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  • Maine AG and AG's from 47 States, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico Reach a $600 Million Settlement with Equifax

    Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey announced on July 22, 2019 that he and Attorneys General from 47 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have reached an historic $600 million settlement with Equifax Inc. following the largest data breach enforcement action in history. The settlement, which is part of a global settlement that Equifax reached with the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB") and the multi-district class actions, is the result of an investigation into a massive 2017 data breach.
    Equifax will pay $300 million dollars, and up to an additional $125 million dollars, into a single Consumer Restitution Fund for the benefit of consumers affected by the breach. In addition, Equifax will pay the Attorneys General a total of $175 million, of which Maine will receive $1,000,000. 

    "This settlement will enable Maine consumers to obtain relief in the event they experience identity theft resulting from Equifax's failure to protect personal information," said Frey. "Entities like Equifax who store our personal information have a duty to make every effort to ensure that information is secure from unlawful access."

    Equifax is the oldest and one of the three largest American consumer credit reporting agencies. The settlement resolves allegations by the Attorneys General that Equifax failed to adequately inform consumers about its data protection practices, and to take reasonable steps to protect consumers' personal information from the 2017 data breach. The breach affected more than half of the U.S. population - more than 147 million U.S. consumers - of which 542,268 are Maine residents. Breached information included social security numbers, names, dates of birth, addresses, credit card numbers and, in some cases, driver's license numbers.

    As part of the settlement with the Attorneys General, Equifax will offer consumers affected by the 2017 data breach free credit monitoring services for 10 years, and free Identity Theft Restoration services. Equifax will also take other steps to assist consumers in making it easier for consumers to freeze and thaw their credit and to dispute inaccurate information in credit reports; and requiring Equifax to maintain sufficient staff dedicated to assisting consumers who may be victims of identity theft. In addition, Equifax will strengthen its security practices, including by minimizing its collection of sensitive data and the use of consumers' Social Security numbers, performing regular security monitoring, logging and testing, and using new policies regarding the identification and deployment of critical security updates and patches. 

    The program to pay restitution to consumers will be conducted in connection with the settlements that Equifax reached with the FTC, the CFPB and the multi-district class actions. Consumers who are eligible for relief from the Consumer Restitution Fund will be required to submit claims online or by mail. Paper claim forms can also be requested over the phone. Consumers can obtain information about the settlement, check their eligibility to file a claim, and file a claim on the Equifax Settlement Breach online registry. To receive email updates regarding the launch of this online registry, consumers can sign up at www.ftc.gov/equifax-data-breach. Consumers can also call the settlement administrator at 1-888-759-2982 for more information. 
  • ConnectME Authority Awards Broadband Infrastructure Grants to Eight Maine Communities

    Infrastructure grants will bring universal service to the towns of Alna, Alton, Bowdoinham, and Cambridge

     By Ramona du Houx

    ConnectME Authority announced today that its board has approved $731,775 in grants to eight communities across Maine for broadband infrastructure and planning. ConnectME is providing infrastructure grants to the communities of Alna, Alton, Bowdoinham, and Cambridge, bringing fiber optic service to 867 locations in those four communities. The grants are matched by $1,473,130 from the communities being served and the ISP building out the broadband service.

    ConnectME is also providing $89,275 in grants to Argyle, Swans Island, Franklin County and the Western Lakes region of Kennebec County for community planning. These grants are designed to help engage communities, identifying needs and engage potential broadband service providers to expand the availability of broadband to their area. These grants are matched by $120,000 from the communities seeking funding.

    “Broadband is critical to spur innovation, create opportunity, and build a strong, diverse economy – especially in rural Maine,” said Governor Janet Mills. “One of the highest priorities of my Administration is to expand our state’s broadband infrastructure and these grants from ConnectME are a positive step in that direction by leveraging local and private investment to bring high-speed connectivity to these communities.”

    “High speed Internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity,” said Rep. Berry, Bowdionham, House Chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee added.  “ While my own constituents are now served, many Mainers still lack access to opportunities for business, healthcare, and education that require fast, reliable upload and download speeds.  This is the critical importance of the state’s Connect ME Authority to improve our prosperity and quality of life.” 

    Governor Mills’ budget, as proposed and passed, increases funding for ConnectME by $1.9 million, beginning in January of 2020. The Governor’s bond package, which still awaits Legislative approval, also includes $30 million dedicated to the expansion of broadband.

    The ConnectME Authority was created by the Governor Baldacci administration, with the legislature in 2006 to make a secure, reliable, competitive and forward-looking broadband infrastructure be broadband service universally available.  It is funding by a small assessment on land lines and broadband services to customers in Maine, with an annual budget of just over $1,000,000.

     

  • New Maine laws will help hungry children in Maine

    By Ramona du Houx

    Nutritious food helps develop babies’ brains and bodies, gives kids the energy to excel and reduces the risk of chronic diseases in adulthood. But 15.8 percent of Maine households, about 200,000 individuals, are food insecure. It’s estimated that about 1 in 5 children in Maine don’t know when or where they will get their next meal. Many rely on school meals. But when school lets out for summer they have to fend for themselves.

    That's why foundaitons like Full Plates/Full Potential of Portland, Maine are so important. Started in 2015 their mission is to end childhood hunger in Maine. Their advocacy helped hearld new legislation in Augusta to sucess.

    “Access to adequate nutrition is critical for children's academic and social emotional development,” said Heather Zimmerman, Advocacy Director of Preble Street. “However, right now nearly half of all Maine students qualify for free and reduced price meals. The child nutrition bills passed by the Maine legislature this year will increase access to school meals, helping to reduce hunger in Maine and ensure all students have access to the nutrition they need to thrive.”

    LD 701: includes two major child hunger policies: 

    • The state will now create an online application for federal child nutrition food programs. Today 81,838 students are enrolled in federal food programs for free and reduced-price meals. There are many more children, however, who qualify for these programs but don’t enroll because their families never turn in their paper applications. Because of this law, the state will provide an online application system, in addition to the paper form, that local school districts can use to make it easier for parents to apply.

    • For breakfast, schools will change their models to the national best practice known as Breakfast After the Bell. Serving breakfast after the first bell in the classroom or on a cart just outside of the classroom will increase participation and reduce the stigma for eligible children. The new law also includes funds to pay for infrastructure like food carts and point of sale systems to ease the burden on local school districts.

    LD 549: For lunch, students who qualify for reduced price lunch will now eat for free. For these 11,000 students, often the reduced cost of lunch can be too much for families to afford, causing children to accumulate lunch debt. Eliminating the reduced-price category ensures that these students caught in the middle can access nutritious school lunches while reducing the administrative burden on school nutrition directors. 

    LD 577: After-school programs, from sports to school clubs, are a hallmark of many students' educational experiences. Most students arrive at after-school programs hours after they’ve eaten lunch. This new law will give children the opportunity to eat nutritious meals with their peers so that they can learn, focus and complete after-school activities. Currently, only 28 of the 271 schools eligible actually participate in this federal food program.

    “These four childhood hunger bills will allow more Maine kids to grow up healthy, learn and  reach their full potential,” said Anna Korsen, Full Plates Full Potential’s Program Director. “The legislature passed a better service model for breakfast, supported an underutilized after-school meals program, created an online application system so that families can sign up for nutritious meals and eliminated a financial barrier for lunch.”   

  • Maine is now the 19th state to adopt an Automatic Voter Registration system

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    On June 20,2019 Governor Janet Mills signed a bill to create an Automatic Voter Registration system in Maine.  LD 1463, “An Act To Create An Automatic Voter Registration System,” creates a process that would automatically register eligible Mainers to vote when they interact with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or another approved state agency where they already provide proof of eligibility for voter registration.

    “The foundation of America is built on every eligible citizen’s ability to participate in our democracy, and that starts with making the right to exercise our vote as easy and accessible as possible,” said Speaker Sara Gideon, sponser of the legislation. “We know that greater participation in our democracy will make our government more responsible and make elected officials more representative of the people we serve. Making that participation easier while improving the integrity and security of our elections is something we should all be able to support.

    Maine is now the 19th state to adopt an  Automatic Voter Registration system. Oregon became the first in 2015, and that effort is widely considered a success. Since then, 17 other states and the District of Columbia have passed similar laws.

    LD 1463 will allow eligible Mainers to be registered to vote when they interact with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles or another approved state agency where they provide proof of eligibility for voter registration—including name, address, citizenship status, and signature. For an eligible voter, this information would be automatically added to the Central Voter Registration file. Election officials will then make available an option for the voter to enroll with a party or to decline registration altogether. Outdated information, e.g. old addresses, of registered voters will also be automatically updated.

     

    Voters can still register with a voter registration card at their town hall if they prefer, and registration would not become mandatory. If an eligible Mainer does not wish to register and have their information on the voter rolls, they will be provided the opportunity to decline registration.

  • Seth Wescott - A thriving clean-power economy is key to a bright future for our state's outdoor recreation industry

    When you grow up romping through Maine’s snow-covered mountains, swimming in sun-warmed crystal lakes or hiking through an autumn forest at the peak of the season, it comes as no surprise that Maine’s outdoor recreation economy is a driving force, attracting and sustaining employers and families across the state. We know this, because this is our home.

    But it’s not just about a feeling of love we share for this place – it’s also about support for a thriving economy. Maine’s outdoor recreation industry generates $8.2 billion in consumer spending annually, provides 76,000 jobs and contributes $548 million in annual state tax revenue. To say that Maine and its great outdoors are deeply interwoven would almost be an understatement.

