LATEST NEWS

Creative Economy Maine
  • Greenlight Maine gives greenlight for start-ups TV exposure


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

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

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

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

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

    The Season 2 semifinalists are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

  • Belfast regional job fair seeks to close cap between employers and job seekers

    Front Street has transformed the Belfast waterfront, they employ workers that are highly skilled. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    In an effort to further energize the workforce in Waldo County, several Belfast area organizations are collaborating to host a regional job fair to be held at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center on Tuesday, March 7th, from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm. 

    “There are amazing opportunities for workforce development in the Belfast area,” says Emily Baer, Executive Director of the Belfast Creative Coalition, one of the entities organizing the job fair. “Our goal with this fair is to make sure that local employers are connected to the folks who are looking for jobs and wanting to invest their energy in our community.”

    With that in mind, the City of Belfast, the University of Maine Hutchinson Center, the Maine Department of Labor, Workforce Solutions, the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, Our Town Belfast, and the Belfast Creative Coalition have joined forces in an effort to connect local citizens with employment opportunities.

    Working across Waldo County’s economic sectors, these organizations work closely with businesses and entrepreneurs to foster growth and development in the Belfast area. After hearing growing concerns about employers’ inability to fill jobs due to low unemployment rates, they decided to form a small working committee to address these frustrations.

    “With unemployment low, this is a tough time for businesses to find qualified hires but there are good jobs waiting for people who have the skills and qualifications and want to work,” says David Oxton, of State Sand & Gravel, Inc. in Belfast. 

    Organizers hope to connect employers and job seekers alike to seasonal and permanent employment and look forward to hosting a diverse array of Waldo County businesses at the event.

    (Photo- Downtown Belfast, Maine with reflections of historic buildings on car windows. Photo by Ramona du Houx)

    Additionally, groups such as the Maine Department of Labor and Workforce Solutions will be onsite to provide information to job seekers about upcoming interview readiness coaching, job training opportunities, and job placement assistance resources. Most of these programs were intially strated under Commissionar Laura Fortman at the Maine Department of Labor during the Baldacci administration. Unfortuantly, the LePage administration has not funded the programs to the degree they need to be. That's why this job fair will help, thanks to Belfast, by bringing local employers in to talk directly with those looking for jobs.

    This job fair is free for all employers and all job seekers. Interested employers are asked to e-mail David Grima at the Maine Department of Labor (david.m.grima@maine.gov) by February 28th in order to reserve table space. Please include the employer’s name, location, brief industry description, phone number, and a contact name in the body of the email. Job seekers are not required to register, but are invited to RSVP to the event on Facebook by searching for 'Belfast Regional Job Fair.’ 

     For additional information, please contact the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce at 207-338-5900 or Our Town Belfast at 207-218-1158.

  • Congressional legislation introduced to improve the federal historic tax credit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • Scientists call on Collins

    The Penobscot is polluted with mercury - we need the EPA

    Editorial by Dianne Kopec and Aram Calhoun,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The sediment deposited after EPA was created is less contaminated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Highlights of theACA  data include:

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

    Since the ACA this group has seen:

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

    Medicare enrollees have benefited from:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A short synopsis by the filmmakers reveals more.

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

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

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

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

    About Local Food Connection (LFC)

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

    About The Gem

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

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

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

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

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

    Maine recognized as a national leader in fighting for healthier oceans 

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    This year, the program is under review, and proponents are seeking to reduce emissions by 5 percent per year from 2020 to 2030 and a doubling of our renewable power supply. The decisions made now will ensure we take full advantage of the initiative to achieve cost-effective, long-term climate goals. Action to achieve these goals would go a long way in sustaining Maine’s fisheries, both as part of what makes Maine special and the economic drivers they have become.

    From carbon policy to ocean debris, from remediating ocean acidification to increased severe weather events, all have become part of the realities and thoughts of a Maine fisherman. Let’s get our boots on and get to work.

  • The 128 Legislature and how to help the state out of stagnation

     By Ramona du Houx

    Members of the 128th Legislature were sworn into the Maine House of Representatives on December 7, 2016, led by Democratic Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. There are 25 new members and 52 returning representatives in the House, including 36 women.

    “Today, we start out with a Maine economy that is lagging behind New England and the rest of the country in terms of economic growth, recovery of jobs lost during the recession and wage growth,” said Gideon, D-Freeport.  “We lead New England when it comes to the number of Maine children and seniors living in poverty. Those are the facts.  And here is another fact: We have to do better. We will always work together and come to the table in search of common ground to help the 1.3 million Mainers who expect us to rise above politics.” 

    There are issues that could grow Maine’s economy, which haven’t been addressed during the LePage administration. Instead he’s focused on cutting benefits and lowering taxes for the wealthy. in his speach today to the lawmakers he talked about changing the Minimum wage referendum that passed, not about how to grow jobs.

    In a recent interview, Former Governor John Baldacci sited a study conducted by Former Governor King, which listed the top areas in need of investment that still remain areas that need funding.

    "The two leading factors in the study were the education and training of the population and the amount of Research and Development funds invested to help businesses get the latest cutting edge technologies so they can compete successfully with other businesses anyone in the world,” said Gov. Baldacci.

    Maine has suffered under LePage by the lack of Research and Development (R&D) funds that used to spur economic activity as the research, conducted at the University of Maine and other laboratories, was regularly used by start-up Maine companies, there-by growing jobs across Maine. The people have always voted overwhelmingly for R&D bonds in Maine. But LePage doesn’t believe in bond issues and has held bond funds hostage in the past.

    "We've been doing a terrible job at putting resources in Research and Development," said Gov. Baldacci, who invested dramatically in R&D during his administration. "We also need to focus on job training. We're not doing enough to match jobs to the industries established here. Our Labor Department needs to be our Human Resource Department. There are plenty of job opportunities out there that need trained workers and plenty of workers who want the opportunity to work. Our people, families, and small businesses aren't looking for a handout, but are looking for opportunities. Our responsibility is to make sure that happens throughout all of Maine."

    Baldacci started this work with Former Labor Secretary Laura Fortman, but little has been done to progress these job opportunities under the LePage administration.

    The lack of these investments, along with other LePage policies has led to stagnation in Maine.

    “Under Republican leadership, Maine has lagged behind in the national economic recovery. We work longer hours than our neighbors in any other state in New England, yet the purchasing power of our paychecks in one of the lowest in the country. Meanwhile, our governor has turned a blind eye as five of our friends, family members and neighbors die every week from the opioid epidemic. I look forward our leadership team’s work over the next few months to create good jobs and a fair economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top." 

    Members of the House include teachers, small business owners, nonprofit leaders, a former mill electrician, prominent civil rights advocates, farmers, former law enforcement officials, and veterans. 

    “I’m proud of the bipartisan work we achieved last session, particularly to improve services for veterans, but there is more work to be done,” said veteran Marine Rep. Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden. “In the short term, our first task is to pass a balanced budget that reflects the needs of our state, but we also have to keep an eye on the future. Maine needs to create good paying jobs by investing in the infrastructure our communities need to compete. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these and other challenges facing our state.”

  • Democrats won a battle for greater transparency for LePage's forensic facility plan

    Photo and article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine democrats won a battle for greater transparency to build a secure forensic facility next to the Riverview Psychiatric Center on November 30, 2016. 

    Democrats said the forensic unit project needs vetting by the Legislature’s appropriations and health and human services committees for a range of reasons including the financing, operations and policy matters related to who would be housed in the facility. Gov. LePage intends for the facility to be privately run, which could jeopardize the health and wellbeing of citizens if not carefully monitored. That overseeing duty needs to be clarified by the Legislature.

    “This is a fundamental change in how Maine cares for forensic patients that demands proper legislative oversight and public input.” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon “DHHS has never brought this proposal to the Legislature, but is essentially threatening to build the project elsewhere and at greater cost if they don't get their way. We must provide proper care to Mainers with serious mental illness, and we are committed to making this happen with the proper oversight that protects this vulnerable population.”

    The Democrats present at the Legislative Council meeting – Gideon, Speaker Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe – sought to table the proposal so it could be fully vetted as soon as the 128the Legislature convenes in January.

    House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, however, forced a vote to simply approve the project. His motion failed by a vote of 3-3.

    “Let’s remember what got us here in the first place. Three years ago, the feds came in and found that Riverview patients were severely abused – sometimes even with pepper spray and Tasers,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “As lawmakers, we have a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of the patients in the state’s care. We can’t simply hand a blank check over to the administration.”

     

  • Paris Climate Agreement Ratification becomes official, now time for action


    By Ramona du Houx

    Thanks to leadership from President Barack Obama, on October 4, 2016 the Paris Climate Agreement cleared a major hurdle as the European Union voted to join the United States, China, India and other nations in ratifying the agreement.  

    The climate agreement has two requirements before it can go into effect: It must be ratified by 55 nations, and the ratifying countries must account for 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

    With representatives from the 28 European Union member countries voting 610 to 38 in favor of the agreement, nations now representing more than 55 percent of the world’s global warming pollution have signed on – crossing the minimum threshold for the agreement to become official.

    Under the agreement, global leaders have committed to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius with an aspirational goal of 1.5° C, a benchmark scientists say is critical to avoid the most dangerous impacts of global warming –  including disruption of our food supply, increasingly extreme weather, and loss of coastal regions to flooding.

    The planet has already warmed nearly 1° C above the 20th century average, and scientists have warned that urgent, wide-scale action will be required to stop temperatures from rising much further. 

    “We’re thrilled that global leaders have moved quickly to ratify this important agreement to preserve our climate. It sends a strong signal that the world plans to do more, faster to protect our communities, our families and our future," said Anna Aurilio, Global Warming Solutions Program Director for Environment America.

    Now it's time for the nations around the world to take action for the people's of the world and everyone's future. The impacts of global warming are being felt worldwide and represent life threatening situations for millions. 

    "Here in the United States, we must redouble our efforts to reduce – and eventually eliminate – global warming pollution. President Obama has already put America on track to slash emissions from vehicles and power plants, but we can and must do much more," said Aurillio. "Here in Maine, Governor LePage should act to accelerate our transition to clean electricity by doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to further limit global warming pollution from power plants."

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

    The program, first started in Maine when Governor John Baldacci pushed for it’s implementation and had a bill introduced. The legislation won unanimous support in Maine’s Senate and House. To date RGGI has brought in $81,837,449.15 to the state for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes.

    “RGGI is working. It is helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation," said Former State Representative Seth Berry, who sat on Maine’s legislative committee that approved the final RGGI rules.

    The world has the tools to shift away from dirty and dangerous fossil fuels towards a 100 percent renewable energy future powered by solar, wind, and energy efficiency. And while contries implement their stratigies- thousands of jobs will be created.

  • New National Offshore Wind Strategy to Drive Deployment Great for Maine

    by Ramona du Houx

    In Sepyember, 2016 U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the publication of a collaborative strategic plan to continue accelerating the development of offshore wind energy in the United States, the National Offshore Wind Strategy: Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States,which could help enable 86 gigawatts of offshore wind in the United States by 2050. The strategy details the current state of offshore wind in the United States, presents the actions and innovations needed to reduce deployment costs and timelines, and provides a roadmap to support the growth and success of the industry.

     This new wind energy strategy is a part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan that will create American jobs and cut carbon pollution by developing America's clean energy resources.

    The strategy builds on DOE and DOI’s first joint offshore wind strategy, published in 2011. Since then, the Energy Department has allocated nearly $200 million to support three cutting-edge offshore wind demonstration projects led by the University of Maine, New Jersey’s Fishermen’s Energy, and Ohio’s Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, and research and development investments in technologies that specifically address the opportunities and challenges across U.S. waters.

