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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Pingree Bill To Help Veterans Not have to Return Overpaid VA Benefits

    Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District wants to help resolve what she says is a growing problem affecting many veterans in Maine and around the country: overpayment of benefits by Veterans Affairs. She's sponsered a bill to amend the problem. H.R.3705  will direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to require the use of certified mail and plain language in certain debt collection activities so veterans understand their rights.

    The issue for veterans is being asked to repay large sums of money without advance notice or a way to appeal. Money the VA mistakenly paid them.

    Pingree  and her colleagues in Congress have been getting complaints from their veteran constituents and she's acting.

    “We heard from people who found out from the VA that they owed large amounts of money and often they had no idea that they owed anything, or they were allegedly sent a notice but it might have gone to a state they never lived in or a place they hadn’t been for a long time,” she says.

    Pingree’s office have helped veterans resolve these problems with the VA. She has sponsored Veterans Fair Debt Notice Act, H.R.3705 to remedy similar situations.

    With certified letters, Pingree says the VA can be sure that its notifications get to veterans. Without them, she says veterans can be hurt.

    “These are people who served their country. They’re injured. They have PTSD. They’re already in a difficult situation and we’re putting them in an even more vulnerable position, sometimes a devastating position,” said Pingree.

    Pingree says the increase in overpayment errors appears to be tied, at least in part, to Veterans Affairs’ effort to reduce its backlog of benefit cases.

    A public hearing on Pingree’s bill is scheduled for Wednesday.

  • Maine needs to get rid of 2 myths to transform economy

    The creative economy in many towns and cities are helping Maine's economy and inspire many community events like the Old Port Festival in Portland, Maine (photo above)

    They are the myth of 'The Two Maines' and the myth that people 'from away' represent a threat.

    Like it or not, admit it or not, fight it or not, Maine has, for a generation, been caught in the throes of an all-encompassing social transformation. All things that used to be commonplace in Maine, both the good and the not-so-good, are changing. Jobs that supported hundreds of communities have disappeared by the thousands. Tens of thousands of people born in Maine have moved away – both eagerly and reluctantly. The number of deaths in Maine now exceeds the number of births, both statewide and in 13 of 16 counties. Maine is the oldest state in the nation and outpacing its nearest competitors – Vermont, New Hampshire and West Virginia – by leaps and bounds. Each year our school enrollment and labor force decline, and the fiscal pressure on our public budgets rises.

    The first principle for public policy under these conditions, is, I believe, the old saw that “pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” Personal progress individually is almost always the result of shedding the skins of mythical selves we have created to build and protect our identities in the past but have now outgrown. These created identities were formerly true and were often useful, but have now become barriers to insight and transformation. Old habits that cease to work need to be changed or we risk falling into the insanity of repeating the same mistakes while expecting, or at least desperately hoping for, different results. Too often, we are indeed our own worst enemies, our own persecutors.

    Two such “skins” that Maine needs to shed if we are to transform our economy into the successful, post-industrial future that stands before us are:

    • The myth of “The Two Maines,” two economically different regions of the state that exist in competition with each other.

    • The myth that people “from away” represent a threat to the “real” Maine character; that “too much” or “uncontrolled” immigration will dilute and thus kill Maine’s “real” character.

    The central dysfunction of the “Two Maines” myth is the belief that anything that helps Greater Portland hurts the rest of the state. In actual fact, Greater Portland is the economic engine that keeps the state from suffering even greater economic decline.

    In 2015, Cumberland, Sagadahoc and York counties – the federal definition of the Greater Portland Metropolitan Area – accounted for over 50 percent of Gross State Product and over 44 percent of total state employment. More importantly, since 2011, employment in the Greater Portland area has grown more than twice as fast – 4.9 percent – as employment in the rest of the state.

