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Diversity in Maine
  • Attracting Immigrants helps communities

    From the Atlantic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Mayor Joe Baldacci's remarks for Charlie Howard, murdered 33 years ago because he was gay

     Mayor Joe Bladacci's Full Remarks at the church service in Bangor, Maine

    "I first want to thank all of you and the important work being done that reverberates with hope all across our community.

    It is important for all of us, as human beings, to remember, to learn from, to never forget, to struggle against the multitude acts of injustice, which take place everyday in our world that diminishes us all.

    And so it is with the death of Charlie Howard. It has been 33 years but our memories should never forget the horror of his death as well as the injustice done to millions of people since the beginning of time solely on account of who they love. 

    Why? Why should we never forget? Why should we struggle against the injustices done to others? 

    As was written in the Bible and as we know from daily life man is a fallen creature. From dust to dust, from ashes to ashes all of us share in the imperfections, the sins, the mortality of a being a human being in this world.

    At the same time we share the impulses to raise ourselves higher and closer to the example of our Creator. The ancient lesson of love thy neighbor and to treat others as we would like to be treated is not merely something to be embroidered on a quilt it is to be a reality, a way of life, a necessary function of our want not only to survive but to thrive.

    What these ancient lessons should teach all of us is not only tolerance and justice, hand in hand it also instructs us on humility, love, respect, kindness. It is when we, in our humanly imperfect way try to live by these values and not merely give them lip service that we can move forward together as a people.

    What we have learned from all of human history is that when we stray or abandon these values the consequences for all of us can be tragic.

    As it was centuries ago; so it is still here and now. We are being tested just as prior generations were.

    In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail Martin Luther King Jr. declared that,  'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never can we afford to live with the narrow, the provincial, outside agitator idea. Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered anywhere in this country.'

    So let us all remember that for well or I'll what we do here in Bangor does matter and does send out reverberations of hope or hate to the rest of the world.

    And Charlie Howard's death reverberated not only in Bangor but all around the world. I was a 19 year old delegate to the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. I didn't hear about this tragedy until I woke up the next day in California and it was on the front page top story of every paper. I was personally ashamed of my community. The tragedy rocked Bangor and Maine out of our collective slumber from the hate and degradation too many people had accepted as a "normal" way to deal with people who are different from us. 

    In many ways Bangor, thankfully, is a different city than it was 33 years ago. We have passed anti discrimination laws, we have welcomed same sex marriages.

    But we are all well aware that we can never rest, never forget — never just sit back in self-satisfaction. 

    Charlie Howard's senseless murder, continues to reverberate with shame and horror. And we are gathered here to remember and send forth even stronger waves of hope, of love, of justice and tolerance. Because I still believe that hope and justice, that love and tolerance will always ultimately triumph over hate.

    I have always believed in the idea that one person can make a difference, that we do does matter to others, that we can choose to be examples of light or darkness to the rest of the world. Just as you have chosen I choose the light. 

    In today's world our values of basic human decency toward others are under attack. Human decency is as radical as the Old Testament and as relevant as the racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobic fears that we see too often in power when reason, respect and tolerance should be in the lead.

    So I have come here not only to thank you but to ask you to fight even harder. And I need your help right here in Bangor, Maine. 

    I see a City that is strong and proud. That is both prosperous and progressive. I see a City that welcomes people of all Nations, all faiths, of all different backgrounds who all share a common love for America and for working and living together in peace and love with each other.

    I see a City where Love Thy Neighbor is a daily reality. I see a City where we come together from all different walks of life and viewpoints and can still work together to build a stronger community for all. 

    And what each and everyone us does will decide if those hopes. become reality. I am fully confident that this is what Bangor is and can become. Because I have seen it happen before.

    I am the grandson of Italian and Lebanese immigrants who came to America to escape the poverty and persecution of the Old World. My father's parents started a restaurant that ran for 75 years. My mother's family started a small grocery store on Hancock Street when Hancock Street in Bangor was a melting pot of immigrants and tenement houses. I have seen the kindness and support of so many. I hope our family has returned some positive contributions to Maine and America. And today it is no different: immigrants strengthen and enrich America.

    And it can happen again and again. 

    In Bangor building a Maine Multicultural Center here is not by itself enough but it is a very important step forward. We have to continue to build and reinforce our ancient values of tolerance, respect, justice as an accepted ethos of how to build a stronger community for all. 

    So I ask for your help in building a Multicultural Center and in making the idea of Bangor as the most welcoming of cities a reality.

    I ask each of you to be bright lights of positive energy to overcome the dark so our common humanity can advance.

    The legacy of Charlie Howard and of all of those attacked, beat upon, discriminated against should not only be for us to never forget the hate but to keep spreading the love and mercy and justice that will overcome the dark.

  • D-Day Memorial Park named after Maine WWII Veteran Penobscot Indian Elder Charles Shay

    First Park in France to honor North American Indian WWII soldiers

    By Ramona du Houx

    Penobscot Tribal Elder Charles Shay served as a combat medic in the First Division Infantry, and was one of the first to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

    On June 5, 2017, Shay was honored at a ceremony dedicating the Charles Shay Indian Memorial in Saint Laurent-sur-Mer Park, on the bluff overlooking Omaha Beach.

    The park features a bench, a large turtle carved out of blue granite (being unveiled in the photo above) by Mr. Shay’s nephew Penobscot Indian artist Tim Shay, and a plaque inscribed in English with a French translation. The opening line of the plaque reads: “In honor of Charles Norman Shay and in grateful memory of the 500 American and Canadian Indian soldiers who participated in Operation Neptune for the liberation of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.”

    Shay was only 19 years old when he struggled ashore Omaha Beach, as a platoon medic serving in Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment. The 16th Infantry Regiment was one of three combat regiments in the 1st Infantry Division that spearheaded the assault on D-Day.

    “On the evening of June 5, 1944, I was aboard the Henrico heading across the Channel, when I had a surprise visit from a Penobscot Indian warrior named Melvin Neptune,” Shay recalled. “He didn’t trouble me with his combat experience, nor did he offer me advice. Instead, we talked about home because he knew I had never been in combat … all hell was about to break loose on me.”

    “Only two of us appear to have survived the war without being wounded,” Shay continued. “We were lucky. Call it what you want, fate, destiny, angels, spirits or God. All I know is that my mother prayed for me.”

    French and American dignitaries attended the event, including Penobscot Indian Nation representatives. Penobscot language instructor Mr. Gabe Paul sang the traditional Penobscot Honor Song, and Maine singer-songwriter Lisa Redfern sang her ballad written about Shay.

    “I was honored to tell part of his life story in a song,” said Redfern.

    Senator Angus King sent a letter that was read out. In it he wrote:

    “While no words ca truly thank you for the courage you showed as a medic on that beach, please know that this park will act as a timeless reminder to generations to come that democracy triumphed over tyranny—than good triumphed over evil—because soldiers, like you and your Native American comrades, selflessly served and sacrificed in the face of great odds in the D-Day invasion.”

    “The contributions of members of the Penobscot Nation and other Indian tribes who participated in this Allied invasion will never be forgotten. This park is a testament to your heroism and to the valor of your fellow service-members who fell in the line of duty, and I humbly join all those at the dedication, today, to express my deepest gratitude.”

    Over the last decade, Shay has given many talks in France and in the U.S. about his military service and Indian heritage. On one of his trips he met In Normandy, Madame Marie Legrand of Caen in Normandy. Shortly thereafter, Caen launched an effort to establish a memorial park honoring all North American Indians who landed on the shores of Normandy on D-Day.

    In 2007, retired Master Sgt. Shay made his first pilgrimage to Omaha Beach, and several other major World War II battlefields. During that trip, for the first time, Shay spoke about his heartrending wartime experiences, including being a comfort to many who didn’t survive and saving wounded soldiers on the beach that ran red with blood.

    That same year, this Silver Star veteran received the Légion d’Honneur directly from President Nicolas Sarkozy at the French Ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC., for his heroic duty to France.

    Every year since 2007 he returns to pay tribute to his fallen comrades on the beach in Normandy, where he performs a Native American sage ceremony. (the photo above shows the set up for the ceramony. The book cover shows the ceramony in progress)

    Governor John Baldacci honored him in 2007, and working with Charles also established the Maine state law making June 21st Native American Veterans Day.

    Shay wrote an autobiography, Project Omaha Beach: The Life and Military Service of a Penobscot Indian Elder, published by Polar Bear & Company.

    Shay will turn 93 this year. Despite his years, during his annual trips to France, he’s also been re-establishing Penobscot-French relations that reach back to France’s alliance with Maine Indians in the colonial period.

    Shay is a direct descendent of the French military officer and aristocrat Baron de St. Castin, for whom the small seaport of Castine, Maine, is named, and his Penobscot Indian wife, Pidianiske, the daughter of the famous Grand Chief Madockawando.

    Please visit his website dedicated to Native Americans called Indian Connections, indianconnections.org

  • Maine voters overwhelmingly voted for Research and Development bonds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     

    Article and photos By Ramona du Houx 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    See a slide show of all the photos HERE.

  • Mainers testify against discriminatory hate bills targeting immigrants, refugees

    By Ramona du Houx

    Gathering for the hearings on May 26,2017, the hallways and waiting rooms became packed with concerned citizens who came to defend their neighbors and to stand up for their communities.

    House Judiciary Chair Matt Moonen of Portland forcefully denounced a series of prejudicial bills targeting immigrants and refugees that drew so many to Augusta.

    Two hours into the first bill’s public hearing, already over a dozen Mainers had testified in fierce opposition. The public hearings required two overflow rooms to accommodate those wishing to testify.

    The bills, sponsored by Republican Larry Lockman of Amherst, were also rejected by dozens of Mainers who attended public hearings to testify against the bills.

    “This is not the first time Representative Lockman has tried to enshrine in law his hatred of immigrants, or as he calls our neighbors, ‘aliens’,” said Rep. Moonen. “Beyond the fact that we’re debating the future of human beings, immigrants have always strengthened Maine. That’s as true today as it has been for the last 200 years. The Legislature should swiftly reject these bills.”

