solidarity with March on Washington, D.C.

    In solidarity with marches on Washington, D.C., Augusta, ME, and all over the U.S. Women's Walk Portland is set for Saturday, January 21. The walk starts at 10:30a.m. at the top of Congress Street on the Eastern Prom. This peaceful walk proceeds down Congress Street to Congress Square Park, ending between 12:00 and 1:00p.m.

    The Augusta event will start at 10 AM  and run until 12 PM at 111 Sewall Street, the state capitol. From their facebook page, "We will rally together at the Maine State Capitol to have our voices heard. This is not going to be a march from point A to point B, it is going to be a march in place at the Burton M. Cross building. This is a rally in support of women's rights, civil liberties and protection of the planet. This is an INCLUSIVE march, and EVERYONE who supports women's rights is welcome."

    In addition to the connection to the D.C. event, the Portland Walk aims to demonstrate support for women's, civic, and human rights.

    Organizers are currently reaching out to residents of Greater Portland and beyond to foster diverse representation at the walk, including immigrant groups, students, men, women, and children.

    Anyone wishing to participate, especially those not able to travel to marches farther away, are encouraged to attend.

    "After a very contentious election I thought about our collective responsibility to create the kind of community we want to live in - one that supports those working for equality, freedom and justice for all Mainers. Organizing this walk in solidarity with the marches in DC and elsewhere is a start. One where we can introduce participants to one another and to opportunities where they can make a difference going forward," said Kathryn Yatesthe organizer. 

    During and after the walk, participants will have a chance to connect with agencies and organizations providing support to women and families of Maine.

    Opportunities to stay connected and to help local groups will also be provided via email for those who wish it.

    For more information or to sign up, visit the Walk’s Facebook events page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1778266389086894/

    As of1/9/17, over 800 people have expressed interest and 174 are committed to attend, with those numbers growing every day.

    A national “Sister Marches” page, https://actionnetwork.org/events/womens-walk-portland, is also documenting attendance of participants in Maine and across the US.

    A permit for the walk was issued on December 30, 2016, by the city of Portland (above photo). No snow date has been set. The walk will take place in any weather. 

    Cities across the country are issuing permits for other solidarity Marches. Chicago, President Barack Obama's home town, plans one of the biggest.

    “We’re planning and hoping for the largest women’s Rally and March outside of Washington, D.C. on Saturday, January 21, 2017,” said Ann Scholhamer, one of the March Chicago Co-Chairs. “We have been hard at work with our dedicated volunteers to confirm an incredible slate of speakers, representing issues brought to light during the campaign and diverse issues of concern to Chicago women.”

    For more information on the walk in Augusta, Maine please click on the image below, which will take you to their facebook page.

  • Rep. Devin combats ocean acidification, addresses conference with Gov. Jerry Brown

    Rep. Mick Devin, of Newcastle, ME, joined fellow members of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, including California Governor Jerry Brown, at a combat acidifacation launch event in CA. 

    Maine recognized as a national leader in fighting for healthier oceans 

    By Ramona du Houx

    In December of 2016,  U.S. and global leaders launched the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification in Coronado, CA.  Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, represented Maine at the event and was a key speaker. 

    “It was an honor to show the rest of the country how Maine is a leader when it comes to addressing the quality of the water in our oceans,” said Rep. Devin. “Scientists are working around the clock because they know how many people depend on the ocean to make a living.”

    The oceans are the primary protein source for 2.6 billion people, and support $2.5 trillion of economic activity each year. Maine's lobster industry could suffer greatly from ocean acidification. Catches like this one would only be read in history books. This lobster was put back into the ocean, as it's way beyond the size fishermen can legally catch.

    Maine is seen as the leading state on the East Coast addressing ocean acidification.  Maine was the first state to establish an Ocean Acidification Commission.  As a result of the commission the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Alliance, or MOCA, was established. 

    Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use and other carbon sources dissolves in the water and forms carbonic acid. Other sources of acidification include fresh water from rivers and decomposing algae feeding off nutrients in runoff. Carbonic acid dissolves the shells of shellfish.

    Maine’s major inshore shellfisheries, including clams, oysters, lobsters, shrimp and sea urchins, could see major losses if ocean acidification is left unchecked.

    At the conference, Devin addressed how state leaders are using science to establish priorities in dealing with the rising acidity of the earth’s oceans. He explained how Maine used those priorities to develop a long-term action plan.  

    He stressed the importance of addressing ocean acidification by developing plans to remediate and adapt to it. Devin said that strategy is crucial for Maine to maintain its healthy marine economy, particularly the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, which are valued well in excess of billion dollars annually. 

    Devin finished his presentation by showing a slide of a boiled lobster dinner and repeating his trademark line about one reason the marine economy matters to so many: “People do not visit the coast of Maine to eat a chicken sandwich.” 