    All Mainers – real and whatever other kinds there may be – must divest themselves of the idea of two competitive Maines and come to see Greater Portland as the common economic engine that will both diminish our state’s loss of talented people and provide the sales and income tax revenue needed to invest in the physical and social infrastructure that will enable the non-Portland region to participate more fully in the economic benefits Greater Portland is now providing for all of Maine.

    The central dysfunction of the second “skin” we need to shed – the “people from away are toxic” myth – is that it undervalues the appeal, attractiveness and ability to shape newcomers that Maine – both the place and the character of its people – possess.

    One of the central facts of the era of globalization is that it has concentrated economic activity in large metropolitan areas. As those areas struggle with the massive congestion such urbanization has created, enormous opportunities are opening for their more livable peripheries. In Silicon Valley, tech giants have created their own bus lines because their workers can’t afford nearby housing and the companies cannot afford the productive hours lost to auto commutes.

    Just as the peripheral areas around Silicon Valley, the Research Triangle in North Carolina and the Austin area in Texas are growing economically, so can the equivalent areas around Metropolitan Boston.

    The major difference with Boston is that equivalent commuter sheds cover not just 50 to 100 miles but two or three states.

    Between 2011 and 2015, Greater Portland attracted more than 6,800 migrants from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. We owe it to ourselves not to sneer at these newcomers but to welcome them and confidently share with them the best that we have come to know of Maine.

    Only by building a stronger “we” can we escape the slow, angry decline of an ever-diminishing “us.” Maine’s commitment to nature, community and hard work are qualities of which we can be rightfully proud and qualities we can be confident are attractive to those wanting to come here.

    We should welcome them to share our experience, rather than fear they will destroy it.

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Rep. Cohen to Introduce Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald Trump After Comments on Charlottesville

    Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, today announced that he will be introducing articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump following the President’s comments on the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    “I have expressed great concerns about President Trump’s ability to lead our country in the Resolution of No Confidence (H.Res. 456) that I introduced in July with 29 of my colleagues; however, after the President’s comments on Saturday, August 12 and again on Tuesday, August 15 in response to the horrific events in Charlottesville, I believe the President should be impeached and removed from office. Instead of unequivocally condemning hateful actions by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Klansmen following a national tragedy, the President said ‘there were very fine people on both sides.’ There are no good Nazis. There are no good Klansmen.”

    “We fought a World War to defeat Nazis, and a Civil War to defeat the Confederacy.  In reaction to the downfall of the Confederacy, and the subsequent passage of the Reconstruction Amendments to our constitution, the KKK embarked on a dastardly campaign to terrorize and intimidate African Americans from exercising their newly acquired civil rights.  Subsequent incarnations of the Klan continued to terrorize African Americans with lynchings and civil rights murders such as the assassination of Medgar Evers and the killings of Schwerner, Chaney, Goodman and other civil rights workers.”

    “When I watched the videos from the protests in Charlottesville, it reminded me of the videos I’ve seen of Kristallnacht in 1938 in Nazi Germany. It appeared that the Charlottesville protesters were chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ and ‘blood and soil,’ an infamous Nazi slogan, as they marched with torches that conjured up images of Klan rallies. None of the marchers spewing such verbiage could be considered ‘very fine people’ as the President suggested. And it certainly appeared the participants were in lock-step. Some of the white nationalist protesters were interviewed by the media, such as Sean Patrick Nielsen. He said one of his three reasons for being there was ‘killing Jews.’ Another was Christopher Cantwell, one of the white nationalist leaders, who said he couldn’t watch ‘that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl’ and said he hoped ‘somebody like Donald Trump, but who does not give his daughter to a Jew,’ would lead this country. As a Jew and as an American and as a representative of an African American district, I am revolted by the fact that the President of the United States couldn’t stand up and unequivocally condemn Nazis who want to kill Jews and whose predecessors murdered 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, and could not unequivocally condemn Klansmen whose organization is dedicated to terrorizing African Americans.