    • LD 366 “An Act To Ensure Compliance with Federal Immigration Law by State and Local Government Entities” seeks to prohibit restricting the enforcement of federal immigration law. Maine is already in full compliance with federal immigration law.
    • LD 1099 “Resolve, To Require the State To Bring Suit against the Federal Government for Failure To Comply with the Federal Refugee Act of 1980” directs the Attorney General to sue the Federal Government for failure to comply with the federal Refugee Act of 1980. The federal Refugee Act of 1980 contains provisions requiring consultation between the federal government and states regarding the placement of refugees.
    • LD 847 “An Act To Hold Refugee Resettlement Agencies Accountable to Maine People” targets the tax status of refugee resettlement agencies, such as Catholic Charities, and seeks to make them liable in the event of any terrorist acts committed by refugees in Maine.

    Throughout the state immigrants are helping to grow Maine’s economy — which means growing jobs — while enriching their communities.

     Many new businesses immigrant businesses are doing well in Lewiston/Auburn invigorating the local economy and bringing diversity to the area. In Lewiston Somali immigrants who attended the local high school brought the community together when they helped train and win the state championship.

    Portland has the largest concentration of immigrants — approximately 11,000 representing over 80 nationalities. Recent immigrants, especially in the Portland region, are young and well educated. In addition, they are likely to pursue higher education and possibly launch their own businesses.

    Immigrants only represent 3.5 percent of Maine’s population, according to a U.S. Census Bureau, while 13.1 percent of the U.S. population is foreign-born.

    Instead of placing more restrictions on our immigrant populations community organizations want to encourage and help them integrate, as well as invite more to the state.

    A report released in September of 2016, commissioned by the Maine Development Foundation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the fact that the state’s aging population has created a smaller workforce which has restricted economic growth because employers can’t fill their vacant jobs once they retire. This problem will grow as more and more workers reach retirement age, while younger Mainers continue to leave the state.

    It’s a huge problem — Maine is facing now. That’s way the MDF and MSCC called for setting a statewide goal to attract more immigrants to Maine, and to expand efforts to help them integrate into society and the workplace.

     Each bill will face work sessions in the Judiciary Committee before moving to the full House and Senate.

  • Maine Passamaquoddy Jeremy Frey wins first-place honor at Heard Indian art fair

    Maine Passamaquoddy Jeremy Frey wins first-place honor at Heard Indian art fair. Courtesy photo

    By Ramona du Houx

    In March, three Native American Wabanaki basketmakers from Maine won high honors at a national Indian art fair in Phoenix, Arizona. Jeremy Frey, a Passamaquoddy, won first place in Division B baskets (natural or commercial fibers, any form). and Sarah Sockbeson, a Penobscot, won second place in the same division at the 59th annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market.

    The Heard show is among the most prestigious in the country. It draws nearly 15,000 visitors and more than 600 of the nation’s most successful American Indian artists.

    “I’m just so honored to have my work recognized on the national stage,” said Frey. “It’s more than anyone can ask for, and I am very humbled by this win. It’s recognition like this that keeps me inspired and motivated to create new works.”

    Frey specializes in ash fancy baskets, a traditional form of Wabanaki weaving. He has won Best of Show at the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market and the Sante Fe Indian Market, the largest Native American Indian arts market. His work has been featured at the Smithsonian, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, and in many other prominent museums around the country.

    Sarah Sockbeson, a Penobscot, won second place in the same division as Frey at the 59th annual Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market. Sockbeson incorporates many elements of traditional Wabanaki techniques in her work but uses non-traditional colors, bringing vibrance to her art.

    Geo Neptune, a Passamaquoddy, won honorable mention in Division A baskets (natural fibers and cultural forms) and a Judges Choice award in the same division.

  • 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.

  • 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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Maine recognized as a national leader in fighting for healthier oceans 

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • 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.”

     

  • 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.
  • United Nations Summit on Refugees Pledges World Support



    On September 20,2016, President Obama joined UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as well as leaders from Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico, and Sweden in hosting the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, culminating a sustained effort to rally nations to step up their efforts in response to the largest mass displacement crisis since the Second World War. From their joint statement:

    "We have come together in support for the millions of refugees and other persons who have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world.  The majority are women and children, who are often at increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.  At a time when global response mechanisms have been strained past their limits by displacement levels not seen since the Second World War, it is incumbent upon the international community to act. 

    "We recognize that this crisis, while disproportionately driven by conflict in Syria, is truly global in nature, and demands a global response and political solutions.  We also recognize the extraordinary steps that the international community has taken over the course of 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems and institutions that will be required to meet the growing need—including at the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.  We applaud U.N. Member States for coming together at the high-level plenary meeting on September 19 to reaffirm their shared responsibility for refugees and migrants." 

    The Summit built on a meeting earlier in the day to mobilize private sector resources to address this same crisis Based on commitments received prior to the Summit, the results are as follows:

    Fifty-two countries and international organizations participated in the Summit, announcing commitments that cumulatively increased their total 2016 financial contributions to UN appeals and international humanitarian organizations by approximately $4.5 billion over 2015 levels; roughly doubled the number of refugees they resettled or afforded other legal channels of admission in 2016; created improved access to education for one million refugee children globally; and, improved access to lawful work for one million refugees globally. 

     Over the course of 2016, 11 of the countries participating in the Summit have at least doubled their financial contributions for humanitarian assistance as compared to last year, with four countries committing to at least ten times more this year than in 2015. Notably, several new countries have pledged to maintain substantially higher rates of humanitarian financing for multiple years. Additionally, at least 18 countries across four continents committed to starting or significantly expanding UNHCR-facilitated third-country resettlement programs, or announced plans to significantly increase their admission of refugees based on family reunification, scholarships, or humanitarian visas.  Seven countries committed to resettle and/or admit at least ten times more refugees than they did in 2015.

    To achieve the Summit’s goal of improving refugees’ access to education, 17 major refugee-hosting countries pledged to help increase refugees’ school enrollment, including by constructing new classrooms, training and hiring new teachers, and certifying and streamlining refugee education programs that previously offered only informal education or education using foreign curricula. Fifteen countries also committed to take concrete action to improve refugees’ ability to work lawfully by adopting policies that permit refugees to start their own businesses, expanding or enacting policies that allow refugees to live outside camps, making agricultural land available, and issuing the documents necessary to work lawfully.  

    The Summit also showcased two new platforms that will improve the international community’s ability to share more equitably the responsibility for protecting refugees. 

    The World Bank announced the Global Crisis Response Platform, which will provide low- and middle-income countries hosting large refugee populations with access to financing on favorable terms for projects to benefit both refugees and their host communities. 

    The United States intends to contribute at least $50 million over the next five years to the Platform's middle income facility, subject to the availability of appropriations, above and beyond the $25 million contribution we announced earlier.  This will leverage three to four times as much in low cost financing.  We also look forward to supporting the facility for low income countries later this year as part of our broader replenishment of the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. 

    Additionally, the United States helped to establish the Emergency Resettlement Country Joint Support Mechanism (ERCM) – a joint project of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – which will provide both financial and technical assistance to countries that are interested in establishing or expanding refugee resettlement programs.

    The Summit built on efforts by the international community throughout 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems required to meet the growing need of refugees, including: the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, and the UN Summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.

    U.S. Contributions to the Refugee Crisis-

    Protecting and assisting refugees is a foreign policy priority and a proud tradition for the United States.  Since 1975 the United States has resettled more than 3.2 million refugees representing more than 70 nationalities.  We increased the number of refugees resettled annually in the United States from 70,000 in 2015 to 85,000 this year, and, as recently announced, have established an admissions target of 110,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2017.  

    The United States has also increased alternative pathways of admission, providing special immigrant visas to more than 11,000 people at risk from Iraq and Afghanistan in FY16, an increase of more than 4,000 from FY 2015.  Last year the United States provided more than $6 billion in humanitarian assistance worldwide.  We anticipate providing more than $7 billion in humanitarian assistance to international organizations and non-governmental organizations by the end of the current fiscal year. In direct support of the Summit’s goals, the United States recently made a contribution of nearly $37 million for UNHCR’s work with countries hosting refugees to increase the number of refugee children receiving a quality education. 

    The United States is proud to have provided $20 million in support for the Education Cannot Wait Platform, the world’s first fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, championing access to education in the most complex and dangerous environments.  

     The United States is also committed to making financial contributions to each of the groundbreaking financial platforms launched in connection with the Summit.  We are pleased to have provided $11 million to the ERCM and intend to contribute at least $50 million over the next five years, subject to the availability of appropriations, to the Global Concessional Financing Facility – the middle-income portion of the World Bank’s Global Crisis Response Platform

    Full Joint Statement on Leaders' Summit on Refugees:

    We have come together in support for the millions of refugees and other persons who have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world.  The majority are women and children, who are often at increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.  At a time when global response mechanisms have been strained past their limits by displacement levels not seen since the Second World War, it is incumbent upon the international community to act. 

    We recognize that this crisis, while disproportionately driven by conflict in Syria, is truly global in nature, and demands a global response and political solutions.  We also recognize the extraordinary steps that the international community has taken over the course of 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems and institutions that will be required to meet the growing need—including at the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.  We applaud U.N. Member States for coming together at the high-level plenary meeting on September 19 to reaffirm their shared responsibility for refugees and migrants. 

    Throughout these engagements, certain priorities have become clear.  We must seek to increase international humanitarian assistance funding, offer opportunities for refugee resettlement and alternative forms of legal admissions, and facilitate refugees’ access to education and lawful employment.  We also note the importance of increasing the pool of countries that provide significant levels of humanitarian assistance beyond the current largest donors, as well as the number of countries providing opportunities for resettlement or other lawful paths to admission.  Throughout we have, of course, continued to reaffirm the obligation of states to respect international law, international human rights law, and where applicable, international refugee law and international humanitarian law.  We convened today’s Summit with these goals in mind and—because of the concerted efforts and generosity of the international community — we are in a position to reflect on the important progress we have made, while recognizing the magnitude of the challenges that lie ahead.  In particular: 

    In order to mobilize more substantial and sustainable funding for UN humanitarian appeals and other international humanitarian organizations, and provide further support to countries hosting large numbers of refugees, we sought a $3 billion increase in global humanitarian financing and commitments to maintain funding in future years. Through our mutual efforts, over the course of 2016, the 32 donors participating today have contributed this year roughly 4.5 billion additional dollars to UN appeals and international humanitarian organizations than in 2015.    We commend all governments that have made new and significant humanitarian contributions this year, as well as the important contributions of host countries and will work to provide more aid and direct support.  We continue to urge all governments to do even more over the years to come.