    “This Administration has made significant investments in clean energy technologies, supporting a diversified energy portfolio to help meet our Climate Action Plan goal of permitting 20,000 MW of renewable electricity generation on public lands and waters by 2020,” said Secretary Jewell. “Thanks to involvement by partners at all levels of government, community stakeholders, tribes and the public, we've been able to stand up the first federal offshore wind energy program in the history of the U.S. and we are confident the strategy we're outlining today will chart a course for additional investment in clean energy technologies that can help power America's future.”

    Since 2010, the Department of the Interior has issued 11 commercial leases for offshore wind development, nine of which generated approximately $16 million through competitive lease sales and covered more than one million acres of federal waters.

    “Offshore wind has experienced enormous progress during the Obama administration. The first offshore wind farm has now finished construction, and we have gone from zero offshore wind areas leased before this administration to eleven areas that total the size of Rhode Island,” said Energy Secretary Moniz. “Today’s collaborative strategic plan is part of a long-term commitment to support innovation that enables widespread offshore wind deployment and shows how offshore wind will benefit our country with new jobs, less pollution, and a more diversified electricity mix.”

    The National Offshore Wind Strategy identifies key challenges facing the industry and more than 30 specific actions that DOE and DOI can take over the next five years to address those challenges.

    These actions fall into three strategic areas:

    1. Reducing technical costs and risks. DOI proposes the joint development of standard data collection guidelines to foster predictability and inform safe project development  and DOE will work to increase annual energy production and reliability of offshore wind plants.
    2. Supporting effective stewardship. DOI commits to numerous actions to ensure that the regulatory process is predictable, transparent, efficient and informed by lessons learned from regulators in other countries. Additionally, as the first generation of installed projects come online, DOI and DOE will collect field data on parts of offshore development including impacts on marine life and turbine radar interference in order to support future offshore wind siting and plan reviews.
    3. Improving the market conditions for investment in offshore wind energy. Studies are needed help quantify the broad grid integration impacts of adding significant amounts of offshore wind energy to the power system. Such information could significantly benefit the offshore wind community by informing state policies critical to supporting development.

    DOE has found that developing 86,000 MW of these offshore wind energy resources by 2050 would support 160,000 jobs, reduce power sector water consumption by 5 percent, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.8 percent.

  • Brunswick Landing, the former Navy base in Maine, showing strong growth

    Redevelopment News, Fall 2016

    Executive Director's Report: Summer Sizzling With Jobs Growth

    SteveIt's been a very productive summer of redevelopment and job creation at the former Navy base. As of September 1st, our employee count was more than 1,200 workers at Brunswick Landing and Topsham Commerce Park.That number is more than triple what was originally forecast. Thanks to booming companies like Wayfair and SaviLinx, which are both hiring hundreds of workers this year, and the steady growth of additional new companies, we've easily surpassed projections. We recognize how fortunate we've been to land quality companies.

    Many are new to Maine, including SaviLinx, Wayfair, Mölnlycke Health Care, InSphero, Tempus Jets, and ONE Aviation. It's important to recognize how sticking to the Reuse Master Plan has helped us create a thriving live, work, and play community.

    The Reuse Plan calls for a disciplined focus on attracting businesses within targeted industries such as aerospace, biotech, composites, IT, and renewable energy. We've kept our aim on those sectors. Sometimes that focus has meant we've had to say no to other business activities. So far, this business attraction strategy is working. We're pleased to be closing in 100 business entities and ahead of the game, but we still have a very long ways to go and plenty of buildings to fill before we can truly call the redevelopment a success.

    Featured Property: Building 333 in Topsham Commerce Park

    Topsham office building

    MRRA has recently put one of the Topsham Commerce Park's best facilities on the market. If you're looking for an opportunity to redevelop a property with tremendous potential, 47 Canam Drive in Topsham is worth a look. The two-story brick office building was built in 1958 and was used as headquarters for the army reserve. It offers more than 13,000 SF of space, a 100-space parking lot, and is only a mile from the Topsham exit on Interstate 295. The property also comes with more than four acres of land that could be redeveloped to create an office campus within the existing business park.

    Topsham Commerce Park is a beautiful property in a quiet area close to housing and adjacent to one of the top school systems in the state of Maine. The building was designed by famous Maine architect Alonzo Harriman and is eligible for historic tax credits to developers who would preserve the building's historic integrity and architectural vernacular. It is listed at $299,000 by Don Spann of Riverside RE/MAX in Topsham.

    Additional Manufacturing Space Being Created at TechPlace to Meet Demand

    industrial spaceMRRA is wrapping up renovations on the TechPlace expansion project. The project is designed to help growing manufacturing companies in need of industrial space. The space will be ideal for companies engaged in the aerospace, composites, renewable energy, and biotech/biomed industries. Once complete in a few weeks, approximately 16,000 square feet of manufacturing space divided into several separate units will be available. The modified space, which includes an overhead monorail crane and a layup room, will be able to accommodate up to seven manufacturing businesses with individual work spaces ranging in size from 1,500 SF to 2,800 SF. The space is located adjacent to TechPlace. Brunswick Landing's Technology Accelerator, which features smaller manufacturing spaces and a shared machine shop and woodshop. View photos of the construction work »

    FAA Renews Brunswick Executive Airport's Participation in Military Airport Program

    Hangar 6The Federal Aviation Administration has selected Brunswick Executive Airport to participate in the FY16 Military Airport Program (MAP). This is great news for BXM and Brunswick Landing. It allows us to remain in the program for five additional years and be eligible for grant monies to fund airport improvement projects necessary to grow a robust aviation/aerospace business here. BXM was the only former military airport or joint use airport added to MAP this year, the third straight year FAA has picked only one participant. A total of 15 airports can participate in the program at one time. The selection will allow us to complete projects that started during the previous five years, including conversion of military hangars to civilian use, obstruction removal, drainage upgrades and installing wildlife fencing.


    Brunswick Landing Construction Projects Continue to Progress

    AvitaTwo more projects are rapidly taking shape near the front of the property. Avita of Brunswick is nearing completion of a 50,000 SF memory care facility that is scheduled to open early next year. The building is located just off Admiral Fitch Avenue on the site of the old Navy mobile home park. Landry-French, the lead contractor, says it has employed more than 150 workers during the project. Priority Real Estate Group of Topsham broke ground last month on a new convenience store and service station along Bath Road. They are moving along quickly and expect to have the bulk of the work done by mid-November. The store will be located on Bath Road across from Merrymeeting Plaza.

    MRRA Adjusting Traffic Pattern on Admiral Fitch Avenue to Increase Safety

    traffic pattern change

    Our Public Works Department recently completed work to reconfigure the traffic lanes on Admiral Fitch Ave., Brunswick Landing's main thoroughfare. The traffic pattern on Fitch from Forrestal Avenue to just beyond Pegasus Street (the four-way stop) is being changed from four lanes (two inbound and two outbound) to one lane inbound and one lane outbound with a center turn lane and designated bike lane. The project will help promote safer driving on the increasingly busy road. Motorists are reminded to please observe the posted speed limits and be mindful of the new traffic pattern. Read advisory for more information »

    TechPlace Growth Shows No Signs of Slowing Down; Go Babe Newest Tenant

    STARC SystemsWith the recent addition of Go Babe, a manufacturer of children's garments, to the roster, TechPlace now has 27 businesses. Several other firms, including a rocket company, are close to signing deals for space in Brunswick Landing's Technology Accelerator. Additionally, some of TechPlace's current businesses have already outgrown their original footprints. STARC, SteriZign, and InSphero are in serious expansion mode and may need to lease more space in TechPlace or even other buildings on the property to accommodate their growth. Some of these growing businesses may be able to take advantage of the new manufacturing space being constructed in Hangar 4 East, which is adjacent to TechPlace.

  • Heiwa Organic Tofu opens In Rockport, Maine


    By Ramona du Houx

    Heiwa Tofu is celebrating its new food production facility at 201 West Street, Rockport, Maine with a grand opening party on Friday, October 7, 2016 between 2:00 and 8: 00 pm. There will be a tour of Heiwa’s new tofu making operation, festivities and games. Locally made refreshments will be provided.

    Owners Jeff Wolovitz and Maho Hisakawa purchased the building in April, renovated the space to optimize production of their small batch, handcrafted, organic tofu and began operations in late June.  

    “This investment in our own production facility is a milestone for Heiwa,” said Wolovitz. “We have much more control over our business and greater opportunity for growth.”  

    Heiwa recently hired two more employees to help with production and keep pace with growing demand.

    Heiwa’s sales have doubled in the last 18 months.

    According to Wolovitz, consumers who are interested in nutritious, protein-rich alternatives to meat seem to be discovering the versatility of tofu.

     “Our customers can’t seem to get enough of our tofu and some even admit they never liked tofu until they tried Heiwa," said Wolovitz, who also suggested that it’s a combination of the creamy texture, delicious taste and freshness that make Heiwa a favorite of tofu connoisseurs.

    An added bonus for many customers is that Heiwa uses mostly Maine grown organic, non-GMO soybeans to produce their tofu, buying all soybeans available from both local farms and dedicated soybean growers. 

    Wolovitz and Hisakawa view a locally grown, plant based diet as a way to a more peaceful planet.

     “Heiwa - pronounced Hey wah - means peace in Japanese and we have come to think of Heiwa Tofu as Peace on a Plate.” said Hisakawa.

    Jeff and Maho launched Heiwa eight years ago in a converted garage space behind the Knox Mill in Camden, Maine. While the couple and their two young daughters, Ami and Ina, continue to sell the family’s prized tofu directly to customers at the local farmer’s market.(photo below)

    Heiwa is available today in 200 restaurants, natural food stores, colleges and universities throughout Maine, parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and a little bit beyond.

     

  • Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment - A Maine Exhibit

    Justice?, by Ramona du Houx
     
    Maine's Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment exhibit opens on Thursday, September 22nd and runs through December 22nd, 2016
     
    The exhibit will be at the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta, 46 University Drive in Augusta.
    Featured are 36 works by 17 Maine artists who were inspired by the rights granted by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
    Themes depicted relate to many areas of American society covered by the amendment: including due process, liberty, gender and sexuality, race, legal protections, equality in the workplace, housing, education, law enforcement, rights of the incarcerated, tolerance, and local, state, and federal representation
    The exhibit is being hosted by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, in conjunction with the Harlow Gallery of the Kennebec Valley Art Association, with support from the Maine Humanities Council and associated program support by the Maine Arts Commission.
     
    The Holocaust and Human Rights Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or weekends and evenings by appointment or when other events are being held.
    People Power, by Ramona du Houx
     

    Participating artists are listed below alphabetically by town:

    Augusta: Anthony Austin
    Bangor: Jeanne Curran
    Biddeford: Roland Salazar
    Brunswick: Mary Becker Weiss
    Camden: Claudia Noyes Griffiths
    Falmouth: Anne Strout
    Gardiner: Allison McKeen
    Hallowell: Nancy Bixler
    Lincolnville: Petrea Noyes
    Manchester: Bruce Armstrong
    Solon: Ramona du Houx
    Tenants Harbor: Otty Merrill
    Town Unknown: Julian Johnson
    Waterville: Jen Hickey
    West Rockport: Barbra Whitten
    Wilton: Rebecca Spilecki
    Winslow: Mimi McCutcheon

    There are several events planned in association with this project, including the Pride Film Festival – a series of four free films held Friday nights in October at 7 p.m. The films this year are The Boys in the Band (10/7), Fire (10/14), Paragraph 175 (10/21), and The Danish Girl (10/28).
     
