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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

  • Republicans and 8 Democratic lawmakers are about to rob Maine of a minimum wage victory

    Some hard working minimum wage ME earners. Photo by Jeff Kirlin

    Editorial by Rep. Justin Chenette

    As the president of the Maine Young Democrats, I take very seriously questions regarding creating unnecessary division in an environment where forward motion for progressive political change requires both political figures and grassroots activists to stand together in advancing a political program, even when perfect consensus between the grassroots and those in office is rare, or even impossible. I believe that sometimes in order to get closer to “perfect,” you need to sometimes fight for things that are simply “good.”

    That mediation between ideals and political realities is never a clean one, and those in the business of creating a space for change within the political process have to constantly assess where the line is between bending and breaking questions of moral principle: is conceding ten percent to get ninety percent of what you want an acceptable compromise? What about getting ten and giving ninety? Each decision requires an evaluation of your core principles, your leverage to get more than what is on the table, and who compromise might leave behind.

    That last –who gets left behind in a compromise– is one that must now be considered on the news this week that eight Democratic members of the Legislature are co-sponsoring a Republican-backed bill that would roll back a key provision of the minimum wage referendum passed overwhelmingly by Maine voters last November, stripping tipped workers from the new law and keeping them at a subminimum wage.

    According to federal data, tipped workers in Maine earn on average only around $9.00 an hour, and with food service industries disproportionately represented by women who face some of the highest rates of workplace sexual harassment in the country (which has, not coincidentally, been tied to the power imbalance between customers and servers that tipping creates), these workers are some of the most vulnerable in the state. To make matters worse, food service workers must stand up to the political might of the National Restaurant Association (and its Maine-based affiliate, the Maine Restaurant Association), which has fought to strip tipped workers from minimum wage laws for decades.

    When citizens and organizers came together to draft and pass the minimum wage referendum into law, they included tipped workers in that referendum despite knowing that it would draw significant opposition from the MRA, a group that is so anti-worker that it continued to lobby Sen. Susan Collins to support failed Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder even after revelations of egregious violations of workplace protections and personal standards of conduct came to light. They did so because they recognized that compromising here and leaving tipped-workers out of the legislation was an unacceptable condition of victory. Even getting the majority of Maine workers a raise at the expense of tipped workers was not an acceptable trade-off in this fight.

    This strategic gamble, this failure to compromise on a key moral principle, was fortunately vindicated at the ballot box by Maine voters.

    Because the minimum wage referendum is now law, legislators would have to affirmatively pass a bill that overrules the will of the voters and strips out the tipped-wage provision. If these eight members of the Democratic caucus join a unanimous Republican bloc, this bill could very well become law. If this occurs, the legislators who supported this measure will be forced to account for their actions, even from someone like myself who recognized the difficult line even the most progressive legislators must walk. Because rather than working to thread the needle between a moral and political victory for Maine voters and workers, these Democratic cosponsors – and, certainly the seemingly unanimous bloc of Republicans ready to stand beside them – would rob us of both.

  • Let’s take up Rachel Carson’s challenge

    Human evolution shows that our emotions such as fear, anger and sadness should not rule us if we want to maintain the ties that are critical to our survival. 

    By Martha Freeman of Portland, a former Maine state planning director for eight years in the Baldacci administration and the editor of “Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952-1964.”

    Rachel Carson was a friend of mine, although she died when I was only 11 years old.

    If you’re not a baby boomer or older, you may not know her name. You may not know that she was a best-selling author in the 1950s and 1960s, or that her work as a scientist and writer led to the nationwide banning of DDT and the beginning of the environmental movement.

    Recently, the Public Broadcasting System’s “American Experience” aired a film about Rachel Carson’s life and work. If you view it, you’ll learn that the most important revolution she engaged in involved more than stopping pollution by pesticides. She was as concerned with halting heedless interference with interrelationships in the natural world, including those among humans. She was concerned about government’s relationship with the public, businesses’ responsibility toward consumers, the contamination of human discourse by falsehood. Sound familiar from the headlines, posts and tweets of today?