     In addition, the Summit also sought to provide longer-term solutions for refugees stranded in exile, whose lives are on hold.  Governments participating here today have come together, with different types of commitments, to approximately double the global number of refugees resettled and afforded other legal channels of admissions and to improve asylum systems.  Some governments have committed to starting or significantly expanding new UNHCR-facilitated third-country resettlement programs and others have greatly increased the numbers of refugees admitted through family reunification or humanitarian admission visas.  Several governments have committed to admit significant numbers of refugees into their countries for the first time in recent history.  We welcome the inclusion of civil society, which, in many cases, has established private sponsorship programs. To support these efforts, we commend the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR for creating the Emerging Resettlement Countries Joint Support Mechanism, which will help new resettlement countries select, prepare, and support the movement of refugees, and develop systems to welcome and support refugees upon arrival. 

    We also sought to increase the number of refugees in school by one million globally, and the number of refugees able to lawfully work by one million. Altogether, at least 17 governments participating in today’s Summit have committed to strengthen and adapt their policies so that more refugees can attend school and/or lawfully work.  The commitments announced today will help ensure that one million children have improved access to education and that one million more refugees have opportunities to pursue opportunities to legally access work.  Noting the importance of fostering an environment of inclusion, as applicable, we are pleased that so many countries have made commitments to help facilitate these goals and recognize that, for purposes of implementation, refugee host countries will continue to require sustainable donor support.  

    In this connection, we welcome efforts by UNICEF and the international community to establish Education Cannot Wait, the world’s first fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, championing children’s right to access education in the most complex and dangerous environments.  We likewise applaud the World Bank’s establishment of a Global Crisis Response Platform, which will provide grants and loans to help low and middle-income countries that so generously host large numbers of refugees.  This financing can help provide quality education and economic opportunities for refugees and their host communities.  There was consensus that the international community must recognize the protracted nature of the majority of refugee situations and work to strengthen coherence between humanitarian and development support so that our international response provides refugees with the tools necessary to be self-reliant and productive wherever they reside.

    Finally, we applaud those countries participating in the summit that, through their pledges, have made qualitative leaps in their commitment to humanitarian financing and/or resettlement and other humanitarian admissions.  Others have committed to strengthen their institutional capacity to address the specific needs of asylum seekers and refugees, especially those of the most vulnerable groups. 

    In closing, we recognize that no routine mechanism exists yet to facilitate the kind of voluntary responsibility-sharing for refugees that was demonstrated today or to more comprehensively address other challenges arising from large-scale refugee crises. We therefore commit to working together in support of the development of the Global Compact on Responsibility Sharing for Refugees, and to develop tools and institutional structures to improve the international architecture and lay a foundation for addressing both the immediate and the long-term challenges of managing refugee flows effectively and comprehensively. 

  • 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.”

  • Summer adventures vividly recalled by Peter Blachly, book signing Sept. 15th in Bath

    The Stone from Halfway Rock: A Boy's Adventures on the Coast of Maine blends diverse aspects of coastal life 

     By Ramona du Houx

    Maine summers are magical places of wonder, especially for a young boy during the 1950s and '60s, skilled in sailing Casco Bay. Such was life for Peter Macdonald Blachly.

     His book, The Stone from Halfway Rock: A Boy's Adventures on the Coast of Maine blends diverse aspects of coastal life with compelling true stories that invite us to journey with him.

     Peter’s childhood, so vividly retold, also reminds us how important it is to connect with the natural world.

    "Luminous, lyrical, Peter Blachly's stories of childhood summers in Maine are a wondrous reminder of what's important in life. He has me laughing, weeping, visualizing seals and summer storms, remembering the smell of the sea air and promising myself to love the simple," wrote Chellis Glendinning, author of My Name is Chellis & I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization.
    “Beyond the adventures (and underlying them) is a rich experience of, and love affair with — the natural world. If I have successfully conveyed that to my readers, I will be quite content,” said Peter.
     
    On September 15, 2016 at The Mustard Seed Bookstore, in Bath, Peter will talk about his book and sign copies from 5:30 – 7pm.
     
    Included is the author's story of encountering the tragic history of Malaga Island and its neighboring island, where he lived and explored during formative years and where he has returned today.
     
    Peter is also an environmentalist, musician, songwriter and watercolorist. In October, One Way Trip to Mars, a new rock opera musical by Peter and his wife, Johannah Harkness, the cornerstones of the Hollowbody Electric Band, will debut in Bath. The Hollowbody Electric Band plays throughout the mid-coast and has many albums.
     
    Published by Polar Bear & Company of Solon, Maine. Available worldwide, just ask your local bookstore to order it in for $12.95 or equivalent in currency.
     
    An interview with the author: 
    Why'd you write the book? 
    I value my childhood experiences in Maine. Such experiences are so rare in today’s world that I thought others might vicariously share the pure joy I derived from them — or at least identify with them in some way.
     
    How did your adventures, as a kid growing up with a boat, affect your life? 
     
    Living ‘off the grid’ for three months every summer, and being dependent on a homemade sailboat as my main means of transportation, forced me to learn many practical skills that few people have a chance to learn. Such as how to analyze and fix the mechanical problems of a recalcitrant outboard motor, how to gauge and safely navigate in the current, or correctly assess the limits in safely operating a motorboat or sailboat. Most of all, I learned self-dependence and an abiding respect and love for nature.
     
    Did sailing then, inspire a life long love affair with the ocean?
     
    I would say that I developed a life-long love of the coast of Maine, but I actually don’t enjoy the ocean much. It’s too wild, unpredictable and dangerous. Sailing in protected coastal waters, however, is something I’m sure I will love, until I’m too old to sail— and even then I’ll love the memories.

     

     

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Penobscot D-Day Veteran Shay, 91, to deliver speech in Normandy

    From the Maine Public Broadcasting Network

    By PATTY WIGHT •

    Charles Norman Shay recounts D-Day as a medic on the beaches of Normandy, as well as in Korea,  in his book.

    Monday will mark the 72nd anniversary of D-Day, the day that more than 160,000 Allied troops invaded the beach in Normandy, France, to fight Nazi Germany. One of the soldiers who landed there was Charles Norman Shay, a Penobscot Indian and medic for the 1st U.S. Infantry Division.

    Shay, who is almost 92, will deliver a speech at a ceremony in Normandy about his experience.
    In the early hours of June 6th, 1944, Shay landed on Omaha Beach. He was almost 19 years old.

    “That was my first day in combat,” he says.

    Shay remembers the chaos of that day: the stormy sea, gunfire raining down on Allied troops, wading through chest-deep water to get to the beach.

    “The seas were red with the blood of men who were wounded or sacrificed their lives,” he says. “It was very devastating. I had to cleanse my soul, well — not cleanse my soul, but I had to think a lot about it and push what I was experiencing out of my mind so I could function the way I was trained to function.”

    Among black smoke and ear-splitting explosions, Shay pulled wounded men from the water so they wouldn’t drown. At one point, he came upon a friend and fellow medic, Edward Morocewitz.

    “When I was walking the beach on the 6th of June 1944, I found him. He was wounded, we recognized each other. There was not much I could do for him, because he had a very bad stomach wound and I could not even bandage him properly,” Shay says. “I gave him a shot of morphine, and, well, we said goodbye to each other forever, because he died.”

    He says that in his company alone, almost half of all the soldiers and seven out of nine officers were wounded or dead by noon.

    After it was over, Shay didn’t talk about it. Not until his early 80s, when he returned to Normandy in 2007. And he’s gone back almost every year since, on a kind of mission.

    “It’s my belief as an Indian that I can take up contact with my veterans that have paid the ultimate price. And they are still lost and wandering around, it is my belief, on the beaches of Omaha. And I try to take up contact with them, and let them know they’re not forgotten,” he says.

    Shay says he always makes a stop at Morocewitz’s grave to say a few words to him. This year, Shay will also give a speech at a ceremony on the anniversary of D-Day.

    “This was one of the biggest operations in military history. And it was a success. And, well, I was perhaps happy and sad to be a part of it,” he says.

    Shay, 91, is one of a dwindling number of living World War II veterans. But he says as long as he can, he’ll return to Normandy to honor the sacrifices soldiers made and keep their memories alive.

    Shay lives on Indian Island, in Maine.

  • Maine's Former Senator George Mitchell is Grand Marshall of St. Paddy's NYC parade

    Maine's George Mitchell, a former U.S. senator who helped negotiate the 1998 Northern Ireland peace accord, participated in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City on March 17th,  as grand marshal after organizers opened the event up to all openly LGBT marchers.

    “Peace, openness, inclusion, let’s all work together for a better future for people, Irish-Americans, all Americans, all people,” said Mitchell, 82, before the start of the parade.

    A true statesman, Mitchell who oversaw negotiations that led to the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland, won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Liberty Medal. He served in the Senate from 1980 until 1995 and was later U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland and then for Middle East peace.

  • More women needed in state government

    Op-ed by Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, the assistant House majority leader in the Maine Legislature.

    When Maine women succeed, their families and communities succeed. And ultimately, Maine succeeds. In the Legislature, we focus every day on building a strong economy where Mainers can prosper. What we need to address in each of these conversations — whether the subject is taxes, welfare reform or workforce training — is how we can best unleash power of women in our economy.

    In the second half of the 20th century, this country saw its greatest economic growth because of women’s increased involvement in the economy. Yet today, for too many women, the challenge of making ends meet for themselves is a day to day struggle.

    Today, in 2016, eight out of 10 women work ,and four of those 10 women are the sole or primary wage earner in their family. Yet our workplace policies are stuck in an era that assumes Mom stays at home while Dad goes to work. They are based on the incorrect premise that minimum-wage jobs are for inexperienced young workers who haven’t yet started their families and who will soon move on and up the ladder of increasing earnings.

    They are based on the memory of an American Dream whose trajectory has drastically changed.

    We can continue to mourn that change or we can start investing in in a future to make Maine prosperous again.

    In Maine, as with every other state in this country, women are paid less than men. Maine women earn 84 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn, for a median income of $36,000. This has drastic consequences for Maine children and our state as a whole.

    Nearly 1 in 4 Maine children under the age of 5 is living in poverty, with almost 60 percent of those kids in a household headed by a single woman. Twenty-four percent of Maine children struggle with hunger. How can we expect our economy to flourish under these circumstances?

    We still talk about the “progress we’ve made” as women. But if we leave progress as winning the right to vote in 1929, our pay increasing from 70 cents to 78 cents to 84 cents for every dollar a male earns, or the fact that some women are actually pushing against the glass ceiling, this state will never regain its competitive edge.