    Mike Daisey’s one man play The Trump Card had sold out runs this fall in Washington and New York and is now touring throughout the country. With special permission from the playwright, HHRC Program Director and UMA adjunct professor of drama David Greenham will read the hard-hitting and hilarious monologue on Saturday, October 22nd at 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 23rd at 2 p.m.
    The Trump Card reminds all of us of the role we have played in paving the way to create one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in recent memory. Tickets for The Trump Card are $15 and proceeds benefit HHRC’s educational outreach programs.
    As the Stage Review put it, “Daisey breaks down what makes Trump tick—and in doing so illuminates the state of our American Dream and how we’ve sold it out.” 
     
    14th Amendment by Allison McKeen 
    The HHRC is also pleased to host Everyman Repertory Theater’s production of Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly November 17th, 18th and 19th. The Pulitzer Prize winning play is a love story set in Missouri in 1942 and addresses issues of prejudice and the injustices that caused many to flee Europe in the years leading up to World War II.  
    The New York Times said about the play, “It is perhaps the simplest, and the most lyrical play Wilson has written—a funny, sweet, touching and marvelously written and contrived love poem for an apple and an orange.”   Tickets go on sale September 27th.
     
    Also in November, a group of UMA drama students under the direction of adjunct drama professor Jeri Pitcher will present a reading of their work in progress called Created Equal. The project, created in partnership with the HHRC, the UMA Writing Center, and UMA students will focus on the importance of the 14th amendment today. A full performance of the piece is planned for the spring of 2017.
  • Democrats' policy plans for A Better State of Maine will help families, businesses thrive

    Policies on infrastructure, competitive advantages, vibrant communities to get Maine back on track

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    At a public forum at Mt. Ararat High School, Democratic leaders from the Maine Legislature on September 21, 2016 unveiled “A Better State of Maine,” their vision to build a state where young families and businesses can realize the American Dream by living in healthy, vibrant communities with good paying jobs.Democrats plan to achieve their vision with smart policies that modernize infrastructure, build on the state’s competitive advantages and support the the state's special creative economy.

    “Maine’s success depends on our ability to keep our next generation in state and to bring new people as well. We can do that through smart, targeted strategies to make Maine an attractive place for families, entrepreneurs, workers and small business owners,” said Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dawn Hill. “Our vision calls for needed investments in our infrastructure, capitalizing on our competitive advantages, equipping young people with the skills they need to compete and policies that support vibrant communities.”

    The policy rollout discussion was wide-ranging and touched on some of Maine’s most challenging problems:

    • Maine's population is the oldest state in the Nation. The majority of workers- in the next ten years- will be of retirement age, leaving huge institutional gaps in the workforce, and creating a greater need to help the elderly retire with dignity and proper healthcare.
    • Not only is our populous aging, so is our infrastructure. The state needs road, bridge and railroad upgrades.
    • Broadband service has to cover all of Maine and cities need to accomidate middle class incomes with affordable housing.
    • Young college graduates are moving out of the state to find jobs that pay decent salaries. And while the medium income is around $30,000 for the Second District, it's $50,000 in the 1st, this disparity needs to be addressed.

    “Maine is losing its young people as they are forced to look for opportunity elsewhere. We need solutions that help young families build their lives in Maine and that revitalize our economy – one cannot happen without the other,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon. “The consequences for our state are dire if we remain on this trajectory. But the right policies can get us back on track.”

    “A Better State of Maine” recognizes that the next generation is our greatest asset and that policymakers must embrace policies that make it possible for young people to build long, prosperous lives in Maine. The number of retirement-aged Mainers is growing and will continue to do so while the number of working-age Mainers will shrink, if there's no policy interventions, according to projections by Maine’s state economist.

    What most people don't realize is that Democrats have been stoically working on all the above issues, while the LePage administration has been obstructing their efforts.

    House Speaker Mark Eves, and Senator Justin Alfond did get laws or reviews passed, some with funding, for all of the above. The bills were drastically watered down from their initial proposals but, and this is an important point, they started the ball rolling. With each session, these laws could and should be strengthened.

    In order to accomplish anything in state government, every bill takes baby steps before it becomes established with larger programs. This is especially true if there is a dramatic divide on how to accomplish these goals.

    At present the LePage administration is opposed to the majority of Democratic initiatives. Democrats want bonds to help in all the above and in research and development. These kinds of bonds have proven to grow the economy with good paying jobs and benefits. So, in order to grow Maine's economy Democrats need majorities in the House and Senate to get needed initiatives passed.

    They identified what policies that will help Maine regain its competitive edge:

    • Strengthening the backbone of Maine’s economy through targeted investments in transportation, broadband and energy;
    • Capitalize on Maine’s competitive advantages, including aquaculture and agriculture, the state’s high-value brand and heritage industries;
    • and Prioritizing policies that support vibrant communities where young families can thrive and equip young people with the work skills they need to make a good living. These include effective training and education opportunities, investments in early childhood and schools and policies to encourage home ownership.
  • ME's proceeds from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s close to $82M

    Maine makes over $2,270,635in 33rd auction

    Article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine brought in $2,265,634.20 from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), 33rd auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances.

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

    The program, first started in Maine when Governor John Baldacci pushed for it’s implementation and had a bill introduced. The legislation won unanimous support in Maine’s Senate and House. To date RGGI has brought in $81,837,449.15 to the state for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. 

    “RGGI is working. It is helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation," said Former State Representative Seth Berry, who sat on Maine’s legislative committee that approved the final RGGI rules.

    States sell nearly all emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs. These programs are spurring innovation in the clean energy economy and creating green jobs in the RGGI states.

    14,911,315 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $4.54.

    The September 7th auction was the third auction of 2016, and generated $67.7 million for reinvestment in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs. Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2allowance auctions exceed $2.58 billion dollars.

    “This auction demonstrates RGGI’s benefits to each participating state, helping to reduce harmful emissions while generating proceeds for reinvestment. Each RGGI state directs investments according to its individual goals, and this flexibility has been key to the program’s success across a diverse region.” said Katie Dykes, Deputy Commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Another key RGGI strength is our commitment to constant improvement, as exemplified in the program review process. The RGGI states are continuing to evaluate program elements and improvements as part of the 2016 Program Review, with the goal of reaching consensus on program revisions that support each state’s unique goals and priorities.

    Governor John Baldacci led the effort in Maine to join RGGI and had a comprehensive energy plan similar to Cuomo. Baldacci's clean energy plan focused on how to get Maine off fossil fuels and bring clean energy jobs to the state. His administration created grants to help new innovations like the floating offshore wind platforms and windmills developed at the University of Maine under Dr. Habib Dagher's leadership. (photo: by Ramona du Houx. Dr. Dagher talks with Gov. John Baldacci about the next steps for wind farm implementation offshore. The prototype of the floating windfarm is the firs photo on the page)

    Nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).        

    “Independent reports have found the reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is creating jobs, reducing consumers’ utility bills, and boosting state economies while driving down carbon emissions,” said Jared Snyder, Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Vice Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Our reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is supporting Governor Cuomo’s transformational clean energy and energy efficiency goals to generate 50 percent of New York’s energy from renewable sources and reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030, ushering in the low-carbon economy essential to the wellbeing of future generations.”

  • USDA Grants totaling $212,753 for Aroostook and Piscataquis and Maine Native American Tribe

    By Ramona du Houx

    Four Maine organizations in northern Maine have been selected to receive USDA grants that will benefit people living in rural communities in ways that will enhance their regions creative economy. 

    “Each of the USDA Rural Development grants play a vital role in the community they serve. From providing economic development opportunities that will assist the Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians in utilizing valuable Tribal resources, to supporting performing art, agricultural history, and vital health and wellness equipment for children, these grants make an important impact on the quality of life for Northern Maine citizens," said USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel. 

    In Maine, four organizations have been selected to receive Grants totaling $212,753:

    • Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians, in Presque Isle, has been selected to receive a Rural Business Development Grant in the amount of $122,953. Rural Development funds will be used to develop a strategic economic and community development plan to consider the best use of the Tribe’s 3,000 acres of land, other Tribal assets, and the community ecosystem. Feasibility analyses and business plans for two potential Tribal enterprises, specialty foods, and alternative energy will be funded. This projects is estimated to create up to 20 jobs and save up to 10.

    • Southern Aroostook Agricultural Museum, in Littleton, has been selected to receive a Community Facility Grant in the amount of $14,700.  Rural Development funds will be used to replace the heating system in the museum, which is dedicated to preserving artifacts of the agricultural way of life in Aroostook County and what early farm life was like. The existing steam heating system is approximately 65 years old and unreliable and inefficient to operate compared to current technologies. They will replace it with a more modern oil fired hot water boiler system

     

    • Maine School Administrative District 27, in Fort Kent, has been selected to receive a Community Facility Grant in the amount of $42,000. Rural Development funds will be used to purchase and install wellness equipment for the Fort Kent Elementary School playground. In designing the playground structure, the District incorporated components that are particularly appropriate for occupational therapy and physical therapy students as well as the general population. The structure will also be ADA compliant.\

    • Center Theatre, Inc., in Dover-Foxcroft has been selected to receive a Community Facility Grant in the amount of $33,100.  Rural Development funds will be used to purchase lighting, sound, stage, and other equipment needed to provide the Theatre an opportunity to increase capacity by utilizing the stage and event space available at Central Hall. This will allow for them to host dances and provide dinner theater activities that cannot be held at their existing facility. Central Hall will also be a dedicated rehearsal space. 

     

    Each grant reciepient is part of a regional economic development plan developed by a local/regional team with broad participation. These plans are built upon analysis of the region’s assets, including its key current and emerging economic clusters. These multi-county regions can be within the state or may cross state boundaries.

  • It’s time for Portland to assume a leadership role on solar energy

    Our officials should forge ahead on a solar plan, starting with the Ocean Avenue landfill project.

    Climate change is the greatest threat to the survival of not just the human species, but all species. It represents the principal challenge facing humanity in our day. No cause is more pressing, Pope Francis said in his 2015 encyclical on the environment and human ecology.

    Burning fossil fuels generates carbon dioxide. Carbon in the atmosphere forms something like a “blanket” over the Earth that traps the sun’s heat rather than allowing it to radiate back out. This build-up has caused the average temperature of the Earth’s surface to rise almost 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) since the late 1800s.

    Fifteen of the last 16 hottest years have happened since 2001, and scientists overwhelmingly agree that increasingly wild weather around the world is related to the global temperature rise. That’s climate disruption.

    So much fossil fuel has already been burned that it’s going to take determination and commitment internationally, nationally and locally to avoid shooting past the dangerous 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) warming mark. That’s the commonly recognized boundary for keeping the climate compatible with human life as we know it. This means essentially stopping global CO2 emissions by 2060. That may seem like a long time in the future, but it’s within the lifetime of people under 40.

    Cities are leading the transition to 100 percent clean energy in the United States. Twelve U.S. cities and counting, including San Francisco and San Diego, have already adopted ambitious 100 percent clean energy goals, and four cities in the U.S. – Aspen, Colorado; Burlington, Vermont; Greensburg, Kansas; and Kodiak Island, Alaska – have already hit their targets. These cities now generate 100 percent of the energy used community-wide from non-polluting and renewable sources.

    It’s time for Portland to assume a leadership role in solar energy deployment in Maine. Solar is the best non-carbon source for urban areas: The sun’s energy is constant and plentiful. And the faster we deploy solar power, the more costs will fall, making needed changes more affordable. Mayor Ethan Strimling has said he wants to have 25 percent of Portland’s homes and businesses using solar energy within 10 years.

    At the Paris climate summit, diplomats from 195 countries agreed to set a goal of preventing that 3.6 degrees F (2 degrees C) rise. Germany is already a model of national solar energy deployment despite getting less sunlight than does Maine.