    The Alliance includes several state governments, governments of Canadian provinces, North American tribal governments, and countries as far away as France, Chile and Nigeria. 

    While lobsters are the iconic image of Maine, many other shell fish will be effected, like musscles, and clams. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Members have five primary goals: advancing scientific understanding of ocean acidification; taking meaningful actions to reduce causes of acidification; protect the environment and coastal communities from impacts of a changing ocean; expanding public awareness and understanding of acidification; and building sustained global support for addressing the problem.

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

     

  • Mainers call on Sen. Collins to oppose Trump's fossil fuel cabinet

    Enviromental leaders from Maine: Professor Charles Tilburg of the University Of New England, Glen Brand- the Sierra Club Maine Director, and Sarah Lachance and Bob Klotz from 350 Maine, take a stand to stop President-elect Trump pushing through his climate-denying nominees, at a press conference where they called on Sen. Susan Collins to vote against these nominees.  Courtesy photo.

    By Ramona du Houx

    Environmental leaders from Maine are calling on Senator Susan Collins to reject President-elect Trump’s climate-denying nominees to head the EPA, Energy, and State Departments. Trump aims to put foxes in the hen house, without weighing the damage that will happen to the world.

    “It’s time Senator Collins shows true leadership at this critical point in history when we know the science is clear and we must act now on real climate policy,” said Sarah Lachance, spokesperson for 350 Maine.  “Her first step in doing that is to say no to these cabinet nominees of climate deniers.”

    At a news conference organized by Sierra Club and 350 Maine and at a public protest in front of Sen. Collins’ Portland office, speakers denounced Trump’s “fossil fuel” cabinet nominees: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for EPA; Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State; and Rick Perry to run the Energy Department.

    One of the reasons some Republicans insist that climate change is not happening, when close to 90 percent of Americans say it is, simply is because if they continue to do nothing to stop it, then they are declaring they don't care what happens to millions of people around the world. Another reason - the oil companies will have to limit their activities that are contributing to climate change. That means -revenue losses.

    The march to Sussan Collins offices to make sure she knows she shouldn't support oil copany excs.

    “As one of the only Republican Senators who accepts the scientific consensus on climate change and supports action to address the climate crisis, Sen. Collins will play a pivotal role in approving or rejecting Trump’s “fossil fuel” cabinet,” said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter Director.  

    “The underlying causes of climate change are no longer debated within the scientific community,” said Professor Charles Tilburg, Associate Dean, College of Arts & Sciences at the University Of New England. “We have moved beyond this settled issue to examine the effects of the change on our environment.”

    For years, Scott Pruitt has led the legal charge to kill the EPA’s historic Clean Power Plan and other important environmental safeguards like stronger standards, and he has regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections.

    Pruitt is an unabashed climate science denier. Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus recognized by NASA, as recently as last May, Pruitt falsely said that “that debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.” 

    As Secretary of State, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson would literally put the most powerful, private fossil fuel corporate interests in charge of our nation’s foreign policy.   For many years, Exxon Mobil was the driving force and a major funding source supporting climate denialism propagandists.

    UPDATE: on January 20th Collins stood by Sessions- showing she's no moderate

    Trump has nominated another denier of climate science, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, to lead the very department that Perry pledged to eliminate when he was a presidential candidate. 

    Recently, at a talk at Bowdoin College, Sen. Collins reiterated that she believes humans are causing climate change and that governmental action will be needed to solve the problem. “I have supported over and over again the ability of the EPA to advance greenhouse gas emissions policy—the Clean Power Act, for example.”  

    “Senator Collins can’t have it both ways:  she cannot support climate science deniers for critically important cabinet posts AND support policies to protect our climate and promote clean energy,” added Sierra Club’s Glen Brand.

    Following the news conference, more than 100 Maine climate activists  conducted a public protest at  in front of Sen. Collins’ Portland office before meeting with a senior member of the Senator’s staff. (photos)

  • Maine lobstermen know the threat posed by climate change-we must act.

    Editorial by Richard Nelson, lobster fisherman for more than 30 years, member of the Maine Ocean Acidification Commission and the Maine Regional Ocean Planning Advisory Group. He lives in Friendship.

    I rose the other morning and began my preparations to head out on the water from Friendship Harbor to take up the my last load of lobster traps. My thoughts turned from from closing out my season to chuckling over my selection of boots for the day. My dear wife had made a special trip to the attic a month and a half ago to bring down my insulated winter boots, and I became aware of the fact that, with temperatures again climbing to the mid-40s, they would remain unworn this year.

    Many of the thoughts and decisions fishermen make are based on conditions in the environment in which we work. This is certainly not something new. Maine’s lobster industry, which is dependent on a healthy ocean and an abundant resource of lobsters, has a long established heritage of conservation.

