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

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

    By Ramona du Houx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell endorses Emily Cain, praises Hillary

    “Emily Cain is on the side of Maine’s working families," said Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, seated directly next to Cain, on the left.

    By Ramona du Houx

    In Lewiston, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell endorsed Emily Cain in her campaign for Maine's 2nd Congressional District.

    “Emily Cain is on the side of Maine’s working families. Emily has an incredible record of success breaking through partisan gridlock and special interests to reduce the burdens on Mainers and stop our jobs from going overseas. Her bipartisan work with Governor LePage to pass balanced budgets with tax cuts for families and businesses was exemplary, and in Congress she will be an effective and tireless advocate for working Mainers,” said Senator Mitchell.

    Together, they visited with voters at Simones' Hot Dog Stand, held a rally and toured the L/A Museum.

    The museum is dedicated to preserving the economic and social history of the L/A area, and both Emily and Senator Mitchell spoke about growing jobs at home instead of letting jobs migrate overseas and how we must retake control of our economic future.

    He commented about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's presidental run.

    “She’ll be able to hit the ground running and deal with the many serious issues that we face in our country,” said Mitchell. “Trump wants to take the country backwards and going backwards doesn’t deal with our problems. I believe that, come Election Day, a majority of Americans will understand that, act on that and elect Hillary Clinton as president.”

    Senator George Mitchell has had a long and distinguished career. He served for several years as Chairman of DLA Piper, now Chairman Emeritus. Before that he served as a federal judge; as Majority Leader of the United States Senate; as Chairman of peace negotiations in Northern Ireland which resulted in an agreement that ended an historic conflict; and most recently as U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East. In 2008 Time Magazine described him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

    But what Mitchell said he was most proud of is his Mitchell Institute.

    The Mitchell Institute has given two scholarships for two highschool graduates or a $1,000 each from EVERY Maine high school since 1998. Thousands of young people have be encouraged and helped along their way to college, backed by the Mitchell Institute.

  • FairPoint strikers win victory in Business Court with overturned decision

    by Ramona du Houx

    On Friday, August 26, 2016, FairPoint strikers won a victory In Business Court when a previous decision was overturned.

    “When we fight, we win. Employees should be entitled to benefits in situations like this where companies are demanding substantial concessions and use scabs to attempt to achieve their goals,” said Don Trementozzi, business manager for CWA, Local 1400, which represents most of FairPoint’s call center workers.

    Maine’s Business Court handed a major victory to former strikers at FairPoint when it reversed a decision of the Unemployment Insurance Commission that denied unemployment benefits to the employees.

    The Court’s decision rejected the Commission’s mandate that in order to obtain benefits, the employees had to prove that FairPoint had maintained substantially normal operations during the lengthy 4-month labor dispute in 2014-15.

    “The Business Court’s decision is a major victory for our members just in time for Labor Day. The decision validates what we have been saying all along—that if FairPoint wants to operate with scabs, it should pay the price and have to pay unemployment benefits,” said Pete McLaughlin, the business manager for IBEW, Local 2327, which represents most of the FairPoint utility workers.

    According to the Business Court’s decision, the Commission erred when it placed the burden of proof on employees, rather than FairPoint, to show that there had not been a stoppage of work. The Business Court’s decision was the first time that the Maine courts have addressed who has the burden of proof in labor disputes.

    Second, the Business Court rejected the Commission’s determination that when Maine amended the unemployment statute in 1985, the Legislature had changed the standard for receipt of unemployment benefits during a strike. Prior to, and even after 1985, Maine courts, like most state courts around the nation, and the Commission, had held that workers were disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits only if the strike caused a substantial curtailment of the employer’s operations.

    However, in its October 2015 decision, the Commission changed course and rejected the substantial curtailment standard; instead, the Commission held that the workers were ineligible for benefits because FairPoint had not maintained substantially normal operations during the strike, a more difficult standard to meet than the substantial curtailment standard.

    The Business Court found that the Legislature had not intended to make any change in the substantial curtailment standard.

    Finally, the Business Court held that the Commission needed to make a week by week determination of eligibility for benefits, raising the possibility that the FairPoint strikers might be entitled to benefits for some if not all weeks during the strike.

    The Business Court’s decision means that the case will be returned to the Commission to reconsider its decision. 

    “FairPoint must now prove that there was a substantial curtailment of work for each and every week of the strike. Workers do not strike often, and usually only strike as a last resort in the face of extreme employer conduct. The FairPoint strikers will be able at least for the near future to keep the unemployment benefits they received pursuant to a decision of a Department of Labor Hearing Officer, who found (unlike the Commission) that no substantial curtailment had occurred. And, it should be easier in the future for employees involved in a labor dispute to receive unemployment benefits, particularly where, as here, the employer chooses to hire strike replacements,” said Jeffrey Neil Young of the Augusta law firm Johnson, Webbert & Young.

  • Study Shows Solar Saves Money for All Ratepayers in Maine by Reducing Peak Demand

    By Ramona du Houx

    An updated analysis of the “value of solar” power in Maine shows that solar installations within the state cut electricity prices for everyone in Maine who pays an electric bill, by reducing peak demand on the grid and power plants. Consumer demand for electricity peaks on hot, sunny summer afternoons, when use of air conditioning goes way up. This is when solar panels are producing power directly for homes and businesses, thereby reducing the demand for electricity from the grid. 

    The updated study shows that by reducing peak demand, the 20 megawatts (MW) of solar power currently installed in Maine will cut electricity bills by about $45 million for homeowners, renters, and businesses that do not have solar installed. Additional benefits from solar add $17 million further in ratepayer savings, avoided pollution from not burning fossil fuels (valued at $58 million), and local job creation. 

    If Maine had 250 MW of distributed solar, a five-year target lawmakers were considering last session, ratepayers would save $775 million over the life of the panels, including $560 million specifically related to reduced peak demand. 

    “Solar is the perfect solution to peak demand because you can get the most electricity from a solar array at exactly the same time that maximum consumer demand for air conditioning is straining our electric grid,” said Phil Coupe, a co-founder of local solar installer ReVision Energy. “In addition, thousands of solar arrays distributed throughout Maine, supporting the grid, are far more resilient than any centralized power plant.”

    Maine’s electricity rates continue to rise as the state’s monopoly utilities build expensive transmission lines specifically to meet demand on peak summer days. The Maine Public Utilities Commission has forecast that transmission rates will jump 30 percent from 2014-2018. Demand-reducing solar installations lower transmission costs, benefiting all ratepayers.

    Even more importantly, power companies run the most expensive and polluting plants during summertime peaks, such as the oil-burning power plant on Cousin’s Island in Yarmouth. These plants charge very high rates for power during these times and are the most dangerous for our environment. Reduced demand for these plants due to solar installations provides big savings for Maine ratepayers. Reduced peak demand translates quickly into reduced carbon emissions and healthier air as well.

    “With recent news about the challenges Maine is expected to face due to the increasing cost of adding capacity to the grid, one solution is staring us straight in the face,” said Vaughan Woodruff, owner of Insource Renewables. “As coal and oil plants are shut down, an obvious choice for providing more power on the hottest days of the year is to use the heat source – the sun – to generate needed electricity.”

    “We know that 2016 is set to be one of the hottest years on record. As Mainers ramp up the AC to stay cool, the electricity grid faces a heavy, costly strain and we all pay for it,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Solar clearly has the ability to reduce the strain, the pollution, and the cost for every Mainer who pays an electricity bill. The study shows once again that Maine should be working for more clean, reliable solar energy.” 

    The “Value of Solar”

    In late 2014 the Maine Public Utilities Commission completed a “Value of Solar” analysis to quantify the costs and benefits of solar in Maine. This summer, solar stakeholders, using the Commission’s methodology, updated the analysis by inserting current energy market information.

    The update shows that every 1 MW (enough for approx. 200 homes) of distributed solar installed in Maine creates $7.7 million in lifetime value.

    • About one-quarter of that value stems from the wholesale value of electricity.
    • About 30% of that value comes in the form of reduced electricity prices for all ratepayers from less need to use peaking power plants and less need for building new transmission and distribution networks to meet peak demand.
    • Significant value comes from reductions in the premiums electric ratepayers pay for uncertain future gas prices.
    • Finally, avoided pollution accounts for a substantial part of the benefit of solar power.