    In the U.S., political power struggles at the federal and state levels have prevented comprehensive, affordable solar strategies from becoming the norm. Maine, for instance, has a present solar penetration of 1 percent of peak load. This needs to be closer to 10 percent if we intend to meet the U.S. emissions reduction targets.

    Completing the proposed solar installation on the Ocean Avenue Landfil to supply energy for city buildings and operations would be an excellent way to demonstrate leadership. The project, planned for this year yet put in doubt by the solar bill’s defeat, would make an otherwise unusable area vital and productive.

    Installing a solar array at the Ocean Avenue landfill will send a message that’s consistent with Portland’s reputation as a forward-thinking city. Yes, the Maine Legislature's faliure to override the governor's solar bill veto has been a setback. And yes, there’s some uncertainty about how long it will take to pay ourselves back with energy savings.

    But leadership requires proceeding despite setbacks and uncertainties. No energy enterprise is entirely without risk, and the risks of renewable energy inaction are far higher than the risks of forging ahead with determination and hope.

    The project also makes long-term economic sense. Today’s solar arrays last at least 25 years. The reduction in energy costs will allow Portland to recoup its investment and ultimately to save millions of tax dollars.

    We can’t mitigate extreme climate disruption and create a sustainable energy future without a plan. Portland shouldn’t let politics or lack of planning at higher levels stymie our doing the right thing. By moving now, Portland can show the way for others. We call on our elected and appointed officials to forge ahead on a solar plan, starting with the Ocean Avenue landfill project. The Portland Climate Action Team stands ready to assist.

  • Waterville, Maine's revitalization: a real recipe for success

    Photos by Ramona du Houx

    I grew up South of Augusta in Hallowell and Waterville, when I was young, was the town you went to to buy things. It had a vibrant downtown and a lot of retail and a lot of traffic. I think that over the past 20 to 25 years, like many downtowns, that has slowly shifted away and moved out to the periphery to other places.

    But what we’re seeing now in Waterville is this incredible resurgence, which is the function of many things. Colby’s investment, the town’s longterm planning, and the Chamber of Commerce has played a major role. What it’s done for people like me—those in redevelopment—is it’s attracted us to look to a town that doesn’t just have buildings that can be developed, but to a town that is in favor of going in that direction. It’s looking toward a vision to fulfill. And with all of these players involved—any I haven’t yet mentioned Thomas College, and many others—have come up with a vision of what they hope to see in the town.

    Add to this the magic of the aforementioned investment by Colby and you have a real recipe for success.

    Waterville is now at an accelerated growth mode because of all of the planning they have done and now there is the realization of capital to accompany that planning. What I think you will see is infill development. So you look at downtown and there are old buildings that will be renovated, but then there will be new buildings that are constructed within that fabric. That will continue and stretch to the peripheries of downtown.

    wrote about this particular moment for the Kennebec Journal a few months back, and my colleague Tom Siegel, who is developing a project for us on the old Seton site in Waterville, also wrote at length about the significance of this moment.

    What Waterville has done well is they have planned for this growth. A lot of communities will go through a long planning process but then it comes time to actually grow. Waterville has done that planning and attract investment and so now the growth is occurring. So I think in 5 years, you’re going to see changes in traffic patterns, how people live, how people get to work and everything that comes with development as it exits the planning phase and enters one of growth. It will have a remarkable impact on the community at large.

    Kevin Mattson

    About Kevin Mattson

    Kevin Mattson is the Managing Partner of Dirigo Capital Advisors. Having entered the field of commercial real estate in 1997, he has since overseen the execution and development of many large scale, award winning projects. Mattson has been appointed to positions by Governors King and Baldacci, and he has served on the board of the Maine Children’s Home in Waterville, Maine. Prior to his career in real estate development, Mattson worked for the Maine Legislature as the Chief of Staff for the House Majority Leader. He was awarded a BA in Accounting from Skidmore College and received an MBA from the University of Maine. He resides in Freeport with his wife Jeannie, and their two sons, Fionn and Ronan, and is an unabashed lover of King Crimson.

    The Hathaway Center was renovated using newly established Historic renovation tax credits, which leveled the playing field for devlopers. So they could renovate historic properties at a simalar cost to building new ones. Photo by Ramona du Houx

  • A Winter’s Apprentice by John Holt Willey brings a Maine boat yard to life

    By Ramona du Houx 

    John Willey shares insights into life in a Maine boatyard, where he worked and kept a journal from 1978 to ’79 in his book, A Winter’s Apprentice.

    “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,” endorsed John Gardner, 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.

    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.

     Available online and at your local bookstore internationally or directly from the publisher Polar Bear & Company, polarberanadco.org. 207.643.2795.

    $14.95

    ISBN 978-1-882190-45-4

  • Free Poetry Festival at UMA with inaugural poet Richard Blanco

    Friday, April 8, 2016 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
    Saturday, April 9, 2016 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Location: University of Maine at Augusta, 46 University Drive, Augusta, Maine

    The University of Maine at Augusta will hold its 14th annual Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival 5-9 p.m. Friday, April 8, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 9, on the university’s Augusta campus, 46 University Drive. Keynote speaker will be poet Richard Blanco, who read at U.S. President Obama’s second inauguration.

    Blanco is the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history; he is the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban exiled parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity and place characterize his body of work.

    Blanco’s many honors include the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize, the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the Paterson Poetry Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and two Maine Literary Awards. He has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Fresh Air. He has been a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and received honorary doctorates from Macalester College, Colby College and the University of Rhode Island. He has continued to write occasional poems for organizations and events. He currently shares his time between Bethel and Boston.

    Festival activities will include a performance by Brio (formerly members of Improvox), local student poetry award announcements (both high school and college level), a panel discussion about Richard Blanco’s poetry, memoir and integrated themes, readings by local poets and students, as well as a musical performance by UMA Jazz Students.

    The Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival, held in April each year to honor the memory of Terry Plunkett, a former English professor at UMA, encompasses diverse Maine voices young and old, emerging writers and those who are well published. The festival is free and open to the public.

    For more information: uma.edu/news/terry-plunkett-poetry-festival-april-8th-9th-at-uma/

  • US Treasury Dept. confirms President Obama has fully turned around the U.S. economy

     

     

     By Ramona du Houx

    President Barack Obama’s has salvaged the U.S. economy from the damage done to it by his predecessor George W. Bush. The turn around has been an overwhelming success, according to the United States Treasury Department. When Obama took over as President the stock market collapsed from the bank induced mortgage crisis and we were on the verge of being thrown into a depression due to Bush’s failed policies.

    Pres. Obama’s initiatives prevented the USA from falling into another Great Depression, and now the Treasury has officially said that Obama has fully turned the economy around. 

    The American Recovery Act, though modest at the time it past, was just enough to spur needed investment in growth sectors. It was a major piece of legislation that Obama passed with support from Maine’s two Republican Senators at that time: Collins and Snowe.

    The ARA brought investments to Maine in infrastructure and research and development, which the Baldacci administration used to the best of their abilitites, ensuring the best projects were funded.

    Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has confirmed what economists and those familiar with economic policy have already known: the U.S. economy has been growing at a steady rate for several quarters, private sector job growth is consistently high, the unemployment rate has been reduced all the way down to the five percent level which economists view as ideal, and the stock market has grown tremendously. This all occurred even as President Obama reduced the annual federal deficit by seventy-two percent.

    But Lew says there are still challenges ahead, pointing to the inequality between the wealthy and the working class, and business tax loopholes, as areas of concern; Obama has tried to tackle both but has faced republican opposition. But he says Social Security is in far better shape than most Americans believe.

  • President Obama's full State of the Union, 2016

     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, my fellow Americans:  

    Tonight marks the eighth year that I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union.  And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it a little shorter.  (Applause.)  I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.  (Laughter.)  I've been there.  I'll be shaking hands afterwards if you want some tips.  (Laughter.) 

    And I understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we will achieve this year are low.  But, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach that you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families.  So I hope we can work together this year on some bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform -- (applause) -- and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse.  (Applause.)  So, who knows, we might surprise the cynics again. 

    But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead.  Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients.  And I will keep pushing for progress on the work that I believe still needs to be done.  Fixing a broken immigration system.  (Applause.)  Protecting our kids from gun violence.  (Applause.)  Equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  Paid leave.  (Applause.)  Raising the minimum wage. (Applause.)  All these things still matter to hardworking families.  They’re still the right thing to do.  And I won't let up until they get done.

    But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to just talk about next year.  I want to focus on the next five years, the next 10 years, and beyond.  I want to focus on our future.

    We live in a time of extraordinary change -- change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world.  It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families.  It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away.  It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality.  And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

    America has been through big changes before -- wars and depression, the influx of new immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, movements to expand civil rights.  Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change; who promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control.  And each time, we overcame those fears.  We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.”  Instead we thought anew, and acted anew.  We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more people.  And because we did -- because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril -- we emerged stronger and better than before.

    What was true then can be true now.  Our unique strengths as a nation -- our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law -- these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come. 

    In fact, it’s in that spirit that we have made progress these past seven years.  That's how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations.  (Applause.)  That's how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector.  (Applause.)  That's how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops coming home and our veterans.  (Applause.) That's how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.  (Applause.) 

    But such progress is not inevitable.  It’s the result of choices we make together.  And we face such choices right now.  Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, turning against each other as a people?  Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, in the incredible things that we can do together?

    So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that I believe we as a country have to answer -- regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress. 

    First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?  (Applause.) 

    Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us -- especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?  (Applause.) 

    Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?  (Applause.) 

    And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

    Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact:  The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.  (Applause.)  We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history.  (Applause.)  More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s, an unemployment rate cut in half.  Our auto industry just had its best year ever.  (Applause.)  That's just part of a manufacturing surge that's created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.  And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.  (Applause.) 

    Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.  (Applause.)  Now, what is true -- and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious -- is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit; changes that have not let up. 

    Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated.  Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition.  As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise.  Companies have less loyalty to their communities.  And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.

    All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing.  It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start their careers, tougher for workers to retire when they want to.  And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.

    For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works also better for everybody.  We’ve made progress.  But we need to make more.  And despite all the political arguments that we’ve had these past few years, there are actually some areas where Americans broadly agree.

    We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job.  The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, boosted graduates in fields like engineering.  In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all and -- (applause) -- offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.  We should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.  (Applause.) 

    And we have to make college affordable for every American.  (Applause.)  No hardworking student should be stuck in the red.  We’ve already reduced student loan payments to 10 percent of a borrower’s income.  And that's good.  But now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college.  (Applause.)  Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.  (Applause.)  It's the right thing to do.  (Applause.) 

    But a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security.  It’s not too much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package for 30 years are sitting in this chamber.  (Laughter.)  For everyone else, especially folks in their 40s and 50s, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher.  Americans understand that at some point in their careers, in this new economy, they may have to retool and they may have to retrain.  But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build in the process. 

    That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever.  We shouldn’t weaken them; we should strengthen them. (Applause.)  And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today.  That, by the way, is what the Affordable Care Act is all about.  It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when you lose a job, or you go back to school, or you strike out and launch that new business, you’ll still have coverage.  Nearly 18 million people have gained coverage so far.  (Applause.)  And in the process, health care inflation has slowed.  And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.

    Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon.  (Applause.)  A little applause right there.  Laughter.)  Just a guess.  But there should be other ways parties can work together to improve economic security.  Say a hardworking American loses his job -- we shouldn’t just make sure that he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him.  If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills.  And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him.  That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everybody.