    Our good management decisions of the past include throwing back both the large breed stock lobsters and small lobsters, putting escape vents in traps and returning egg bearing female lobsters into the water, marking them to ensure they are protected through future molts. We saw the need to set trap limits and become a limited access fishery, all the while remaining a small-boat, owner-operated fleet.

    Although these choices have helped create a fishery that is flourishing while others are not, we face environmental challenges that are beyond local control and more complex than our marine management system can address.

    The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans and is uniquely susceptible to ocean acidification. The root cause is rising carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels. Ocean warming is believed to be a strong factor contributing to the lack of cod and shrimp, the influx of invasive species and other issues, while acidified waters are linked to the hindered ability of shellfish to produce their shells. Not only do these affect fishermen as businessmen by threatening our livelihood, but they also serve to kick-in that heritage of conservation within us.

    We realize, along with other Mainer’s, that we can no longer solve these climate issues alone but must reach out beyond our industry to friends, neighbors and decision-makers in government to support policies to maintain a healthy ocean and the resources on which we depend. But lately the help we seek on the state and federal levels has become a muddled landscape, especially since the election.

    One of the clear and consistent pathways left is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is a cooperative market-based initiative among nine northeastern states to reduce carbon pollution from power plants and spur investments in energy efficiency and clean energy production. While still allowing some self-direction by the power industry, it shifts the burden of carbon pollution costs from families and communities to the polluters and the fossil fuel companies themselves. Since its inception in 2009, we have seen a 35 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants and substantial investments in energy efficiency across Maine.

    This year, the program is under review, and proponents are seeking to reduce emissions by 5 percent per year from 2020 to 2030 and a doubling of our renewable power supply. The decisions made now will ensure we take full advantage of the initiative to achieve cost-effective, long-term climate goals. Action to achieve these goals would go a long way in sustaining Maine’s fisheries, both as part of what makes Maine special and the economic drivers they have become.

    From carbon policy to ocean debris, from remediating ocean acidification to increased severe weather events, all have become part of the realities and thoughts of a Maine fisherman. Let’s get our boots on and get to work.

  • The 128 Legislature and how to help the state out of stagnation

     By Ramona du Houx

    Members of the 128th Legislature were sworn into the Maine House of Representatives on December 7, 2016, led by Democratic Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. There are 25 new members and 52 returning representatives in the House, including 36 women.

    “Today, we start out with a Maine economy that is lagging behind New England and the rest of the country in terms of economic growth, recovery of jobs lost during the recession and wage growth,” said Gideon, D-Freeport.  “We lead New England when it comes to the number of Maine children and seniors living in poverty. Those are the facts.  And here is another fact: We have to do better. We will always work together and come to the table in search of common ground to help the 1.3 million Mainers who expect us to rise above politics.” 

    There are issues that could grow Maine’s economy, which haven’t been addressed during the LePage administration. Instead he’s focused on cutting benefits and lowering taxes for the wealthy. in his speach today to the lawmakers he talked about changing the Minimum wage referendum that passed, not about how to grow jobs.

    In a recent interview, Former Governor John Baldacci sited a study conducted by Former Governor King, which listed the top areas in need of investment that still remain areas that need funding.

    "The two leading factors in the study were the education and training of the population and the amount of Research and Development funds invested to help businesses get the latest cutting edge technologies so they can compete successfully with other businesses anyone in the world,” said Gov. Baldacci.

    Maine has suffered under LePage by the lack of Research and Development (R&D) funds that used to spur economic activity as the research, conducted at the University of Maine and other laboratories, was regularly used by start-up Maine companies, there-by growing jobs across Maine. The people have always voted overwhelmingly for R&D bonds in Maine. But LePage doesn’t believe in bond issues and has held bond funds hostage in the past.

    "We've been doing a terrible job at putting resources in Research and Development," said Gov. Baldacci, who invested dramatically in R&D during his administration. "We also need to focus on job training. We're not doing enough to match jobs to the industries established here. Our Labor Department needs to be our Human Resource Department. There are plenty of job opportunities out there that need trained workers and plenty of workers who want the opportunity to work. Our people, families, and small businesses aren't looking for a handout, but are looking for opportunities. Our responsibility is to make sure that happens throughout all of Maine."

    Baldacci started this work with Former Labor Secretary Laura Fortman, but little has been done to progress these job opportunities under the LePage administration.

    The lack of these investments, along with other LePage policies has led to stagnation in Maine.

    “Under Republican leadership, Maine has lagged behind in the national economic recovery. We work longer hours than our neighbors in any other state in New England, yet the purchasing power of our paychecks in one of the lowest in the country. Meanwhile, our governor has turned a blind eye as five of our friends, family members and neighbors die every week from the opioid epidemic. I look forward our leadership team’s work over the next few months to create good jobs and a fair economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top." 