    But our way of life is under threat from climate change. Temperatures have already risen 3 degrees Fahrenheit in our state since the beginning of the 20th century, winter temperatures have increased twice as fast as summer temperatures and sea level is predicted to rise 1 to 4 feet along the Maine coast by 2100. This isn’t the way life should be. We have to act now.

    Fortunately, Mainers are ready for a clean-energy transition. In fact, according to an April poll by Moore Information, 70 percent of Maine residents support increasing the amount of renewable electricity sold in the state from 40 percent today to 100 percent by 2050.

    That’s why our Legislature has already taken action to remove unfair barriers to rooftop solar. L.D. 1711, An Act to Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation in Maine, would expand solar access for towns, businesses and all Mainers, regardless of income or available roofs. These changes would not only benefit individual homeowners and businesses that install solar panels on their property, they also have the potential to lower energy costs for everyone by bringing more clean energy into the regional power grid.

    It’s also time for Maine to modernize its Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires electricity suppliers to obtain a certain amount of power from renewable sources each year. Our current RPS expired, which is why we’re proud to support L.D. 1494, An Act to Reform Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.


    Already, RPS policies in Maine have created nearly 12,000 jobs and increased the state’s economy by more than $1 billion, with minimal costs to electricity consumers. L.D. 1494 would update our state’s RPS to reach 80 percent renewable energy by 2030 and put us on track to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. It will prioritize new, made-in-Maine energy resources – including solar, wind and high-efficiency biomass heating – and preserve and grow our economy. Updating our RPS is an essential part of a clean-energy economy and a comprehensive climate change strategy. It’s about Maine power for Maine people.

    Our state motto is “Dirigo,” Latin for ‘I lead.’ ″ It’s time to do just that, and get Maine back on track to the way life should be. We can’t wait any longer. Let’s pass L.D. 1711 and L.D. 1494 and support a self-made, clean energy future.

  • Maine State Senate & House open with Hindu prayers

    Rajan Zed reading invocation in Maine House of Representatives.

    Both Maine House of Representatives and Senate in capital Augusta opened their June 3rd and fourth sessions respectively with Hindu mantras; containing verses from world’s oldest extant scripture. Hindu statesman Rajan Zed delivered these invocations from ancient Sanskrit scriptures before the Senate and House.

    After Sanskrit delivery, he then read the English interpretation of the prayers. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of Indo-European languages. Zed, who is the President of Universal Society of Hinduism, recited from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use; besides lines from Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), both ancient Hindu scriptures. He started and ended the prayer with “Om”, the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work. 

    Reciting from Brahadaranyakopanishad, Rajan Zed said “Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya”, which he then interpreted as “Lead us from the unreal to the real, Lead us from darkness to light, and Lead us from death to immortality.”

    Reading from Bhagavad-Gita, he urged Senators and Representatives to keep the welfare of others always in mind. Senate President Troy D. Jackson and Speaker Sara Gideon introduced Zed and Senate gave him standing ovation after the prayer.

    Zed was wearing saffron colored attire, a ruddraksh mala (rosary), and traditional sandalpaste tilak (religious mark) on the forehead. Senators, representatives, employees, public and others present were seen standing in prayer mode with their heads bowed down during the invocations.

    Zed also met Maine Governor Janet T. Mills on June fourth. 

    Rajan Zed is a global Hindu and interfaith leader. Bestowed with World Interfaith Leader Award; Zed is Senior Fellow and Religious Advisor to Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, on the Advisory Board of The Interfaith Peace Project, etc.

    He has been panelist for “On Faith”, a prestigious interactive conversation on religion produced by The Washington Post; and produces a weekly interfaith panel “Faith Forum” in a Gannett publication for over eight years. Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.

  • Gov. Mills Signs Bill to Prohibit Native American Mascots in Maine

    Flanked by Maine tribal leaders and ambassadors, lawmakers, and education officials, Governor Janet Mills signed into law a bill passed unanimously by the Legislature to prohibit Native American mascots in all Maine public schools May 16, 2019..

    “While Indian mascots were often originally chosen to recognize and honor a school’s unique connection to Native American communities in Maine, we have heard clearly and unequivocally from Maine tribes that they are a source of pain and anguish,” said Governor Mills. “A mascot is a symbol of pride, but it is not the source of pride. Our people, communities, and understanding and respect for one another are Maine’s source of pride and it is time our symbols reflect that.”

    “I am deeply proud of the steps our Legislature has taken this session to finally honor Maine’s tribes in the way they should be honored. Our tribal communities laid the foundation of our state. They are people, not mascots. I am grateful Gov. Mills continues to support laws that recognize the rightful place of indigenous people in our state,” said Representative Benjamin Collings, D-Portland. 

    "The argument has always been that 'we are honoring you,' by passing this legislation the State of Maine is truly honoring Native Americans,” said James Francis, Penobscot Nation's Tribal Historian.

    “After many years of work by both Native and non-Native people in Maine, the signing of LD 944 marks a significant step in showing respect for the humanity of every Mainer.  None of us are mascots anymore.  It also shows great leadership by Governor Mills and the legislature in protecting the children of Maine—overwhelming research shows how harmful Naive mascots are to children, especially to Native children, and LD 944 ensures that our children will not be harmed by the kind of disrespectful representations of Native people that always come with these mascots,” said Darren Ranco, PhD, Chair of Native American Programs, University of Maine.

    “We recognize this day as the start of a higher trust of promoting cultural diversity and awareness in place of any continuous social injustices towards one another. Today and for now on, it is our collective responsibility to the next generations to promote each other as equals, as individuals, and most importantly as neighbors,” said Representative Rena Newell, Passamaquoddy Tribe.

    “On behalf of the Penobscot Nation and the Wabanaki Nations of Maine, I want to thank Governor Mills and Representative Collings for this huge step toward honor and respect for Indigenous people. This is a very personal issue for me. I have been educating and advocating for change of these mascots since I was a teenager and it is very meaningful to have my daughter here at this signing ceremony along with our tribal leaders, allies and friends,” said Ambassador Maulian Dana, Penobscot Nation.

    LD 944 "An Act To Ban Native American Mascots in All Public Schools" sponsored by Representative Benjamin Collings of Portland prohibits all Maine public schools from adopting a name, symbol or image that depicts or refers to a Native American tribe, individual, custom or tradition and that is used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead or team name of the school.

    A 2005 study by the American Psychological Association called for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities stating “The use of American Indian mascots as symbols in schools and university athletic programs is particularly troubling because schools are places of learning. These mascots are teaching stereotypical, misleading and too often, insulting images of American Indians. These negative lessons are not just affecting American Indian students; they are sending the wrong message to all students."

    California, Oregon and Wisconsin have enacted similar bans or restrictions on the use of Native American Mascots and Michigan, New York and South Dakota are among states nationwide that have enacted resolutions calling on the end of their use.

    Upon Governor Mills’ signature, the law will take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the Legislature.

     

  • Rockland's Apprenticeshop Talk: Maine’s Working Waterfront: Personal and Professional Reflections

    Thursday, May 10,
    The public is invited to the Apprenticeshop, 655 Main Street, Rockland, on Wednesday, May 15, at 6 p.m., for “Maine’s Working Waterfront: Personal and Professional Reflections,” a discussion with Merritt Carey (pictured) about the working waterfront, its importance to Maine’s economy, and what it means to work on the waterfront in Maine today.
    There is a suggested donation of $10 for admission to the talk. From Portland’s proposed referendum to conflict over aquaculture lease sites to the Land for Maine’s Future Fund and the oft-cited statistic that of Maine’s 3,500 miles of coast only 20 are protected as working waterfront, there is constant conversation about what Maine’s coastline should look like.
    Carey will share personal reflections and observations about the changing culture along the coast, as well as professional insights from her work as a board member of the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op, the Maine Aquaculture Co-op and Luke’s Lobster.
  • Maine CDC Promotes Awareness of Tickborne Diseases

    05/07/2019 

    The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reminds Mainers to get in the habit of taking precautions against ticks and tickborne diseases during May, Lyme Disease Awareness Month in Maine. Most Mainers are at risk every day, since deer ticks that can carry pathogens that cause tickborne diseases such as Lyme, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis are most commonly found in wooded, leafy, and shrubby areas.

    As warmer weather ushers in the beginning of tick season, individuals are advised to take the proper steps to limit exposure to ticks. Using the following four strategies will help you to be Tick Aware and Tick Alert, to prevent exposure to ticks and the pathogens they can carry:

    1. Use an EPA-approved repellant
    2. Wear protective clothing
    3. Perform daily tick checks
    4. Use caution in tick-infested areas

    Providers reported over 1,400 confirmed and probable Lyme disease cases to Maine CDC in 2018. The most commonly reported symptom was an erythema migrans or "bullseye" rash. Other common symptoms include arthritis, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, and swollen lymph nodes.

    Maine CDC continues its efforts to help educate Mainers on ticks and tickborne diseases. Some of our activities include:

    In addition to these events and resources, Maine CDC offers a variety of tickborne disease data on the Maine Tracking Network Portal:

    • View Lyme disease data at the town level from 2008-2017
    • Identify trends in tick submission data from 1989-2013, through a collaboration with the Maine Medical Center Research Institute's Vectorborne Disease Laboratory
    • Follow Lyme disease data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey
    • View updated Lyme disease data through 2018
    • View anaplasmosis and babesiosis data by county, gender, and age for 2001-2018.

    This data can be reached by visiting www.maine.gov/lyme and clicking on the Maine Tracking Network on the left navigation pane.

  • Mills signs Executive Order creating ATV task force

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    For thousands of Mainers who love to take peaceful walks, hikes, bike or ride horses along paths the Excutive Order Governor Mills signed creating a Task Force to investage the growing number of incidents where ATV riders break laws is long overdue, but very welcome.