    Unleashing the power of women is the most important thing that we can do to grow Maine’s economy. The approach is straightforward.

    It’s about good-paying jobs that allow full participation in the workforce by women. We need policies that recognize women make up the majority of minimum wage workers.

    We need policies that recognize that workers need predictable schedules to provide stability for their families, and that we all have to take care of someone, whether it’s a sick child or an aging parent.

    It’s about providing the best possible public education for our children no matter where in this state they live or their family’s income level. Great education has to start early because we know it increases children’s chances of success in school, work and elsewhere in life — and that it provides a great return on investment to taxpayers.

    High-quality preschool education for a low-income child, for example, saves taxpayers an average of $125,400 over the child’s lifetime — more than five times the initial investment.

    It’s about the basic right to preventative and reproductive health care. A woman’s ability to control when — and whether — to start a family is key to her economic security and opportunity. And it’s about affordable and excellent childcare when and if we do have a family.

    And it’s also about understanding what true welfare entails. To move forward, we need an understanding that the goal is about moving people from poverty to sustainable employment. “Reform” can never be simply cutting the safety net out from under Mainers who are hungry or need help keeping a roof over their heads while they get back on their feet.

    Because here’s the ugly truth: thousands of Maine families right now face the reality of low wages and disappearing jobs. Their challenges impact entire communities and our shared economy.

    A real plan for Maine’s economic future leaves political games aside to focus on the issues help women, their families and communities reach their full potential. Because when women succeed economically, this state succeeds.

    It’s time to get to work on this part of the 21st century economy. Maine Democrats are ready.

    Rep. Sara Gideon, will likely be a favorite to become House Speaker, if Democrats keep control of the Maine State House.

  • Happy Martin Luther King Day


    "Today we honor a man who challenged us to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice. Let's keep working to realize Dr. King's dream." --President Barack Obama.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American Baptist minister, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. King gave his all, loosing his life in 1968, for all of us.  Let's work to make sure "black lives matter," for all lives matter.

    We need to embrace diversity in Maine.

  • 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. 

  • Eighteen Emerge Maine alumnae to run for State House seats

    Eighteen Emerge Maine alumnae announced their candidacy for the House and Senate at a press conference at the State House today. Many at the press conference had gone through Emerge Maine, like District Attorney Meghan Mahoney.

    “Emerge Maine seeks to literally change the face of Maine politics by inspiring and preparing more Democratic women to run for office and win,” said Executive Director Jill Barkley. “With eleven of our alumnae serving in the Maine State House, we’ve been very successful at winning legislative races, but only 29 percent of those currently serving in the legislature overall are women. We know that 29 percent is not enough, which is why we are thrilled to announce our first round of candidates today who will help increase that percentage.”

    Emerge Maine is the state’s premier political training program for Democratic women. It recruits, trains and supports women across the state to run for office each year. The 155 alumnae in the Emerge Maine network span the entire state, with over 30 currently holding elected office at every level, including eleven alumnae who serve in the Maine House.

    Speakers at the press conference included Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon, an Emerge Maine alumnae, who is running for re-election.

    “Emerge has played a vital role in preparing me and hundreds of female candidates and lawmakers to be a strong voice for people in our state. Together we have worked to change the conversation about women's issues and the role of women in office,” said Gideon.

    Emerge Maine candidates also recognize the role Maine’s economy will play in this year’s campaigns. Tina Riley, candidate for House District 74, owned and operated Moelco Electric in Jay, and worked as an electrician at Rumford Paper Company. Riley spoke about supporting good-paying jobs and controlling property tax levels for people in her district.

    “The people in my community are concerned about the downturn in the paper industry,” said Riley. “They want a representative in Augusta who will work hard to protect those jobs and keep their property taxes under control, and that is what I am prepared to do.”

    Gideon and Riley were joined at the podium by alumnae Lois Reckitt, running for the House in District 31, and Moira O’Neil, running for the Senate in District 7.

    Barkley also noted that Emerge Maine would have the organization’s first primary in House District 94. Running for the open seat are Kathleen Meil and Betsy Saltonstall, both of Rockport and currently participating in Emerge Maine’s Class of 2016.

    “Primaries within our network means that we are achieving our goal of training and inspiring more women to run,” said Barkley.

    ###

    List of Candidates:

    Representative Heidi Brooks, House District 61
    Representative Christine Burstein, House District 96
    Representative Mattie Daughtry, House District 49
    Jessica Fay, House District 66
    Representative Sara Gideon, House District 48
    Kimberly Hammill, House District 102
    Representative Denise Harlow, House District 36
    Representative Erin Herbig, House District 97
    Representative Jay McCreight, House District 51
    Kathleen Meil, House District 94
    Moira O’Neill, Senate District 7
    Lois Reckitt, House District 2
    Kimberly Richards, House District 2
    Christina Riley, House District 74
    Representative Diane Ruseell, Senate District 27
    Betsy Saltonstall, House District 94
    Representative Denise Tepler, House District 54
    Representative Charlotte Warren, House District 84

  • Opportunities await girls seeking science and technology careers in Maine

    For too long, men continue to outnumber women working in engineering and computer science careers in America. Fortunately, there are now a number of agencies and groups working to change that disparity.

    Despite the fact that there have been women, throughout history, whom have made important contributions and discoveries to science very few pursue careers in science and technology.

    Research shows unequivocally that girls have just as much aptitude for science and math as boys. The problem is rooted in social systems and cultural biases that encourage girls and young women to find careers in fields traditionally held by women.

    Social pressures continue to discourage girls.

    “If you keep telling girls they're less good at science, that will probably be self-fulfilling. But there are quite a lot of women who are good at it,” said Lisa Randall, a theoretical physicist and professor at Harvard University in Marie Claire magazine.

    “If you look through the shelves of science books, you'll find row after row of books written by men. This can be terribly off-putting for women,” said Randall, who was the first woman to be tenured as a physics professor at MIT and then at Harvard.

    Why should more women work in science and engineering careers?

     “We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent . . . that is not being encouraged," said President Barack Obama. 

    In a 2015 research report, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) answered the question this way: “The representation of women in engineering and computing matters. Diversity in the workforce contributes to creativity, productivity, and innovation. Everyone’s experiences should inform and guide the direction of engineering and technical innovation. In less than 10 years, the United States will need 1.7 million more engineers and computing professionals. We simply can’t afford to ignore the perspectives or the talent of half the population."

    More women in science and technology careers could also help close the gender wage gap. Women in science, math and tech jobs earn 33 percent more than women in other occupations.

    Women are making progress in some careers that require math and science education. But according to the National Girls Collaborative Project and the National Science Foundation, female scientists and engineers are concentrated in different occupations than are men, with relatively high shares of women in the social sciences (58 percent) and biological and medical sciences (48 percent) and relatively low shares in engineering (13 percent) and computer and mathematical sciences (25 percent).

    Even though women make up 47 percent of the American workforce, just 15.6 percent of chemical engineers, 12.1 percent of civil engineers and 7.2 percent of mechanical engineers are women.

    One of those female mechanical engineers, Debbie Sterling, in 2012 founded GoldieBlox, a toy company that makes toys to inspire a generation of future of women engineers. Other organizations, like the AAUW and the National Girls Collaborative Project, are sponsoring research about the disparities in the science and math workforce to encourage changes.

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has developed a joint program with the Girls Scouts of America to create science, technology and engineering projects for girls.

    Organizations like NASA recognize that women represent an untapped pool of science and technology talent. The agency wants to show girls that there are many rewarding opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math careers.

    In Maine, the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, holds summer camp programs each year to develop children’s interests in math and technology. The school is working to encourage more girls to attend its camp.

    Surrounded by an encouraging social atmosphere, girls at MSSM have an opportunity to excel in the science and technology studies. 

  • Penobscot chief and tribe deciding what action is next over river ruling

    Penobscot Indian Nation members performed before the Veazie Dam removal. The tribe ties the river to their history. There are aprox. 2,300 tribal members.

     By Ramona du Houx

    "Our family names, our language, our creation stories, all aspects of who we are as a people come from our relationship to the river. We could not stand by and let the state sever those ties,” said Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis over the actions the tribe has taken to reclaim their water rights.

    On December 16, 2015 a federal judge ruled that the Penobscot Nation reservation includes the islands on the main stem of the Penobscot River but not the water itself.

    In his ruling, U.S. District Judge George Singal, said that members of the tribe may take fish from the entirety of that section of the river for sustenance.

    “The court’s ruling that the tribe’s reservation boundaries for sustenance fishing are ‘in the entire main stem of the river’ is a significant victory,” said Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis. “It also appears that those boundaries apply to our hunting and trapping rights and authorities.”

     Some in the community are concerned that the reservation is confined to island surfaces. Hence the Penobscot nation might appeal the decision to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston within the next 60 days.

    The rulings came more than three years after the tribe filed a lawsuit against the state as a result of former Attorney General William Schneider sending a letter dated Aug. 8, 2012, to the tribal warden service saying that the state—not the tribe—has the authority to charge people with violating fishing regulations and water safety rules.

    The letter came after a season of elvers fishing was bringing in a bounty and more fishermen wanted to fish in Penobscot territory. Gov. Paul LePage put limits on how many fishermen and how much they could fish. The tribe said he didn’t have a right to do that in their lands so AG. Schneider went to work. At that time the EPA also said Maine was not in complience with water quality.

    In recent years, market demand for elvers has increased dramatically. Elvers are highly valued in the far east (Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea) where they are cultured and reared to adult size for the food fish market. Due to recent intense market demand, elvers have now become the most valuable marine resource in terms of price per pound which varies from $25 to $350.

    The tribe argued that its reservation includes the water in the river because of the tribe’s sustenance fishing rights. There have been many treaties with the Penobscot over hundreds of years, all of which grant the tribe the river water rights as part of their “lands.”

    A year later, most municipalities along the river were granted intervener status in the case to support the state’s contention that the reservation included the islands but not the water. Many of the municipalities that signed on were pressured by corporate businesses along the river, like paper companies. The irony is Verso, Redshield and the Bucksport mill, all “interveners” have all closed since then.  The corporations said a ruling in the tribe’s favor would give the Indians control over water quality on the river. Thus, they might impose stricter rules on discharges into the river.

    In 2014 the state sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over water quality in tribal waters. Because the EPA referred to tribal waters as the standard the state has been put in a bad postion. The battle continues in court. The state claims the EPA created a double standard for water quality — one for tribal waters and another for the rest of the state. 