    “President Trump has failed the presidential test of moral leadership. No moral president would ever shy away from outright condemning hate, intolerance and bigotry. No moral president would ever question the values of Americans protesting in opposition of such actions, one of whom was murdered by one of the white nationalists. Senator John McCain rightfully tweeted this week that there was ‘no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate.’ Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.” President Trump has shown time and time again that he lacks the ethical and moral rectitude to be President of the United States. Not only has he potentially obstructed justice and potentially violated the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, but he has also shown that he is incapable or unwilling to protect Americans from enemies, foreign and domestic. Neo-Nazis and the KKK are domestic terrorists. If the President can’t recognize the difference between these domestic terrorists and the people who oppose their anti-American attitudes, then he cannot defend us.”

    Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who was an outspoken critic of Adolph Hitler, said:

     

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

     

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

     

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

     

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
     

    “They have come for me, and for the majority of my Congressional constituency. Accordingly, I must speak out today after what happened on Saturday and our President’s subsequent response. It is morally and legally incumbent upon me, based on my oath of office, to introduce articles of impeachment.” 

     

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

     August 4, 2017 from their BLOG

    By Morgan Rogers

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

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


    Aquaponics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Disastrous new solar rules violate Maine's right to energy independence

    Aug. 18, 2017

    It’s shocking, but true. Thanks to the actions of a self-proclaimed anti-tax governor, Maine is about to become the first state where electric companies can charge fees for the energy you make and use at your own home or business. This will likely reduce your energy choices and increase energy costs for all Mainers.

    In Maine, we take pride in our independence and self-reliance. Many of us still grow our own vegetables or cut our own firewood. We don’t like big government or big corporations coming into our homes and watching us — especially to charge us new taxes or fees.

    But under new solar energy rules set to take effect in January, if you dare to make your own energy using solar panels, you’ll be charged fees for that energy. Central Maine Power (or Emera Maine, for some) will now monitor your home energy use and actually charge you for the electricity you make and consume onsite. Implementing these rules also will come with an enormous price tag that will be passed along directly to ratepayers like you and me.

    If that sounds wrong, it’s because it is.

    Imagine you’ve got a garden in your backyard, and when you decide to harvest your ripe tomatoes, the local grocery store sends you a bill. That’s the logic of the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s new solar energy rules. Hand-picked by Gov. Paul LePage, the members of this commission have a critical say in Maine’s energy future.

    Many legislators — both Democrats and Republicans — didn’t think the new solar energy rules seemed fair, so we worked diligently on a compromise. We came up with LD 1504, this session’s so-called “solar bill.”

    The bill would have banned new fees on the energy consumers generate at home. It would have delayed implementation of the rules and required the Public Utilities Commission to conduct a full cost-benefit analysis before coming back to the Legislature with a new proposal.

    It also would have lifted barriers to shared projects such as solar farms or community wind or hydro-energy projects, helping renters and others without an appropriate site to share in the benefits of self-generation.

    Despite LD 1504 being sponsored by a Republican, amended twice by Republicans, and initially passed with veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate, it failed on the very last day of this session. A small minority of Republicans — including seven who flipped their votes — in the House sided with LePage to uphold his veto of the bill. As a result, these disastrous rules are set to take effect in January.

    It didn’t have to be this way.

    LD 1504 would have protected hundreds of good-paying, local jobs in the rooftop solar industry and cleared the way for the creation of many more. It would have recognized our rights as Mainers to produce our own energy.

    But, perhaps most importantly, LD 1504 would have saved all ratepayers money.

    The more small, distributed generation we have, like rooftop solar panels, the less we need to pay for expensive poles and wires to bring us energy. Our own homegrown energy can help lower costs for everyone.

    In fact, the primary driver of today’s rising electricity costs in Maine is continuous building of transmission poles and wires. This “overbuilding” is driven by Central Maine Power profit interests. They are guaranteed at least a 10 percent profit on transmission projects, and as a regulated monopoly, the more they build, the more they are allowed to charge you and me.