    ATV riders are creating dangerous climates and pose a threat to others who wish to enjoy the outdoors, as well as to themselves. Preventable deaths have increased because of careless and negligent riding.

    On May 1, 2019 Gov. Janet Mills signed an Executive Order to create the All-Terrain Vehicle Initiatives Task Force. Although there are many ATV users who are operating on public and private lands responsibly, the Task Force comes at a time when there are other ATV operators who are disobeying state laws and trespassing on and damaging private lands, causing private landowners to consider posting their land which would jeopardize Maine’s long-held tradition of open access and threaten the state’s recreational economy. Governor Mills’ Executive Order establishes the Task Force to evaluate and recommend policy changes that will protect private lands and help preserve outdoor recreation opportunities, like ATV use, and their economic benefits.

    “Maine’s many responsible ATV users should not have to pay the price for the actions of a few irresponsible actors. But that may be the case unless we act,” said Governor Mills. “Maine has a proud history of outdoor recreational activity, and I want to ensure it stays that way. This Task Force will help preserve our traditions and their substantial economic contributions while also protecting public and private lands.”

    “Maine is well known for its network of ATV trails and the tradition of landowners allowing recreational access for offroad vehicles,” said Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso. “The ATV task force is designed to ensure that the concerns of private landowners are addressed, in order to continue Maine’s tradition of landowners and land users working together to enjoy Maine’s outdoor recreational opportunities.” 

    ATV Maine, Maine Woodland Owners, and the Maine Forest Products Council expressed support for the Task Force, “ATV Maine commends Governor Mills for her Executive Order creating the Task Force. ATVs are an economic boost for Maine’s rural economy and another avenue for folks to enjoy Maine’s great outdoors,” said Ed Pineau of ATV Maine. “We appreciate and look forward to working with Maine’s landowners, large and small who generously allow trails on their properties. We look forward to serving on and working with the Governor to promote our industry for the benefit of Maine’s Environment and her citizens.”

     “We support a complete review of the ATV trail system in Maine,” said Tom Doak, Executive Director of the Maine Woodland Owners. “That system relies largely on the willingness of private landowners to allow access.  The growth in ATV use, size and weight of machines, and expansion of the trail network requires a fresh look.”

    “The large landowner representatives of the Maine Forest Products Council appreciate Governor Mills' leadership in creating the ATV Task Force,”said Patrick Strauch, Executive Director of the Maine Forest Products Council.  “The expansion of trails and increased size of ATVs is leading to serious concerns about property damage, environmental harm and safety in Maine's working forests. We look forward to working with the Task Force on these challenging issues.” 

    The Task Force is charged with:

    • Discussing creating an ATV trail system with consideration to ATV size, weight, environmental impact and other relevant factors;
    • Discussing construction and maintenance standards for Maine’s ATV trail system;
    • Creating a plan to enforce compliance of trail construction and maintenance by the State, including discussion of third-party inspections;
    • Creating a communication and outreach plan for the Maine ATV trial system to include a focus on landowner considerations designed to educate the public on responsible ATV operation
    • Discuss ATV registration requirements based on size, width, weight and/or value; and
    • Discuss the adequacy of funding for the oversight, construction and maintenance of the ATV trail network.

     

    The fourteen-member Task Force will be appointed by the governor and will represent large forest landowners, a statewide forest products organization, a statewide small family woodlot organization, large farmland owner, statewide farming organization, utility corridor right-away owner, land trust organization, statewide ATV organization, combination ATV/snowmobile club, Maine ATV dealer, statewide snowmobile organization, the Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry ATV program, and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) Landowner Relations Program. It will be chaired jointly by the Commissioner of IFW and a member representing a large-forest or farmland owner. The specific members of the Task Force have not yet been appointed.

    The Task Force will submit its recommendations to Governor Mills on or before January 1, 2020, after which the Task Force will dissolve.

  • Maine Governor Mills signs Law to establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    On April 26, 2019 Maine tribal leaders and representatives, joined Governor Janet Mills while she signed the law establishing Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Maine.

    LD 179 An Act To Change the Name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day,  sponsored by Representative Benjamin Collings of Portland, passed with bipartisan support in the Legislature.

    “Our history is by no means perfect. But, for too long, it has been written and presented in a way that fails to acknowledge our shortcomings,” said Governor Janet Mills. “There is power in a name and in who we choose to honor. Today, we take another step in healing the divisions of the past, in fostering inclusiveness, in telling a fuller, deeper history, and in bringing the State and Maine’s tribal communities together to build a future shaped by mutual trust and respect.”

    "On behalf of the Penobscot Nation and with all the Wabanaki and Indigenous People of Maine in our hearts we thank the Maine State Legislature, especially Representative Benjamin Collings and the bill's cosponsors and supporters, and Governor Mills for this significant act,” said Ambassador Maulian Dana of the Penobscot Nation. 

    “It shows a true intent to honor the Indigenous Nations of our State and brings all citizens to an elevated understanding and reconciliation of our shared history.  I also want to thank all those involved in the efforts over the past few years to make these changes in towns and municipalities, they brought these important discussions to light and the conversations had a ripple effect all the way to the honorable law makers of Maine. We are graciously appreciative of this measure that reflects a state that feels more welcoming and inclusive.  As the original stewards of these lands and waters we are happy that our ancestral ties and contributions are validated and celebrated instead of silenced and ignored by the previous holiday that glorified the attempted genocide of our Nations. Our past can be painful but our present and future can be brighter with acts of unity and honesty."  

    “I was privileged to bring this bill forward on behalf of Maine’s tribal community,” said Representative Collings, D-Portland. “Maine’s tribes have played a vital role in building our state and will continue to influence our future. I am grateful to Gov. Mills for signing this bill today and paying tribute to those who truly deserve it.”

    Governor Mills was joined at the signing ceremony by Representative Collings, Representative Rachel Talbot Ross, Chief Clarissa Sabattus of the Houlton Band of Maliseets, Chief Marla Dana and Vice Chief Maggie Dana of Pleasant Point, Chief William Nicholas and Representative Rena Newell of the Passamaquoddy Nation, Ambassador Maulian Dana and former Chief Barry Dana of the Penobscot Nation, and former state Representative and Senior Advisor on Tribal Affairs to the Governor, Donna Loring. 

    Maine now joins Vermont, New Mexico, Alaska, South Dakota, Oregon, Minnesota and Hawaii in replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. More than 130 cities and towns, including Starks, Orono, Bangor, Portland, Gouldsboro, Belfast and Brunswick in Maine, have also made the change.

    LD 179 was cosponsored by Senator Carpenter of Aroostook, Representative Cardone of Bangor, Representative Maxmin of Nobleboro, Representative Newell of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, Representative O’Connor of Berwick, Representative Perry of Calais, Representative Reckitt of South Portland, Representative Rykerson of Kittery and Representative Talbot Ross of Portland.

  • Law to provide internet access in rural Maine via libraries signed by Gov. Mills

    Photo Caption: left to right, Gov. Janet Mills, Rep. Robert Alley, D-Beals, and Brooke Johnson of the ConnectME Authority attend the signing of LD 147.

     

     By Ramona du Houx

    A bill sponsored by Rep. Robert Alley, D-Beals, to allow rural Mainers to check out mobile wi-fi devices from their local libraries was signed into law on April 23, 2019,  by Governor Janet Mills. The bill was enacted unanimously in both the House and the Senate.

    “We had a grant a couple of years ago that paid for devices people could check out of the local library and have wireless internet service in their homes,” Rep. Alley said. “This was a great benefit to people, especially students who don’t have regular access to the internet at home. Then the grant ran out.”

    The Maine State Library had partnered with the New York City Public Library to provide 80 of the devices to libraries in Maine to see how they would work in rural areas, including Washington County. The program was very popular, with waiting lists for the devices. The grant funding ran out in January, 2017. Alley’s bill makes the devices available again for another two years.

    The ConnectME Authority was established under the Baldacci administration with the intent on expanding acess to internet services across the state. While some of its efforts have been a great sucess, there is much more to do. Part of the problem is the lack of population in rural areas doesn't give companies incentives for expansion in those areas.

    Rep. Alley sponsored a similar bill in the last legislative session. The bill passed, but was vetoed by then-Governor Paul LePage. The House failed to override the veto.

    “It is still hard to access high speed internet in Washington County and elsewhere in rural Maine,” said Rep. Alley. “Hopefully local availability of internet service will be better here in two years, but if not, then maybe we can extend the program again.” 

    The measure, LD 147, “An Act To Extend Internet Availability in Rural Maine,” was an emergency measure and goes into effect immediately. It is not known when the devices will be available.

    Rep. Alley is serving his third term in the Maine House and represents Addison, Beals, Cherryfield, Columbia, Columbia Falls, Harrington, Jonesboro, Jonesport, Marshfield, Milbridge and Whitneyville. He's a Navy Veteran and member of the Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands.

  • Holding up the Sky, a Maine Historical Society exhibit honoring the State's First Peoples


    At Maine Historical Society in Portland —

    April 17, 2019 
    By Ramona du Houx
    Maine Historical Society's (MHS)  new exhibition, Holding up the Sky, at their Portland gallery runs from April 12 to February 1, 2020. It honors and explores the experiences of the First People of Maine — the Wabanaki, which includes the Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot people. 
    Holding up the Sky explores Wabanaki philosophies of leadership and obligation relating to humans and non-humans by highlighting 13,000 years of Wabanaki residence in what is now known as Maine.
    Wabanaki advisors guided the exhibition, interpreting 17th century colonial treaties, photographs, heritage items, and contemporary artworks—everything from ash baskets to haute couture fashion. Wabanaki voices provide context for the present-day relevance and repercussions of 400 years of shared histories between Wabanaki people and immigrants to their region.