    Rachel Carson came into my life when she built a summer place near my grandparents’ cottage on the Maine coast. She and my grandmother became dear friends. As a youngster, I was along for parts of their journey. As an adult, through reading the letters to each other these friends saved, Rachel Carson became closer to me.

    I saw, as she did, that the web of human relations, embedded in human nature, is as crucial to our world’s well-being as any other set of environmental links. To pollute that web is as toxic as pouring poison into a river.

    And that web is being fouled today. Self-righteousness, the outlook of might making right, grandiosity in the face of humbling challenges are ascendant. These responses took root in the soil of economic turmoil and human dislocations.

    It’s natural for people to fear unsettling change. We’re as motivated by our biology as any plant or animal experiencing a threat. Our brains wire us to feel fear, anger, and sadness as we cope. But it’s stupid, and human evolution shows this, for those emotions to rule when we’re challenged.

    Modern humans best overcome threats when deploying empathy, whether toward allies or adversaries. If you can’t put yourself in the other fellow’s shoes, you’re missing out on rational and emotional intelligence. It’s intelligence that forms coalitions in the home, at work, across all forms of human relations and leads to progress.

    Brittle and brute tactics are not a mature, or ultimately successful, response to human problems. These approaches may appear to bring success in the short term. Using them may generate feelings of slights vindicated. But in their wake, the whole of which we each are a part will eventually wither. The long term will not be healthful for our children and other living things.

    Having empathy, valuing the intricate web of human relationships, is not the stance of cowards. It’s the essence of courage. Rachel Carson faced disparagement from private enterprise, media and public officials. A gentle and petite woman, she stood with backbone against detractors, employing her most effective tools: facts, understanding, caring, calmness.

    In 1962, in one of her last public presentations before her death, Rachel Carson spoke at the Scripps College commencement. Her groundbreaking book, “Silent Spring,” had just been published. She continued its theme of environmental interdependence in her remarks, but broadened the context:

    “Your generation must face realities instead of taking refuge in ignorance and evasion of truth. Yours is a grave and a sobering responsibility, but it is also a shining opportunity. You go out into a world where mankind is challenged, as it has never been challenged before, to prove its maturity and mastery — not of nature but of itself.”

    It’s time to take up Rachel Carson’s challenge again.

    We must reward mature behavior and remove our attention from immature distractions, as mothers do when their kids are acting out. We must expand our circles of affection, as young people have done. We must prove the masters of our fear, anger and any anxious interest in belittling others.

    Humans naturally advance in community. Our sense of community evolves. As it has, life has become better for the human family. Only a short-sighted, impulsive and immature perspective seeks to break rather than strengthen our bonds.

    As Rachel Carson taught, everything in nature is interrelated and interdependent — including all of us. As we care for our environment, so must we care for all humankind. It’s a fact that we can’t escape being on this earth together.

  • Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters aims to keep and enhance national monument

    By Ramona du Houx

    Six months after President Barack Obama created a new national monument in Maine, a new nonprofit organization, Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, has formed to support Maine’s new national monument. Maine's open wild spaces draw people to the state to recreate and spend millions. Over 22 million tourists flock to the state every year to see the state's natural beauty.

    Many residents see the wisdom of protecting this monument and ensuring its upkeep. They understand the tremendous value the Katahdin region has. But some others, for their own reasons, distrust the National Park Service.

    Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, private group, is not part of the National Park Service but intends to enter into an agreement to work collaboratively with and support the mission of the National Park Service that manages the monument.

    “Initially, the friends group will focus on building volunteer opportunities, developing education programs and advocating for the monument,” said Lucas St. Clair, president of the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “Eventually, the nonprofit organization will provide financial support for specific projects in the monument and surrounding communities, raise private funds to supplement—not replace—federal appropriations, protect the integrity of the monument and its resources, and speak for users in the betterment of monument operations.”  

    Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters will work to preserve and protect the outstanding natural beauty, ecological vitality and distinctive cultural resources of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and surrounding communities for the inspiration and enjoyment of all generations.

    “Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument can become a first-class destination for visitors to northern Maine,” said Anita Mueller, vice president of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “I look forward to working with the National Park Service to develop services, facilities and programs that will make the experience of visiting the national monument a wonderful, lifetime memory.”

    “All of us at Friends of Acadia are excited by this announcement and want to welcome the Friends of Katahdin Woods & Waters into the community of friends groups that help serve national parks and national monuments throughout the country,” said David MacDonald, president of Friends of Acadia in Bar Harbor Maine. 

    Friends of Acadia has received incredible support from volunteers, businesses, and surrounding communities who want to give back to Acadia, and public-private partnerships like this will only become more important in the future.  We look forward to being a resource and partner with our friends to the north.” Friends of Acadia has granted more than $25 million to the park and surrounding communities since its founding in 1986 in support of dozens of projects, including youth programs, restoration of Acadia’s trails and carriage roads, and establishment of the fare-free Island Explorer bus system.  

    While their is a tremdous amount of support for the Katahdin National Monument, Maine's Governor LePage has sounded off in a negaitive way, wanting the designation taken away by President Trump. LePage wrote a letter to the new President asking to abolish the designation, although the region has already seen an upswing in interest and tourism since Obama's ruling. 

    “Already we have seen opportunities to partner with the National Park Service,” said Terry Hill from Mt. Chase.  “This winter, our local snowmobile club partnered with the National Park Service to put new decking on two snowmobile bridges within the national monument. I look forward to working with the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters to find additional opportunities to improve the visitors’ experience at the national monument. We want to increase the number of people who are involved in making the monument better.”

    “We know that the national monument has many valuable historical artifacts from the days when Native people traveled up the Penobscot for hunting and fishing to the storied times of log drives and paper making,” said Don Hudson, treasurer of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters could help the national monument protect those artifacts and tell those stories to thousands of visitors.”

    “The national monument currently has some excellent hiking, paddling, biking and cross country skiing,” said Cathy Johnson, secretary of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “But there could be much more. We look forward to helping the National Park Service identify and develop additional opportunities for active, outdoor recreation.”

    The Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters is launching with a thirteen-member board of directors with an immediate goal of attracting additional members. The public can join the group by going to https://friendsofkatahdinwoodsandwaters.org 

    “There has been an outpouring of support for the national monument since it was created,” said Molly Ross, from Arlington, VA. “Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters will provide a place for supporters from Maine to Mississippi to Montana and beyond to go to find out what is going on in the national monument and how they can help support it.”

  • Entries Welcome for "Time will Tell "- A Show of Artistic Wisdom and Experience

    The Coburn Gallery announces a national juried exhibition entitled "Time will Tell "- A Show of Artistic Wisdom and Experience which will feature artists at least 50 years of age residing in the United States. This exhibition will culminate in a collection of works that embody the creativity and innovation of artists ages 50 years and older at all levels of artistic endeavor. The exhibit runs from June 30-August 13 2017. 

    Juror: Shari Wilkins. Wilkins grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and received her BA from Kent State University. She has worked in NYC and San Francisco as promotions/marketing directors at two small, independent record companies. She returned to Cleveland in the 90s and completed her second BA in community organizing at Cleveland State University's Social Work Department, and wrote her master's thesis on the American Renaissance. With a life-long appreciation for photography, it is no surprise that Wilkins would create a forum to share her affinity for the photographic image and educate others on the process of developing film in the community darkroom, education center, and gallery at the Cleveland Print Room which opened in January 2013. Her photography and mixed media work has been exhibited in the Greater Cleveland area, Columbus and elsewhere in Ohio. 

    Works in any media accepted. All work must be original art conceived and executed solely by the artist within the last two years. 