    Members of the House include teachers, small business owners, nonprofit leaders, a former mill electrician, prominent civil rights advocates, farmers, former law enforcement officials, and veterans. 

    “I’m proud of the bipartisan work we achieved last session, particularly to improve services for veterans, but there is more work to be done,” said veteran Marine Rep. Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden. “In the short term, our first task is to pass a balanced budget that reflects the needs of our state, but we also have to keep an eye on the future. Maine needs to create good paying jobs by investing in the infrastructure our communities need to compete. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these and other challenges facing our state.”

  • Union Leaders hopeful with the sale of FairPoint to Illinois-Based Consolidated Communications

     

    Leaders of unions representing telecom workers in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont responded to the announcement by Consolidated Communications Holdings Inc. that it plans to purchase FairPoint Communications in 2017. The sale is subject to approval by both companies’ shareholders and state regulators.
     
    “It’s clear that the ill-advised sale of Verizon to FairPoint in 2008 has had a profound negative impact on workers and consumers in Northern New England. Just last month, FairPoint announced another major layoff of nearly 10% of its workforce even as regulators continue to investigate their service quality failures,” said Peter McLaughlin, Business Manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2327 in Maine. “Therefore, we view this potential sale with cautious optimism. We are hopeful that Consolidated will work with us to create and maintain good jobs in our communities and really improve the quality of service that our customers deserve.”
     
    The unions confirmed that the recent layoff announced by FairPoint would go forward as planned.
     
    According to Don Trementozzi, President of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1400, “Our members and our customers have been through the ringer with FairPoint over the last eight years, and our primary concern is that this transaction result in a more stable company that puts a priority on strengthening communities, not enriching Wall Street hedge fund owners.”
     
    Union leaders said that they are looking closely at Consolidated’s finances, technical capacity, and history of labor relations as well as at the regulatory requirements for the sale. In 2007, the unions partnered with community groups to “Stop the Sale” of Verizon to FairPoint. They predicted the sale would be devastating for workers and consumers, but the sale went ahead and FairPoint declared bankruptcy in 2009. The company’s effort to slash labor costs by cutting pay and benefits and hiring unlimited contractors led to an historic four-month strike in the winter of 2014-15.
     
    “As we were back in 2007 during the Verizon transaction, we will be deeply involved in the process to ensure a fair deal for FairPoint workers no matter the outcome of this transaction,” said Steve Soule, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2320 in New Hampshire. “While we certainly welcome FairPoint’s departure from Northern New England, we’ll be vigilant in examining any potential new owner and fighting for fairness for our members and our communities.”
     
    Leaders emphasized their willingness to cooperate with Consolidated should the transaction succeed with shareholders and regulators. “As long as Consolidated is ready to engage with our members and our customers with respect and fairness, we welcome this opportunity to help re-build the company and make it the success it has been in the past,” said Mike Spillane, Business Manager of IBEW Local 2326 in Vermont.
     
    The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers System Council T9 includes local unions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and represents more than 1,400 employees at FairPoint Communications. The Communications Workers of America Local 1400 represents 150 FairPoint employees in the three states.

  • Pingree says Dr. Ben Carson not qualified to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

    President-elect Trump has chosen surgeon Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This Federal agency runs numerous programs critical to Maine communities and families. Without HUD many citizens in Maine could be without a roof over their heads.

    “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development oversees many programs that are critical to Maine communities and families. To name just a few, Community Development Block Grants help fund infrastructure improvements in our downtowns, affordable housing programs and rental assistance ensure that people in need have a roof over their heads, and Federal Housing Authority mortgage guarantees make the dream of home ownership possible for thousands of Maine families. I worry for the future of these important programs if Dr. Ben Carson is confirmed as Secretary," said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.

    “As any employer knows, you should base hiring decisions on someone’s relevant experience and skill set. By his own admission, Dr. Carson has neither.  He expressed just last month that he has no experience in government and has never run this scale of operation. Maine and the country deserve better. HUD is simply too important to have someone so uniquely unqualified at the helm.” 

  • What Bangor, Maine is doing to ease the state's deadly drug epidemic



    Editorial by Joseph M. Baldacci, former Mayor of Bangor now serves on the Bangor City Council
     