     The State Representative for the Penobscot nation left the legislature last spring as tensions between the state and his people became too strained. Gov. LePage continues to his attempts to undermine the Indians sovereign rights, on the behalf of the people of Maine. The majority of state citizens reject LePage’s claims.

  • Let Syrian refugees contribute to Maine's history of imagrants

    In the wake of the world’s response to the tragedies in Paris and Beirut, Maine’s governor has announced that he would oppose any efforts to bring Syrian refugees to Maine. While our history is crowded with efforts to limit groups of people from coming to the U.S., there is little question that immigration has been one of the most important factors in making the U.S. a world power, and is, arguably, the key to Maine’s success as a state.

    U.S. law is very clear on immigration. The issue is under federal control, based on Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, and has been reviewed several times by the U.S. Supreme Court, most notably in Hines v. Davidowitz in 1940.

    Since the end of the Civil War, when Republican Gov. Samuel Cony declared, “From the very foundation of our government, it has been our policy to invite the freest immigration from every portion of the earth,” Maine has had a love-hate relationship with its immigrants. But for this governor to take an anti-immigrant stance seems somewhat disingenuous.

    The largest group of immigrants to Maine in the 19th century were French Canadians, including the governor’s ancestors. At the time, there also was a good deal of rhetoric and discrimination against them. Most people know that the Ku Klux Klan movement in Maine in the 1920s was mostly focused on the French-Catholic immigrants from Canada. Gov. Paul LePage has talked about the racism he felt growing up in “Little Canada” in Lewiston. He is, by all accounts, a self-made man and a proud model of the success an immigrant can have in Maine, as are Sen. Susan Collins (Irish and English), former Sen. Olympia Snowe (Greek), former Sen. George Mitchell (Lebanese) and many other prominent Mainers.

    This fall at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine in Augusta, we have had a question on the chalkboard in the lobby asking visitors, “What country are your ancestors from?”

    After two months, the board is filled with answers that reveal that Maine, like the rest of the country, is made up of people from all over the world. Of course, we’d expect to see Canada, France, Ireland, England, Sweden, Germany, Finland and many western European countries listed on the board. But we might be surprised to see Guam, Jamaica, Belarus, Senegal, Lithuania, Cuba, Haiti, Somalia, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Russia, Poland, China, Hungary, Turkey, Brazil, Iceland, Australia, Rwanda, Lebanon and Sudan were listed, and, of course, a few people wrote that their ancestors are Native American.

    Maine is a rich tapestry made up of individuals from around the world, and while we know that most immigrants and all refugees are vetted, we disagree with the concept that someone should be considered a subversive or a danger to the American people simply because of their country of origin, religion, color of their skin, sexual orientation or any other broad measure of a group of people. That’s surely not an American or Maine measure of a person.

    As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. suggested many years ago, we should measure people by the content of their character.

    Maine’s character is clearly composed of people from all over the world. Rather than opposing those who would seek refuge in a safe land and contribute to our society, we should embrace them and remember, in their quest for a new home, they’re very much like our own ancestors.

  • Refugee supporters gather in Augusta in opposition to LePage’s statements

    By Ramona du Houx

    More than 100 people rallied in support of Syrian and other refugees November 25th at the governor's mansion ten days after Maine’s Governor LePage declared he did not want Syrian refugees to settle in the state. In his statement he said he would “take every lawful measure in my power to prevent it from happening.”

    Under Federal law, LePage has no say in the matter.

    However, a group of concerned citizens wanted to make the statement that LePage doesn’t speak for many Mainers.  Portland resident Tom Tracy thinks that it is important that they know they’re welcome

    “We’re a country where most all of us are from somewhere else, and we should be welcoming people.” said Tom Tracy, at the protest.

    Nearly a dozen religious leaders representing Jews, Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and the United Church of Christ joined the protest, which was big for the day before Thanksgiving.

    "In our panic subsequently after Pearl Harbor, we put thousands of Japanese into internment camps. Eventually the young men imprisoned there went to fight for our and their country, not in the Pacific but in Europe where the Nisei proved to be among the fiercest and most successful of our fighting units. We were not very proud of what we did to these people just as we will not be very proud in the future of what we seem poised to do in the case of the Syrians or even, if some loudmouths have their way, all Moslem-Americans," wrote Neil Rolde in an editorial for Maine Insights.

    "Admittedly, we do panic and we do make mistakes that we rue afterward and innocent people do suffer. But our history has shown that demagogues come and go over here. We should not, and must not, give the fanatical power-seeking Muslim terrorist killers and those behind them a victory."

  • Panic Time Again by Neil Rolde

    Editorial By Neil Rolde

    In my last BLOG, which dealt with refugees and was posted well before the ISIS atrocities in Paris, I predicted the reaction in Congress to support for Syrian refugees. The exact words of my final sentence were: “One can read the handwriting on the wall for any substantial help for the Syrians while this Congress is in office.”

    I stick by my prediction even though the initial thrust now post-Paris is coming mostly from Republican Governors, 29 of them to date who are barring Syrian refugees from their States and one Democrat Governor who has joined the pack. There may well be more as the current wave of hysteria is exploited.

    Interesting. These persons are undoubtedly all fervent supporters of the U.S. Constitution. But does the Constitution allow them to bar persons legally in the country to enter their States. Could they keep me out of Mississippi because I’m a Democrat? Don’t tell them. I was just there last spring.

    Historically speaking, the same canard that was used post 1933 and Hitler’s taking power in Germany to keep Jewish victims of the Nazis out of the U.S. is now once more in play. Spies and saboteurs would sneak in among the persecuted. Or the genuine persecuted among us would be blackmailed into helping the bad guys out of fear for their relatives still overseas. No better let the Jews and anti-Nazis be pushed around. After the gas chambers and crematoria were discovered, some apologies were offered.

    Will that become the case in the future after this slamming of doors in the face of the Syrians is seen in retrospect? One can – and no doubt will – argue there is a difference here – these are terrorists, cold-blooded killers, and can wreak havoc – and cited will be the havoc that eight radical Islamists have wrought in my beloved Paris.

    How did the French react? They went to the cafes in defiance. No panic. True, the anti-immigrant forces may be strengthened and we might see that in the next elections. But France’s heritage as a bastion of Liberty will survive as it did the crypto-fascism of Vichy during World War II.

    The U.S. heritage is also – at least after the end of slavery in 1865 – that of a bastion of Liberty. Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, when we Americans were having a panic attack and Hitler imitators could hold a rally in Madison Square Garden, wisely said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

    If we are afraid our security forces, which cost us billions, can’t handle the situation then indeed we are wasting money.

    Oh, by the way, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, when the word was out that Jews in this country would spy and sabotage for the Nazis to save their relatives, the FBI was asked if they had any cases. They said Yes – they knew of two instances – but that was out of half a million refugees we did take in.

    In our panic subsequently after Pearl Harbor, we put thousands of Japanese into internment camps. (photo below) Eventually the young men imprisoned there went to fight for our and their country, not in the Pacific but in Europe where the Nisei proved to be among the fiercest and most successful of our fighting units. We were not very proud of what we did to these people just as we will not be very proud in the future of what we seem poised to do in the case of the Syrians or even, if some loudmouths have their way, all Moslem-Americans.

    Admittedly, we do panic and we do make mistakes that we rue afterward and innocent people do suffer. But our history has shown that demagogues come and go over here.

    We should not, and must not, give the fanatical power-seeking Muslim terrorist killers and those behind them a victory.    

  • 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.

  • Pingree introduces companion bill to Sen. Kings to make it easier for asylum seekers to get a job

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in 2012 photo by Ramona du Houx

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree introduced a bill on October 23rd that would make it easier for asylum seekers to get a job while waiting for their applications to be processed.

    "These are people who are fleeing persecution in their own countries—many of them were in fear for their lives.  And they come here to make a fresh start and they want to work and they want to do their fair share—but the rules prevent them from working," Pingree said.  "We should reduce the time so they can get to work to support their families and add their skills to the workforce."

    Pingree's bill, a House companion to legislation introduced by Senator Angus King, will allow asylum-seekers to apply for work authorization while filing their application for asylum, thereby helping them earn an income while also alleviating the pressure placed on municipal finances.

    The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) codified the current 180-day work authorization framework, complete with a "clock" that starts and stops so that the "180-day" period often occurs over a number of years.

  • Protest rally against the racist signs against mayoral candidate Ben Chin in Lewiston, Maine

    In Lewiston there was a protest rally against the racist signs against mayoral candidate Ben Chin. The above video is his and the community’s response.

    "I was sickened by the posters that went up in the community over the weekend. The immigrants who have come to Lewiston during the last 100 years and built our community have faced enough discrimination. This kind of hatred and racism have no place in our community. It needs to stop," said Maine Representative Peggy Rotundo, of Lewiston.

    The two signs were mounted on buildings that are owned and managed by backers of incumbent Mayor Bob Macdonald. Macdonald, you may recall, recently called for the creation of a website that would list names and addresses of all Maine residents on welfare.

    The signs that read "Don't vote for Ho Chi Chin; vote for more jobs not welfare" were on Main Street and Pine Street buildings.  The bright red and yellow sign includes hammers and sickles and distributing cartoon caricature of Ho Chi Minh.

    Building owner Joe Dunne is a negligent landlords with a horrendous history of code violations and tenant abuses in Lewiston.

    "This morning Ben Chin for Mayor woke up to a number of racist signs hanging throughout Lewiston. The culprit, a notorious landlord, and ally of the current mayor, who's unethical practices have been a major part of Ben's campaign. Hate is a virus that unless stopped by men and women of good conscience, will only spread. Hate will not create jobs. Hate will not help neighborhoods. Hate has never solved any problems. Only people, all people, working together can do that. I believe that the people of Lewiston will vote for hope over hate," said Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci, who is also running for Congress.

     “The future of Lewiston is too important to be sidetracked by filth like this," said Chin in a statement from his campaign. "It will only make me fight harder to bring people together to revitalize Lewiston and improve our city’s reputation.”

    "It's completely unacceptable," said state Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston. "We are a better city than that."

  • Hearing on Gov. LePage's food stamp asset test shows his proposal is wrong

    photos and article by Ramona du Houx

    The hearing for Governor Paul LePage's  “asset test” for applicants to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps was held October 6, 2015 in Augusta, Maine. 