    I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty.  America is about giving everybody willing to work a chance, a hand up.  And I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers who don't have children.  (Applause.)  

    But there are some areas where we just have to be honest -- it has been difficult to find agreement over the last seven years.  And a lot of them fall under the category of what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations.  (Applause.) And it's an honest disagreement, and the American people have a choice to make.

    I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy.  I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed.  There is red tape that needs to be cut.  (Applause.)  There you go!  Yes!  (Applause  But after years now of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks just by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at everybody else’s expense.  (Applause.)  Middle-class families are not going to feel more secure because we allowed attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.  Food Stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did.  (Applause.)  Immigrants aren’t the principal reason wages haven’t gone up; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that all too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.  It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts.  (Applause.)   

    The point is, I believe that in this In new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less.  The rules should work for them.  (Applause.)  And I'm not alone in this.  This year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers or their customers or their communities ends up being good for their shareholders.  (Applause.)  And I want to spread those best practices across America.  That's part of a brighter future.  (Applause.) 

    In fact, it turns out many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative.  And this brings me to the second big question we as a country have to answer:  How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?

    Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.  (Laughter.)  We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight.  And 12 years later, we were walking on the moon.  (Applause.)   

    Now, that spirit of discovery is in our DNA.  America is Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver.  America is Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride.  America is every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley, racing to shape a better world.  (Applause.)  That's who we are. 

    And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.  We’ve protected an open Internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online.  (Applause.)  We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.  But we can do so much more. 

    Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer.  Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources that they’ve had in over a decade. (Applause.)  So tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done.  And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us on so many issues over the past 40 years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.  (Applause.)  For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.  (Applause.) 

    Medical research is critical.  We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.  (Applause.)  Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You will be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.  (Applause.)   

    But even if -- even if the planet wasn’t at stake, even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record -- until 2015 turned out to be even hotter -- why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future? (Applause.) 

    Listen, seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history.  Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.  On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal -- in jobs that pay better than average.  We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy -- something, by the way, that environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support.   And meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.  (Applause.)  Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.  (Applause.) 

    Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources.  Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future -- especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels.  We do them no favor when we don't show them where the trends are going.  That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. And that way, we put money back into those communities, and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.  (Applause.) 

    Now, none of this is going to happen overnight.  And, yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.  But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, the planet we’ll preserve -- that is the kind of future our kids and our grandkids deserve.  And it's within our grasp. 

    Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world.  And that’s why the third big question that we have to answer together is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.

    I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air.  Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker.  Let me tell you something.  The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth.  Period. (Applause.)  Period.  It’s not even close.  It's not even close. (Applause.)  It's not even close.  We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.  Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world.  (Applause.)  No nation attacks us directly, or our allies, because they know that’s the path to ruin.  Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead -- they call us.  (Applause.)

    I mean, it's useful to level the set here, because when we don't, we don't make good decisions.    

    Now, as someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time.  But that’s not primarily because of some looming superpower out there, and certainly not because of diminished American strength.  In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. 

    The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.  Economic headwinds are blowing in from a Chinese economy that is in significant transition.  Even as their economy severely contracts, Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria -- client states that they saw slipping away from their orbit.  And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.

    It’s up to us, the United States of America, to help remake that system.  And to do that well it means that we’ve got to set priorities.

    Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks.  (Applause.)  Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage.  They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country.  Their actions undermine and destabilize our allies.  We have to take them out.

    But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.  Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages -- they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped.  But they do not threaten our national existence.  (Applause.)  That is the story ISIL wants to tell.  That’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit.  We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, and we sure don't need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions.  (Applause.)  We just need to call them what they are -- killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.  (Applause.)  

    And that’s exactly what we’re doing.  For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology.  With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we’re taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons.  We’re training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria. 

    If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL.  Take a vote.  (Applause.)  Take a vote.  But the American people should know that with or without congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them.  If you doubt America’s commitment -- or mine -- to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden.  (Applause.)  Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell.  When you come after Americans, we go after you.  (Applause.)  And it may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits.  (Applause.)  

    Our foreign policy hast to be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there.  For even without ISIL, even without al Qaeda, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world -- in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, in parts of Central America, in Africa, and Asia.  Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks.  Others will just fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees.  The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians.  That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

    We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis, even if it's done with the best of intentions.  (Applause.)  That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately will weaken us.  It’s the lesson of Vietnam; it's the lesson of Iraq -- and we should have learned it by now.  (Applause.)   

    Fortunately, there is a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power.  It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.   

    That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.

    That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.  And as we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.  (Applause.)   

    That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa.  (Applause.)  Our military, our doctors, our development workers -- they were heroic; they set up the platform that then allowed other countries to join in behind us and stamp out that epidemic. Hundreds of thousands, maybe a couple million lives were saved.

    That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, and protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia.  It cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America, which will then support more good jobs here in America.  With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region; we do.  You want to show our strength in this new century?  Approve this agreement.  Give us the tools to enforce it.  It's the right thing to do.  (Applause.)   

    Let me give you another example.  Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, and set us back in Latin America.  That’s why we restored diplomatic relations -- (applause) -- opened the door to travel and commerce, positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people.  (Applause.) So if you want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere, recognize that the Cold War is over -- lift the embargo.  (Applause.)  

    The point is American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world -- except when we kill terrorists -- or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling.  Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right.  It means seeing our foreign assistance as a part of our national security, not something separate, not charity. 

    When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change, yes, that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our kids.  When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend on. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick -- (applause) -- it's the right thing to do, and it prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores.  Right now, we’re on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS.  That's within our grasp.  (Applause.)  And we have the chance to accomplish the same thing with malaria -- something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.  (Applause.) 

    That's American strength.  That's American leadership.  And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example.  That’s why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo.  (Applause.)  It is expensive, it is unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.  (Applause.)  There’s a better way.  (Applause.)   

    And that’s why we need to reject any politics -- any politics -- that targets people because of race or religion.  (Applause.)  Let me just say this.  This is not a matter of political correctness.  This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong.  The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity, and our openness, and the way we respect every faith. 

    His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot that I'm standing on tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.”  When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer.  That’s not telling it like it is.  It’s just wrong.  (Applause.)  It diminishes us in the eyes of the world.  It makes it harder to achieve our goals.  It betrays who we are as a country.  (Applause.) 

    “We the People.”  Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together, and that's how we might perfect our Union.  And that brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing that I want to say tonight.

    The future we want -- all of us want -- opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids -- all that is within our reach.  But it will only happen if we work together.  It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.  It will only happen if we fix our politics.

    A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.  This is a big country -- different regions, different attitudes, different interests.  That’s one of our strengths, too.  Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

    But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens.  It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.  It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.  Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise, or when even basic facts are contested, or when we listen only to those who agree with us.  Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention.  And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.

    Too many Americans feel that way right now.  It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency -- that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.  I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

    But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task -- or any President’s -- alone.  There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber, good people who would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base.  I know; you’ve told me.  It's the worst-kept secret in Washington.  And a lot of you aren't enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor. 

    But that means if we want a better politics -- and I'm addressing the American people now -- if we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a President.  We have to change the system to reflect our better selves.  I think we've got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.  (Applause.)  Let a bipartisan group do it.  (Applause.) 

    We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families or hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.  (Applause.)  And if our existing approach to campaign finance reform can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution -- because it's a problem.  And most of you don't like raising money.  I know; I've done it.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to make it easier to vote, not harder.  (Applause.)  We need to modernize it for the way we live now.  (Applause.)  This is America:  We want to make it easier for people to participate.  And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that.

    But I can’t do these things on my own.  (Applause.)  Changes in our political process -- in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected -- that will only happen when the American people demand it.  It depends on you.  That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people. 

    What I’m suggesting is hard.  It’s a lot easier to be cynical; to accept that change is not possible, and politics is hopeless, and the problem is all the folks who are elected don't care, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter.  But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.  Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure.  And then, as frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

    We can’t afford to go down that path.  It won’t deliver the economy we want.  It will not produce the security we want.  But most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world. 

    So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as hard as you could against it -- our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen.  To vote.  To speak out.  To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. (Applause.)  We need every American to stay active in our public life -- and not just during election time -- so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day. 

    It is not easy.  Our brand of democracy is hard.  But I can promise that a little over a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I will be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that helped America travel so far.  Voices that help us see ourselves not, first and foremost, as black or white, or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born, not as Democrat or Republican, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed.  Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word -- voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love. 

    And they’re out there, those voices.  They don’t get a lot of attention; they don't seek a lot of fanfare; but they’re busy doing the work this country needs doing.  I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours.  I see you, the American people.  And in your daily acts of citizenship, I see our future unfolding.

    I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages instead of laying him off. 

    I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late at night to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early, and maybe with some extra supplies that she bought because she knows that that young girl might someday cure a disease.

    I see it in the American who served his time, and bad mistakes as a child but now is dreaming of starting over -- and I see it in the business owner who gives him that second chance.  The protester determined to prove that justice matters -- and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.  (Applause.) 

    I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him till he can run a marathon, the community that lines up to cheer him on.

    It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.  (Applause.) 

    I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his vote for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count -- because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

    That's the America I know.  That’s the country we love.   Clear-eyed.  Big-hearted.  Undaunted by challenge.  Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.  (Applause.)  That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.  I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.  

    And that’s why I stand here confident as I have ever been that the State of our Union is strong.  (Applause.) 

    Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America. 

  • Portland awards four businesses on Congress Street with Facade Improvement Funds

    Three storefronts and a marquis on Congress Street will be looking their best next Spring/Summer with recent grant awards from the City’s Façade Improvement Program.

    The storefronts include 578 Congress, the home of Strange Maine; 612 Congress, the former Anna’s Used Furniture; 785 Congress which was previously a variety store; and the State Theatre marquis. All the projects will further enhance the streetscape of the Art’s District, helping to attract more culture and entertainment seekers and shoppers, as well as businesses looking to locate in a vibrant downtown environment. 

    All will help Portland's creative economy continue to grow.

    ”The Façade Program produces such tangible results,” said Greg Mitchell, Portland’s Economic Developer Director. “This is an effective program to stimulate private sector investment, and we're really thrilled that we were able to award the remaining funds. Thanks to the many property and business owners who have partnered with the City to rehab their storefronts, the experience of Congress Street continues to get better and better.” 

    The Facade Improvement Program is funded with federal community block grant dollars.
     
    Almost $24,000 in grant funds remained unused from the last round of the Façade Program, which had targeted Congress Street, from Washington Avenue to Weymouth Street. As a result, the City’s Economic Development Department invited business and property owners on Congress Street to submit applications for these remaining funds to be used for improvements to their storefronts, signs and awnings. Eight applications were received and the four that would have the greatest impact on the streetscape were chosen. 

    The Façade Program requires a private match that is at least equal to the grant amount. It is anticipated that these projects, receiving a total of almost $24,000 in grants, will generate close to $55,000 in private investment on Congress Street, more than twice the public dollars provided. 

  • Technology consulting firm to create 200 jobs in Waterville Hathaway Center thanks to Colby’s President Greene

    Colby College President David A. Greene and William C. Robichaud, Collaborative Consulting’s founder and CEO during the announcement which will bring 200 jobs to Waterville, Maine.

    By Ramona du Houx

    Earlier this month, in partnership with Colby College, Collaborative Consulting announced the opening of a digital/data delivery center in Waterville that will eventually create 200 jobs.

    Known as Collaborative Waterville, the facility will be located in Waterville’s Hathaway Creative Center, and will open in January of 2016 with a first wave of 20 employees. Collaborative Consulting, a privately held consulting firm based in Burlington, Mass., will have clients that need digital and data solutions tailored to advance their business strategies and goals.

