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  • Maine Talk on Sailing a Viking Ship May 23

    “In the Wake of Leif Erikson” –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

    “Partisan changes to the SNAP program along the lines of Maine’s failed model won’t alleviate hunger or help people find work. They’ll only make it harder for parents, people with disabilities, older workers, low-wage workers and people temporarily in between jobs to get enough to eat. We look forward to working with members of our Congressional delegation to advance proven work-supporting policies and reducing the number of Mainers who are hungry,” said Chris Hastedt, policy director for Maine Equal Justice Partners (MEJP) .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Partisan changes to the SNAP program along the lines of Maine’s failed model won’t alleviate hunger or help people find work. They’ll only make it harder for parents, people with disabilities, older workers, low-wage workers and people temporarily in between jobs to get enough to eat. We look forward to working with members of our Congressional delegation to advance proven work-supporting policies and reducing the number of Mainers who are hungry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       

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

     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

    BACKGROUND ON PHARMACY DISTRIBUTION OF NALOXONE

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

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

  • Maine Legislation would discourage misuse of personal information on internet

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    by ramona du Houx

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

    The vote was 94 - 52.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Legislation would open the door to a more resilient power grid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Talk about Food Safety for Maine Midcoast Farmers

    March 29 from 5:30-7pm

    Knox-Lincoln Extension, 377 Manktown Rd, Waldoboro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Maine Community Forestry Grants Available

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Maine Democrats Turn Out to Rally Efforts for 2018 Elections

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    “Dear Students,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RGGI History —

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Stonington’s lobstering focus of short documentary

    by Faith DeAmbrose

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

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

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

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

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

  • Portland Maine needs input from local citizens about pier development

    by Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    by Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    photos and article by Ramona du Houx

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

     

     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

    Graphic by Ramona du houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

    What others have written about the book:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Published by Polar Bear & Company

    ISBN-10: 1882190785

    ISBN-13: 978-1882190782

    Pages: 153

    $14.95

     

     

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


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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Dear Secretary Zinke:

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    December 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    So what are we left with?

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

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

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

  • Maine's Susan Collins and the Duping of Centrists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    12/07/2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    · 316 to 660 premature deaths;

    · 230,000 asthma attacks in children;

    · 160,000 missed school days;

    · 28,000 missed work days;

    · 630 asthma-related emergency room visits; and

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

    Pending recommendations to be presented to full Legislature in early December 

    by Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More about Gallery Venn + Maker:

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

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

  • Maine School of Masonry Exceeds Goal of Capital Fundraiser

      

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Now, attention immediately turns to implementation of Medicaid expansion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The Marijuana Legalization Implementation committee will continue to meet.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

     

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

     

    By Ramona du Houx 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Attracting Immigrants helps communities

    From the Atlantic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Concert to Benefit Human Rights Education in Maine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photos and article by Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

    Scientests from the University of Maine concur.

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

    Environment Maine’s analysis found:

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

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

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

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

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

  • Obama Foundation Fellowship program seeks to support outstanding civic innovators

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

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

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

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

    WHO THEY'RE LOOKING FOR

    Civic innovators

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

    Discipline diverse

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

    At a tipping point in their work

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

    Talented, but not connected

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

    Good humans

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Failure to speak out against Nazi extremism is complicity with hate

    As Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio said, “This isn’t hard.” In fact, it’s quite simple. “Very fine people” don’t march with Nazis.

    For us as Jews, the images from Charlottesville stir a particular kind of horror. Watching armed militias spout racism and anti-Semitism awakens a dread that is not theoretical. Their Nazi slogans should have been buried with the Third Reich. Survivors of the concentration camps still live among us. We are their friends, their children, their heirs. We carry the legacy of those who didn’t survive. And, appallingly, the Holocaust is hardly the only genocide humans have perpetrated. It can happen anywhere, even in an advanced country where the targeted groups are well-integrated into society.

    Our Jewish history makes us acutely sensitive to the dangers of ugly white nationalism. Anti-Muslim rhetoric, “White Lives Matter” and other forms of covert and overt racism, attacks on immigrants, “bathroom bills” and varied cruelty to LGBTQ and trans communities, all these come from the same base instincts that fuel anti-Semitism. We are all on edge.