    Mainers with assets topping $5,000 and who don’t have children will be ineligible for food stamps under LePage’s new plan announced September 16th by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. The assets to be counted, if the new rule is applied, will include bank account balances, snowmobiles, boats, motorcycles, jet skis, all-terrain vehicles, recreational vehicles, campers and other valuable assets, according to a news release.

    For years, the state has waived the asset test in recognition that Mainers need assistance, not judgment, in their moments of need.

    “Our social safety net is designed to catch people before they fall far enough to hit rock bottom. For many Mainers who are down on their luck, SNAP is the first line of defense against the downward spiral of poverty,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond of Portland.

    The average monthly SNAP benefit per person in Maine is below the national average. According to the USDA, the federal agency that administers SNAP to states, among all the states Maine ranks 50th in the average SNAP benefit per household. 

    “Food stamps are meant to temporarily keep people afloat long enough to prevent them from becoming destitute,” said Alfond. “Who are we to judge our most needy neighbors before extending a helping hand? We shouldn’t be building needless barriers between them and the help they need.”

    LePage has often stated that SNAP and other benefits "cost" the state too much. But the truth is SNAP and those other benefits are federally funded.

    “Common sense says that someone with a ton of cash on hand isn’t truly needy,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “But Governor LePage and Commissioner Mayhew are willing to make someone’s ability to eat contingent on whether they’re able to sell their beat-up snowmobile on Uncle Henry’s. What next? Grandma can’t buy groceries until she sells her engagement ring? They need to focus on growing economic opportunity and moving people into sustainable employment rather than adding a layer of bureaucracy to government that does nothing to save taxpayer dollars or help people in real need.”

    DHHS estimates that the rule change would affect about 8,600 people who are on food stamps. Maine has already reduced the number of Mainers collecting food stamps by over 5,000. A new rule implemented by the LePage administration requires able-bodied 18- to 49-year-old adults to either be working or in an active job search in order to receive food stamps.

    “This policy contradicts the spirit of programs like SNAP, which is meant to help Mainers get back on their feet,” said Sen. Anne Haskell of Portland, the Senate Democratic lead on the Health and Human Services Committee. “We should be encouraging recipients to save money and build for the future, not forcing them into destitution before we offer a helping hand. The safety net only works if it catches people before they hit rock bottom — not after.”

    LePage is bucking the national trend of state’s moving away from asset tests. Today, 36 states -- including many with Republican governors -- waive asset tests entirely, up from just 12 states in 2008. Those states recognize that the policy discourages the saving and asset-building necessary to climb the economic ladder.

    “A SNAP recipient trying to buy a car to get to and from work will be punished for saving $5,000,” Haskell said. “They’ll be kicked off the program, and forced to decide between transportation and food. We should be encouraging saving, not punishing it.”

    SNAP recipients already face an income test, which cuts off benefits for individuals who earn gross annual incomes of more than $21,775.

    As LePage's policy is based on Federal SNAP policy the governor's plan does not need legislative approval and will become law.Here are some more facts about SNAP:

     

    MYTH: Maine’s SNAP program is too generous.

    FACT: The average monthly SNAP benefit per person in Maine is below the national average. In fact, among all the states, plus Guam and the Virgin Islands, Maine ranks 50th in the average SNAP benefit per household.

     

    MYTH: The asset test will save the state money.

    FACT: All SNAP benefits are paid for by the federal government, not the State of Maine. The state’s only costs are administrative so, if anything, this asset test will cost the state taxpayers’ money.

     

    MYTH: SNAP is a “lifestyle” program, with recipients staying on food stamps for a long time.

    FACT: More than one-quarter of SNAP recipients leave the program before four months, and more than half leave before one year, according to the USDA.

    MYTH: Able-bodied, childless adults are weighing down the SNAP program.

    FACT: As food insecurity in Maine increases, one of the most affected groups is seniors. The number of Maine seniors who rely on SNAP to fight hunger has increased 32 percent in the past five years. Maine’s elderly residents often live on low, fixed incomes. They should not be punished for having saved for retirement, or squirreled away money to keep their homes warm.

  • Senator Angus King Honors Maine State Rep. Craig Hickman as an Angel in Adoption for his adoption advocacy

    Senator Angus King has selected Representative Craig Hickman as a 2015 Angels in Adoption™awardee for his outstanding advocacy of adoption issues. 

    The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), which orchestrates the Angels in Adoption™ Program, will honor Rep. Hickman at an awards ceremony on October 6, 2015 and gala on October 7, 2015 in Washington, D.C. 

    “I never would have imagined that twenty years of working on adoption issues would culminate with this great honor,” said Rep. Hickman. “I cannot thank Senator King enough. I will continue to fight for the rights of adopted children in Maine and across this great nation.”

    Earlier this year, Hickman, an adoptee with a long-standing commitment to improving the lives of both adult and minor adoptees, introduced legislation in Maine that would prohibit the unauthorized “rehoming” of adopted children. Inspired by his father, a World War II veteran, and his wise mother, both deceased, Hickman has spent most of his life serving his community and feeding people.

    His award-winning 2005 memoir, Fumbling Toward Divinity, chronicles his search and reunion with his biological family.  

    When presenting his bill, Hickman asked his colleagues to “imagine being shipped across oceans to a new culture with a new language to become part of a new family, only to have that family decide that they don’t want you. And since it is not against the law, that family advertises you… and within days you are dropped off to another stranger.”

    Hickman’s bill, which passed the Legislature unanimously, will go into effect this fall, making rehoming a crime in Maine subject to the current penalties for abandonment.

    Maine will be the sixth state, and the first in New England, to criminalize this damaging practice.Rehoming is not the first adoption issue that Hickman has brought to the attention of the Maine Legislature.

    He first testified, as a member of the public, before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee in 2005, speaking in favor of a bill that would allow adult adoptees access to their original sealed birth certificates. He was successful in this effort as well, and adult adoptees born in Maine were granted access to their original birth certificates in 2009.

    Both in his work as a two-term legislator and as a private citizen prior to his election, Hickman has drawn on his personal experience as an adopted person to advocate for important changes to state law. His success in these efforts is a testament to his dedication to these issues and for these reasons, King recommended Hickman as an Angel in Adoption™ for 2015.

    Hickman is also an organic farmer, chef, actor and poet.

    As House chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, he has championed food sovereignty, food security, self-sufficiency and other efforts to protect Maine’s small family farms and promote rural economic development.

    Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Hickman moved to New England to attend Harvard University, where he graduated in 1990 with a degree in government.

    He and his spouse, Jop Blom, who lived in the Boston area for 16 years, have owned and operated Annabessacook Farm in Winthrop since 2002, raising organic produce, dairy, and livestock, and hosting overnight guests and a fresh food bank for anyone in need.

    The Angels in Adoption™ Program is CCAI’s signature public awareness campaign and provides an opportunity for all members of the U.S. Congress to honor the good work of their constituents who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans in the United States and abroad. This year, more than 150 “Angels” are being honored through the Angels in Adoption™ program.

  • Documentary on the Battle Over Contested Penobscot River Territory - 2 screenings scheduled

    On September 25, 2015, Sunlight Media Collective released The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory, a documentary film that explores the conflict between the state of Maine and the Penobscot Nation over contested river territory. Spanning from the 1700's to the present-day legal battle of Penobscot Nation v. Mills, the film illustrates the Penobscots' centuries-long fight to retain their territory and their inherent, treaty-reserved sustenance fishing rights for future generations. Featuring first-person accounts, the film tells the urgent, inspiring story of a struggle for justice and cultural survival in the face of an astonishingly open abuse of state power.

    The documentary release closely follows a meeting between Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis and President Obama, where they discussed the Penobscot Nation v. Mills case. The Penobscot Nation is suing the state of Maine in response to a decision by former Attorney General William Schneider that the Penobscot Indian reservation, which includes more than 200 islands in the Penobscot River, does not include any portion of the water— a decision that amounts to territorial theft by the state. Oral arguments for the case are scheduled for October 14th at the US District Court in Portland, ME.

    The case is taking place in the context of a larger state battle over river jurisdiction and water quality standards. In February, the federal EPA ruled that Maine must improve its water quality standards to protect Penobscot sustenance fishing rights. Governor Paul LePage has called the ruling “outrageous” and threatened to relinquish state regulatory responsibilities to the federal EPA if they did not reverse the ruling.

    The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory chronicles the Penobscot’s struggle to maintain their centuries-long stewardship to ensure a healthy ecosystem for all of Maine, a struggle exemplified by these contemporary legal battles. According to Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis, the Penobscot v. Mills case “is really not about controlling the river system, or controlling individuals within the system. It’s really about our ability to manage a subsistence resource that we have a responsibility for, for multiple generations.”

    Funded by Broad Reach Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory is available for free on the Sunlight Media Collective website (www.sunlightmediacollective.org), and DVDs are available by order. To schedule a screening, please email sunlightmediacollective@gmail.com.

    The Sunlight Media Collective is a collaboration between Penobscot and non-native filmmakers. The film is just one example of an up-swell of activism and work on issues affecting the Wabanaki tribes. In October, Upstander Productions will also release a short documentary entitled First Light, on the recently completed Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    Screenings of The Penobscot: Ancestral River, Contested Territory currently scheduled:

    October 21st, Belfast Free Library, Belfast, 6:00PM

    October 24th, Gates Auditorium, College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, 1:30PM

  • October is ARTober in Bangor, Maine, a local celebration of arts and culture

    Downtown Bangor, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Planned by the Bangor City Council Commission on Cultural Development, the art celebration will showcase more than 80 events and exhibitions, including live performances, art exhibits, lectures and workshops at 30 venues.

    A complete listing of events is available on the city’s website athttp://www.bangormaine.gov/artober.

    Venues for ARTober include the University of Maine Museum of Art, the Bangor Opera House, Bangor International Airport, Bangor Mall, Bangor Public Library, public parks and numerous local businesses.

    Most ARTober events will be free and open to the public. The variety of events was developed by reaching out to numerous arts and cultural organizations in Bangor.

    Last June, the cultural commission received a $10,000 grant from the Maine Community Foundation for support and programming related to ARTober. That doubles the commission’s annual budget allocation from the City Council of $10,000.

    ARTober coincides with National Arts & Humanities Month, a nationwide recognition of the importance of culture in America.

  • 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.