    “The Maine Public Utility Commission’s 2014 ‘Value of Solar’ study was really eye-opening, and people around the country paid attention to that thoughtful analysis,” saidJohn Rogers, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “This update shows that the numbers continue to look impressive as our energy markets evolve. That should give people real confidence that Mainers who go solar are making a positive difference, providing value from lower electric rates to cleaner air.”

    “Mainers are providing cleaner solar energy locally, saving their neighbors millions,” said Chris Rauscher, as spokesperson for The Alliance for Solar Choice. “The Public Utilities Commission should thoroughly examine all of the financial and clean air benefits from rooftop solar before making any changes to solar customers' rates."

    Investor-owned monopoly utilities, such as Central Maine Power, receive a 12% guaranteed rate of return for building costly transmission and distribution line upgrades, which gives them a strong incentive for doing so. 

    “CMP seems perfectly content to watch rates climb as a result of their own spending on transmission lines, at the same time the company complains about solar, downplaying the benefits solar provides to CMP customers by avoiding the need for costly transmission lines and peaking power plants,” said Rauscher.

    “The middle of summer is a good time to thank your neighbors and others who have invested in solar, because they are helping reduce electricity costs for all of us,” saidVoorhees.

     

  • Maine needs to address the threat of ocean acidification


    • Lydia BlumeBy Rep. Lydia Blume
    • Mainers have strong cultural, historic and economic ties to the ocean. The health of the ocean is critical to our way of life. Ocean acidification is a growing problem that could damage the health of the ocean and have drastic consequences for Maine’s coastal economy.
      Ocean acidification results when there is increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, a large proportion of it – up to 40 percent – gets dissolved in rainwater. From here it ends up in lakes, ponds, rivers and ultimately the ocean. 
      In addition to the increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, nutrients in the runoff from the land, like fertilizer, also increase the amount of carbon dioxide entering the ocean. The increased carbon dioxide reacts with the water to form carbonic acid, making it more acidic.
      The increased acidity of sea water impacts marine life. One of the most important effects is how the acid changes the way organisms use calcium. Calcium is critical to the entire food chain in the Gulf of Maine. The planktons, which make up the base of the food chain, decrease in number as the acidity of the ocean rises, and this in turn has an impact on finned fish.
      For shellfish, the impact is even more dramatic. The acid interferes with the way shellfish such as clams, mussels, scallops and even the iconic Maine lobster build their shells. It also can corrode shells. If we don’t find and adopt solutions, ocean acidification could cause major problems for most, if not all, of Maine’s commercial fisheries.
      Acidification is speeding up. Over the last 250 years the oceans have become approximately 30 percent more acidic. This rate has increased and, unless something changes, the level of acidity in the world’s oceans is expected to double in the next forty years. At that point, the acidity will have reached a point where some marine organisms will fail to spawn or develop.
      Ocean acidification is a very complex problem and there aren’t any simple answers. But now is the time to start asking what we know, what we can do about it, and what are the right next steps to find answers to the questions we can’t answer today. Because of the importance of the ocean to Maine, it is crucial that we understand more details about how increasing ocean acidification will affect us and what we can do about it.
      To learn more about the most up-to-date studies on the impacts of ocean acidification and more importantly, to learn more about recommendations for remediation and policy changes to limit acidification, I will be attending the full-day symposium sponsored by The Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership coming up on June 29.
      The symposium will feature 15 presentations that will share new research, updates and progress reports from the past year on ocean and coastal acidification from around the state and beyond. It will tie in to earlier work done by the state on the problem, specifically the 2015 Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Study Commission’s Report, ordered by the 126th Legislature.
      Topics at the symposium will include modeling and monitoring techniques for determining actual and projected levels of acidification, impacts on commercially important species and strategies for reducing acidification.
      Ocean acidification has the potential to cripple our coastal economy, and I will be doing all I can to learn more about it and find ways we can act to limit or stop its impacts.
      Blume is in her first term in the Maine Legislature, where she serves on the Marine Resources Committee. She represents the coastal part of York.
  • 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.

  • New National Monument would bring real investment to rural Maine

     

     By Ramona du Houx

    Supporters of a new national monument administered by the National Park Service in the Katahdin region of Maine today faced down a lopsided Congressional field hearing, stacked with opponents of the proposal.

     “Our region needs help, not another rehash of the same old arguments against new investment,” said Gail Fanjoy, president of the Katahdin Region Chamber of Commerce. “A new national monument would bring new jobs to our communities and help to revitalize our economy, while also protecting outdoor recreational activities, such as snowmobiling and hunting. And this proposal includes a $40 million endowment to help pay for operations and maintenance.”

    The US House Natural Resources Committee field hearing, organized at the request of Rep. Bruce Poliquin, included only witnesses who oppose the creation of a national monument. No witnesses in support of the plan testified, and no Democrats from the committee attended. Nonetheless more than 45 supporters attended the meeting to show their support and to speak after the field hearing during public comment. Supporters from the region outnumbered opponents who spoke after the field hearing ended.

    “This wasn’t a hearing to learn about the proposal or to answer questions. It was a political stunt meant to capture headlines and give the false impression that the region opposes a new national monument,” said Matt Polstein, a local businessman and supporter of the national monument. “Support for the national monument continues to grow. This show trial is an embarrassment and nothing more than an effort to turn us into props in an attack on the president.”

    On May 16, more than 1,200 people attended a public forum in Orono organized by US Sen. Angus King. Supporters overwhelmingly outnumbered opponents of the national monument. During that forum, Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, addressed directly every question asked by opponents of the national monument designation. 

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree recently wrote President Barack Obama urging him to make the National Monument designation."I believe the case for the creation of a National Monument is strong and is supported by most people in the region and throughout the state," Pingree wrote.

    “For several years, I’ve spoken with hundreds of supporters and opponents in order to have an open conversation about the proposed national park. This has been an open, honest effort,” said Lucas St. Clair. “Rep. Poliquin has been uninterested in hearing the details and learning the facts. He has declined numerous invitations to visit the land in question, and he has ignored the very real concerns of many of his constituents. The economy in rural Maine is hurting. Rep. Poliquin doesn’t have the answers. Instead, he opposes, without a good reason, a plan to invest $100 million in the Katahdin region and create hundreds of jobs.”

    After significant media coverage about the lopsided nature of the hearing, Poliquin invited St. Clair to speak at the public input session and the Natural Resources Committee invited Polstein and St. Clair to testify at the hearing. All the invitations came after the initial list of witnesses was released.

    “This hearing is not a real examination of our community’s situation and the park proposal,” said Anita Mueller, a park supporter. “Our kids are leaving, mills are shuttered and housing prices collapsing. How can Congress be so blind?”

    St. Clair is the president of the board of Elliotsville Plantation, which is the non-profit foundation that has proposed donating 87,500 acres to create the new national monument in the Katahdin region. In addition to donating the land, the foundation will create a $40 million endowment to support ongoing operations and maintenance at the monument, which would be managed by the National Park Service.

    The proposal, which could be an interim step to the creation of a new national park and national recreation area in the Katahdin region, includes permanent protection for traditional outdoor activities and represents a $100 million investment in the Katahdin region.

    A recent independent study found that 10 of the national monuments designated by President Obama have generated more than $156 million in local economic activity annually, supporting more than 1,800 jobs. Between 2011 and 2015, more than 3.9 million people visited the newly designated monuments included in the study.

    The National Park Service reports that Acadia National Park attracted more than 2.5 million visitors in 2014, generating $271 million in local economic output and about 3,500 jobs. Visitation to Acadia increased to 2.8 million visitors in 2015.

    National Monuments have become National partks in the past, which would bring investment to the entire region, as they have done in other areas of the USA.

    For more information, visit: http://mainewoodsnationalmonument.org

  • $7.34 million in federal Brownfield grants for Maine

     On May 21,2016 Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced that Maine will receive $7,340,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Program to assess and cleanup polluted properties throughout the state.

    “Brownfield grants have been absolutely critical in helping Maine communities move forward by cleaning up sites contaminated by former industrial uses so they can be redeveloped. Both directly and indirectly, they have created and supported many jobs throughout the state,” said Pingree.  “I’m very glad that these communities will receive funds to boost economic development and protect environmental health.”

    Projects in Pingree’s District—which covers Southern, Midcoast, and parts of Central Maine—accounted for $4.14 million of the total. Nine other projects in Maine also received funding.

    Pingree is a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, which oversees funding for EPA programs.

    Details on projects in Pingree’s District below.

    • Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, $820,000 (revolving loan fund for Prime Tanning site in Berwick)
    • Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, $200,000 (assessment for Prime Tanning)
    • Town of Berwick, $500,000 (cleanup for Prime Tanning)
    • Marble Block Redevelopment Corp., $200,000 (assessment for Prime Tanning)
    • Greater Portland Council of Governments, $400,000 (assessment)
    • City of Portland, $800,000 (revolving loan fund)
    • City of Gardiner, $200,000 (assessment)
    • City of Gardiner, $200,000 (cleanup)
    • Midcoast Economic Development District, $820,000 (revolving loan fund)
  • Gov. John Baldacci and City Councilor Joe Baldacci to host Pro-Minimum Wage Spaghetti Dinner in Augusta

     

    Proceeds to help feed needy children in the area and their families

     By Ramona du Houx

    Former Governor John Baldacci and Former Bangor Mayor and City Councilor Joe Baldacci will host a spaghetti supper to highlight why the minimum wage should be increased. The dinner will be held at Cony High School, 60 Pierce Drive, Augusta on May 11th, from 5:30-7:30. And it’s only $5 per person!

    “These spaghetti dinners have always been a great opportunity to bring the community together for a family dinner that encourages discussion and unity on important working class issues,” said Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci. 

    The Baldacci brothers will be cooking the spaghetti sauce from their family’s secret recipe that became famous at Momma Baldacci’s, the former family restaurant of Bangor. The two-term governor, along with his brother will be serving the meal.

    “Our dinners have become a family tradition, one where we’re proud to help out when and where we can,” said Governor John Baldacci.

    Gov. John Baldacci serves up the famous Baldacci spaghetti at a charity dinner. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Proceeds will go to the Augusta Food Bank to benefit needy children in the area and their families.

    Augusta City Councilors Dale McCormick, Linda Conti, and Anna Douglass Blodgett are graciously co-hosting the event.

    Speakers from the Maine Center for Economic Policy, the Maine People's Alliance, the Maine Democratic Party, other political leaders and concerned citizens will address the dire economic situation faced by low income Mainers and the need for action to increase the minimum wage. According to the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute (EPI) the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is worth $2 less today than it was in 1968 when adjusted for inflation.

    Maine’s minimum wage is currently $7.50 an hour, increased during Baldacci administration in 2009. All efforts to raise the minimum wage at the state level since then have been defeated by Governor Paul LePage.

    Maine’s current minimum wage forces far too many families onto welfare rolls, and the need for federally subsidized healthcare. Someone working 40 hours a week at the minimum wage of $7.50, would earn $300 each week—or approximately $15,600 every year—well below the federal poverty line for families of two or more.

    Up until the early 1980s, an annual minimum-wage income—after adjusting for inflation—was enough to keep a family of two above the poverty line. At its high point in 1968, the minimum wage was high enough for a family of three to be above the poverty line with the earnings of a full-time minimum-wage worker. The falling minimum wage has led to poverty and inequality.

    “Historically low wages are being paid because that is what the inadequate law—which doesn't increase at the same rate as the cost of living—says workers can be paid. This out-of-date law undervalues the hard work of too many people. Nobody working a 40 hour week should live in poverty,” said Governor John Baldacci. “We hope this dinner will help generate support for a statewide minimum wage increase.”

    An Alliance for a Just Society estimates that $15.82 an hour would be a livable wage. 

    Mainers for Fair Wages, a coalition including the Maine People's Alliance, Maine Small Business Coalition, and Maine AFL-CIO, launched a successful petition process for a citizen initiative to raise Maine's minimum wage in June of 2015. The initiative will be on the ballot this November. If passed it would increase the minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2017 and then by $1 a year until it reaches $12 by 2020. After that the wage would increase at the same rate as the cost of living. The initiative would also incrementally raise the sub-minimum tipped wage until it matches the minimum wage for all other workers by 2024.

    Six months after the minimum wage in Seattle, Washington jumped to $11 an hour—on its way to $15—the restaurant industry has continued to boom, despite dire predictions.

    Raising the state minimum wage would directly affect more than 130,000 low-wage workers in Maine, most of them women and many of them are supporting families, according to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute.

    The EPI estimates that gradually increasing the wage to $12 per hour would give over 120,000 Maine workers—more than a fifth of the state’s workforce—a raise.

    EPI calculates a $12 minimum wage would mean: 

    • 60 percent of the workers who would be affected are women.
    • 85 percent are over the age of 20.
    • 75 percent work in service, sales, and office and administrative support occupations.
    • 75 percent work in: retail, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality.
    • 40,000 children have at least one parent who would get a raise from this change. 

    For years the Baldacci family ran an Italian restaurant in Bangor. Its last incarnation was Momma Baldacci’s and it became a meeting place known for its food, conversation, and community atmosphere. To highlight and help issues in the community and around the sate the Baldacci’s started charity spaghetti dinners.

    For more information please go RaiseMEwage.  https://raisemewage.wordpress.com/

  • Reward of $11,000 for information about a Maine lobster heist

    by Ramona du Houx

    A reward has been posted- $11,000 -to help apprehend a thief or thieves who stole a lobsterman's catch.

    “This is an extremely serious violation involving multiple victims, and we would appreciate any help from the public,” said Maine Marine Patrol Col. Jon Cornish. “The money for this reward comes both from the Operation Game Thief program and from lobstermen committed to bringing this person or people to justice. I’m grateful for the support of [Operation Game Thief] and these lobstermen and their dedication to supporting the work of the Maine Marine Patrol.”

    Maine Operation Game Thief, a private, nonprofit organization that works with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, Marine Patrol, Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Warden Service and Wildlife Crime Stoppers, has offered the reward “for information that helps authorities bring the person or people responsible … to justice.”

    An investigation by the Maine Marine Patrol determined that about 200 lobster traps were hauled by someone other than the license lobster trap holders. The thief or theives then took the  lobsters were  and the traps were lowered to the ocean bottom, according to a press release from Maine Department of Marine Resources spokesman Jeff Nichols. Some of the traps were not retrievable.

    The traps were tampered with near Jeffrey’s Ledge in the western Gulf of Maine, about 30 miles off the coast of New Hampshire.

    Anyone with information about the case should call Maine Marine Patrol Sgt. Rob Beal at 479-3931 or the Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-253-7887.

  • The Portland Recovery Community Center needs you

    The City of Portland’s Overdose Prevention Project, Portland Police Department, and Young People in Recovery are pleased to announce their collaboration to assist the Portland Recovery Community Center in providing services to individuals who are in/or seeking recovery.

    They are looking for individuals with an LCSW, LADC or any other independent license to provide no cost counseling to individuals seeking recovery services.

    The Portland Recovery Community Center is offering a safe, confidential place for individuals to seek treatment without a fee. The Portland Recovery Community Center, which opened its doors in January 2012, provides a safe, supported community recovery setting for approximately 3,400 individuals each month. For more information about the Portland Recovery Community Center or to view their calendar, please visit their website at www.portlandrecovery.org.

    For more information about Young People in Recovery, please visit their website at http://youngpeopleinrecovery.org/. 

    There is no greater time to help our community members in need than now. If you would like to be a part of this grass roots effort, please contact Steve Cotreau at the Portland Recovery Community Center at (207) 553-2575 or scotreau@masap.org or Bridget Rauscher at (207) 874-8798 or bridget.rauscher@portlandmaine.gov.

    The Mayor's Substance Abuse Disorder Subcommittee (note the new name) has also begun meeting regularly again, and will meet on the third Thursday of the even months. The next meeting is April 21. Time and location to be announced. 

  • Legislation would protect social workers from violent retaliation in Maine

    Maine State Rep. Adam Goode’s bill to ensure the safety of Maine social workers by prohibiting the publication of their home addresses earned support at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

    “The goal of this legislation is to minimize the likelihood of social workers being exposed to harassment from disgruntled former clients,” said Goode, D-Bangor. “Having home addresses of social workers accessible on the licensing board’s website makes them more vulnerable to harassment, intimidation, loss of privacy and assault from an individual who may be emotionally unstable.”

    Goode submitted the legislation after a Vermont social worker was shot and killed by a woman who was upset about losing the custody of her child.

    A similar incident occurred in Maine in 1988 when a disgruntled administrator of a home for people with mental illness obtained the names and addresses of state licensing officials. After he was fired, the individual shot and critically injured then-Department of Health and Human Services licensing administrator Louis Dorogi in the kitchen of his Topsham home.