    “We believe that it is essential to explore, honor, and help all Mainers better understand the 13,000-year experience of the Wabanaki and their strong continued presence in Maine as the state prepares to commemorate its Bicentennial in 2020,” said Steve Bromage, MHS executive director. “Their story and our shared history provide the foundation for understanding Maine statehood, the context for key issues that shape Maine today, and perspective that will help us plan a future that draws on the strength of all Maine people.” 

    The exhibition is built around the voices and perspectives of Wabanaki people and is being developed in collaboration with a team of advisors, including:
    • Lisa Brooks (Abenaki),
    • James Francis (Penobscot),
    • Suzanne Greenlaw (Maliseet),
    • Darren Ranco (Penobscot),
    • Theresa Secord (Penobscot),
    • Ashley Smith (Wabanaki descent), and
    • Donald Soctomah (Passamaquoddy).

    The exhibit explores Wabanaki philosophies of leadership and obligation and will consider thousands of years of life in “Maine” places prior to the arrival of Europeans, and the complex relationships that have evolved since Europeans settled here.

    In addition to items from Maine Historical Society collections and newly commissioned pieces by Wabanaki artists, the exhibition will feature artifacts loaned by many individuals and organizations, including: Abbe Museum, Hudson Museum, Passamaquoddy Cultural Heritage Museum, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Maine State Museum, Nova Scotia Museum, and Bangor Historical Society.
  • HOPE: A Benefit Concert for Through These Doors & Preble Street, homeless shelter

    4/1/2019 Portland, Maine. 

    benefit concert for Through These Doors and Preble Street will take place on Thursday, May 02 at seven o’clock in the evening at Woodfords Church.

    This concert, comprised of volunteers and professionals, aims to raise awareness and money for these two charities that serve the least-favored population in Maine.

    The conductor and organizer of the concert, Chris Pelonzi, said he hopes to bring high-quality music to the Portland community for a good cause. Mr. Pelonzi is currently a student of Dr. Nicolas Dosman in the Graduate Choral Conducting program at the University of Southern Maine, and must give a conducting recital to complete his degree.

    However, rather than produce a small concert specifically for the auspices of a degree program, Mr. Pelonzi has organized a concert for a greater one.

    “Every day we see those without a home, and we hear about those who lost their family because of abuse…all I want to do is help make a change in our community so that these people can get the help they need. This is just one way to make a graduate degree most relevant to our local community," said Pelonzi.

    The concert will have a choir of over fifty voices, and an orchestra of more than thirty, all performing works by Hildegard, Arvo Part, Mozart, Beethoven, and Karl Jenkins. Featuring Soprano Susanna Moliski, Counter-tenor Chris Garrepy, Tenor Martin Lescault, Mezzo Andrea Graichen, Baritone Scott Wheatley, and Bass John Adams alongside with the choir and orchestra.

    The concert is intended to inspire hope and social change with pieces from all ages and in multiple languages. A brief talk about Preble Street and Through These Doors will be given at intermission along with an inspiring story.

    Thanks to the generosity of Woodfords Church, the University of Southern Maine, and many others, the concert will be held in Portland on May second at Woodfords Church.

    It is open to the public and tickets are available online from brownpapertickets. For more information, please follow the event on facebook.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Maine State Library to Host Music Program - Outside Looking In

    04/04/2019 09:32 AM EDT

     The Maine State Library will host an afternoon program with songwriter, guitarist and poet Mike Rogers on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 from 1:00 - 2:30 PM. The event is free and open to the public. 

    The 78 year-old, blind entertainer has been performing for over 45 years and has recorded on more than 40 albums. He has opened for Emmy Lou Harris, Tom Rush, The Eagles, James Montgomery and others. He and his wife, Beverly, represented Maine and Georgia at the 1999 International Very Special Arts Conference in Los Angeles and his folk group, Salt River. He also represented Maine at the New England Artists Conference in 2000. For this show, Mike will be joined by his wife to add poems and some vocal harmony, and his friend and band mate, Dan MacLellan on bass and vocal back-up.

    Rogers' performances are laced with his wry humor, painting portraits of people "outside the circle" in song, story-telling and poetry. Sometimes edgy, sometimes gentle, his characters are all real people from his journey through life and he places emphasis on understanding and accepting others. Mike accompanies himself on his guitar and his signature harmonica. His comfort with his audience comes from 15 years of teaching high school as well as the music business. 

    "The Maine State Library is thrilled to host this event as part of our month-long celebration of libraries across Maine," said James Ritter, State Librarian. Mike's unique performance captures the essence of storytelling and poetic inspiration. We are pleased to have him."

    For more information, call the Maine State Library at 207-287-5600.
  • Maine Children’s Alliance 2019 Maine KIDS COUNT findings

    Maine has seen improvements for kids in key areas over the past 25 years, but this year’s data indicates we should be concerned about how our youngest children are faring

    MARCH 28, 2019 – The Maine Children’s Alliance released the latest edition of the Maine KIDS COUNT® Data Book, marking 25 years of producing this compilation of the most comprehensive data on the status and well-being of children in Maine. KIDS COUNT® is a project of the Maine Children’s Alliance (MCA), a nonpartisan, data-focused advocate for public policies that improve the lives of Maine’s children, youth and families.

    “Since the publication of the first Maine KIDS COUNT® Data Book in 1994, we have followed trends over time in children’s health and well-being,” said Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children’s Alliance. “One thing is certain: when parents, providers, and policymakers use data to make informed decisions and prioritize investments in Maine kids, the lives of those children and their families are improved, both in the present and in their future success.”

    Over the course of the last 25 years, Maine has seen significant improvement in some key indicators of health and well-being for children. The number of teen births in 1992 was 834, compared to 186 in 2017 – a reduction of 78 percent. In another gain, the percent of people over age 25 who have at least a high school degree went from 84.3 in 1994 to 93.2 percent in 2017. For juvenile arrests, the rate in 2017 was 25.5 per 1,000 youth ages 12-17, down significantly from 81.1 per 1,000 youth in 1997. For every three youth arrested in 1994, only one would be arrested in 2017. And in Maine, the percent of children without health care coverage in 1993 was 8.7, while today, thanks in part to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, those rates have fallen to 4.8 percent.

    While we have made progress in some areas of children’s health, there are concerning trends in how our youngest children are faring.

    • In each of the last 5 years, approximately one in twelve babies in Maine was born substance exposed/affected.
    • And while Maine used to lead the country with low rates of infant mortality, recently that number had risen to a high of 6.7 deaths per 1,000 births before decreasing slightly to 6.3 - still above the national average.

    Access to early intervention services for infants with developmental delays is essential to improving outcomes and preventing delays later on, but Maine currently ranks 50th in the nation for the rate of infants provided with these services before the age of one. These data all point to larger problems with access to prenatal care, evidence-based programs that support new parents in the home, and early services for infants with special needs.

    • In 2018, there were 1,791 children in state custody, a rate of 7.6 per 1,000 children ages 0-17.
    • That rate is up from 6.5 in the previous year. In addition, there were 576 children in foster care waiting to be adopted, up from 480 in 2012 – a 20 percent increase. 

    It is critical for favorable outcomes for children in state custody that, when reunification is not safe or possible, a stable, permanent family situation must be created as quickly as possible.

    Access to quality, affordable health care is critical for child health and overall well-being. Maine has seen improvements in its rates of uninsured children, down to 4.8 percent in 2016, from 5.5 percent the prior year. And as Maine implements Medicaid expansion, we expect to see that rate continue to improve, as parents of low-income children gain coverage.

    “To build a brighter future for our kids, it is imperative that we use data to inform our policy decisions and to track our progress over time,” said Helen Hemminger, research and KIDS COUNT associate at the Maine Children’s Alliance. “KIDS COUNT is a treasure trove of data related to education, poverty, health and youth risk factors.”

    • There is cause for concern related to mental health indicators for children. In 2017, Maine held the highest rate in the nation of children diagnosed with anxiety disorders, the third highest rate of children with diagnosed depression, and the highest rate for the percentage of youth accessing mental health counseling.
    • In addition, Maine has experienced an alarming rate of teen suicides. While the rate varies by year, at 8.1 suicide deaths per 100,000 youth ages 10-19, Maine’s five-year average has risen by 50 percent and is well above the national average of 5.5 suicide deaths per 100,000 youth.

    In other ways, Maine adolescents are leading healthier and safer lives. The percentage of high school students reporting alcohol and cigarette use has decreased steadily since 2001. The percentage of students reporting smoking cigarettes has decreased by 65 percent, and the percentage of students reporting drinking alcohol has decreased by just over 50 percent. Despite these reductions, there is an increase in overall tobacco use and cause for concern in the increasing risks associated with the use of e-cigarettes. Arrests for juveniles in Maine and in the nation are significantly down. In addition, the number of youths incarcerated in Maine has dropped from 318 in 1997 to 39 detained or committed as of December 2018.

    There is good news this year in terms of child poverty, in which Maine saw the deepest decline in the country between 2016 and 2017 and has fallen from 19.8 percent in 2012 to 14.2 percent in 2017. Despite this gain, Maine’s child poverty rate is still higher than all the other New England states, except Rhode Island, with 35,000 children still living in poverty.

    Anti-poverty programs like TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) can alleviate the negative effects of poverty on children.

    • But, TANF serves significantly fewer Maine children and families than before the 2012 implementation of a 60-month lifetime limit on the program and stricter sanction policy covering the entire family.
    • As of December 2018, there were just 7,014 children receiving TANF – down from 15,293 children in 2012 – even while there are more than 14,000 children living in deep poverty.