    According to the Maine attorney general’s office, 272 Mainers died of drug overdoses in 2015, a 30 percent increase over 2014. This year, we are easily surpassing those figures. On average, one Mainer dies each and every day from a drug overdose.
    In our own community, the fire department has seen use of Narcan — a nasal spray that can save someone from death by overdose — skyrocket in the last five years, from 15 uses of it in 2011 to 57 uses in 2015 to at least 100 uses on suspected overdoses just through Nov. 30, 2016. This spring, the Bangor City Council authorized the police department to also carry Narcan, and, as of Dec. 1, the police department has saved 16 lives with it. In 2015, the Bangor Police Department identified 66 cases as involving a possible overdose. So far this year, we are at 111 cases.
    We are fortunate and thankful to the men and women working as firefighters, paramedics and police officers. They are some of the real heroes of this effort to save lives.
    This is not a political issue, it is a human issue requiring human responses. It is an issue that requires state and national leadership — neither of which we have. Local communities are now forced to handle it with everything we have to save and protect citizens.
    Story continues below advertisement.
    Since 2014, Bangor has been in partnership with the Community Health Leadership Board as well as the hospitals and other nonprofits to better marshall local resources.
    The essential thing is that all of us act constructively and rationally in this effort. Because we have done this, we have made progress. Here’s where:
    Adult drug treatment court
    In 2012, the state closed the drug treatment court in Bangor that helped monitor on a weekly basis dozens of drug offenders as well as assist in their getting treatment. After a successful effort by both the City Council and state legislative delegation, the program has been reinstated, and it will be able to monitor and provide treatment options to at least 30 drug offenders at any one time.
    Law-Assisted Diversion Project
    The city is working on a jail diversion effort in partnership with the Health Equity Alliance. We also are working to fund a substance abuse case manager embedded in the police department. Both efforts will be coordinated with local hospitals and other providers to get nonviolent offenders treatment first, not jail first.
    Detoxification center
    The City Council has supported and sought the establishment of a 10-bed detox center to serve as a first stop for people who commit to recovery. Currently, the only places for people to detox are jail, home or the emergency room. None of those places are equipped to handle the complex needs of someone who is detoxing and establish a continuum of care for them when they leave detox.
    Regional model of continuum of care that increases rural access
    Acadia Hospital has taken the lead and has funding to enlist St. Joseph Hospital and Eastern Maine Medical Center providers in the provision of Suboxone — an alternative to methadone — in their primary care practice settings. This is currently in progress. Penobscot Community Health Care was awarded a federal grant to expand primary care medication-assisted treatment in its practices as did Health Access Network in Lincoln.
    Recovery
    The city has given strong support to Bangor Area Recovery Network efforts for its peer recovery coaching program. The city awarded funding for this important effort to help people stay clean.
    Early Recovery Treatment & Housing
    In conjunction with community partners, the city is involved in exploring several models to complete the continuum of care after someone is released from detox. We have reached out to the Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative and may replicate some of its efforts here. Penquis is our lead partner on this work.
    I am proud of the work of my fellow councilors, along with a hard-working staff that works collaboratively to involve all community partners and has resulted in dozens if not hundreds of saved lives.
  • Democrats won a battle for greater transparency for LePage's forensic facility plan

    Photo and article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine democrats won a battle for greater transparency to build a secure forensic facility next to the Riverview Psychiatric Center on November 30, 2016. 

    Democrats said the forensic unit project needs vetting by the Legislature’s appropriations and health and human services committees for a range of reasons including the financing, operations and policy matters related to who would be housed in the facility. Gov. LePage intends for the facility to be privately run, which could jeopardize the health and wellbeing of citizens if not carefully monitored. That overseeing duty needs to be clarified by the Legislature.

    “This is a fundamental change in how Maine cares for forensic patients that demands proper legislative oversight and public input.” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon “DHHS has never brought this proposal to the Legislature, but is essentially threatening to build the project elsewhere and at greater cost if they don't get their way. We must provide proper care to Mainers with serious mental illness, and we are committed to making this happen with the proper oversight that protects this vulnerable population.”

    The Democrats present at the Legislative Council meeting – Gideon, Speaker Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe – sought to table the proposal so it could be fully vetted as soon as the 128the Legislature convenes in January.

    House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, however, forced a vote to simply approve the project. His motion failed by a vote of 3-3.

    “Let’s remember what got us here in the first place. Three years ago, the feds came in and found that Riverview patients were severely abused – sometimes even with pepper spray and Tasers,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “As lawmakers, we have a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of the patients in the state’s care. We can’t simply hand a blank check over to the administration.”

     

  • We need to finish FDR’s economic bill of rights

    The current economic and political turmoil in the United States invites us to look back, not in a nostalgic way, but to remember important moments in our nation’s history and take inspiration from the work of transformational leaders. Thus, the Progressive Era and the New Deal are receiving fresh attention.

    We can note as well how voting rights expanded over time to include women as well as men, and blacks as well as whites, and consider how public education spread across the land to include community colleges and state universities as well as elementary and secondary schools.

    Reflecting on our national history can stir up hope and courage, for we have often shown ourselves to be a people of great projects. Some past projects may merit criticism, even condemnation, in the light of current insights and priorities. Yet, however flawed, these projects, together with those that are praiseworthy, indicate that in generations past, America was not afraid of big dreams and acted on those dreams.