    Goode’s bill, LD 1499, seeks to improve the safety and privacy of social workers who hold a license from the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. The change would ensure that the home address of a social worker is confidential and not open to the public.

    April Tuner, a senior at the University of Maine studying social work, testified in favor of the legislation. 

    “For safety and privacy reasons, it is important that the home address of social workers not be made public,” said Turner. “As a mother, I am concerned that my family could be placed in danger because a client that I work with could obtain my home address. As a foster parent that concern grows even greater since I am expected to provide a safe home for a child that has already experienced trauma.”

    The National Association of Social Workers and the National Alliance on Mental Illness also testified in support of the bill.

    “It is unfortunate, but true, that social workers practice in settings that are increasingly unpredictable or unsafe,” Goode said. “This had led to some social workers becoming permanently injured or losing their lives.”

    The committee will hold a work session on the bill in the coming weeks.

    Goode is House chair of the Legislature’s Taxation Committee and a social worker. He is serving his fourth term in the Maine House and represents part of Bangor

  • Energy efficiency projects funded by RGGI save Maine hospitals thousands- so they can better serve communities

    “The Aroostook Medical Center is committed to providing high quality healthcare at a reasonable cost, all while being good stewards of our environment,” said Timothy M. Doak, Facility Engineer, The Aroostook Medical Center speaking. “Efficiency Maine, utilizing RGGI funds, has been a critical partner in that endeavor." 

    On February 16, 2016 leaders of major hospitals In Bangor, Aroostook County, and Mid-Coast Maine joined together with a top commercial building efficiency expert and the head of Maine’s leading environmental group to focus on the financial benefits of hospital energy efficiency improvements that have been funded by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

    “The record shows the value of RGGI to our hospitals, to our efficiency businesses, and our environment is enormous,” said Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Today we can see the real-world energy efficiency improvements, made possible with RGGI funds, delivering major benefits to the state.” 

    The super-efficient cogeneration plant that served as a backdrop for today’s press conference reduces the amount of natural gas EMMC burns to heat its facility, as well as the amount of electricity they need to buy. RGGI has helped to fund this kind of equipment at locations around the state, including Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor.

    “The Aroostook Medical Center is committed to providing high quality healthcare at a reasonable cost, all while being good stewards of our environment,” said Timothy M. Doak, Facility Engineer, The Aroostook Medical Center. “Efficiency Maine, utilizing RGGI funds, has been a critical partner in that endeavor.  Our most recent project alone is reducing our electrical costs by $89,000 annually, helping us to control health care costs while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is just one example of how RGGI is benefiting Maine and Mainers.”

    The control room for an efficient boiler at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor demonstrated the importance of channeling RGGI funds to help hospitals and other commercial, industrial, and residential energy users invest in energy efficiency improvements. 

    “We believe that a healthy environment is critical to the health of our patients and families in our community,” said Helen McKinnon, RN, vice president, Support Services, Eastern Maine Medical Center. “Our partnerships with NRCM and Efficiency Maine have been critical to our success in enhancing our ongoing energy conservation and efficiency programs. Not only have these programs reduced our emissions and promoted a healthier environment, but they have decreased our energy costs and allowed us to focus more resources on direct patient care.”

    Not only can energy conservation reduce overall business expenses and harmful carbon pollution - it can also improve lighting conditions for a better workplace environment.

    “Our company works with hospitals and medical facilities throughout the entire state of Maine and in New Hampshire and Vermont. Our work has saved Maine hospitals millions of dollars in operating costs and substantially reduced climate-changing pollution, and we have been awarded multiple awards for energy conservation from Efficiency Maine. To continue this good work, it is extremely important that RGGI funding be available so these energy conservation projects can continue,” said Chris Green, President of Mechanical Services, a Maine corporation with over 100 employees and offices in Portland, Augusta, Bangor, and Presque Isle. 

    “Pen Bay Medical Center is committed to providing high quality, compassionate, patient-centered care to our friends and neighbors in the Midcoast,” said Louis Dinneen, Vice President of Engineering & Facilities at Pen Bay Medical Center. “We are grateful for the partnership of the Efficiency Maine Trust, whose support has allowed us to provide more reliable heating/cooling and brighter and more efficient lighting, all while significantly reducing our operating costs and overall environmental impact.”

    The importance of the Clean Power Plan - RGGI is a model

    The Clean Power Plan sets the first limits ever on carbon pollution from power plants. Power plants are the nation’s largest source of this pollution, generating 40 percent nationwide. The plan is constantly under attack from U.S. Senators in coal-producing states and their allies. The votes of Maine Senators Collins and King are crucial to preserving this much-needed plan.

    “RGGI is seen as a model for other states across the U.S., as they prepare to implement the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Because of RGGI, Maine in a position to easily meet targets set in the Plan,” said Pohlmann.

     Independent economic analysis has revealed that RGGI has provided a net benefit to the economy of Maine and the region since it was started in 2008. Over the last three years alone, RGGI as added $122 million to the Maine State Gross Product as well as hundreds of jobs. (Analysis Group, 2015) The program has also caused a net reduction in energy costs of hundreds of millions of dollars and has dramatically lowered carbon pollution from power plants across the region. Today coal and oil provide a much lower portion of Maine’s electricity mix than they did at the start of RGGI.

    “RGGI is a shining example of how smart, innovative policies can meet our environmental, economic, and energy challenges,” said Pohlmann. “With energy efficiency projects at hospitals like these, we can see how RGGI is providing benefits that reach into our health care community as well. Maine should be proud of its approach to RGGI.”

    Just this past Novemeber over 200 nations agreed to cut back carbon emmissions in Paris at the Climate Conference. The USA was heralded as leading the way. A key component to the implementation of the Paris agreement depends on the USA's Clean Power Plan.

    Despite the success of RGGI, efforts to roll back the program pop up periodically in Augusta, while in Washington, DC, polluters have sought to repeal the Clean Power Plan before it even gets underway. Both kinds of attacks appear blind to the actual benefits of RGGI. Governor LePage has submitted legislation to slash the use of RGGI funds for energy efficiency programs for businesses such as these three hospitals. That legislation is currently in front of Maine’s Energy & Utilities committee.

    “Right now legislation under consideration in Augusta would cut RGGI funding for large energy users by 80 percent, costing Maine businesses and institutions more than $100 million in increased energy bills,” said NRCM’s Lisa Pohlmann. “NRCM supports increasing, or, at least maintaining, current funding levels for energy efficiency.

  • AARP Maine warns of IRS scams on the rise

     

    With tax season now well underway, an intimidating and sophisticated phone scam, commonly known as the “IRS scam,” is on the rise.  Fraudsters call potential victims claiming to be IRS employees, and insist that the person owes thousands in unpaid taxes. The scammers typically threaten fines or even jail time if the “debt” remains unpaid, and further increase pressure by insisting the person pay immediately. 

    “We have seen an increase in this scam over the last few years,” explained Jane Margesson, AARP Maine Communications Director.  “To receive a menacing call that includes threats of arrest or fines is scary, and many consumers don’t realize that the IRS would never make such a phone call, even if back taxes were legitimately owed.”

    The real IRS  would send a letter concerning any tax discrepancy, not make an abusive phone call.  However, some consumers are fooled by a favored trick of the fraudsters: They rig telephone caller ID to make it look as though the call is from the IRS, a technique known as “spoofing.”

    The IRS imposters are also expert at creating profiles of their potential victims, often by perusing social media sites prior to making contact which can make their claims seem legitimate to unsuspecting consumers.  They may know family members’ names or birthdates, for example, or the name of an employer. 

     “Consumers fall prey to scammers for a variety of reasons,” Margesson continued. “In the case of the IRS imposter scam, it’s much easier for a con artist to dupe a victim if the scammer appears to be employed by a legitimate government agency and is familiar with the person’s background.  Scammers want victims to act without thinking, and having a purported government credential can be an effective way to get consumers to fall for the ruse.”

    The AARP Fraud Watch Network (FWN) a national initiative providing free guidance and resources to Americans of all ages, reports that the IRS scam is the number one complaint currently being addressed through the FWN’s toll-free hotline.

    AARP Maine offers the following tips to avoid the IRS Scam:

     

    1. Know that the IRS does NOT:
    • call to demand immediate payment about taxes owed without first sending you a notification by mail,
    • ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone,
    • threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement to arrest you for nonpayment.
    1. Simple steps to take:
    • Do not engage with anyone who calls or leaves a message claiming they are from the IRS.  Call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 if you have any questions or concerns.
    • Be careful how much information you share online.
    • Report fraud to the state’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection ( www.Credit.Maine.gov )
    • Place a freeze on your credit report with all three major credit bureaus.