    Reading and math skills are foundational tools for future learning success for children. Despite this, based on Maine Educational Assessment (MEA) test scores, just over half of Maine students are proficient in reading at the end of 4th grade and only two out of five 8th graders are proficient in math. And wide disparities exist across income levels for both reading and math, for both 4th graders and 8th graders.

    Maine currently has the 9th highest rate of identifying and serving children ages 3-5 with disabilities, and the highest rate in the nation for students ages 6-20 receiving special education services. However, Maine lags behind all other states in its rate for serving infants under age one with a disability, in 2018 serving only 249 Maine children, at a rate of less than 2 percent.

    In an aging state like Maine with workforce issues, it is important to reduce the rate of disconnected youth – those neither attending school nor working. In Maine, we are seeing improvements in these rates, with a current rate of 4.9 percent of teens ages 16-19 not attending school or working, down from 5.9 percent the previous year, and better than the national rate of 6.8 percent. More students in Maine are also graduating from college, at 53 percent in 2017, up from 48 percent the previous year. While this shows improvement for our youth, Maine continues to have the lowest rate of young adults having enrolled in or completed college in New England.

    “When all Maine children have the resources, support and opportunity to thrive, we all benefit,” said Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children’s Alliance. “The 2019 report provides us the opportunity to make sure the policies and practices seek to improve the lives of all our children, especially children in immigrant families and children of color.”

    This year, several indicators illustrate racial and ethnic disparities that exist as a result of historic racism and systemic inequalities. Early prenatal care can provide critical information about physical and behavioral risk factors affecting both mother and child. Yet African American women in Maine are less likely to receive prenatal care in the first trimester compared to white women: 75 percent vs. 91 percent. In rates of children identified with a disability and placed in special education services, data shows significant disproportionality particularly for American Indian students in Maine, with 30% having any disability. In Maine and in the nation, children of color continue to experience higher rates of poverty. In Maine, the African American child poverty rate of 53 percent was well above the national average of 36 percent.

    “When confronted with such a wide variety and amount of data, it can be difficult to remember that these numbers represent real children,” said Helen Hemminger. “But by understanding the data, decision makers, business leaders, elected officials and community members can make informed decisions that will help Maine’s children reach their full potential.”

    Digital downloads of the 2019 Maine KIDS COUNT® Data Book are available online at www.mekids.org. National, state and county-level data can be found on the KIDS COUNT Data Center atdatacenter.kidscount.org. To obtain a copy of the data book, email mhackett@mekids.org.

  • Belfast area creative coalition seeking input from Waldo County for arts and cultural plan

    The Belfast waterfront. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    The Belfast Area Creative Coalition, a Waldo County-based nonprofit organization formed in 2012 whose mission is to create cohesion and coordination for Waldo County’s vibrant arts and cultural sector, is leading an effort to develop a Waldo County Arts and Cultural Plan.  The Coalition intends to create a comprehensive, data-driven, community-designed plan, one when completed will utilize resources strategically and thoughtfully, identify community priorities, enhance the quality of life for residents, provide strategies to enhance and develop arts and cultural opportunities for residents, and recommend policies to expand the area’s creative economy.

    The planning effort was launched in late 2018, and the Coalition is now entering its next phase - the collection of input through surveys.  The Coalition strongly feels that feedback from the community is essential to ensure that this plan accurately reflects their values, priorities, and concerns.  The Coalition is interested in receiving input from those who live, work, and/or spend time in Waldo County, including residents, artists, and cultural organizations.  These surveys were designed based on feedback obtained from a series of community forums that were held throughout Waldo County in late 2018.  The data that will be collected through the surveys will be used to identify the goals for the Waldo County Arts and Cultural Plan.   

    According to the Belfast Area Creative Coalition’s Executive Director, Larraine Brown, "Waldo County is brimming with rich arts and cultural activity in the form of historic, traditional, contemporary, and original visual art and performance.  The Waldo County Arts and Cultural Plan and the surveys are set to benefit all corners of the county in a myriad of ways - to point the way to the future as Waldo County citizens imagine what they want it to be, to reveal opportunities for increased support of the arts and our artists, and to serve as a mirror to see what is already happening in all parts of the county.  I hope that people take a few minutes to fill out these surveys, it's a great way for you to have your say and to make a difference."

    There are three versions of surveys that can be completed: 1) a Public Opinion Survey; 2) an Artist & Performer Survey; and 3) a Cultural Organization Survey.  The Coalition is asking respondents to complete the survey or surveys that best apply to them.  Each survey takes approximately 5 to 10 minutes to complete.  As an incentive, anyone who completes a Public Opinion Survey will be entered into a prize drawing, with winners to be announced in June.  All three surveys are available online at http://reinholtconsulting.com/projects/waldo-county/.  

    The Belfast Area Creative Coalition is being assisted in this planning effort by the Maine-based firm Reinholt Consulting.  Individuals with questions regarding these surveys or the planning effort itself, or who wish to request paper copies of the surveys, are encouraged to contact either Larraine Brown, Executive Director for the Belfast Area Creative Coalition, at (207) 218-1144 or belfastcreativecoalition@gmail.com, or Saskia Reinholt of Reinholt Consulting, at (207) 218-2072 or saskia@reinholtconsulting.com.

  • Maine's proposed budget falls short of funding promised funding for local services by $160 million

    March 20, 2019
    Op-ed by  of the Maine Center for Economic Polciy

    Proposed budget falls $160 million short of full funding for local services

    This year, the state was scheduled to fully fund critical local services for the first time in more than a decade. That funding would help pay for things that support our economy and make our communities better places to live — services such as public safety, road maintenance, parks, public works, and libraries.

    However, Governor Janet Mills’ budget proposes another round of cuts to funding for local services, creating a $160 million shortfall in critical funding that helps communities thrive and reduces pressure on local property taxes.

    Maine’s towns and cities provide valuable public services that support families and small businesses. To pay for those critical services, the state is supposed to send 5 percent of revenue from the income and sales taxes back to communities. This disbursement, known as Municipal Revenue Sharing, helps cover the cost of the things that make our towns and cities strong and helps limit property tax increases.

    Unfortunately, the Legislature has not fully funded Municipal Revenue Sharing for more than a decade. It has used a series of purportedly temporary cuts to plug holes in the state budget and pay for tax cuts that primarily benefited the wealthiest Mainers.

    Cuts to Municipal Revenue Sharing have squeezed local communities hard. To make up the shortfall, they have had to increase property taxes, cut services, or both.

    The temporary cuts to Municipal Revenue Sharing were scheduled to expire this year, with towns and cities receiving full funding from the state for the first time since 2008. Rather than full funding, the governor’s budget proposal includes a new round of cuts. 

    Continued shortfalls that put our students, teachers, and communities further behind are not inevitable. This budget cycle lawmakers have a choice: They can continue funding wasteful LePage-era tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest or they can fix our tax code so we can invest that money in things that support thriving communities and a strong economy.

    Mainers who want their communities to receive complete state funding for the first time in a decade should reach out to their state legislators. Tell them: Our local services are worth paying for.

  • Professor Dunlap to speak about live experiences in Peace Corps, April I in Farmington, ME

    The impact of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer upon career choice and personal life, will be the focus of a presentation by Doug Dunlap, University of Maine at Farmington retired professor, on Monday April 1, 2019.

    The program will be held from 6-7:30 p.m., at the Fusion Center,117 South Street, on the UMF Campus. The event is co-sponsored by the UMF Center for Global Education and the UMF Career Center. The event is free and open to the public.

    First established in 1961, the Peace Corps was signed into legislation by President Kennedy as a permanent program that would promote world peace and friendship through help and mutual understanding.

    “If you’re looking for a life changing experience, serving in the Peace Corps is at the top of the list,” said Dunlap. “It allowed me to immerse myself in a totally new culture where I found friendship, service and new meaning to my life. I went from a career interest in international politics to a passion for serving vulnerable children as a teacher and counselor.”

    Dunlap served in the Pacific Islands of Micronesia in the 1960s. He taught English as a second language in a remote island school and engaged in community development projects related to public health, economic development, adult education and youth recreation. In the process he gained fluency in the Kosraen language—spoken by only 4000 people in the world at that time—and helped to write a textbook on Kosrae Island history.

    Following that experience, he joined the Rough Rock Navajo Demonstration School on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, an innovative K-8 project developed by Navajo educational leaders.

    Over a five-year period, he worked with Navajo colleagues to design a culturally appropriate counseling and special education program, consulted on the development of a new Rough Rock High School, and taught on-Reservation teacher-training courses for Arizona State University and the University of New Mexico. He also developed a research project to identify children with special needs and educate parents and community leaders about the learning potential of these children.

    Before coming to UMF in 1981 as a faculty member in the Rehabilitation Services program, he served as a school psychologist in Aroostook County and a Family Counselor in Hancock County.

    At UMF he promoted cultural learning opportunities for students, leading mobile courses to Quebec, New Brunswick, Finland and Russia; taught courses on multiculturalism; and led efforts to help nontraditional students from Franklin County gain access to higher education. A long-distance hiker and canoeist, and author of outdoor books about Maine, he is also a Registered Maine Guide.