    “Waterville is an ideal fit for us because of its dynamic community, exceptional workforce and impressive educational infrastructure focused on innovation,” said William C. Robichaud, Collaborative Consulting’s founder and CEO.

    Robichaud noted that many clients have Northeast roots and will benefit from the center’s proximity and alliance with Colby, which will include student internships as well as faculty and staff training, and professional development opportunities.

    The Hathaway Center, above, will be where Collaborative Consulting is bringing 200 jobs. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    “By partnering with Colby, we will cultivate an environment of innovation, envisioning what future business environments will look like and creating solutions that address the needs of this rapidly changing digital world,” said Robichaud.

    Colby College President David A. Greene promoted the economic and cultural vitality Waterville has to offer to Robichaud with such enthusiasm — he convinced Robichaud to locate here when he heard he needed to expand.

    "The man wouldn't take no," said Robichaud. "We had a fantastic meeting a few weeks back."

    Over the past year, because of Greene’s leadership Colby College has purchased several downtown buildings that are in desperate need of historic renovations. What the college intends to do with the properties is still being discussed. Greene has held community discussions about Waterville’s future potential and the role Colby would play in it.

    “This city has so much to offer, and it’s gratifying that Collaborative Consulting was attracted to Waterville for the reasons so many of us are — three colleges, a growing arts and cultural focus, a Main Street with terrific potential,” said Greene. “When Colby began partnering with the city and others on revitalization efforts, we knew that sustained economic development would be critical to supporting the long-term needs of the people of Waterville and central Maine. ”

    Collaborative Waterville also intends to work with Thomas College and Kennebec Valley Community College providing internships and possible future employment.

    “Collaborative Consulting’s decision to grow their business in Waterville is great news and is a testament to the ingenuity and vast potential of our state’s workforce,” said Senator Angus King in a statement. “I applaud Collaborative’s vision and commitment to add high-paying 21st century jobs in Maine, to build on the TechHire effort, and to enhance the vibrant entrepreneurial partnerships led by Colby, Thomas, and Kennebec Valley Community Colleges that will help strengthen communities in central Maine.” 

     PHOTO: William C. Robichaud, Collaborative Consulting’s founder and CEO making the announcement which will bring 200 jobs to Waterville, Maine.

    The Hathaway Creative Center has been a successful renovation of a historic shirt factory using Maine’s Historic tax credit, established with the help of one of the developers, Tom Niemann of Niemann Capitol. Niemann partnered with Paul Boghossian, a Colby graduate, at the urging of Maine’s Department of Economic and Development Commissioner Jack Cashman, in 2007, for the Hathaway Center’s development.

    Historic Preservation brings numerous financial benefits to the state’s communities.  Preservation drives downtown revitalization and neighborhood rehabilitation, enhances real estate markets, grows the tax bases, attracts heritage tourists,as well as new residents, and allows for a more sustainable reuse of infrastructure.

    The Maine Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit passed in 2008, during the Baldacci administration. Since then, 62 privately developed projects have been completed or are underway, investing over $335 million in construction expenditures. These projects have facilitated creation of many new businesses and over 800 housing units, with 600 affordable housing. Many of these buildings were formerly vacant, dragging down the real estate market around them. After rehab they have raised the market and fostered additional nearby investment. Over 32 large and small cities and towns across the state host historic tax credit projects.

    The Hathaway Creative Center in Waterville, Maine, after the renovation. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    The credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax liability or a refund, for expenditures on the rehab of income-producing historic buildings such as commercial, industrial and residential-rental properties.  The state credit is 25 percent of the total qualified rehab expenses, with affordable housing eligible for a 31 percent State credit. This is added to an additional 20 percent federal historic credit, for a total of 45 percent, or 51 percent for affordable housing. For developers and communities it’s a good deal.

    The historic preservation tax credit has helped turn cities with historic buildings into economic centers of charm and character. It also continues to make Maine’s downtowns more attractive to investors than building strip malls. No doubt, Colby College will use the historic tax credit on their newly purchased Waterville buildings.

    Since the Hathaway Creative Center’s dedication in 2008 the renovation project has won several awards, and all of the 67 loft apartments are fully occupied. The office spaces have been substantially built out. Collaborative Consulting will be neighbors with MaineGeneral Hospital, HealthReach Network and USI Insurance.

     For more about Collaborative Consulting go HERE.

     

  • Maine House Speaker Eves praises housing bond victory, urges LePage to act quickly

     Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, on Tuesday night praised the passage of bond Question 2 on the statewide ballot. The bond passed with 68 percent of the vote.

    Eves led the bipartisan effort in the State Legislature to pass the $15 million bond proposal to invest in affordable and efficient housing for Maine seniors.

    “The passage of the housing bond is a huge victory for Maine seniors and the economy. It’s a win win for communities across the state,” said Eves, who sponsored the bond proposal. “The investment will help a dire need for affordable housing for Maine seniors, while also helping to create construction jobs in communities in rural and urban areas of our state. Maine voters sent a strong message tonight in support of seniors. I urge the governor to release the bond quickly and honor the will of the voters.”

    Maine has a shortage of nearly 9,000 affordable rental homes for low income older adults, and that this shortfall will grow to more than 15,000 by 2022 unless action is taken to address the problem, according to a report by independent national research firm Abt Associates.

     “With the passage of the Housing Bond, Maine can start to scale that number back through improved affordable housing measures in some of our most vulnerable communities,”said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director. 

    The Senior Housing Bond will enable more Mainers to age in their own homes by revitalizing communities and providing new homes for older Mainers; dedicating funds to home repair and weatherization of some existing homes; and by creating jobs in the construction industry.

    AARP Maine heard from thousands of their 230,000 members in the state regarding this issue in the weeks leading up to the election.  On October 20th, more than 4,000 AARP members participated in a live tele-town hall with Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Winterport) and House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick).  Participants were invited to ask questions during the town hall meeting and many callers expressed their support for the state’s investment in affordable housing.

  • If waitresses earned a decent minimum wage, our dignity might get a raise

    Editorial by Annie Quandt, a server working in the Old Port and a resident of Westport Island. First appeared in the PPH

    While I’ve never had someone completely stiff me because it took them a while to get their food – the customers’ rationale in the New Jersey incident, as they noted on the receipt – I frequently find myself putting up with almost anything from customers in order to get the tips that make up half of my income.

    In Maine, 82 percent of all tipped restaurant workers are women, and any woman who has worked for tips will tell you that sexual harassment and rude comments are, sadly, just another part of the job.

    When your customers pay your wages instead of your employer, you don’t have the luxury of speaking up when you feel uncomfortable or disrespected; if rent is due that week or you have a family to feed, you just have to put up with it.

    I’ve been working at a restaurant on Commercial Street in Portland for just about a year now, and I just picked up a second serving job on Commercial Street to make ends meet. Recently, two men came in, clearly intoxicated, and sat at their table for an hour and a half trying to look up the waitresses’ skirts.

    All of the women working that night could feel these men leering and were uncomfortable and anxious the whole shift. When we complained to management, they told us to cut off their alcohol consumption – but nothing else was done.

    These types of incidents are commonplace in the restaurant industry. I have been asked out on dates, with the customer’s pen hovering over the tip line as he waited for my answer. I have been asked for my number more times than I can count. I have had customers comment on my outfit or my body while I’m working. I’ve wanted to say something, but the customer is always right … right?

    When women servers can’t defend themselves from rude behavior from customers, the entire restaurant culture begins to accept it as the norm. Even management plays a role in harassment in this industry.

    If you’re not “date ready” when you show up for your shift, in some restaurants, you’ll be told to change or unbutton your top or to put on more makeup to make yourself appealing. In my case, the managers have made it clear that the curvier girls are not allowed to wear certain clothing items, while the more slender servers can wear whatever they want to work.

    Comments like this about body types and personal style not only make us all feel watched and uncomfortable but also sometimes make it more difficult for us to do our jobs. When I’m sweeping and cleaning and doing side work in 95-degree heat, the freedom to wear a skirt versus jeans is almost a necessity.

    Complaints about sexual harassment from co-workers are rarely taken seriously in restaurants. It is always tough to report unwanted attention or harassment from co-workers or customers, but it is especially difficult if the harassment comes from management.

    Where do you turn when the person who holds power over you at your job is the one harassing you? What happens if you do make a formal complaint? The restaurant industry is a tight-knit community, and if any employer thinks you might be a hassle, they won’t hire you.

    Servers wield so little power in their positions and in their wages, and I am inclined to think that the two are inextricably linked.

    According to a Restaurant Opportunities Centers United survey, servers working in states like Maine – where there is a sub-minimum wage for tipped workers – are three times more likely to experience harassment on the job than servers who work in states where everyone makes the same minimum wage.

    This is evidence of a systemic problem – combined with the fact that, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 7 percent of American women work in restaurants but 37 percent of all EEOC sexual harassment complaints come out of this industry. We’re allowing an entire industry full of hardworking women to go to work with the presumption that they will be harassed.

    I support the 2016 “wages with dignity” referendum, which would raise the minimum to $12 by 2020 and eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers by 2024. Earning the same minimum wage as other workers would mean tipped workers wouldn’t feel like they have to ingratiate themselves with their customers regardless of their behavior.

    It would mean that management and our co-workers would have to respect us as equals (because when you are paid less, you must obviously be worth less). And it would mean a stable wage for the long winters and tough weekday shifts when servers are more willing to sacrifice dignity at work in order to make ends meet.

    I deserve dignity on the job, and one fair minimum wage would help me get it.

  • Passy Pete, the lobster, predicted six more weeks of summer in Belfast, Maine

    By Ramona du Houx

    Labor Day has been known to mark the end of the summer and the start of the fall season. But this Labor Day, Belfast, Maine attempted to change that tradition with Passy Pete—the lobster bell-weather predictor of summer.  The lobster decided there would be six more weeks of summer. The Belfast Barons, of city officials, caught Pete in the Penobscot Bay, placed two scrolls in front of him, and he chose which one would be read to the crowd.

    The community made their way down to the waterfront, waved signs and cheered Pete on. Of course the scroll that Pete's claws picked was the one most everyone hoped for.

    "For Pete knows the ways of happy tourists, that plowmen will think it's a bummer, but there will be six more weeks of summer," read co-founder Dave Crabiel. "We now have six more weeks of summer in Belfast. That's fantastic." 

    How did a lobster become a predictor of the weather instead of dinner?

     "Local business owners lament the fact that summer is just about over, so we were thinking, 'Boy, it would be nice if we had an anti-groundhog, somebody who predicts six more weeks of summer,” said Crabiel.

    Hence a new tradition has been born in Belfast, Maine.

  • Passy Pete, the lobster, predicted six more weeks of summer in Belfast, Maine

    Labor Day has been known to mark the end of the summer and the start of the fall season. But this Labor Day, Belfast, Maine attempted to change that tradition with Passy Pete—the lobster bell-weather predictor of summer.  The lobster decided there would be six more weeks of summer. The Belfast Barons, of city officials, caught Pete in the Penobscot Bay, placed two scrolls in front of him, and he chose which one would be read to the crowd.

    The community made their way down to the waterfront, waved signs and cheered Pete on. Of course the scroll that Pete's claws picked was the one everyone hoped for.

    "For Pete knows the ways of happy tourists, that plowmen will think it's a bummer, but there will be six more weeks of summer," read co-founder Dave Crabiel. "We now have six more weeks of summer in Belfast. That's fantastic."

    How did a lobster become a predictor of the weather instead of dinner?

     "Local business owners lament the fact that summer is just about over, so we were thinking, 'Boy, it would be nice if we had an anti-groundhog, somebody who predicts six more weeks of summer,” said Crabiel.