    President Donald Trump’s failure to unambiguously repudiate neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups has defiled the presidency. Until now, it was unthinkable that a post-World War II president of the United States would suggest an equivalence between Nazi and KKK sympathizers and those who protest against them. There is no moral equivalence between evil and those who oppose it. The fact that David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the KKK, and Richard Spencer, a leader of the so-called alt-right, are among the few who are happy with the president’s statements tell us what we already know: he lacks a moral compass, and is giving succor to groups linked to some of the worst chapters of human history.

    We are gratified that so many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have spoken out. They are stating clearly that there is no place in the United States for the bigotry, hatred and violence that the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and their enablers espouse. We are even more grateful to those public figures who have specifically called on Trump to disavow white supremacists and remove their supporters from his administration. We are grateful, but we would go further and urge our representatives to restore federal funding to counter white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

    In this spirit, we ask all our elected officials, from the White House and Congress to our governor and Legislature down to our city councils and select boards, to state what should be obvious: hate groups are utterly unacceptable. Anyone who can’t tell the difference between a Nazi and an anti-Nazi protester is betraying the ideals on which this country was founded and should not hold public office. By their own avowal, they cannot govern on the foundation that all people are created equal.

    It’s rare to find an issue for which right and wrong are so clear. With radical hate, there is no room for equivocation. Failure to speak out is complicity.

    Our elected officials must act, but that is not enough. Our religious tradition is founded in communal responsibility. We are accountable not only for our individual sins and shortcomings but for those of our community. Tikkun olam — repair of the world — requires us all to act. We are taught, “Justice, justice shall ye pursue.” We are in a critical moment in history. In years to come, we may be asked “What did you do?” Each of us, Jews and non-Jews alike, must answer that we were not passive bystanders, but that we actively pursued justice for everyone in our community.

    Mary-Anne Saxl is president of Congregation Beth El in Bangor.

  • Farmington Foothills Fest - local music, food, entertainment Aug 26

    FARMINGTON - A fun day of festivities is planned for this Saturday, Aug. 26 at the Farmington Fairgrounds.

    Hosted by the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, the first Foothills Fest will run from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Live music from a variety of local musicians will be performing throughout the day, various demonstrations will be given, food trucks will provide an assortment of delicious food and a beer and wine garden will offer a selection of beverages. There will be several artisans and businesses exhibiting their services and goods and various entertainment will take place throughout the day.

    A 60-foot long inflatable obstacle course will be at the fairgrounds, as well as corn hole, a petting zoo, a kid's art wall and a number of crafters and vendors.

    Musical performances include Mark Gentle from 10:30 a.m. until 12 p.m., Crime Scene from 12 p.m. until 2 p.m., Travis Cyr from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. and The Usual Suspects from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.

    Demonstrations will be held all day in the Starbird Building, beginning with pigeon racing by Scott Landry at 10:30 a.m. Robin's Flower Pot will hold a gardening demonstration at 11 p.m. and Russell Black will talk beekeeping at 12 p.m. Rainbow Alternatives will host a reflexology lesson at 12:30 p.m. and Ashley Montgomery will discuss healthy snack options at 2 p.m. Justa Alpaca Farm will have alpacas outdoors beginning at 3 p.m.

    Local emergency responders will also be at the fairgrounds. A K-9 police dog demonstration will be held at 1 p.m. while the Farmington Police Department will have special "beer googles" that simulate intoxication to demonstrate its impact on motor skills.

    A number of other groups will have a presence at the festival, including Stanley Steamers, North Woods Law, the National Guard with a Humvee and Stormy from WCSH6.

    Entry to Foothills Fest is $5, children 12 and under free. A live broadcast of the festival will be provided throughout the day by WKTJ. The festival is being sponsored by Franklin Savings Bank and Skowhegan Savings Bank.

  • Maine boat gets refit at Convivium Urban Farmstead and Hydroponic Gardens

     August 4, 2017 from their BLOG

    By Morgan Rogers

    I recently discovered two incredible things – Convivium Urban Farmstead and working with pallet wood, which I did at Convivium. Emily and I were lucky enough to get connected with Mike and Leslie, the kindest, coolest people, and founders of Convivium. They not only put us up at their place, but gave us full use of their wood shop where we had planned to build a couple of things, but ended up building other things based on our experiences there. We arrived just in time for the grand opening of their space, two 1920s-era greenhouses, with a commercial kitchen, a coffee house, and wood shop/learning center, dedicated to creating community around food.