  • Earned Paid Sick Days Vital for Maine Women


    Women workers, leaders of organizations representing Maine women and several female Democratic senators spoke at a press conference today on the importance to Maine women of passing LD 369, legislation guaranteeing workers the ability to earn paid sick days.
    “There’s nothing more heart-breaking than staying home from work at the doctor’s orders, only to return to work to find that I didn’t have a job anymore,” said Lynnea Hawkins, a single mother from Lewiston, who lost her job at a call center two years ago after falling ill. “We all get sick and we all need to be able to earn paid sick days. It's that simple.”
    Currently, almost 200,000 Maine workers aren’t able to earn even a single paid sick day to care for themselves or a loved one. Women make up a majority of the workers in low-paid jobs that are least likely to allow workers to earn paid time off, even as they also shoulder a disproportionate share of family caregiving responsibilities. 
    "The ability to earn paid sick time and to apply that time in instances of illness, as well as domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, is an issue of the highest priority,” said Whitney Parrish, Director of Policy and Program at the Maine Women's Lobby. “The low wage occupations where workers are least likely to be able to take time off with pay when they or a loved one are ill are those most commonly held by women and people of color, and we need to make sure that workplace policies support these individuals and reflect our values."
    LD 369 ensures that all workers employed by businesses with more than five employees will have the right to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours a year.
    “Guaranteeing earned paid sick days means that no mother is penalized for choosing to stay home to care for their sick child, that no child is punished for taking the time necessary to care for a sick parent,” said Sen. Rebecca Millett, the bill’s sponsor. “As Mainers, looking out for each other is a fundamental part of who we are. The lack of earned paid sick time in this state goes against everything we stand for.”
    11 other states, including most New England states, already have similar legislation guaranteeing paid sick days.
    "As a health care provider, we do our best to make it as easy as possible to get care because no woman should have to choose between taking care of  her health and  the well-being of her family and keeping her job,” said Nicole Clegg, Vice President of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “Not having paid sick days remains a significant barrier to health care access, and we believe that policies like LD 369 are key to supporting women, families and community health."
    LD 369 would also guarantee earned time off for survivors of domestic violence, a vital protection according to advocates for women.
    "Paid sick days can let a survivor pursue healthcare and counseling, attend court hearings, be home to have the locks changed on their doors, meet with teachers about how best to support scared and struggling children - without impacting the household budget and better enabling them to remain in the workforce,” said Francine Garland Stark, Executive Director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence. “Accommodating the short- term needs of survivors in this way is to the benefit the State's economy while mitigating the impact of domestic abuse and violence on some of its most vulnerable residents."
  • Network upgrades will cause half-day closures of Maine BMV offices

    02/11/2019 

    The 13 branch offices of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles will be closed for half days on various dates throughout February and March, to allow for computer and phone system upgrades. 

    The upgrades are part of the State of Maine Office of Information Technology "Maine Network Modernization Project," which will improve wireless security and networking equipment, as well as upgrade all telephones to VOIP. The entire State of Maine Wide Area Network is in the process of being upgraded by OIT and encompasses more than 390 sites. The work will result in infrastructure improvements that will allow for easier upgrades in the future, improved ability to bypass outage points, and better security overall.

    BMV branch closures are scheduled for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., allowing customers an opportunity to conduct business at the branch on the same day, from 1 p.m. until it closes at 4:30 p.m.

    **Link to table of BMV Branch Closures Schedule**https://www.maine.gov/sos/news/2019/bmvhalfdayclosures.html The Department of the Secretary of State will post updates and reminders about the closure dates on its social media accounts, @MESecofState on Twitter and "Maine Department of the Secretary of State" on Facebook. Customers can also call the main office to check on the closure dates and times, at 207-626-8400. For more information about the Maine Network Modernization Project, please contact David Heidrich, OIT director of communications, in the Office of the Commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services via email
  • It is time for Maine to recover from the opioid epidemic and become whole again

    OpED by Governor Janet Mills

    When I took office, I gave my word to Mainers suffering from substance use disorder. I told them that they are not alone. I told them that, together, we will do everything in our power to bring them back, to make our communities, our families, and our state whole once again.

    Since I took office, the Director of Opioid Response Gordon Smith and my cabinet have identified immediate steps we will take to address the opioid epidemic.

    This last week, I directed my Administration to implement specific actions to address the crisis. I signed my second Executive Order: AN ORDER TO IMPLEMENT IMMEDIATE RESPONSES TO MAINE’S OPIOID EPIDEMIC.

    This Executive Order, effective immediately, defines a number of separate but related actions that will be taken by my Administration, right now.

    These actions will save lives, they will help protect our children and young adults from the appeal of dangerous drugs, they will ensure that Mainers suffering from substance use disorder in our emergency rooms, our jails, and on our streets will find the resources they need to recover and rebuild their lives and become productive citizens of Maine again.

    These actions will supplement the vigorous efforts of law enforcement at all levels who are stemming the tide of drug trafficking into Maine that is fueling this epidemic.

    And, as noted explicitly in this Executive Order, the actions undertaken by the Administration will be done with a view towards reducing the stigma associated with substance use disorders.

    You know, in the past five years, more than one thousand six hundred thirty people in Maine have died from drug overdose – more than the population of Chesterville, or Eastport or North Berwick. 418 people in 2017 alone – more than one a day.

    And just last year, 908 babies were born in Maine affected by drugs.

    The time for action is now.

    We will put the full force of this Administration behind those families who have lost loved ones, businesses who have lost valued employees, and all communities diminished by this public health crisis.

    In addition to the Executive Order, I’m signing a financial order authorizing the purchase of 35,000 doses of Naloxone for distribution to locations determined by our Department of Health and Human Services.

    This life-saving drug will go to hospital emergency rooms, needle exchange programs, public health units, peer recovery centers, emergency responders and many other appropriate locations.

    Federal funds to pay for this purchase are already available in the office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.

    Mainers with substance use disorder, their families and friends, should have access to the training to safely administer this life-saving drug while we work to address the opioid epidemic. 

    Now, it is not enough to prevent Mainers from dying of a drug overdose. We also have to help people turn their lives arounds after they’ve been saved.

    So across the country and in Maine, the use of recovery coaches has had a positive impact on addressing the opioid epidemic and helping in long-term recovery.

    I have directed the DHHS staff to recruit and train two hundred and fifty qualified recovery coaches.

    I’ve also directed them to fund a full-time recovery coach in up to ten emergency departments in the state.

    And these initiatives will be paid for with existing funds-federal funds- available through the Department.

    We will also reinforce programs for Medication Assisted Treatment in the jails. Commissioner Randy Liberty is committed to piloting a Medication Assisted Treatment project in the prisons.

    Mainers working to rebuild their lives after incarceration should not have to face the additional battle of combating addiction alone. 

    So this Executive Order I have signed is just the start of a series of actions that my Administration – in partnership with the Legislature, with public health community members, with law enforcement and many others – will take in the coming months.

    It is time for our state to recover and become whole once again.

  • Maine Youth Environmental Leaders Scholarship for Maine Coast Semester —

    Chewonki will offer a Maine Youth Environmental Leaders Scholarship, a $15,000 award to support eligible Maine students who would like to attend Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki during their junior year. The scholarship opportunity is available to two qualifying applicants each year. Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki, located in Wiscasset, offers an immersive learning experience, with a strong focus on transformative growth, stewardship and appreciation for the natural world, and creating sustainable communities. The scholarship covers approximately half of the tuition and fees for the semester-long program. Successful applicants will be in the top 20 percent of their class, have the support of a school or community leader, have demonstrated an appreciation for the natural world, and imagine a future creating positive change in their Maine community. Applications for the first round of scholarship consideration must be received by February 15. Additional details about the scholarship may be found at mainecoastsemester.org/admissions/scholarship.

  • Stacey Abrams delivered a high impact 2019 response to the State of the Union-of hope


    Ramona du Houx

    Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race, gave this year’s response to the State of the Union. Her personal stories gave the nation hope.

    The contrast from Trump being dictortatorial and Abrams standing with members of her community behind her was obvious. Trump actually threatened congress with inaction if the investagations into his nafarious activities don't stop. Abrams spoke of unity, compassion and who we are as a nation working together to progress our lives, and livelyhoods.

    Read her remarks, written by her, as prepared below, or watch here.

    Good evening, my fellow Americans. I’m Stacey Abrams, and I am honored to join the conversation about the state of our union. Growing up, my family went back and forth between lower middle class and working poor.

    Yet, even when they came home weary and bone-tired, my parents found a way to show us all who we could be. My librarian mother taught us to love learning. My father, a shipyard worker, put in overtime and extra shifts; and they made sure we volunteered to help others. Later, they both became United Methodist ministers, an expression of the faith that guides us.

    These were our family values – faith, service, education and responsibility.

    Now, we only had one car, so sometimes my dad had to hitchhike and walk long stretches during the 30 mile trip home from the shipyards. One rainy night, Mom got worried. We piled in the car and went out looking for him – and eventually found Dad making his way along the road, soaked and shivering in his shirtsleeves. When he got in the car, Mom asked if he’d left his coat at work. He explained he’d given it to a homeless man he’d met on the highway. When we asked why he’d given away his only jacket, Dad turned to us and said, “I knew when I left that man, he’d still be alone. But I could give him my coat, because I knew you were coming for me.”

    Our power and strength as Americans lives in our hard work and our belief in more. My family understood firsthand that while success is not guaranteed, we live in a nation where opportunity is possible. But we do not succeed alone – in these United States, when times are tough, we can persevere because our friends and neighbors will come for us. Our first responders will come for us.

    It is this mantra – this uncommon grace of community – that has driven me to become an attorney, a small business owner, a writer, and most recently, the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia. My reason for running for governor was simple: I love our country and its promise of opportunity for all, and I stand here tonight because I hold fast to my father’s credo – together, we are coming for America, for a better America.

    Just a few weeks ago, I joined volunteers to distribute meals to furloughed federal workers. They waited in line for a box of food and a sliver of hope since they hadn’t received a paycheck in weeks. Making their livelihoods a pawn for political games is a disgrace. The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the President of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people – but our values.