    Hence a new tradition has been born in Belfast, Maine.

  • "Five Nights in Maine" - with David Oyelowo to premiere at Toronto International Film Festival


    Movie-Maker Magazine recently select Portland, Maine, as one of the 
    "Top Five Towns - Best Places to Live and Work as a movie maker 2015."
     "Five Nights in Maine," a Maine in Maine film, will hold its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.  Described as "an intimate feature film about love, loss, and compassion", "Five Nights in Maine" was written and directed by Maris Curran, and filmed in Phippsburg, Brunswick, and South Portland during October 2014.
    The film, which stars David Oyelowo ("Selma" and "The Butler"), tells the story of a young African-American man, reeling from the tragic loss of his wife, who travels to rural Maine at the invitation of his estranged mother-in-law who is herself confronting guilt and grief over her daughter's death.
     
    The film also stars two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest ("Bullets Over Broadway"), Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez ("Fearless"), and co-stars Teyonah Parris ("Mad Men") and Hani Furstenberg ("The Loneliest Planet").
     
    "The director grew up visiting Pemaquid. She grew up in Philly and was always struck by the contrasting environments and continues to feel a draw to the natural beauty of Maine," said Carly Hugo, one of the producers of the film, along with Matt Parker, Curran and Oyelowo. "I have family from Portland, so I knew the region well, and it's one of the things that originally attracted me to the project. Maine is breathtakingly beautiful, and it's not a landscape that you often see on film."
     
    The selection of FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE by the Toronto Film Festival is good news for film-making in Maine, and will help to showcase the advantages offered by the state's beauty and relatively affordable production costs put in place by the Baldacci administration, and active and welcoming film community. Maine offers tax incentives of up to 17 percent, with a $75,000 minimum spend.
     
    "We were committed to filming in Maine and using Maine crew members as much as possible," said Hugo. "We weren't sure initially if we would be able to find the talent pool we needed, but we discovered there is an amazing professional community in Maine, as good as any we could have brought with us. And the local community embraced us and was so supportive. It was amazing. We put the whole crew up in summer rentals, and everyone bonded over big lobster dinners."
     
  • Speaker Eves highlights Belfast- a city full of wonder and job growth

    Front Yard Shipyard set up business in 2010, has expanded and now occupies an area where old chicken factories used to be in Belfast. Gov. Baldacci's Pine Tree Zones helped to attract the company to the city.

    Photo by Ramona du Houx

     Green jobs and health care innovation were the focus of a statewide jobs tour led by House Speaker Mark Eves in the Belfast area on August 20, 2015. 

    The tour came as news broke that Verso Paper Mill would layoff 300 workers. 

    “The layoffs at Verso are reminder of how important it is for our leaders to focus on growing good jobs and strong wages in our state. Our state lags the nation in job growth and we must do better,” said Eves, D-North Berwick. “Belfast is leading the way when it comes to writing Maine’s comeback story. We’ve seen area leaders, business, workers, and the entire community come together to turnaround the city from the former home of a collapsing poultry processing industry to a vibrant city, growing jobs in alternative energy, healthcare and local manufacturing.”

    The burgeoning bayside city has been profiled for its “green renaissance,” focusing on local job growth in sustainable industries, from alternative energy to local food and health care innovation. In the 1950's Belfast was known as a chicken processing center where the bay's water was once full of chicken parts. Since 2002 the Baldacci administration helped grow the creative economy of the area with bonds for communities and Pine Tree Zone tax breaks. Local citizens took the opportunities to bring back their city.

    ReVision Energy has doubled its workforce in Liberty this year and now employs 101 people.

    “We are creating good-paying local jobs by helping Mainers make the transition to clean, renewable energy," said ReVision co-founder Phil Coupe. "Some of our best workers come straight to us from Kennebec Valley Community College, bringing the traditional strong Maine work ethic and the highly valuable trades skills that ensure our customers get the highest quality solar installations.”

    “ReVision is providing an antidote to our rising energy costs and our stalled job growth,” said Rep.Christine Burstein. “The work they are doing with community solar farms, which offers solar energy to groups of users, offers so much promise for our future.”

    At AthenaHealth in Belfast, lawmakers learned how the company is using innovative technology to service the healthcare providers and manage data. The company employs 800 workers and is adding 200 new jobs. The Department of Economic and Community Development during the Baldacci administration brought AtheaHealth to Belfast.

    The company has hired workers who have been laid off from closing mills around the state.

    Speaker Eves launched the jobs tour in January to spotlight the need for more jobs and better wages in the state. Lawmakers have met with employers, workers, and community leaders across the state in York, Aroostook, Kennebec, and Somerset counties.   The meetings prompted lawmakers to create the Put ME to Work program this session to partner with employers to train workers across the state for good paying-jobs in growing industries, such as logging, agriculture, health care and manufacturing.

  • Maine's Richard Blanco to read poem at Embassy reopening in Havana

    President Obama's second inagual address where Richard Blanco read his poem. photo by Ramona du Houx

    Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco of Bethel,Maine is traveling to Cuba to read a new poem at the re-opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

    Blanco announced his return to Cuba on social media, saying it'll be emotional for him to "not only witness this historic moment but also to be asked to be part of it."

    Blanco was born in the island nation. He wrote and delivered the poem "One Today" for President Obama's second inauguration. Since then he's enjoyed celebrity status and released a memoir about his childhood as the son of immigrants in Florida,last year. He has had many public appearances.

    When asked about writing a poem and delivering it at the US embassy reopening event in Cuba he said he's "humbled, honored, and elated" to participate.

  • NEA Chairman Chu visits Maine and tours with Congresswoman Pingree

    Over three days of events, Chairman saw many examples of the arts at work in Maine NEA Chairman Chu and Congresswoman Pingree meeting with volunteers, staff, and young writers at The Telling Room. Courtesy photo

    By Ramona du Houx

    National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu spent  three-days in Maine touring with Congresswoman Chellie Pingree visiting artisans and art organizations in Maine.

    “We’re very lucky that Chairman Chu came to see Maine’s thriving arts community up close. Having one of the country’s most critical arts supporters here was a tremendous opportunity for the state,” said Pingree.  “I think Chairman Chu not only got a sense of the impact our state has had on artists in the past, but saw many innovative ways in which that legacy is being carried on today. In Maine, the arts are inspiring students, helping our veterans, driving the creative economy, and bringing people back to our Main Streets.  Chairman Chu got to see a snapshot of that and I so appreciate that she took the time to do so.”

    Pingree joined Chu for two days, starting with a visit to The Telling Room in Portland on August 10th.  There, they met with a student who participated in the Young Writers and Leaders Program—which works with refugee and immigrant students to increase their English proficiency and capture their personal stories—as well as two young writers who worked with published authors through a fellowship program to write their own books.

    Also on Monday, they met with a group of veterans who are participating in the All the Way Home project to support their transition back to civilian life by allowing them to collaborate with artists to share their stories. 

    They wrapped up Monday’s events with a tour of the Portland Museum of Art and a town hall forum attended by nearly a hundred members of Maine’s arts community.

    On Tuesday, Pingree joined Chu for a visit to Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville, where they learned about the Maine International Film Festival, which drew several international directors and nearly a thousand attendees in July.  They also heard from Waterville Creates—a unique partnership that support the arts and economic development in Waterville.

    Many of the organizations Chu visited had won grants from the NEA.

    NEA Chairman Chu and Congresswoman Pingree on a tour of the Portland Museum of Art with Maine Arts Commission Executive Director Julie Richard, Mayor Michael Brennan, and PMA Director Mark Bessire

    Chu went on to make visits to the Bates College Museum of Art and the Somali Bantu Community Association in Lewiston on August 11th. The following day she visited Brunswick stopping at Spindleworks, the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.  

    Pingree is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which oversees funding for the NEA.  Since joining the committee she has fought the protect funding for the agency, which supports numerous projects in Maine that make art accessible to more Mainers while boosting the economy.

    The Lewiston town hall forum with (left to right) Richard, Chu, and Pingree.

  • Maine International Film Festival to host first World Filmmakers’ Forum, during 10 days with 100 films

    Exciting new Maine Films to primer

    By Ramona du Houx

    This year bringing together filmmakers from four continents, the Maine International Film Festival (MIFF) will offer audiences an unique glimpse inside the creative process of acclaimed international filmmakers. The exciting thing for many MIFF attendees is being able to talk and meet directors, filmmakers and the actors. At MIFF they are accessible, unlike many other film festivals.

    “The quality of the films, this year, have got to be the best ever,” said MIFF Programming Director Ken Eisen. 

    Throughout the 18th annual festival, filmmakers from France, Argentina, Turkey and Mexico will show their work and discuss their creative process and the state of international film. The World Filmmakers’ Forum is being presented through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Art Works program. 

    A still from the movie Claus Drexal of France will screen, Affaire de Famille. Courtesy photo 

    While MIFF has always been committed to presenting international films and to bringing international guests to the festival, organizers said that the NEA grant has allowed them to expand the effort. “We are so excited to have the opportunity to bring in current, exciting filmmakers from across the globe to present their work to our audience,” said Festival Director Shannon Haines.

    Joining MIFF for the World Filmmakers’ Forum are:

    • Claus Drexal of France will screen Au Bord du Monde (On the Edge of the World) and Affaire de Famille (Family Values).

     • Bárbara Francisco of Argentina will screen El Incendio (The Fire) and a work-in-progress screening of The Black Frost. El Incendio will mark its East Coast premiere during MIFF.

    • Hüseyin Karabey of Turkey will screen Come to My Voice, Gitmek: My Marlon and Brando and Cell A.3.

    • Andrés Clariond Rangel of Mexico will present Hilda and Peoria. It will be the North American premiere of Hilda.

    Bárbara Francisco of Argentina will screen El Incendio (The Fire) at MIFF. Courtesy photo

    Exciting new Maine Films to primer-

    MIFF will kick off its 18th year with the Maine premiere of Tumbledown, a feature length film set in western Maine. The opening night screening will be held July 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Waterville Opera House.

    “Sean and I are thrilled that Tumbledown will have its Maine premiere at the Maine International Film Festival. This script was written in a spirit of celebration of the community of western Maine that raised me, and after years of striving to make this hometown movie, we cannot wait to share it with the people who inspired it,” said Portland-based filmmakers Desi Van Til.

    Tumbledown is one of several feature films made in or about Maine.

    Shot on Monhegan Island and with the State House in Augusta doubling for the U.S. Capitol building, The Congressman will screen as a work in progress in the “centerpiece” slot on Wednesday, July 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Waterville Opera House.

    The Congressman, photo above, stars Treat Williams (Hair, Prince of the City) as Maine Congressman Charlie Winship, who’s having a really bad day. The film was written and co-directed by Robert Mrazek, a five term New York congressman who now lives at least half the year on Monhegan. The screenplay was partly inspired by Mrazek’s admiration for the people of the island, and their fight to save their way of life by going to the state capitol and lobbying successfully to have their common law fishing grounds certified as their own after experiencing a “lobster war” that led to the sinking of boats and the cutting of trap lines.

    “I was profoundly affected by the fundamental difference between the cultures of Washington and this remote island, where people pulled together regardless of personal differences, and where self-reliance was the watchword of everyday living.  It changed my children for the better.  It changed me too,” said Mrazek.

    According to MIFF’s Eisen, The Congressman, “is a home-grown yet world class, humorous and moving film with the smell of the Maine coast that raises the important question of what it means to be an American.”

     Mrazek will introduce the film and conduct a Q&A with co-director Jared Martin after the screening.