    It’s not surprising then that Central Maine Power lobbied hard to kill LD 1504, even bringing their CEO to Augusta to personally twist Republicans’ arms on the day of the vote.

    To protect your right to produce clean energy and local jobs, we’ll try again when the Legislature returns in January. The only way we’ll succeed is if constituents and ratepayers tell legislators they oppose Maine’s new, first-in-the-world fee on energy produced and used at home. 

    Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, is a former House Majority Leader and currently House Chair of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

  • Confederate battle flag isn’t a symbol of Southern heritage - It’s a flag of treason

    Posted Aug. 16, 2017, at 7:28 a.m.

    It is not a coincidence that at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Nazi swastika was carried side-by-side with the Confederate battle flag. Both flags were flown by armies that fired upon U.S. soldiers and the American flag. The first shots in the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, an American fort that proudly displayed the American flag. The “victors” at Fort Sumter gave a mighty cheer when the American flag was lowered. Throughout the war, Southern diarists referred to the American flag as the “hated Yankee flag.”

    The Confederate battle flag is a flag of treason.

    The Nazi flag and the Confederate battle flag were designed by groups that rejected the founding American creed of the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal.” The founding documents of the Confederate States of America espoused the supremacy of the white race and the need for the black race to be held forever subservient.

    While the Confederate army did not massacre 6 million people whom they considered subhuman, as did the Nazis, the Confederate army, under Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former slave trader, slaughtered hundreds of African-American troops after the surrender of the Union garrison at Fort Pillow in Tennessee. They were outraged that a black man would ever be allowed to wield a gun. Forrest, after the war, helped found the Ku Klux Klan.

    Those who fly a Confederate battle flag side-by-side with the American flag are not only ignorant of history but they grossly misrepresent the core ideas that gave rise to the four years of treason that commenced with the attack on Fort Sumter. This was not, as Southern apologists claim, a defense of “states’ rights,” but a rejection of a democratic election won fairly by Abraham Lincoln. Well before Lincoln was ever inaugurated and signed a single piece of legislation, Southern states rejected the ideas of American democracy, the American nation and the American flag.

    The monument to Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, the focal point of the white supremacist rally, was not erected in the wake of the Civil War, but in the 1920s. It celebrates a man who took up arms against his own country. Monuments to Civil War generals began to be built not in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, but only after the disputed election of 1876.

    Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Samuel Tilden for presidency, even though Tilden had won both the national popular vote and secured more electoral votes than Hayes but fell one shy of the majority needed to win the election. Hayes secured the 19 contested electoral votes needed to take the White House after pledging to remove federal troops from the South, ending the era of Reconstruction.

    These troops had been attempting to enforce the principles of equality and freedom over which the Civil War had been fought. This concession allowed the introduction of Jim Crow legislation, re-establishing the principles of white supremacy over which the South had committed its act of treason. Segregation and widespread denial of the enfranchisement of African-Americans quickly followed. The sudden re-emergence of the Confederate battle flag throughout the South only occurred in the 1950s as the courts, and then Congress, began undoing the legal framework of white supremacy embodied in the Jim Crow South.

    The American philosopher George Santayana once wrote that “those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Those Southern Republicans who still defend the Confederate battle flag as a sign of “Southern heritage” and deny slavery and treason as the cause of the Civil War should remember what the first Republican president said in his Second Inaugural Address: “To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend [slavery] was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war.” Lincoln had lived the history that Southern Republicans now try to sanitize.

    A little over a month after Lincoln spoke these words, he was slain by a white supremacist dedicated to the Confederate battle flag and the Confederacy, John Wilkes Booth. The time has come to squarely face the history of the Confederacy. Let us honor the Civil War dead at battlefields, but let us put an end to honoring in the public square either the flag of treason or the generals who led that treason.

    Arthur Greif lives in Bar Harbor and practices law in Bangor.

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