    For seven years, I led the Democratic Party in the Georgia House of Representatives. I didn’t always agree with the Republican Speaker or Governor, but I understood that our constituents didn’t care about our political parties – they cared about their lives. So, when we had to negotiate criminal justice reform or transportation or foster care improvements, the leaders of our state didn’t shut down – we came together. And we kept our word.

    It should be no different in our nation’s capital. We may come from different sides of the political aisle; but, our joint commitment to the ideals of this nation cannot be negotiable.
    Our most urgent work is to realize Americans’ dreams of today and tomorrow. To carve a path to independence and prosperity that can last a lifetime. Children deserve an excellent education from cradle to career. We owe them safe schools and the highest standards, regardless of zip code.

    Yet this White House responds timidly while first graders practice active shooter drills and the price of higher education grows ever steeper. From now on, our leaders must be willing to tackle gun safety measures and the crippling effect of educational loans; to support educators and invest what is necessary to unleash the power of America’s greatest minds.

    In Georgia and around the country, people are striving for a middle class where a salary truly equals economic security. But instead, families’ hopes are being crushed by Republican leadership that ignores real life or just doesn’t understand it. Under the current administration, far too many hard-working Americans are falling behind, living paycheck to paycheck, most without labor unions to protect them from even worse harm.

    The Republican tax bill rigged the system against working people. Rather than bringing back jobs, plants are closing, layoffs are looming and wages struggle to keep pace with the actual cost of living.

    We owe more to the millions of everyday folks who keep our economy running: like truck drivers forced to buy their own rigs, farmers caught in a trade war, small business owners in search of capital, and domestic workers serving without labor protections. Women and men who could thrive if only they had the support and freedom to do so.

    We know bi-partisanship could craft a 21st century immigration plan, but this administration chooses to cage children and tear families apart. Compassionate treatment at the border is not the same as open borders. President Reagan understood this. President Obama understood this. Americans understand this. And Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders. But we must all embrace that from agriculture to healthcare to entrepreneurship, America is made stronger by the presence of immigrants – not walls.

    Rather than suing to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, as Republican Attorneys General have, our leaders must protect the progress we’ve made and commit to expanding health care and lowering costs for everyone.

    My father has battled prostate cancer for years. To help cover the costs, I found myself sinking deeper into debt — because while you can defer some payments, you can’t defer cancer treatment. In this great nation, Americans are skipping blood pressure pills, forced to choose between buying medicine or paying rent. Maternal mortality rates show that mothers, especially black mothers, risk death to give birth. And in 14 states, including my home state where a majority want it, our leaders refuse to expand Medicaid, which could save rural hospitals, economies, and lives.

    We can do so much more: Take action on climate change. Defend individual liberties with fair-minded judges. But none of these ambitions are possible without the bedrock guarantee of our right to vote. Let’s be clear: voter suppression is real. From making it harder to register and stay on the rolls to moving and closing polling places to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy.

    While I acknowledged the results of the 2018 election here in Georgia – I did not and we cannot accept efforts to undermine our right to vote. That’s why I started a nonpartisan organization called Fair Fight to advocate for voting rights.

    This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for our country. We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a “power grab.” Americans understand that these are the values our brave men and women in uniform and our veterans risk their lives to defend. The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders – not where politicians pick their voters.

    In this time of division and crisis, we must come together and stand for, and with, one another. America has stumbled time and again on its quest towards justice and equality; but with each generation, we have revisited our fundamental truths, and where we falter, we make amends.

    We fought Jim Crow with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, yet we continue to confront racism from our past and in our present – which is why we must hold everyone from the very highest offices to our own families accountable for racist words and deeds – and call racism what it is. Wrong.

    America achieved a measure of reproductive justice in Roe v. Wade, but we must never forget it is immoral to allow politicians to harm women and families to advance a political agenda. We affirmed marriage equality, and yet, the LGBTQ community remains under attack.

    So even as I am very disappointed by the President’s approach to our problems – I still don’t want him to fail. But we need him to tell the truth, and to respect his duties and the extraordinary diversity that defines America.

    Our progress has always found refuge in the basic instinct of the American experiment – to do right by our people. And with a renewed commitment to social and economic justice, we will create a stronger America, together. Because America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies: foreign and domestic. That is who we are – and when we do so, never wavering – the state of our union will always be strong.

    Thank you, and may God bless the United States of America.

  • Send Applications for Aquaculture Business Development Program to Island Institute

    The Island Institute is accepting applications for its 2019 Aquaculture Business Development (ABD) program. Now in its fourth year, the free program helps fishermen and those from fishing communities gain the tools they need to diversify and launch small-scale aquaculture businesses. The institute is looking to work with coastal and island residents who are motivated to start a shellfish or seaweed aquaculture businesses within the next two years. Applications are being accepted through March 14.

    “Maine’s emerging aquaculture industry has a lot of opportunity and growth potential. The ABD program provides both the academic and experiential learning tools to enter that growing arena,” said Peter Piconi, marine business specialist with the Island Institute. “More importantly, fishermen can diversify their income, which, in turn, helps island and coastal economies thrive.”

    The program concentrates on business planning and provides prolonged one-on-one support services to help participants get started in the water. Features of the program include training for growing oysters, mussels, and seaweed; knowledge of the state leasing process and site selection; assistance with developing business and marketing plans; and access to financing and continued business support for the first three years of business operation.

    Applications and information are available at www.islandinstitute.org/aquaculture or by calling 594-9209, extension 159. Questions regarding the Aquaculture Business Development program should be directed to Peter Piconi at ppiconi@islandinstitute.org or Sam Belknap at sbelknap@islandinstitute.org.

  • Governor Mills Welcomes Maine People Home with New Border Sign

    The Maine Turnpike Authority has installed a new “Welcome Home” sign on the Maine state border near the Kittery line.

    In her Inaugural Address, Governor Mills announced that she would install the new sign in an effort to welcome people, including the young, immigrants, entrepreneurs, business owners, innovators and new employers to the state. 

    “This sign is a simple, inclusive, and powerful message which our state will send to every family, business owner, and young person coming into our state - you are welcome here,” said Governor Mills. “It is also a reminder of the love we all share for this great state as we ensure that Maine is a place of opportunity for all those hoping to create a better future for themselves and their family. To all of them I say, welcome home.” 

    The new Welcome Home sign was installed on Febuary 1, 2019 by the Maine Turnpike Authority as a part of a normal replacement schedule. It is made of recycled aluminum from signs previously taken down. According to the Maine Turnpike Authority, installation costs were minimal and primarily involved traffic control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Restore the State Planning Office to help ONE MAINE grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • Solstice by the Sea at Sears Island, Maine on December 21

    Shown here, Sears Island sunset at last year’s winter solstice. 
     
    Friends of Sears Island will host a winter solstice celebration of light on Friday, December 21, from 6 to 7 p.m. Attendees will walk a path lit with hundreds of luminarias. The walk will culminate in music, readings, cocoa and cookies on the beach. The nondenominational celebration is free and open to all.
    Sears Island is located at the end of Sears Island Road off Route 1, just east of Searsport. Participants can park along the causeway at the end of the road and should gather at the island gate just beyond the parking area by 6 p.m. Bring a flashlight or lantern that uses a battery-operated light. No flames or pets will be permitted. In the event of inclement weather, the celebration will be cancelled. 

    For updates, check www.friendsofsearsisland.org, www.facebook.com/friendsofsearsisland, or email outreach@friendsofsearsisland.org
  • After December 15, Mainers who need coverage will only be able to purchase major medical insurance for 2019

    “I am concerned that people in Maine who want to purchase major medical health insurance on the ACA’s Individual Marketplace may not act in time to have coverage in 2019.”  said Maine Insurance Commissioner Eric Cioppa. 
    His concern is based on reports from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid indicating that enrollment in Maine is down significantly compared to this time last year.
    “Several theories exist as to why that is,” he said. “For instance, more people may be enrolled in their employers’ plans. Others may be choosing to go without coverage due to cost; I urge these individuals to at least consider the options available.… Mainers have more options for 2019 and I hope they take advantage of them.” 

    After December 15, Mainers who need coverage will only be able to purchase major medical insurance for 2019 if they have a change in life circumstance that qualifies them for a Special Enrollment Period.

    Anyone who is eligible for a subsidy must go through www.healthcare.gov to purchase insurance and to have the subsidy applied. Those who don’t qualify for subsidies can use the bureau’s rate calculator at maine.gov/insurance, which includes both Marketplace and off-Marketplace plans. Mainers who need help getting started, or who have health insurance related questions, are invited to call the bureau’s Consumer Health Care Division Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 800-300-5000 (in state) or 207-624-8475 (for TTY, call Maine Relay 711). Questions can also be emailed to insurance.pfr@maine.gov.
  • Maine’s Wreath Across America places close to 10 thousand wreaths at graves in France

     

     By Ramona du Houx

    On December 1st 9,387 Maine-made, balsam veterans' wreaths were placed on the headstones of all U.S. service members laid to rest at Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, located in Colleville-sur-Mer, France.

    The cemetery is one of 14 permanent American World War II military cemeteries abroad. This is the first time WAA has sent U.S.-made balsam wreaths to be placed in France.

    The December 1st wreath-laying event was a joint collaboration between the Normandy American Cemetery and American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and included ceremonial wreath placements on each of the five D-Day invasion beaches, at Pointe Du Hoc, along with a Canadian Wreath presentation.

    The veterans' wreaths were a donation from its WAA Founder, Morrill Worcester, whose dream has been to one day place a wreath in honor of every U.S. veteran laid to rest, worldwide.