    And Astraea, a new post-apocalyptic film shot in Western Maine, will screen at the 18th Maine International Film Festival. Doubling the bleak Maine winters as a post-apocalyptic world, producer Scott Crowe, director Kristjan Thor and writer Ashlin Halfnight chose Sweden, Maine as the location for the film.

    Annual Mid-Life Achievement Award-

    The Maine International Film Festival (MIFF) will present its annual Mid-Life Achievement Award to actor Michael Murphy on July 16 at the Waterville Opera House after the U.S. premiere of Fall, his most recent film, in which he gives a magnificent lead performance as a troubled priest, for which he was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Actor.

    This is an opportunity for people to meet and talk with Murphy, as at MIFF stars are accessible and parties held in their honar- free.

    “When you look at Michael Murphy’s filmography, you have to be amazed,” said Eisen. “Always a disarming presence in films, even when playing, as he sometimes does, essentially scurrilous characters, Murphy has the ability to make us comfortably feel as though we know and like this guy.”

    The 18th annual Maine International Film Festival will be held in Waterville, Maine from July 10-19 at Railroad Square Cinema and the Waterville Opera House. During the 10 days of the festival, MIFF features nearly 100 films, representing the best of American and International independent cinema and spotlighting some of Maine and New England’s most innovative filmmakers.

    The full MIFF schedule is now available on the festival’s website, www.miff.org.

  • Union solidarity at BIW in Maine

    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally. Photo by Sarah Bigney

    By Ramona du Houx

    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally to promote solidarity during the year before the union’s contract expires.

    “The union is behind its leadership, and the company is going to have to negotiate with us and not dictate to us," said Jay Wadleigh, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6. “They need to abide by the contract, stop misleading the media and just work with us so we can get the costs of these ships down. We’re the best shipbuilders in the world. We want to work. We just want to be treated with dignity and respect and be negotiated with and not dictated to.”

    BIW is known as one of the best shipbuilders in America. It's slogan is "Bath Built is Best Built."

    This is the second big march at the shipyard this year. On March 24 nearly 1,000 members of the International Association of Machinists Union Local marched to rallying support and protesting a variety of proposed BIW changes.

    Caps on defense spending have resulted in fewer Naval contracts thus spurring the BIW changes including outsourcing work and cross-training employees.

    BIW says the measures will increase the shipyard’s efficiency and keep the costs of building destroyers competitive. The shipyard insists it needs to be competitive to win two bidding contracts. But the union says there are better ways to cut costs. The stalemate has resulted in a third-party arbitration and a federal lawsuit charging BIW with violating its contract with workers.


    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally. Photo by Sarah Bigney

  • A new Maine blueberry wine that promises to be a keeper

     Michael Terrien uncorked his first batch of wild Maine blueberry wine — Bluet at Eventide Oyster Co. on May 5, 2015 at an informal tasting. Terrien, a well-known California winemaker grew up in Cape Elizabeth and creates wines for vineyards like Obsidian Ridge.

    “The fermentation unlocks the essence of the blueberry,” said Terrien. “The aromas really pop.”

    Fermented in the methode champenoise tradition, Bluet is an upscale made-in-Maine low alcohol wine that will be distributed primarily in Maine this summer.

    Bluet will be available in late-June.

  • Color Bangor to debut “Children’s Color Zone” to help the American Folk Festival

     The second annual Color Bangor fun run/walk to benefit the American Folk Festival will feature an area designed specifically for the enjoyment of kids. The Children’s Color Zone is an activity area for youth aged 4-12 years old, sponsored by Playland Adventures. 

    Color Bangor is a unique color fun-run with games and activities you won’t find at other similar events,” said Heather McCarthy, executive director for the American Folk Festival. “With the addition of the Children’s Color Zone, it adds to both the uniqueness of this event, as well as the fun, all while supporting the American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront.”
     
    The Children’s Color Zone will feature a Color Crawl where kids crawl through color underneath a number of arches, a Color Toss, a Tire Run, and more kids-themed activities.
     
    Children can still take part in the actual color fun-run. Children aged 4-12 who register for the Color Bangor 5K will also receive admission to the Children’s Color Zone. For children who will only be using the Children’s Color Zone and not participating in the fun-run, the cost is just $5.
     
    “Just like the American Folk Festival itself, we are all about being a family-friendly event,” said McCarthy. “Overall, this year’s event will be bigger and better than last year, largely based on feedback we heard from the more than 1,700 people who joined us in the first year. The Children’s Color Zone is one of the improvements we are making for this year and we’re very excited about it.”
     
    While participants can register up until the day of the event, the opportunity to take advantage of regular pricing will expire on April 30. Those who register before the end of the month can do so for $40 per adult or $25 per child under 12.  Teams may be formed for a charge of $33 per person, and children aged 3 and under are admitted free. After May 1, pricing for all adults will increase to $50.
     
    “We are once again seeing a tremendous response for Color Bangor,” said Heather McCarthy, Executive Director of the American Folk Festival. “This event directly supports the American Folk Festival and people are excited that they can participate in such a fun activity while supporting a great festival here in Eastern Maine.”
     
    Color Bangor will once again use a route that will incorporate the Bangor Waterfront. Participants will start the route wearing a white Color Bangor T-shirt. At each kilometer mark, a variety of colors will be launched onto runners, resulting in a colorful display on the runners' shirts and themselves as they cross the finish line. The "colors" are non-toxic colored corn starch, FDA approved and perfectly healthy to use in this manner.
     
    Register for Color Bangor at www.americanfolkfestival.com, or by calling the American Folk Festival office at 262-7765. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. Color Bangor will raise money for the American Folk Festival, which takes place every August on the Bangor Waterfront.
     
    For more information on Color Bangor or the American Folk Festival, visit www.americanfolkfestival.com, or follow Color Bangor or the American Folk Festival on Facebook.

  • Proposed law to help contractors and subcontractors in Maine draws public support

    By Ramona du Houx

    Local business owners spoke in support of legislation proposed by Rep. Denise Tepler which would ensure developers of large-scale projects pay contractors and subcontractors more of what they are owed in a timely fashion.

    “Improving cash flow for contractors and subcontractors will make it easier for them to earn a living, hire more employees and transition between jobs,” said Tepler at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee Thurday. “We have the opportunity to encourage business and job growth by putting more capital to work.”

    Under current law, private developers can withhold any portion of a project’s cost – customarily around 10 percent – until the entire project is determined to be fully complete. Withholding that money can hurt both contractors and smaller subcontractors who often complete their portion of a project earlier in the building phase but end up waiting years for the final payment, especially if there are major delays in the overall project.   

    Tepler’s bill limits the amount a private developer can withhold to 5 percent of a project’s total cost – the same limit now used by the state for public development projects.

    “A move to 5 percent retainage would still ensure that general and subcontractors complete their work and would allow them to keep more of the money that they’ve earned,” said Tepler. “Right now many contractors don’t see that final 10 percent for several months after job is done. The larger the job, the harder that can be on their business.”  

    Gordon Kinney, owner of All Season Brick and Stone in Topsham, told committee members Tepler’s bill would help subcontractors like him keep their businesses in better financial shape. 

    “When credit lines are maxed, and suppliers want their money within 30 days, only holding 5 percent retainage would help most subcontractors with their cash flow,” said Kinney. “Please consider this change to help the many sub-contractors that could use this money that they have earned and not have to go into their line of credit to fund a job.”

    Nick Whatley, President of Morningstar Marble & Granite in Topsham, also expressed concern about the current trend toward 10 percent retainage.

    “I checked an income statement for the last ten years and found that we have had a 5.7 percent profit margin,” said Whatley. “I think in my industry this is pretty typical. I do not feel that it is fair for a general contractor to hold what essentially is twice our margin for an indeterminate and sometimes extended time period.” 

    The committee will hold a work session on Tepler’s bill in the coming days and make a recommendation to the full Legislature.

     

    Tepler, a member of the Legislature’s Taxation Committee, is serving her first term in the Maine House and represents Topsham.

  • EPA awards Portland $200,000 for East Bayside area which will help creative economy

    Portland, Maine, City Hall. East Bayside is just across the Franklin Artilary- within a ten minute walking distance of City Hall.The EPA grant will connect downtown Portland more with East Bayside. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Greater Portland Council of Governments has been selected as one of 20 recipients in the nation for a $200,000 Brownfields Area-Wide Planning (AWP) Grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    “The selected grantees have demonstrated a strong vision and partnership to catalyze brownfield redevelopment as a pathway to transform their communities into vibrant destinations for housing, manufacturing, and transit-oriented development,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.

     AWP funds will be used to develop an area-wide plan for the East Bayside neighborhood in Portland. The planning process will take place over a two-year period beginning in May of 2015. 

    “We’re very excited to have been chosen for this funding, which will allow us to put in place a community vision for the future of the East Bayside neighborhood,” said Mayor Michael Brennan. “Building upon the many successful light industrial uses, the plan will explore how to best develop these brownfields sites and the rest of East Bayside in order to enhance a thriving mixed-use district.”

    For over a century, East Bayside functioned as an industrial district served first by ship, then railroad, and now truck. While it remains one of the poorest Census Tracts in the state, this industrial legacy has recently attracted a vibrant culture of new Mainers, artists, and food entrepreneurs who will be critical in creating a lasting vision and plan for the neighborhood. In short, East Bayside has grown its creative economy from the grass roots up and is now ready for the next stage of redevelopment.

    "Given that much of East Bayside was built on contaminated fill, almost any redevelopment will trigger environmental due diligence that can be supported through the Brownfields program,” said Neal Allen, Executive Director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments. “We are pleased to collaborate with the City of Portland and the neighborhood to facilitate re-uses that increase economic opportunity and strengthen the community and neighborhood, including housing, arts, culture, and food enterprise.”

    The grant will fund a range of planning activities, including the following:

    • Inventory of neighborhood Brownfields sites
    • Interviews and roundtables with residents, property owners, business and community leaders
    • Neighborhood open house
    • Charrettes at three neighborhood locations
    • Public forums to prioritize results
    • Action teams to develop recommendations

    The planning process will leverage over $45 million in public and private investment already planned for East Bayside over the next two years, including housing, infrastructure, and capital projects.

     Eleven businesses, organizations, and agencies have already signed on to participate in the project: 

    • East Bayside Neighborhood Organization,
    • Portland Housing Authority,
    • Avesta Housing, Redfern Properties,
    • Coffee by Design,
    • Urban Farm Fermentory,
    • Running with Scissors,
    • Root Cellar,
    • East Bayside Studios,
    • Ten Ten Pie,
    • Sustain Southern Maine

     

    The planning process will build on the work of several recent efforts, including the India Street Sustainable Neighborhood Plan, Franklin Street Redesign, USM’s East Bayside Neighborhood Planning Study in 2009, and the American Institute of Architect’s Sustainable Design Assessment Team in 2010.

    It also builds on Greater Portland’s designation as one of the nation’s 12 Manufacturing Communities under the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Administration as well as the Livable Communities Partnership sponsored by Sustain Southern Maine under a 2010 Planning Grant from HUD-EPA-DOT Partnership for Sustainable Communities (PSC). The leadership of GPCOG and the City in implementing both of those efforts gave the AWP application a stronger proposal to compete in a crowded national field of applicants.

    Both the IMCP and the PSC seek to leverage and build upon the resources already in the communities and the AWP grants will complement these targeted efforts. Building on federal partnership efforts, DOT has committed to prioritizing communities who use the outcomes of the AWP process to inform subsequent transportation projects in the DOT’s TIGER grant selection process. Not only will this new grant award ensure a robust approach to brownfields reuse, it may also assist the community in securing additional resources to implement the plan.

     

Search this site