  • Kenya Hall Band performs in Bangor Aug. 6 at the Cool Sounds Summer Concert Series

    On Aug, 6, 2015 the Downtown Bangor Partnership presents The Kenya Hall Band. The Kenya Hall Band will take you on a soul and groove experience that is rare in this musical generation. Rising from the vibrant music scene of Portland, Maine, this funk and soul band promises to push your idea of music higher, wider, and deeper. Channeling a raw musical honestly and an often candid charisma, Kenya Hall plays the stage and commands attention, and never fails to give audiences something new and unique and real. Backed by some of the most talented and funky players in the Northeast, she and her band promise to deliver a good time, and to make every show one that should not be missed! The concert begins at 6 p.m. in West Market Square and is free for all to attend.

    The remaining performances for the 2015 Cool Sounds Summer Concert Series are: 

    August 6 - Kenya Hall

    August 13 - When Particles Collide

    August 20 - Tomato Tomato with Goldenoak

    The free concert series will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in West Market Square and run in conjunction with the Fresh Air Market, open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Cool Sounds Summer Concert Series and Fresh Air Market will continue every Thursday evening through August 20, rain or shine. Up to 20 vendors are expected weekly at the Fresh Air Market. Available items include artwork, specialty foods, jewelry, clothing and much more. Food vendors will also be on site.    

    Traffic Alert: During the events, from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m., Bangor Alley, Broad Street, and Merchants Plaza will be closed to traffic; please plan travel accordingly.

    The 2015 Cool Sounds Summer Concert Series and Fresh Air Market is presented by Emera Maine with media sponsorship provided by WLBZ 2. Our hosting sponsors are: The Bangor Daily News, The First, N.A., New England School of Communication (NESCOM), Camden National Bank, Hollywood Casino, and Katahdin Trust Company.  

    The Downtown Bangor Partnership promotes and markets activities that enhance the distinctive identity of Downtown Bangor, encouraging retention and growth of commercial, residential, and cultural life within the Downtown District. For more information on the Downtown Bangor Partnership visit the following link: www.downtownbangor.com or on Facebook at:www.facebook.com/DowntownBangor.

  • 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

  • Current regulatory barriers prevent people starting hair braiding businesses in Maine

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine Senate gave initial approval for a measure that would allow individuals who provide only hair braiding services to be exempt from barbering and cosmetology licensure requirements.

    “There are a lot of African ladies like me who want to start their own businesses and earn an honest living. These licensing restrictions are preventing us from showing our skills and joining the small business community in Portland,” said Mariama Jallow, a new Mainer, originally from the Gambia in West Africa. 

    Karen Mills, former SBA Administrator, reports that immigrants are two times more likely to start a business than native citizens. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston reported in 2013 that Hispanic and Asian businesses alone contribute nearly $400 million dollars to Maine’s economy and they employ over 3,000 people.

    “I see this bill as an opportunity for state government to get out of the way of entrepreneurs wishing to open small businesses that are culturally important and pose no threat to public health and safety,” said Senator Anne Haskell of Portland, the sponsor of the bill. “In a free and open market, natural hair care would have great potential for entrepreneurial and employment opportunities by providing popular services and products to consumers.”

    The bill, LD 847, "An Act To Permit Hair Braiding without a Barbering or Cosmetology License" was unanimously supported by the Labor, Commerce, Research, and Economic Development Committee.

    Hair braiding is currently regulated within the department of cosmetology, and the required license is burdensome and not applicable to someone who wants only to braid hair. Traditional hair braiding does not use harmful chemicals and therefore avoids the serious damage that can occur when hair is treated with chemicals and other artificial products.

    Nationwide, natural hair care has grown into a multi-million dollar industry.

    The measure received support from the Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation, the Small Business Advocate’s office, CEI, a community development institution, among others.

    “This is economic development at its best,” added Senator Haskell. “The bill provides a means for new Americans to take the first steps up the economic ladder and to help others up the ladder as well.”

    The measure, LD 847, "An Act To Permit Hair Braiding without a Barbering or Cosmetology License” will now move to the House for additional votes.

  • Rally in Portland, Maine to stop cut backs that hurt citizens health, safety and security

    The Maine Immigrants' Rights Coalition and partner organizations believe in a Maine that works for everyone across all our differences. The group is asking citizens to stand together to stop current proposals that would leave Mainers without food and shelter in their “We are Maine” March and Rally on Thursday, May 21st.

    Thursday, May 21, 2015
    5:30 pm: March begins in Lincoln Park, Portland (located at the corner of Pearl & Congress Str.)
    6:00 pm: Rally in Monument Square with speeches and song (located on Congress St. across from the Portland Public Library)

    Organized by the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (MIRC) and Partner Organizations

  • In Maine white settlers lied and stole from Indians and authorities authorized their massacre

    A local High School in Skhoweghan has been asked by local tribes not to use the name Indian or symbol as a mascot. But certian residents refuse to respect the heritage they are usurping. The following is an editorial that sheds a light on how White settlers treated the native population. Seems history repeats in strange ways. All this has happened while Gov. LePage has taken away Indian sovrenity. (in another Maine Insights article)

    Editorial:

    “I was born in a small Maine town [Skowhegan] on the Kennebec River — a place that had once been home to the Norridgewock Abenaki,” Morrison wrote. “Among my earliest recollections are family excursions … to Old Point Cemetery where my immigrant ancestors rest in what had once been the fields of Norridgewock. A weathered stone obelisk … commemorates the ancient importance of this place.”

    These childhood memories provoked a lifelong effort to understand Native Americans on their own terms.

    Morrison’s portrait of the Wabanaki differed from historians who drew only upon deeply biased English and French sources. Louise Coburn, for example, wrote in “Skowhegan on the Kennebec” that “Under the Indians the land knew neither government nor ownership. There was no law of the land, only chieftainship of the tribe.”

    Actually, Native politics were so different that colonial authorities mistook them for anarchy.

    Despite persistent efforts by Massachusetts authorities to equate “chieftainship” with kingship, the role of the sagamores was to seek consensus in tribal affairs; they could persuade but not command. They had no authority to make treaties selling commonly held lands, but Massachusetts officials refused to accept this limitation.

    Notwithstanding repeated attempts to subject Kennebecs to colonial authority, the tribe never surrendered its autonomy or right to repel white-settler incursions. Religious prejudice and cultural misunderstanding provoked conflict. Although Natives initially did not understand that the English sought exclusive use of the land, they soon learned otherwise. Colonial authorities adamantly enforced any Indian “deed,” whether obtained with unauthorized signatures, abuse of alcohol, bribery, intimidation or mistranslation of treaties.

    Persistent English lawlessness on the frontier complicated the problem. Government control was weak, and assaults on Natives unrestrained. When the tribes resisted, colonial authorities, ignoring settler aggression, struck back harshly. The ruling ethic — “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” — sprang from Puritan belief that Natives were “spawn of Satan.”

    With their preliterate respect for the spoken word, the Wabanaki were deeply dismayed by English manipulation, untruthfulness and dishonor. They challenged falsifications with, “We are not liars like you,” but their protests only fanned hostility.

    By 1724, according to Morrison, the Kennebecs were doomed. Massachusetts authorities decided to wipe them out. Supposing that the Kennebecs’ missionary priest, French Jesuit Father Sébastien Râle, was the source of Native resistance, they placed a 100-pound bounty on his head, with lesser amounts offered for the scalps of men, women and children in his flock.

    A force of English soldiers sneaked up the river and struck Norridgewock by surprise on Aug. 23, 1724. The soldiers pursued mothers and their babies to bloody death. They shot at families fleeing in canoes and lamented that 50 bodies floated downstream before they could be scalped. The attackers obscenely mutilated Father Râle’s body and later paraded his scalp in triumph through the streets of Boston.

    Morrison concluded that the assault by marauders on “Norridgewock represents passionately contested ideals, political infamy and the enduring hatred of religious fervor. … They left Norridgewock a smoldering ruin, its people killed or dispersed, and its old French priest dead among his people.” In the aftermath, settlers flooded up the fertile Kennebec Valley.

    Inextricably linked to his search for truth and justice was Morrison’s embrace of the existential philosophy of Martin Buber.

    Buber maintained that humans see fellow beings in two types of relationships: “I-It” or “I-Thou.” In the first, we perceive the others to be dehumanized and impersonal. In the second, we recognize their sacredness. Human life finds its meaning in these deeper “I-Thou” encounters, leading ultimately to God, the Eternal Thou.

    According to Morrison, the merciless slaughter of 80 men, women and children was the worst kind of “I-It” encounter. So-called civilized Englishmen could murder babies only by denying the humanity of the helpless infants.

    Skowhegan High School’s Indian mascot focuses on such a narrow sliver of Wabanaki reality that it cannot be anything but caricature. Its use to intimidate opposing high school teams perpetuates long-held racist stereotypes and ignores the tragic fate of those allegedly honored. Maine’s Native Americans understandably are offended.

    Sadly for the adherents of the mascot, Skowhegan’s Indian heritage is inextricably bound up with cold-blooded genocide at Norridgewock. Like the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor or the massacre at Wounded Knee, Aug. 23, 1724, is a day that will live in infamy.

    Richard Hunt is a retired history professor. He worked with Ken Morrison in graduate school at the University of Maine and on the Maine Indian land claims case in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

  • PUC gives in to LePage, reverses wind energy contracts

    Kibby Wind Farm, in Western Maine, opened in 2010 and has given thousands back to the communities it serves with programs and TIFF's- tax incentives.  Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    Top Maine lawmakers in the State House denounced the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the state's energy regulator that is mandated not to make political decisions,  for caving to Governor Paul LePage’s demands to reopen bids on two approved wind contracts. 

    The three-member commission, which is supposed to be independent, reversed its decision in a 2-1 vote. The PUC previously approved contract terms with SunEdison and NextEra for wind projects in Hancock County and Somerset County. That approval allowed the parties to begin negotiating final contracts with Central Maine Power Co. and Emera Maine. A lot of work they never would have undertaken if they new LePage was going to pull the plug on. The contracts, which were approved two months ago, would have helped to lower electric costs for Maine consumers by $69 million and create jobs.

    “The Public Utilities Commission is meant to serve the public’s interest – not the governor’s ideology. Maine should be open for all businesses – not just the businesses the governor favors,” said House Speaker Mark Eves. “He is throwing away real energy savings and jobs that Maine needs. Just as we saw when he meddled with StatOil, he is putting hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in investment in our state at risk.”

    Newly appointed PUC Commissioner Carlie McLean - former legal counsel to LePage  - joined the Commission’s Chair and LePage appointee Mark Vannoy to reverse the decision. Commissioner David Littell voted against the re-opening the bid.