    Worchester meet Charles Norman Shay at the ceremony. Shay, of Maine, is a Penobscot Indian Elder who served on D-day as a medic. He came ashore in the first wave on Omaha Beach as a medic, saving countless lives. “I’ve always been honored to serve my country. I only did my duty,” said Shay, who gave a speech at the ceremony.

    "The mission of the American Battle Monuments Commission is to honor the service, achievements and sacrifices of our U.S armed forces in two World Wars. It closely parallels the mission of the Wreaths Across America organization — to Remember, Honor and Teach," said Scott Desjardins, Superintendent, Normandy American Cemetery. "The Normandy American Cemetery is proud and pleased to be the first ABMC cemetery to have been chosen to attempt this important endeavor.”

    "When I began placing wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery in 1992, I could never have imagined that this idea would impact people around the world the way it has," said Worcester. "To know that WAA will be able to place a wreath for each of those veterans and say their names out loud is truly incredible, and I am so honored to be able to help this effort however I can."

    The transportation of nearly 9,500 fresh balsam veterans' wreaths from Maine to Normandy required a massive coordinated effort. 

    In 1992 in Harrington, Maine, wreath maker Morrill Worcester sought to turn a surplus of 5,000 holiday wreaths into an opportunity to pay tribute to our country's veterans. With the help of then Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, Worcester arranged for the wreaths to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery.

    Maine's Penobscot Elder who served as a medic during D-Day was at the ceramony.

    “The annual tribute went on quietly for several years, until 2005, when a photo of the stones at Arlington, adorned with wreaths and covered in snow, circulated around the internet,” said Worcester.

    The national attention spurred the start of the 501c3 Wreaths Across America in 2007. Since then, the program has grown in scope, touching the lives of thousands of veterans' families and volunteers in every state across the country. In 2017 alone, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 1.5 million veterans' wreaths at 1,433 locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea, and abroad.

    This year, National Wreaths Across America Day is Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 – at least 1,500 participating locations across the country will host wreath-laying ceremonies, all run by dedicated volunteers.

     

     

     

     

  • Jackman, Maine residents vote to oppose CMP transmission line

    Jackman may join Caratunk, West Forks, The Forks, in opposition

    Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the Town of Alna rescinded prior support too

    Tonight, November 18, 2018at a special town meeting in the MSAD#12 School Gymnasium, Jackman residents voted 78-11, with one abstention, to oppose CMP’s proposal to build a massive 145-mile-long transmission line from the Quebec border through the State of Maine.

    Jackman residents said they oppose NECEC because it would damage Maine’s environment, wildlife habitat, water quality, scenic views, and tourism economy; and permanently harm their way of life.

    “The more people learn about this ill-conceived transmission line, the more they realize it is a bad deal for Maine,” says Sue Ely, Clean Energy Attorney, Natural Resources Council of Maine.

    At its October 17 hearing, the Public Utilities Commission heard blistering opposition to CMP’s plan and 95% of those who spoke or submitted testimony opposed the proposal.

    “More and more towns are retracting their support and voicing opposition to the transmission line,” says Ely. “As each new town, business or political leader announces their opposition, it becomes clearer that Maine does not want this project.”

    In addition to Jackman, the Towns of West Forks and The Forks have also voted to oppose the line and the Towns of Alna andCaratunk   have rescinded their earlier letter of support for the Central Maine Power / Hydro-Quebec project, calling it harmful and saying it is not financially beneficial to the Maine economy or its residents.

    “This powerline is good for CMP and Hydro-Quebec profits, but a very bad deal for Maine,” says Ely. “The CMP transmission line would do nothing to reduce harmful climate pollution while it would harm wildlife, habitat, and recreational resources.”

  • Toxic algae in Florida offer valuable lessons for protecting Maine waters

    Consistent, sound science is needed to manage harmful algal blooms, and monitoring, prediction and education efforts are critical but sorely underfunded.

    Microscopic algae in our oceans do much of the hard work that makes life on Earth possible. These tiny plants feed our oceans, clean our atmosphere and provide half of the oxygen we breathe. We simply wouldn’t be here without them.

    Yet, hundreds of species of algae also produce toxins that are harmful to people and the environment. When large numbers of these species grow, or bloom, toxins can move up the food web and have costly effects on wildlife, human health, seafood industries and tourism. I spent a decade studying harmful algae in Florida and saw firsthand the devastation that blooms can cause to the environment, the economy and the psyche of a region.

    The water conditions and physics of the Gulf of Mexico make it naturally prone to harmful algal blooms. Human activities, however, have arguably made these blooms much worse over time. Nitrogen-rich runoff from the land can act as fertilizer in the ocean and cause toxic algae to multiply. When ocean currents concentrate these cells, the algae can start killing fish. This releases more of the normally scarce nitrogen into the ocean, further fertilizing the blooms and creating a self-perpetuating cycle.

    The current “red tide” in Florida illustrates the need for consistent, sound science to manage harmful algal blooms. Monitoring, prediction and education are critical, yet the funds for these activities are scarce. Only about half of the years in the past decade saw federal funding for new research into the ecology and oceanography of harmful algal blooms. This is not enough, especially considering the major changes and challenges affecting our oceans.

    The combined effects of climate change, wastewater treatment, fertilizer runoff and coastal development have compromised the resiliency of the Gulf of Mexico. While much of the Maine coast sharply contrasts the highly developed coast of Florida, climate change is causing the Gulf of Maine to rapidly warm and acidify. This has introduced a lot of uncertainty about what the future looks like and made it clear that the past is no longer a useful guide. While we don’t yet know what the long-term impact of climate change will be on Gulf of Maine algae, we do know it is already changing the species, frequency, timing and magnitude of harmful blooms.

    Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences helps the Maine Department of Marine Resources monitor shellfish for the toxins created by harmful algal species, informing decisions on how to manage fisheries. This careful monitoring ensures that the seafood you buy at the store or order at a restaurant is safe to eat, but temporary fishery closures can have significant economic impacts on shellfish farmers and harvesters.

    We must continue to protect people’s health and the environment while developing new methods that better protect our coastal economy and the livelihoods of the many Mainers who rely on it. There is great potential in expanding use of the data from Maine’s monitoring programs to forecast blooms. Genetic surveys of seawater could help reveal what is happening with these harmful algae, and there are effective autonomous monitoring solutions that could be deployed throughout the Gulf of Maine to provide an early warning system. Bigelow scientists are also helping develop easy-to-use genetic testing methods for harmful species and contributing to citizen science efforts for monitoring and public education.

    Moving these efforts forward at the pace required to keep up with the rate of environmental change will require federal agencies to increase funding, and voters to elect representatives who understand the importance of scientific research. We have an opportunity in Maine to mitigate the threat of increased harmful algal blooms before it grows to be the size of the problem facing Florida.

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

    About Center for Wildlife

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    Maine State Capitol, photo by Ramona du Houx

    Novemeber 10, 2018

    OP-ed by Maine Speaker of the House Sara Gideon 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Initiative will make hundreds more Maine homes lead-safe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    About Full Plates Full Potential

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

     

  • Documentary on Forced Removal of Maine Native Children from Families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ramone du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mountians in Maine near Waterville, photo by Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Rockland Harbor, photo by Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Willey sought advise from professionals before completing his book.

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

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

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

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

    More about the author:

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

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

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

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

    $14.95

    ISBN 978-1-882190-45-4882190812

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Willey sought advise from professionals before completing his book.

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

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

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

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

    More about the author:

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

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

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

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

    $14.95

    ISBN 978-1-882190-45-4882190812

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    More about the book:

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

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

    More about the author:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Dear Mr. Sezak,

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

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

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

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

              Again, thank you for contacting me.

    Sincerely,

    Susan M. Collins
    United States Senator

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

  • Maine's Merrymeeting Bay Rare Mud Plant Walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Here’s where the process stands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photos and Article by Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

    Editorial by Representative Erik Jorgensen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bill sets up pilot treatment program for the homeless

    By Ramona du Houx

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

    This is a civil rights issue.

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    Twenty-one programs and over $53,000 invested

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Website: www.fullplates.org;

  • Senate Farm Bill the Right Approach For Tackling Maine’s Growing Hunger Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

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

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

    No rain date will be available.

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

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

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

  • Court Rules LePage Administration Has To Follow Medicaid Expansion Law


    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The LePage administration refused to file the State Plan Amendment. 

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

     

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

    Job Placement Opportunities:

    In Maine:

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

    Out of state:

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

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

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

     

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    May 20, 2018

     

    Dear Residents and Businesses in Belfast,

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

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

    “In the Wake of Leif Erikson” –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       

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

     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

    BACKGROUND ON PHARMACY DISTRIBUTION OF NALOXONE

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

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

  • Maine Legislation would discourage misuse of personal information on internet

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    by ramona du Houx

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

    The vote was 94 - 52.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Legislation would open the door to a more resilient power grid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Talk about Food Safety for Maine Midcoast Farmers

    March 29 from 5:30-7pm

    Knox-Lincoln Extension, 377 Manktown Rd, Waldoboro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Maine Community Forestry Grants Available

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Maine Democrats Turn Out to Rally Efforts for 2018 Elections

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    “Dear Students,


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

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

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

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

    If you’ve read this far, you probably really do care about the safety of your school. Don’t trust that walking out of school will bring an answer. Gun control or more laws is not, and will not, be the answer. You are the answer. Your greeting, your smile, your gentle human touch is the only thing that can change the world of a desperate classmate who may be contemplating something as horrendous as a school shooting. Look past yourself and look past your phone and look into the eyes of a student who no one else se