    In contrast, America today often sounds small-minded and small-hearted. We need dreams of a gracious society that rival the best dreams of the past so that we can act boldly upon them. We can even bring back good dreams that were not fulfilled in their time but can be realized in ours.

    World War II was still raging when Franklin Delano Roosevelt dispatched his 1944 Message to Congress on the State of the Union. This message included eight points that he identified as a “Second Bill of Rights.”

    Roosevelt told Congress that the nation cannot rest content if some fraction of Americans are without the necessities of life. As America began by asserting inalienable political rights, so with the growth of the national economy, “these political rights proved inadequate to assure equality in the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

    He claimed that certain economic rights “have become accepted as self-evident” and that an economic bill of rights was necessary, expressing these rights in simple, stirring language:

    “The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

    “The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

    “The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

    “The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

    “The right of every family to a decent home;

    “The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

    “The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

    “The right to a good education.”

    Subsequent government actions have helped Americans to realize portions of these rights, but the record is mixed and remains always subject to change for the worse. Our national record in some respects compares poorly to those of other nations.

    While the American bill of political rights is admired by freedom-loving people around the globe, the weakness of our economic rights leaves many of our international friends puzzled and disappointed. The need for improvement in these areas is urgent. So, too, is the need to secure these rights as part of our Constitution.

    In his 1944 Message to Congress, Roosevelt noted that “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.’ ” Keeping alive the political principles contained in the first Bill of Rights requires supplementing them with a second Bill of Rights that addresses economic issues.

    Legal scholar Cass R. Sunstein’s 2004 study, “The Second Bill of Rights: FDR’s Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More Than Ever,” helped revive interest in what he calls “the speech of the century” and its implications.

    Sunstein notes that FDR’s economic rights proposal “was a direct product of America’s experience with the desperation and misery of the Great Depression.” A 21st-century economic bill of rights can also draw on the tragedy of the Great Recession and the inhumane economy that has prevailed in America throughout the last four decades.

    Our nation made horrible mistakes. We can learn from them. We can establish a far more gracious society than the one we have endured in recent years.

  • It is no time to compromise with the forces of inequality and injustice

    BY KAREN HECK

    It’s been hard to figure out what to write this month, much less how I’m going to cope in the coming years. I’ve just experienced a national election that repudiated pretty much everything I’ve spent the last 35 years of my life working for — reproductive rights, peace, protections from hate speech and crimes aimed at people who aren’t straight, white, able-bodied, and male, and a society in which people actually care about something other than themselves. It’s that kind of love-your-neighbor-as-yourself society I internalized from my Sunday school lessons 50 years ago.

    It’s that kind of society Native tribes are fighting for in North Dakota. They are peacefully attempting to stop an oil pipeline from being built in order to protect water from the eventual oil leaks we know will occur. It’s the kind of society built by people who are thinking past their own generation to the lives seven generations on. It’s based on an understanding that water equals life and it’s their job to protect that life-giving element with all that they have. It’s a society I aspire to live in.

    It’s not at all like the crowd being assembled in Washington who will do all they can to grab what they can now and screw the next generation.

    I’m not naive enough to think the national media will be reporting on the news of Native tribes protecting water or the fact that the new administration’s focus on short-term gains rather than long-term public good will leave us less well-off than ever. I can pretty much figure out what we’ll be hearing and reading in the future based on the media’s obsession this past year in bringing us its version of the news.

    We’re now in the post-truth era of news. Who needs to check distortions and lies when reporting on a guy’s tweets and his rants is so entertaining? Editors and reporters had to know the man is unqualified for any governmental job, much less the most important one. How could they miss that he’s a guy who knows less about how government works than any high school student, whose temperament is less under control than a 2-year-old’s, and whose racist, misogynist, homophobic rants reminded people of Hitler?

    It’s clearly no longer the media’s job to give us information about qualifications, issues, or the policy ramifications of the candidates. If they were at all interested in that approach, they could have taken a hard look at Maine to project what would happen to the rest of the nation if a man like our governor was elected. We have a governor who has withheld millions of Victims of Crime money from the people of Maine who have been victims of crime! How much lower than that can you go? I’m pretty sure we won’t have to wait too long to find out. Owned and supported by drug and energy companies, the national media’s only interest was and is how much money can be made on the circus it had a hand in creating.

    If you’ve read this far, you know I’m angry. I’m also so sad. I’m sad to think about the future for children in this country. Those who espouse the kinds of thinking Trump and his appointees represent do not display the kinds of values we need our kids to learn. Those values include kindness, decency, and an understanding that life is not about winning but how you play the game.

    I will continue to remember that Hillary Clinton beat Trump by more than 2 million votes. I’ll continue to believe the country’s spirit is best represented by the Statue of Liberty. That spirit is a generous one, because we understand that we are one nation, indivisible and stronger together.