    “We encourage all Mainers to place a freeze on their credit report because this is the most effective way to protect oneself from identity theft,” says Margesson.  “Thanks to a new law passed in 2015, placing and removing the credit freeze is free in the state of Maine for residents of all ages.”

    For more information:

    AARP Maine or 776-6301

    Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection or 1-800-332-8529 (this state agency regulates credit reporting agencies and debt collectors, and advises consumers who are victims of identity theft and file breaches; and assists consumers to place freezes on their credit reports)

    AARP Fraud Watch Network or 1-877-908-3360

    IRS: 1-800-829-1040 or the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 and irs.gov/identitytheft

    AARP Foundation Tax-Aide: Free tax preparation service from IRS-trained volunteers

    In addition, there are effective ways to avoid Tax ID Theft which occurs when a scammer steals enough personal information to file a false tax return and claim a fraudulent refund.

    To check the status of a refund after filing: irs.gov/Refunds

  • Unique gifts at the Hallowell Holiday Gift Shop with work of nearly fifty local artists

    By Ramona du Houx

    With the Flow and the Holiday Pottery Shop have teamed up to offer an amazing array of local artisan's work just in time for the holidays.

    Once inside customers are astounded with the displays of unique gifts. Many exclamations of excitement can be heard as shoppers discover gifts for that special somebody- or themselves.

    The store is located at 100 Water Street – 'the big red building' just up from the riverfront park at Winthrop Street.

    “This building gives us plenty of room to display the work of local artisans in a big bright space with plenty of parking right beside it. Combine this with all the other great shopping and dining in Hallowell and you have a shopping experience you can look forward to instead of dreading,” said Geoff Houghton, co-owner of the building and owner of the Liberal Cup.

    With the Flow is a new shop featuring locally made nature-themed T-shirts from Liberty Graphics.

    “We carry over fifty of Liberty Graphic's most popular designs in sizes ranging from infant oneseys to adult XXL. Especially popular as gifts are the Robert McCloskey books and and matching shirt designs from Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine,” said Will Sugg, owner of With the Flow. 

    In addition to Liberty Graphics T-shirts, posters, and cards With the Flow features past year's posters from the Common Ground Country Fair, farm products from Sprucebush Farm, Beyond Coffee, Hinterland Photography cards and prints, Richard Macdonald Stained Glass, Kristin Bishop Felt Critters, Untitled Herbs bath products, Hallowell Soap Works fine soaps, Maine Balsam Fir Products, N44º Woodworks crafts and wreaths, Toki Art cards, All Star Hula Hoops and toys, and sonrisa henna studio tattoos on weekends.

    The Holiday Pottery Shop, sponsored by Central Maine Clay Artists, is in its eighth year hosting a pop-up shop.

    The work features Loken Pottery, The Potter's House, Maple Lane Pottery, Mudgirl Pottery, Malley Weber, Fine Mess Pottery, Ditch Lily Pottery, Lakeside Pottery, Alley Cat Pottery and Hyydraworks!, and the jewelry of Spirt House, Boyd Johnson and Jean McWillams.

    “We also feature the glass work of Faith Benedetti, the fine art of Helene Farrar and Lori Austell, fiber by Susan Blasidell, Riverdog Designs, Norma McDonough and Wendy Harrington, woodwork by Cheryl Scibeliti, and personal care products by  Moonshadow Farm and Aurelie All Natural,” said shop coordinator Mary Kay Spencer.

    Patrons hope the shop will continue throughout the year.

    For more information please click on the links:

    With the Flow

     Holiday Pottery Shop

    For more images of the work please go here.

  • Bowdoin College put on musical about Sondheim which could have been on Broadway

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    On Nov 12-14, 2015 Bowdoin College put on a musical that could have been on Broadway. Sondheim on Sondheim is an intimate portrait of the famed songwriter in his own words and music which was taken from nineteen Sondheim shows produced over a 62 year period.

    The voices of the cast were extraordinary. Eleven students, most of whom are not drama majors, excelled in their roles. The set designs and lighting reflected and evoked the times in which Sondheim lived.

    The play was directed by the University of Maine’s Ed Reichert and featured a talented cast singing well-known, rarely-heard, and cut material featuring video commentary from the master himself.

    The music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim, and the play was conceived by James Lapine, who originally directed the Broadway production.

    Stephen Sondheim


    Stephen Sondheim is one of the country’s most influential theater composers and lyricists. His work has helped define American theater with shows such as CompanyWest Side Story, Gypsy, Sweeney ToddSunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods. Sondheim has received eight Grammy Awards, eight Tony Awards, an Academy Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  Sondheim also founded Young Playwrights, Inc., to develop and promote the work of American playwrights aged 18 and younger.

  • Endangered Sturgeon return to Penobscot River post dam removal

    Endangered shortnose sturgeon released into the Penobscot River. Photo submitted by G. Zydlewski

    by Ramona du Houx

    Endangered shortnose sturgeon have rediscovered habitat in the Penobscot River that had been inaccessible to the species for more than 100 years prior to the removal of the Veazie Dam in 2013. The Dam's removal was the result of the dedication of many environmental organizations, including the Natural Resource Defense Council, state and local officials, native tribes and concerned citizens, over fifteen years.

    University of Maine researchers confirmed evidence that three female shortnose sturgeon were in the area between Veazie and Orono, Maine in mid-October.

    Researchers had previously implanted these sturgeon with small sound-emitting devices known as acoustic tags to see if they would use the newly accessible parts of the river. Among the most primitive fish to inhabit the Penobscot, sturgeon are often called “living fossils" because they remain very similar to their earliest fossil forms. The fish can live more than 50 years and their bony-plated bodies contribute to making them unique.

    Historically, shortnose sturgeon and Atlantic sturgeon had spawning populations in the Penobscot River as far upstream as the site of the current Milford dam, and provided an important food and trade source to native peoples and early European settlers. Overharvest and loss of suitable habitat due to dams and pollution led to declines in shortnose sturgeon populations and a listing as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1967.

    Graduate student C. Johnston and Associate Professor J. Zydlewski implant a small tagging device into a shortnose sturgeon

    In 2012, Gulf of Maine populations of Atlantic sturgeon were listed as threatened under the ESA. Today, a network of sound receivers, which sit on the river bottom along the lower river from Penobscot Bay up to the Milford Dam, detect movement and location of tagged fish.

    According to Gayle Zydlewski, an associate professor in the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences, the three individual fish observed were females. These fish have since been tracked joining other individuals in an area identified as wintering habitat near Brewer, Maine. Wintering habitat in other rivers is known to be staging habitat for spawning the following spring.

    “We know that shortnose sturgeon use the Penobscot River throughout the year, and habitat models indicate suitable habitat for spawning in the area of recent detection upriver of Veazie, although actual spawning has not yet been observed,” said Zydlewski.

    Since 2006, Zydlewski has been working with Michael Kinnison, a professor in UMaine’s School of Biology and Ecology, and multiple graduate students, including Catherine Johnston, to better understand the sturgeon populations of the Penobscot River and Gulf of Maine. Johnston, who has been tagging and tracking sturgeon in the Penobscot for two years to study the implications of newly available habitat to shortnose sturgeon, discovered the detections of sturgeon upstream of the Veazie dam remnants. Each new bit of information adds to the current understanding of behavior and habitat preferences of these incredible fish.

    “We’re very excited to see sturgeon moving upstream of where the Veazie Dam once stood, and into their former habitats,“ said Kim Damon-Randall, assistant regional administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ Protected Resources Division. “We need to do more research to see how they're using it, but it's a tremendous step in the right direction.”

    Habitat access is essential for the recovery of these species. The removal of the Veazie Dam is only a portion of the Penobscot River Restoration Project, which, when combined with the removal of Great Works Dam in 2012, restores 100 percent of historic sturgeon habitat in the Penobscot. In addition to dam removals, construction of a nature-like fish bypass at the Howland Dam in 2015 significantly improves habitat access for the remaining nine species of sea-run fish native to the Penobscot, including Atlantic salmon and river herring.

    “Scientific research and monitoring of this monumental restoration effort has been ongoing for the past decade,” said Molly Payne Wynne, Monitoring Coordinator for the Penobscot River Restoration Trust. “The collaborative body of research on this project is among the most comprehensive when compared to other river restoration projects across the country.”