    It was there that we learned more about hydroponics and aquaponics from Korrin who was designing and installing these systems in Convivium with her husband, Sean. I heard about this way of producing food before in Maine, but never saw it up close and had never thought about using it myself. It is a system in which the waste produced by fish supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically and they in turn purify the water. Hydroponics is a system that grows plants without soil. They get their nutrients from mineral nutrient solutions mixed in water.


    Aquaponics

    Inspired by what we were seeing at Convivium and wanting to take a piece of the landscape to incorporate into Michi Zeebee, while looking for more ways to live sustainably on a boat, we of course had to have a hydroponics garden on our boat. We talked to A.J. who manages the urban farms for Convivium. He thought it was a great idea and totally doable so he connected us to Korrin after generously donating fishing poles and a tackle box so we could pair fresh caught fish with our new garden. Korrin walked us through the steps of setting up a rooftop hydroponics garden as well as donated some PVC pipe and seeds for veggies. Mike gave us the run of the wood shop, a couple of bikes to get around town on (one was a gigantic fat tire bike and the other a tiny bmx – hands down the raddest way to cruise), let us use any scrap wood laying around, and donated a water pump. I can’t say enough how great the folks are at Convivium.

    In the style of shantyboat and using sustainable practices we used reclaimed pallet wood to make our hydroponics garden. I love pallet wood. If you ever worked with pallet wood you know that you get a hodge podge of woods from around the world ranging from mahogany to oak to purple heart to pine. The thing with pallet wood is you need to be patient as there are many steps involved for getting it to a usable stage, but I even enjoyed this whole process.

    First you need to pick a good pallet where you can salvage at least a few solid pieces. Once you pick a couple you need to remove the rusty nails. There are a couple of ways of going about it. You could swing around a crow bar and use a hammer to pull the pieces off or take a skill saw to the edges and just cut the sections out that are free of nails. We did the latter. It is a heck of a lot faster. I have done the former in the heat of the day with Joe at The Apprenticeshop earlier this summer. Thanks again Joe for volunteering to do that!

    Okay so now you have all these pieces cut out, but of course they are not square and are different sizes and thicknesses. Also, they are usually pretty grimy so you need to take a wire brush to them first and maybe run a metal detector over them to make sure you did not miss any nails before running them through the planer to get them to the same thickness. After you get the same thickness you want to make sure they are all the same width and are square. After planing them Emily would run them through the table saw then I would take them to the chop saw to cut a little off each end. It took us a couple of days, but it was well worth it. The colors of all the different pieces formed a beautiful pattern.

    Now we had all these pieces that needed to be joined together to form a longer plank that would go between each of the PVC pipes to be a support structure for the garden. Emily came up with a lock and key system, which consisted of cutting a section from each pallet piece and connecting the pallets together with these pieces using dowels. We ended up with even more patterns, but to our dismay when we held up our new planks they bent and threatened to fall apart. The pieces were just too small and too thin, but it didn’t matter to us. We liked the look of it and just slapped some plywood on the back to give it more structure and presto we have a support structure for the garden.

    The last step was making holes in the PVC pipe to hold the plants. Emily took a hole saw to the pipes and made neat rows along each. It produced some pretty cool shop detritus:

    In the middle of all of this we also managed to build and install the aft wall with a 3D river topography pattern. This was an idea that we had for sometime, as we wanted to capture the river’s topography both through sonar scanning and through a 3D structure on Zeebee, but got an extra push when the last thunderstorm ripped off the aft canvas wall. I looked through Navionics and studied the patterns of the river bottom around the Dubuque area. I took these patterns and cut them out of plywood using a combination of a jigsaw and bandsaw. Then I layered these pieces and fastened them with glue and a nail gun.

    Leslie and Mike were patient and very supportive of the project even as we kept extending our stay and raiding the café bakery at night for those delicious muffins they make in house. In the morning we would buy coffee in their café and sheepishly pay for the muffins we had consumed the previous night and would take another for the road.

    After many long nights and muffins we had a hydroponics garden installed on the roof of Michi Zeebee. We are installing the pump soon to draw water from the river to grow the veggies, even though we can’t technically eat the vegetables since the Mississippi River water is not clean enough for that. It will be an interesting experiment and perhaps more folks will build gardens on their boat or start an urban garden of their own.

  • 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.”