    “I’m disappointed to see Commissioner McLean overturn a decision with so little evidence and put future energy business contracts in jeopardy,” said Mark Dion, House Chair of the Legislature’s Energy Utilities and Technology Committee. “This creates an unpredictable environment for future business contracts.”

    According to a letter from LePage to the Commission obtained by MPBN,  LePage attempted to persuade the commissioners to ignore language in the law that directs them to consider new renewable energy sources.

    LePage wrote, "I request that you expand your current request for proposals to include any clean resource, including existing hydropower and nuclear, and review whether these potential contracts could have benefits for the ratepayers in Maine and our broader economy." 

    Nearly 50 individuals and businesses submitted comments warning that re-opening the bid would create economic uncertainty.

    “Shame on the PUC and Gov. LePage for once again yanking the welcome mat out from under two substantial businesses. Broken promises like these do nothing to reassure business that their capital is welcome here. In fact, decisions like these tarnish our reputation and scare off future opportunities,” said State Senator Dawn HIll.

     Statoil, which promised to invest $120 million to develop offshore wind technology in Maine took its investments overseas to Scotland, because LePage pushed through legislation that took away a contract Statoil had made with the PUC.

  • Maine tribes to receive Indian Housing Block Grant

     Five Native American Maine tribes receiving an Indian Housing Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. They are among 586 Native American tribes in 34 states that were choosen.

    The Penobscot Tribe of Maine is receiving $1,017,198, the Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians $637,092, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians $537,829, the Indian Township Passamaquoddy $983,784 and the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Tribe $845,013.

    IHBG funds is based on a formula that considers local needs.

    Eligible activities for the funds include housing development, assistance to housing developed under the Indian Housing Program of the 1937 Housing Act, housing services to eligible families and individuals, housing management services, crime prevention and safety, and model activities that provide creative approaches to solving affordable housing problems.

  • Alfond Foundation Supports Jewish Life at Colby College in Waterville, Maine

    A gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation will support Jewish life at Colby. The Harold Alfond Foundation will contribute up to $700,000 to complete the endowment of a professorship in Jewish studies at Colby and to launch the Center for Small Town Jewish Life.

    The endowed chair will be named the Dorothy “Bibby” Levine Alfond Professor in Jewish Studies. It will honor the accomplishments of the late Bibby Alfond ’38, P’72, GP’92, who was an important figure in the Waterville Jewish community and at Colby, where she and her family had great impact through their generous leadership.

    The gift underscores the Alfond Foundation’s commitment to the partnership between Colby and Waterville’s Beth Israel Congregation. It also positions the Center for Small Town Jewish Life to provide visionary, inspiring, and accessible educational and cultural programs to Jewish communities throughout Maine.

    The Center for Small Town Jewish Life will offer opportunities for students to cultivate leadership skills through serving the Waterville community, applying and sharing what they have learned at Colby on and off campus. Educational and cultural programs will include the annual Maine Conference for Jewish Life, which brings inspirational scholars, artists, and leaders to Colby each summer and attracts participants from throughout northern New England. The establishment of the center will enable Colby to share its vibrant and innovative programming with other synagogues and small-college Hillels, and to aid communities across the nation in replicating Colby’s approach to partnering with local Jewish organizations.

    The Harold Alfond Foundation will contribute $500,000 outright toward the Jewish studies professorship endowment, with additional gift funds tied to successful completion of fundraising challenges for a total potential gift of $700,000. This most-recent gift continues a history of Alfond family support for Colby. The Harold Alfond Foundation has previously demonstrated this commitment with gifts to name the Harold Alfond Director of Athletics and the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion at the Colby College Museum of Art.

    “We are delighted to receive this generous gift from the Alfond Foundation to support our expanding Jewish Studies Program,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Lori Kletzer. “The Alfonds have long had a deep appreciation for Colby and been an integral part of the College and Waterville. It is fitting that the foundation has chosen to further strengthen the connections between Colby, the Alfond family, and the people of Maine with this gift.”

    Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, Colby’s Jewish chaplain and an instructor in Jewish studies since 2011, will be the inaugural holder of the new faculty chair and will direct the Center for Small Town Jewish Life. In her time here she has strengthened Colby’s ties to Beth Israel Congregation and was named one of America’s most inspiring rabbis by the Jewish Daily Forward. This gift secures funding for this position for Isaacs and her successors.

    “As the result of this gift to Colby, we can live with the confidence that there will always be services provided to the Jewish community. Colby will always have an educational leader shepherding the Jewish community into fulfilling its promise and serving our town,” said Isaacs, who splits her time between Beth Israel Congregation and Colby, where she teaches Hebrew and Jewish theology.

    Colby continues to distinguish itself among its peers by annually offering a wide array of Jewish studies courses, dozens of public lectures with internationally renowned scholars, a robust Hillel chapter led by a rabbi, and consistent, structured opportunities for intensive involvement with the local Jewish community.

    Founded in 1813, Colby is one of America’s most selective colleges. Serving only undergraduates, Colby’s rigorous academic program is rooted in deep exploration of ideas and close interaction with world-class faculty scholars. Students pursue intellectual passions, choosing among 56 majors or developing their own. Independent and collaborative research, study abroad, and internships offer robust opportunities to prepare students for postgraduate success. Colby is home to a community of 1,850 dedicated and diverse students from around the globe. Its Waterville, Maine, location provides access to world-class research institutions and civic engagement experiences.

  • Ramona du Houx exhibits lightgraphs at Berry’s in Waterville, Maine

     

    By Morgan Rogers

     

    The inside gallery at Berry's Stationers 153 Main St, downtown Waterville, features the artwork, Ramona du Houx, until December 30, 2014. 

    Ramona du Houx creates fine art photography that looks like watercolor paintings evoking mystery and a sense of wonder. Many find them nostalgic and some mystical.

    Ramona is currently represented by Gallery Storks of Tokyo, Japan and is also a member of the Maine Artist Collaborative where she exhibits regularly at the Constellation Gallery in Portland, Maine.

     “For me art reflects where we live in our communities, as well as where an artist is in their heart, mind and soul,” said Ramona. “In 1979 I began to paint with my camera to depict the interconnectedness of nature. I took the initial results to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where they recorded them long ago. The continuing results have been unpredictable, intriguing, and thought provoking.” 

    The watercolor technique is always a challenge.

    “I never know exactly what the results will be, that’s the exciting part of the creation,” said du Houx. “I believe every photograph has an audience, someone the work will speak to personally.”

    Berry’s show space offers local artists a friendly venue to exhibit their work and a way to continue to grow Waterville’s creative economy. With Colby College’s new museum, and Common Street Arts, Waterville is gaining attention as a place to visit for art.

    “We believe in our community and holding shows for artists can help grow the creative economy of Waterville,” said Michael, owner of Berry's Stationers.

    Dream Sail by Ramona du Houx

    Customers rely on the quality work of the Berry's Stationers art suppliers and framers. They entrust the craftspeople who work there with precious mementos to create a unique way to display it for their lifetimes.

    Berry's Stationers team matches mat colors and frames for any job they work on and they always take the time to listen to customers to ensure they get what they are looking for. Michael bought the business back in the 70’s. He’s a perfectionist in his framing craft and an avid photographer.

    "Matching up someone’s art with the right mat and frame gives me a lot of pleasure. Finding out exactly what the customer needs and then succeeding makes it so worthwhile,” said Michael. 

    While other framers have closed their doors due to big box stores and chains, The Berry's Stationers continues. The quality customer service and extra care he and his father take in framing creates prized items for many people.

    Berry's Stationers is open Monday thru Friday from 9:00am - 5:00pm. And Saturday from 9:00-3.00pm. And until Christmas they are open on Sundays.

    For more of Ramona’s photography please visit: HERE 

     

  • President Obama gives 5 million immigrants American freedom and responsibility

    President Barack Obama in Maine in 2012. Photo and article by Ramona du Houx -

    President Barack Obama unveiled expansive executive actions on immigration, on November 20th in an address to the nation, to spare nearly 5 million people in the U.S. illegally from deportation and refocus enforcement efforts on “felons, not families.”

    "Keeping families together who have lived here in the United States for years is a worthy goal and will begood for our economy and our communities.  I'm glad that President Obama, like 11 other presidents before him, is using executive action on immigration and taking this first step," said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.

    The US Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform with 68 votes but the US House of Representatives have yet to act on the bill. The President's action puts the pressure on them to function and do what's right for the nation. It also frees 5 million families from living in fear for three years, or until Congress passes a law.

    "To those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill," said Obama.

    Obama's executive orders is the foundation for future reform. He highlighted emotional stories of families living in fear wanting to be legal citizens but worried about deportation. Being a nation born of immigrants the President had this to say, "Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger –- we were strangers once, too."

    The President outlined what he will and can do on his own:

    "First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.
    "Second, I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.
    "Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country. I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy," he said.

    Here's the entire speech:

    THE PRESIDENT: My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration. For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities –- people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose. But today, our immigration system is broken -- and everybody knows it. Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules.
    Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart. It’s been this way for decades.
    And for decades, we haven’t done much about it. When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s.
    Those are the facts. Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line.
    And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits. Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President –- the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me -– that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just. Tonight, I am announcing those actions.
    First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.
    Second, I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.
    Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country. I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy.
    Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable -– especially those who may be dangerous.
    That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.
    But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants in every state, of every race and nationality still live here illegally. And let’s be honest -– tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic.
    Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches.
    Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours. As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it:
    “They are a part of American life.” Now here’s the thing: We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents;
    if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes -- you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.
    Now, let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive -– only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you. I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty.
    Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today -– millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That’s the real amnesty –- leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character.
    What I’m describing is accountability –- a common-sense, middle-ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up. The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century.
    And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.
    I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.
    Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose –- a higher purpose.
    Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship.
    I know some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.
    Because for all the back and forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.
    Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future? Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works together to keep them together? Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America? That’s what this debate is all about.
    We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration. We need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears. I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it.
    Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs without taking a dime from the government, and at risk any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers.
    I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in the country they love.
    These people –- our neighbors, our classmates, our friends –- they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.
    Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English.
    She caught up to other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and she became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mom cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school, not because they didn’t love her, but because they were afraid the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant –- so she applied behind their back and got in.
    Still, she mostly lived in the shadows –- until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.
    Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid, or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in? Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger –- we were strangers once, too.
    My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship.
    What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal -– that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.
    That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless this country we love. END 8:16 P.M. EST

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