     NOAA Fisheries is an active partner and provides funding for this long-term monitoring collaboration that includes The Penobscot River Restoration Trust, The Nature Conservancy and others. These efforts are beginning to shed light on the response of the river to the restoration project. Restoration of the full assemblage of sea-run fish to the Penobscot River will revive not only native fisheries but social, cultural and economic traditions of Maine’s largest river.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • A Moose and Lobster Thank You to visitors- the Maine Way

    A "Thank you," that can only happen in Maine.

    Miles the Maine Turnpike Moose and Clawdette the Native Maine Lobster were designed by the Maine Turnpike Authority to help lighten the mood of people visiting Maine stuck in traffic at the York Toll Plaza. As the mascots waved and said "hello" they also handed out Farmers’ Almanacs to show tourists appreciation.

    “This is kind of the unofficial end of summer, so we like to say goodbye and thank them for coming,” said MTA Public Relations Coordinator Erin Courtney dressed up as Clawdette.“On the Farmers’ Almanac we say thank you for visiting and hope to see you next year.”

    Maine Turnpike workers waited until traffic was already backed up before greeting people in order to make sure they didn’t create any additional delays.

  • $1.7 million in federal funding for new community health center in South Portland

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced on August 20, 2015 that the Portland Community Health Center will receive a federal Affordable Care Act grant to open a new community health center in South Portland.
    The New Access Point Community Health Center grant—administered by the Department of Health and Human Services—will provide $355,848 for start-up costs and $650,000 annually for the next two years.
    “This is fantastic news for the area. The nation’s network of health centers is critical to providing quality health care to 1 in every 14 Americans. I’m thrilled that we will now have one to serve the South Portland community,” said Pingree. “I applaud Portland Community Health Center and its partners in identifying the need for these services in South Portland and winning this competitive funding. This community health center will make a huge difference for Mainers who are struggling to afford care—a number that has increased because of the state’s refusal to expand access to Medicaid.”
    An exact location for the South Portland Community Health Center has not been determined, but plans call for it to be in South Portland’s Redbank/Brick Hill area. South Portland has an estimated 17,000 low-income individuals and families. As housing costs have become more expensive in Portland, South Portland has seen this number increase, as well as growing refugee, immigrant, and homeless populations. Through partnerships with the South Portland Housing Authority and South Portland Public Schools, the center hopes to effectively reach these target groups.
    “This is a wonderful opportunity to develop model programs and services for the people of South Portland that promote good health and wellness for all,” said Portland Community Health Center CEO Leslie Clark. “We look forward to working closely with patients and organizations in South Portland to create a vibrant new center, which will open in December.”
    The new center will have a focus on primary and preventive care, chronic disease management, mental health and substance abuse. At the end of the two-year-grant—after which it can reapply for continued federal funding—the center expects to have provided over 4,500 patient visits. The announcement comes during National Health Center Week, as health centers across the country celebrate the 50th anniversary of the federal program. Portland Community Health Center opened its first center in Portland in 2009 with assistance from the same New Access Point federal grant. In all, this Affordable Care Act program has helped create more than 700 new health center sites across the country.
  • Federal funds for energy projects to go to 13 businesses in Maine

    From Bar Harbor Community Farm LLC, Bar Harbor to Soloney Acres LLC of Solon, and 11 other businesses are receiving a total of nearly $120,000 in federal funds for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development announced in early August that the 13 Maine businesses were among 264 recipients across the country to receive a total of nearly $63 million in loans and grant as part of its Rural Energy for America Program.

    "Our Maine businesses are innovative and value preserving Maine's pristine natural resources," said USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel. "The 13 businesses being assisted through the Rural Energy for America Program will recognize substantial energy and cost-saving benefits that can help them to reduce overall operating costs and create jobs in Maine's vibrant communities."

    The 13 Maine businesses that are receiving grants or loans are:

    Bar Harbor Community Farm LLC, Bar Harbor

    The farm is receiving $6,868 to purchase and install a new roof-mounted, 8.42-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on a newly construction seedling greenhouse.

    Buck Farms, Mapleton

    The farm is receiving $5,001 to help with the installation of a biomass boiler that uses wood pellets to heat a malting facility that was previously used as an unheated potato storage facility.

    County Energy Solutions, Fort Fairfield

    The business is receiving $6,792 to help it install a ground-mounted, dual-axis solar tracking photovoltaic system at its facility.

    F.W. Thurston Co., Bernard

    The business is receiving $11,738 to install a new roof-mounted, 12.93-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system that is expected to replace 18% of its energy demands.

    Flewelling Frederic, Crouseville

    The business is receiving $4,499 to install variable-frequency drives on its potato storage ventilation fans, which will help it save 22,161 kilowatt hours annually.

    JG SL Partners LLC, Freeport

    The business is receiving $5,590 to help with the purchase and installation of a new roof-mounted, 6.89-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system that will replace 38% of its energy demands.

    North Country Rivers Inc., Bingham

    The business is receiving $7,772 to install a high-efficiency, ductless heat pump that will provide supplemental heating and cooling. It's expected to save it more than 1,819 kilowatt hours a year.

    Paris Auto Barn LLC, South Paris

    The business is receiving $12,397 to purchase and install a new roof-mounted, 13.5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system at its facility.

    Solonely Acres LLC, Solon

    The business is receiving $19,980 to purchase and install a new five-ton geothermal heat pump system and a 16.83-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system at its new commercial storage building.

    Thompson Cottages Inc., New Harbor

    The business is receiving $3,600 to purchase and install a new 4-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on two seasonal cottages.

    TMDE Calibration Labs Inc., Richmond

    The business is receiving $18,750 to purchase and install a new roof-mounted, 25-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system at its facility.

    Keena Tracy (doing business as Little Ridge Farm), Lisbon Falls

    Tracy is receiving $4,554 to purchase and install a new roof-mounted, 6.12-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system.

    Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections, Freeport

    The business is receiving $12,159 to purchase and install a new roof-mounted, 15.4-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system that is expected to replace more than 13 percent of its energy demands.

  • Pingree introduces amendment to stop DARK Act - the GMO promotion bill

    Organic farm tour, photo by Ramona du Houx 

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has introduced an amendments to strike parts of a controversial bill- the DARK ACT - that would limit the ability of states like Maine to require labeling of GMO ingredients in food.  What DARK Act would overturn laws in Maine and other states relating to GMO ingredients and GMO crops.

    "This is really an anti-consumer, anti-right-to-know bill that would prevent families from making intelligent choices about whether or not they want to buy food with GMO ingredients," Pingree said.  "It takes choices away from consumers and rights away from states and Congress should reject it."

    The bill, H.R. 1599, would make it illegal for states to pass laws requiring GMO labeling and would block laws that have already been passed from being enforced.  Maine was the second state in the country to pass a GMO labeling law, which takes effect if five other states in the region also adopt similar legislation.

    Pingree's amendment strikes the dangerous parts of the bill—effectively blocking the DARK Act from taking effect—while keeping the provision that requires USDA to create a non-GMO certification program and label. 

    "The DARK Act is just what Big Food and Monsanto want," Pingree said.  "But nine out of ten consumers say they support GMO labeling, so it sure isn't what the public wants.  GMO crops lead to the increased use of herbicides like Roundup and that's something a lot of consumers don't want to support."

     

  • Predicting ocean acidification over the next 100 years

    Lobsters would be effected by ocean acidification if we don't act now. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Ever wonder what the ocean might be like if it continues to become more acidic over the next 100 years?  That’s the question that scientist Steve Archer is exploring at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Archer is has conducted experiments in the Arctic and the tropics to determine effects of increasing ocean acidification on ocean life and conditions.  This summer, he will be conducting similar experiments at Bigelow Laboratory in huge containers, called mesocosms, where he can control environmental conditions, including the pH of the water.

    The public is invited to come hear what Archer is finding, ask him questions, and engage in a lively discussion on Tuesday evening, from 6-7 pm at Boothbay Opera House, 86 Townsend Avenue in Boothbay Harbor. Archer’s presentation is the second in Bigelow Laboratory’s weekly summer “Café Scientifique” series. This year the focus is on ”Extreme Environments/Extreme Science.”

    Café Scientifique is an international movement designed to encourage discussion about topical science issues between scientists and the public. There are more than 150 science cafés organized over 42 countries. All Café Scientifique events are open to the public free of charge, and members of the press are encouraged to attend. For more information, contact dcrist@bigelow.org or call (207) 315-2567, ext.103.