    Speaking out against those who would destroy that spirit is what I will continue to do. Taking to the streets to make my feelings known is one way forward for me. I made arrangements to be at the Million Women March in January.

    Closer to home in Waterville, I was proud to stand with more than 100 people in support of the Native American people protecting water from an oil industry that refuses to acknowledge it is contributing to climate disruption. I was also proud to be part of a small group in Castonguay Square standing in memory of transgender men and women across the globe and in this country who were killed for just wanting to be who they were.

    I realize that there will be calls for compromise with those who are going to be in power. But I will not compromise with an administration of racist, misogynist, homophobic beings bent on the destruction of the idea of equality and justice for all. I had hoped for better days after Nov. 8, but with apologies to Dylan Thomas, I will not go gentle into that good night but I will instead, rage against the dying of the light.

    Karen Heck is a longtime resident and former mayor of Waterville.

  • Fake Maine newspapers spread lies to unsuspecting voters



    The Maine Republican Party and The House Republican Majority Fund, run by Minority Leader Ken Fredette, are using deceptive campaign tactics designed to confuse and mislead voters in House districts and communities throughout the state.

    Republicans are printing, mailing and distributing fake "newspapers," that are nothing more than advertisements for Republican House candidates and designed to look like local news publications. The names of the "newspapers" are based on local town or school names and include fake advertisements designed to further convince voters that the "newspapers" are real.

    Freeport Democrat Sara Gideon, who serves as assistant House majority leader,is outraged at the fake newspapers. "There’s a smell of deceit to it that I think is really disturbing," said Gideon. “They are really deceptive. For example, they will even use the name of sports teams from the local town in the title to get attention. I think for many people they won’t be able to discern they are actual political advertisements."

    The fake "newspapers" are being mailed to voters and distributed to convenience stores and newspaper stands across the state.

    "This is why so many people have lost faith in politicians and hate politics. It's one thing to communicate to voters about voting records and differences of opinions between candidates, but it's a whole other thing to intentionally deceive voters with false and misleading campaign tactics," said Speaker of the House Mark Eves.

    Many of the "newspapers" even falsely claim the Republican candidates were endorsed by the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine when, in fact, the Democratic candidate received the actual endorsement. Such was the case in Pittsfield, where the "newspaper" claimed Republican candidate Scott Strom received SAM’s endorsement when, in fact, Rep. Stanley Short actually received the group’s endorsement. The newspaper even went so far as to use SAM executive director David Trahan’s signature without permission, forcing Trahan to respond and for Short to take out an advertisement in the real local newspaper.

    Majority Leader Jeff McCabe said, "The SAM endorsement means something to voters so it’s very disappointing to see partisan politicians lie about their candidates receiving endorsements."

    The false and misleading claims have also extended to the Maine Republican Party’s attack mail program against Democratic House candidates.

    "I've never seen such false and misleading ads in local races," said Gideon. "Democratic House candidate Gerry Gibson, from Waterboro, has received several attack mailers blaming him personally for all the problems in the legislature. Gerry has never even been elected to office and just retired from the U.S. Air Force this past year after serving our country for 20 years. To Gerry, that’s especially offensive."

  • Your vote will honor the service of veterans

    Much is at stake, do your part as a citizen by voting this Election Day

     Editorial by Representative John Schneck of Bangor.

    In the coming week, Americans will mark two days that are significant to our democracy: Election Day and Veterans Day. On Tuesday, millions of Americans will make their voices heard at the polls. On Friday, we honor those who served to protect our nation and our freedoms. I urge you to participate in both.

     I’m honored to be a member of the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, which deals with veterans issues as well as policy around elections, campaign practices and voter registration. I’m especially proud of our work this year on new laws spearheaded by Democrats that help Maine keep up with the changing needs of Maine veterans, combat homelessness and address their higher education and transportation needs.

     

    As a veteran, a state lawmaker and a citizen, it’s been wonderful to see how engaged Mainers are this election season. You can see it in the large numbers of absentee ballots requested and cast, in the debates among candidates and in the day-to-day conversations with friends and neighbors.

     

    There’s a lot at stake this year, from who we put in the White House to who’ll be on our towns’ school boards.

     

    And, of course, voters will also decide what kind of Maine Legislature we’ll have for the next two years.

     

    Those decisions will affect how we educate our children and prepare them for the working world, whether Augusta shifts costs to local property taxpayers and whether we can achieve true welfare reform that moves people out of poverty and into sustainable employment – and that creates accountability and effectiveness throughout the system.

     

    I served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, and I’m proud to serve in the Legislature alongside other veterans. Among House Democrats, we have veterans of the Army, Navy and Marines, veterans who also served in the Vietnam era, a younger veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the co-chair of the Legislature’s Veterans Caucus and a recipient of the Bronze Star.