  • Spaghetti dinner/minimum wage forum packed with supporters and enthusiasm

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci hosted his first spaghetti dinner/minimum wage forum on June 26th in Lewiston. He and guests addressed a packed room of over 150 people as attendees finished their spaghetti made from the famous Baldacci family’s recipe.

    Speakers addressed the economic situation faced by those earning a minimum wage — and the need for action. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is worth $2 less today than it was in 1968, when adjusted for inflation.

    Economist Garrett Martin of the Maine Center of Economic Policy analyzed how the economic situation coming out of the Great Recession has led to low-wage earners truly being left behind. He explained that a minimum wage raise would lift everyone up.

    “Don’t believe them when they tell you raising the wage costs jobs … It actually boosts the economy. The last time the federal government raised the minimum wage, over $5.5 billion more was spent,” said Martin. “And jobs were created.”

    Someone working 40 hours a week at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 would earn only $15,080 every year before taxes — $4,610 below the federal poverty level.

    “Today the minimum wage is lower in purchasing power than it was 45 years ago,” said former Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci. “It’s about giving people a hand — not a hand-out. The banks got bailed out, but the middle classes didn’t. We can’t balance governmental budgets, year after year, on the backs of the poor and the middle class.”

    Auburn State Rep. Gina Melargno (photo above) said only one of the eight minimum-wage-increase bills submitted by Democrats in the Legislature made it out of committee. And the State Senate Republicans killed that measure.

    “For lots of Republicans, their main priority is their businesses-corporation commitment. They don’t seem to understand that if we workers don’t have any money, we’re not going to be able to patronage these businesses,” said Melargno.

    But in the wider community of Maine the issue is bipartisan.

    “About 75 percent of our voting constituency wants a minimum-wage raise — and that includes voting Republicans,” said Melargno, whose proposed bill, An Act To Raise the Minimum Wage and Index It to the National Average Wage, became the template for the Maine People's Alliance statewide referendum to gradually increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour. The EPI estimates that gradually increasing the wage to $12 per hour would give over 120,000 Maine workers — more than a fifth of the state’s workforce — a raise.

    MPA members were at the dinner collecting signatures for the referendum’s petition. “This idea of taking it into our own hands is exciting,” added Melargno.

    Poet Tim Richardson, who attended the dinner, said he was trained as a machinist in the 1970s and always felt he’d be able to earn a living off that trade at a minimum wage. For back then, it was a livable wage. “Not anymore,” he said. “I think the economy would be better if people had more money in their pockets, so they could spend something locally. I’d like to see it at $15 per hour, more like it was in the 70’s, when people could make a living with a livable minimum. That’s gone. That’s a part of what's weakening us as a nation.”

    An Alliance for a Just Society estimates that $15.82 an hour would be a livable wage. Maine’s current minimum wage of $7.50 forces far too many families onto welfare rolls, and the need for federally subsidized health care.

    “I have been in the health-care industry for over 35 years, and I have seen study after study that has verified that for those in the vulnerable wage bracket, their health outcomes are not as favorable as those who have the means to seek high-quality health care. And that raises this issue of the minimum wage to more than an economic problem — it is also a health problem,” said Donato Tramuto, healthcare activist and entrepreneur.

    Economist Garrett Martin of the Maine Center of Economic Policy analyzed how the economic situation coming out of the Great Recession

    About $400 in proceeds from the dinner instantly turned into over $800, as Tramuto announced that his organization would graciously match the funds, which will be donated to New Beginnings of Lewiston. The local nonprofit helps 700 homeless young people and families in crisis work toward a brighter future every year.

    “Health care is a basic human right, and so is a minimum wage,” added Tramuto.

    The issue affects women workers more then men in Maine. According to former State Senator Eloise Vitelli, “One in seven people earning the minimum wage are women, in Maine.”

    That in turn impacts children. "Raising the minimum wage is critical to decreasing childhood poverty,” said Jim Wellehan, owner of Lamey-Wellehan Shoes.

    This spaghetti dinner was the first of a series that Baldacci will be hosting across the state to generate support and awareness for raising the minimum wage. There will be upcoming events in Bangor, Portland, Millinocket, and Presque Isle. Baldacci has already held a town forum in Bangor on the issue. Last February he proposed a Bangor ordinance that would incrementally increase the minimum wage in the city, beginning with $8.25 per hour in 2016 to $9 per hour in 2017 and advancing to $9.75 in 2018.

    For more information please visit raisemewage.com.

  • Rep. Hickman introduces proposed law to establish the Right to Food

    Maine has New England’s highest rate of food insecurity. Photo: Rep. Craig Hickman on his farm.

    A bill to establish a constitutional amendment declaring that every individual has a natural and unalienable right to food will be heard before the Legislature this Thursday, April 30, 2105, before the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. 

    Rep. Craig Hickman of Winthrop has introduced LD 783, a resolutionthat would amend Maine’s Constitution to address the issues of food security and food self-sufficiency in Maine.

    “Food is life,” said Hickman. “I believe that access to wholesome food is a right for every individual. When one in four children among us goes to bed hungry every night, we must do better. We cannot allow a single one of us to go hungry for a single day. Maine has all the natural resources and the hard-working, independent-spirited people to grow, catch, forage, process, prepare and distribute enough food to feed ourselves and strengthen our local economies. Let us stop importing more food per capita than any other state on the continent.”

    Because the bill proposes to amend the Constitution, two thirds of the Legislature will need to approve the resolution and send it to the People for a vote in the next statewide election.

    With more than 84,000 hungry children, Maine has New England’s highest rate of food insecurity, according to the USDA

    “There is nothing more intimate than eating,” said Rep. Hickman. “People are demanding access to the kinds of food that they determine are best for their own health and the health of their families.

    "Food is life. This resolution declares that all individuals have a right to the food of their own choosing and that they be personally responsible for the exercise of this right. I believe that the good people of Maine, if given a chance at the ballot box, will resoundingly agree.”

    The bill was referred to the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee, where it will receive a public hearing on Thursday, April 30, 2015, at 1:00 PM, Cross Office Building, Room 214. There will be a rally at noon in support of LD 783 and LD 991, an act to remove the trigger from Maine's GMO labeling law.

    "I am honored that Mr. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia will appear and testify in favor of the right to food," said Hickman. "He has been an inspiration to me ever since I first saw him in the feature documentary Food Inc."

    Hickman is an organic farmer and House chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. He is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents Winthrop, Readfield and part of North Monmouth at the foot of Mt. Pisgah.
  • Maine lawmakers move forward on bill to require GMO L]labelling


    Bill with Widespread Bi-Partisan and Grassroots Support to Get Public Hearing on April 30


    By Ramona du Houx

    Supporters of a genetically modified organisms (GMO's labelling requirement in Maine moved another step closer to their goal yesterday, as the legislature referenced LD 991: An Act To Amend Maine's Genetically Modified Food Products Labeling Law to the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.

    A public hearing on the bill has been scheduled for April 30, 1 p.m. at the state house in Augusta.

    “Mainers are looking forward to the opportunity to weigh in on this proposal," said Michelle Dunphy, the bill’s lead sponsor. "A poll released last month showed that 97 percent of Mainers support the right to know if the foods they choose to eat contain genetically modified organisms.”

    The proposed law, LD 991, would require foods distributed in Maine to include a label if GMO's were used to produce the final product. Exempt from the requirement are restaurants, medical food, and alcoholic beverages.

    “Mainers overwhelmingly support the right to know if the food they put on the dinner table every night contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs)," said Katherine Paul,  associate director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) - a consumer advocacy group that promotes food safety initiatives on behalf of more than one million consumers, including 25,000 network members in Maine.

    "They do not want to have to wait for New Hampshire to pass a similar law, in order obtain that right—especially in light of the recent (March 2015) announcement by the World Health Organization that Monsanto’s Roundup, sprayed on 84 percent of GMO crops, is a probable human carcinogen.”

    Sixty-seven countries that represent 65 percent of the world’s population have already embraced transparency through GMO labelling. "We believe that Maine is ready to lead the nation and adopt this common-sense requirement to ensure that we have a choice in the types of foods we decide to feed to our families,” Paul said.

    In 2013, Maine legislators passed a law that would require labeling for foods that contain genetically modified organisms, but only if five contiguous states passed a similar requirement first. This effectively allows Maine to be held hostage on this issue until New Hampshire decides to pass a similar law.

    LD 991 is supported by Republicans and Democrats serving in both the House and the Senate. These legislators have joined forces in sponsoring this initiative that is part of a growing national movement towards a more cognitive approach to healthy food practices.

    The public hearing will be on Thursday, April 30th at 1 p.m. in the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.

  • Rep. McLean introduces proposed law to ensure sustainable transportation funding

     

    Tired of driving to and from work on new frost heaves, over new potholes and cracks in the road? And ever wondered if your bridges are up to code?  How did they make through the winter?

    A proposed law from Rep. Andrew McLean (photo above) would help ensure sustainable levels of funding for transportation infrastructure maintenance and investment by addressing a trend of declining revenues.

    “Adequate investment in our roads and bridges is an economic imperative for our state,” said McLean, who serves as House chair of the Legislature’s Transportation Committee.  “The reality is we need adequate and sustainable funding sources to ensure we can maintain and improve our infrastructure.  Right now, it’s clear we are not keeping up with the needs of our transportation system.”

    McLean’s bill would tie Maine’s tax on motor fuel to federal fuel efficiency standards as a way to address declining revenue to the state highway fund, the portion of the state budget dedicated to highway-related projects.

    The highway fund relies on fuel taxes for roughly two-thirds of its revenue.  Because the gas tax is not currently indexed to fuel efficiency standards, revenue from the tax drops as new vehicles use less fuel to meet federal standards, making it more difficult for the state to fund necessary infrastructure projects.

    Gas tax reform has been supported at the national level by a broad coalition of groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AAA and American Trucking Association because of the crucial role transportation infrastructure plays in our economy. 

    According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nine states and the District of Columbia passed gas tax reform legislation in 2013 or 2014.  Most of the new laws include an indexing requirement that ties the tax to the rate of inflation or the price of fuel.  As of late January, at least six other states had introduced measures to boost fuel tax revenue, just as similar measures are gaining support at the federal level.

    Following today’s public hearing, the Transportation Committee will schedule a work session on the bill, LD 901, in the coming weeks. At that time, it will formulate a recommendation to the full Legislature.

    McLean is serving his second term in the Maine House.  He represents parts of Gorham and Scarborough.

     

  • Maine's clear energy choice

    Kibby Wind Farm in Western Maine, photo by Ramona du Houx

    Editorial by Jeremy N. Payne

    Maine has a tremendous opportunity to reduce the cost of energy and protect the environment by investing in and supporting the development of clean, renewable energy such as wind power.

    Despite low-by-comparison prices for oil, electricity rates in Maine are going up, right as winter starts to really bear down on the state.

    Those price hikes are due in part to the fact that Maine — and all of New England — rely heavily upon natural gas for the majority of electricity production and, like all fossil fuels, the price of natural gas is volatile.

    It fluctuates with changes in supply and demand in other parts of the world, which is why it’s impossible to predict with certainty what will happen with natural gas prices in the future.

    Maine needs is to protect itself against price spikes and changes in the world energy market.

    The best way to do that is by investing and supporting clean, renewable energy — such as wind power.

    Unlike natural gas, wind power can protect energy consumers because it can guarantee prices as part of long-term contracts.

    With no fuel costs, wind power allows the people who operate Maine’s electrical grid to lock in low prices for 20 years. No matter what happens with the price of oil or gas, no matter how cold it gets or how long winter lasts, that electricity at that lower rate is guaranteed.

    And the benefits go beyond lower prices.

    Renewable energy, such as wind power, can reduce pollution by displacing higher cost and dirtier forms of energy. That’s good for the climate, and it’s good for people’s health.

    According to the American Lung Association, the burning of fossil fuel is a major source of air pollution and a cause of lung cancer. This is especially true in Maine, where we end up being the tail pipe for many other Midwest states’ burning of coal.

    Supporting the continued development of wind farms also is good for our economy and job creation.

    A recent Maine Technology Institute (“MTI”) report, “Charting Maine’s Technology Potential,” found that alternative energy and turbines are one of our fastest growing sectors.

    MTI determined that this sector increased jobs by nearly 12 percent from 2007-2012.

    In addition, companies involved in renewable energy have invested more than $1.5 billion in Maine in the last eight years, which has directly benefited more than 750 Maine businesses, and has provided important local dollars in our rural communities.

    A great example of this local benefit is happening in the town of Roxbury, which hosts the Record Hill wind farm. Roxbury residents receive checks for $111 every three months, and their tax rate in 2012 dropped by 59 percent thanks to the investment in wind power.

    Soon, Orland may be able to benefit from locally produced wind energy as well.

    In 2013, the town overwhelmingly voted in favor of a three-turbine wind power project that would follow the strictest state, local and federal regulations.

    In total, the project would generate enough clean electricity to power 2,700 average Maine homes and it would provide at least $150,000 a year in property tax revenue that can be used to improve local schools, fix local roads and invest in the community.

    At a time when state and local budgets are increasingly under pressure to cut costs, commercial investments such as the one in Roxbury and the proposed project in Orland create new clean energy jobs and help towns hold down property taxes for everyone.

    We have a choice in Maine: Are we going to allow ourselves to be overly reliant on one source of energy? Or, will we make enough room at the energy table for Maine-made, clean, renewable energy that provides jobs, opportunity, local tax revenues and protects our environment?

    The benefits are clear — as clear as the air and water we all want to protect. Renewable energy, including wind power, is the kind of investment our state should welcome.

    Jeremy N. Payne is executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association 

  • A Maine vibrant watercolor ABC book in four languages under one cover

     

     By Morgan Rogers

    Vibrant watercolor illustrations of a Maine island Labrador puppy bring smiles to kids learning new words

    Finally, there is a children’s ABC book with watercolors of Maine in four languages!

    Clipper, the adorable Maine Island Labrador puppy, takes children into his world, while teaching them their ABC’s, and new words in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese. One painting leads into the next, as children follow bubbles throughout the book. This unique concept gives children continuity, as they discover other languages.

    With Clipper’s ABC’s in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese children and adults fall in love with the puppy in the different circumstances the artist, Ramona du Houx, depicts him in. Some are humorous, some serious. Children eagerly try to pronounce the different words, as if Clipper has given them the courage to do so.

    “I love seeing the eyes of children light up as the turn the pages in Clipper and try to pronounce new words, and their parents beam with pleasure,” said Ramona. “So many great childhood memories begin with great children’s book characters.”

    Inspired by the visual splendor of the natural world and by children discovering it, Ramona du Houx has painted five picture books. Ramona’s photographic art has been exhibited worldwide since 1980. For the past sixteen years she has worked as a journalist, artist, professional writer and photographer.

    Vibrant watercolor paintings of iconic Maine locations and objects, highlighted for children by a lovable Labrador puppy, Clipper, can help foster a lifelong appreciation of art and hopefully inspire young artists. Studies show early childhood exposure to the arts helps to calm children and encourages their imaginations. 

    This is the only ABC book published in four languages under one cover.

    According to the 2000 census, 25 percent of Maine’s population are of Franco-American descent, but there are no ABC children’s books in French with paintings of their state. Spanish is soon to become North America’s second language, but few know the basics of Spanish in Maine. We live in a global community; the earlier children are exposed to different languages, like Japanese, the more perspective they will have.

    The ABC book is the second in a series of 5 books. Clipper is a sweet puppy who loves to get into mischief. Through his adventures on a Maine island we all “grow up” with this adorable puppy as he warms our hearts and souls. For more information please see: www.maineislandpuppyclipper.com

    “Clipper learns his ABCs in four languages, as best a puppy can, with Marie, Zachary and his new little kitten, Puff, delighting in each word learned,” said Anita du Laguna Haviland, the creator of Clipper.

    With the availability of the Internet it is easy for adults to find out how to pronounce the various words, if they don't know some, in Clipper’s ABC’s in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese.

     

    Also available is a 18 x 24 poster of Clipper’s ABC’s in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese that can be framed for any child’s room for $18 plus shipping and handling of $4. The poster is free for schools or bookstores. Framed in oak the cost is $32 for the framed print plus shipping.

    Clipper’s ABC’s is published by Polar Bear & Company, 8 Brook Street, P.O. Box 311, Solon, Maine. The book retails at $17.95. ISBN: 9781882190294

     

    Watercolor painting illustrations copyright © 2014 by Ramona du Houx. Clipper copyright © by Anita de Laguna Haviland. All rights reserved.