     

    I know that each and every one of them wants voters to participate in our democracy.

     

    Meanwhile, some highly visible politicians are trying to cast doubt about the integrity of our election system. They’re trying to dissuade – even intimidate – voters from exercising their rights. They’re trying to undermine our American tradition of peaceful transfers of power.

     

    We’ve got to stand up against this. We’ve all got to live up to our responsibilities as citizens. So please do your part by voting this Tuesday. Your actions will honor the service of our veterans.

  • Maine Attorney General Mills seeks volunteer mediators to help consumers

     Are you interested in helping Maine consumers resolve disputes with businesses?

    The Attorney General’s Office is recruiting volunteer mediators for the Consumer Mediation Service, with the next training next training scheduled for February 2017.

    For more than 30 years the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office has offered a free and voluntary complaint resolution program for Maine consumers, staffed by trained volunteers and overseen by full-time staff.

    Volunteers will mediate consumer complaints over the phone or by mail in the Attorney General’s Augusta Office on a variety of matters including express and implied warranty issues, landlord-tenant, car repairs and car sales, and more. Volunteers will be thoroughly trained in consumer law and mediation techniques at February’s three day training.

    They will then volunteer between 4 to 6 hours per week on a schedule convenient to them during normal business hours under the supervision of members of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.

     

    To learn more about the program and download the application please go to our website -http://www.maine.gov/ag/about/volunteer_mediators.shtml. Applications must be received byJanuary 1, 2017 to be considered for the February class.

     

    Please direct all inquiries to Complaint Examiner Martha Currier at (207) 626-8847 or: Martha.currier@maine.gov

  • Re-elect Former State Rep. Hinck to Portland City Council

    Re-elect Hinck because he’s accomplished.

    We need to re-elect Jon Hinck to the Portland City Council to ensure that Portland remains the Forest City.

    Any group works better the longer they work together. Folks who jump from one elected position to another after just one term, no matter how well-meaning, take with them the institutional knowledge that is important in making that group work well.

    A highly regarded environmental activist and co-founder of Greenpeace USA, Jon chaired the Energy & Sustainability Committee over the past year, helping to initiate and guide passage of a fantastic new 660-kilowatt solar project on the closed landfill.

    When the Styrofoam ban and bag fee provisions stalled, Jon got these through the last hurdles. And he spoke up for a measure banning the sale of puppies and kittens from harmful puppy mills, making Portland the first Maine city to do so.

    Jon Hinck has the knowledge and experience we want as our at-large city councilor.

    by Reb Brann

    Hinck served in the Maine State Legislature before being elected to the Portland City Counci. He was instramental in progressing clean energy issues and made sure the Regional Green House Gas (RGGI) made it thru the legislature- with a unanimous vote.  He also helped to protect over 1.2 million acres of land during the Baldacci administration.

  • Representative Heidi Brooks, running for re-election

    What office are you running for and why?

    I am running for re-election to the State House District #61 seat, representing part of Lewiston.  
     
    I am gratefully serving in my first term as a Maine State House Representative.  I am running for re-election because there is a lot of work to do.  We need to come together to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare, education, and a safe, affordable place to call home.  We need to improve our livable wage job opportunities, infrastructure, and transportation.  

    What role has Emerge Maine played in your candidacy?

    I've been fortunate to have a number of great women role models in my life.  Penthea Burns and Representative Peggy Rotundo introduced me to Emerge Maine.  Emerge Maine helped build up my confidence and envision the possibility of running for office. The Emerge Maine network has provided a tremendous amount of encouragement and support.    

    What advice would you give to another woman thinking about running for office?

    I would encourage anyone thinking of running for office to run. It is a rewarding experience to meet our neighbors and to have a number of one on one conversations.
  • Legalize it? Why not? — Marijuana is not as scary as you think

     

    Op-ed by Rachel Andreasen

    Every Maine voter will see on the ballot: Question #1, legalize, regulate and tax Marijuana.

    In a recent press release, Maine’s Governor Paul LePage stated that Question one is, ‘not just bad for Maine, but it’s deadly.’ He has made claims that people addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin. He goes on to say that the legalization in Colorado has caused an increase in significant traffic deaths, but according to Drug Policy Alliance marijuana has not had an evident influence on traffic deaths. Mr. Lepage ends his video by encouraging voters to research and educate themselves on this dangerous issue.

    Thank you, Paul LePage I have educated myself on this ‘dangerous issue.’ It’s amazing to me how yet again we have a governor that doesn’t get it. By criminalizing marijuana we are doing far more damage by keeping it illegal.

    Question One is not as dangerous as you think, it reads: ‘Do you want to allow the possession and use of Marijuana under state law by persons who are 21 years of age, allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of Marijuana and marijuana products subject to tax reg