    $800.00 in AWARDS. A maximum of two digital entries for $20.00 are allowed per artist. Entries must be original works in any media (2-D or 3-D), completed within the last two years. All entries must be postmarked by April 12, 2017. See www.ashland.edu/coburngallery to download the prospectus. 
  • Maine Democrats try and address opioid crisis within supplemental budget

    On February 24th, members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee voted unanimously in favor of LD 302, "An Act To Make Supplemental Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2017." This bill will now proceed to the full legislature for a vote.  

    After a push from democratic leaders, specifically an amendment offered by Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, the supplemental budget bill now contains nearly $5 million in state and federal funds to provide opioid addiction treatment to Mainers most in need of help — the uninsured and those with low incomes.

    “Drug addiction strikes without prejudice and is affecting every community in our state. Overdose deaths are happening in our cities, our small towns and our rural communities,” said Sen. Breen. “We have to work together to address this crisis. I’m pleased to see bipartisan support for expanded treatment, and I’m hopeful we can continue to work together to save Mainers’ lives.”

    This $29 million dollar spending package also contains:

    • $7.1 million in funding to keep tuition low at the University of Maine,
    • $7 million to the Maine Military Authority in Aroostook county, and
    • $4.8 million to rehabilitate fish hatcheries in our Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Department.

    Additionally, the package moves $35 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund. 

    “The problems we need to solve are bigger than this supplemental budget, but I am heartened that we are moving forward with a unanimous vote from this committee,” said House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, Rep. Drew Gattine. “We will remain steadfast in our focus on long term solutions that strengthen middle class families, schools, and seniors, while growing good paying jobs and a strong economy.” 

  • Prescribers can play a bigger role in fighting addiction

     Editorial by Representative Colleen Madigan.

    Drug addiction is becoming Maine’s disease. Individuals may use but together our families, communities and economy all suffer.

    For too long Maine hasn’t been able to stop the drug crisis. It’s time we used everything we have to prevent addiction before it starts and effectively treat it before it claims the life of even one more Mainer.

    As a social worker, I’ve seen the toll substance addiction takes on people and their families.

    Community members, who as parents run businesses, work long hours and help each other out struggle to find treatment for an addiction that started with a legitimate prescription.

    Maine has the tools it needs to implement smart fixes that will stop the drug crisis in its tracks.

    Strengthening law enforcement to identify and prevent trafficking and funding prevention in schools are two ways we can stop the drug crisis from getting worse, but that should be only part of the solution.

    Research shows that addiction results in changes to the brain. Counseling with medication can help Mainers struggling with substance abuse to confront and gradually kick their cravings for opiates.

    Suboxone also known as Buprenorphine can give people a second chance.

    The problem? Suboxone is still hard to come by because Maine has too few trained providers who can afford to administer it.

    That means Mainers trying to get treatment for addiction have to resort to buying Suboxone off the streets.

    I once worked with a woman who served members of our community at a local pizza joint. She was given a prescription for chronic pain relief and became addicted to pain killers. After six months, she still can’t access a Suboxone provider.

    She’s not alone.

    I also worked with a Waterville father who got addicted to heroin after being unable to continue using prescription drugs. He found a Suboxone provider hours away but struggled to get there.

    Maine’s rural communities need more providers who can help people access counseling and medication assisted treatment to combat opiate addiction.

    This week I’ll present a bill to make sure physicians who prescribe opiate medications also have to be able to prescribe Suboxone.

    If you can prescribe addictive opiates to treat pain, you should be able to prescribe medication to help treat an addiction to those opiates.

    "An Act To Increase the Number of Suboxone Prescribers" also bumps up the reimbursement rate to make sure providers in rural areas can afford to proscribe Suboxone.

    This bill is one tool in our toolbox and I hope lawmakers will support it, but we can also learn from what other states are doing to identify other innovative solutions.

    Vermont for example has significantly reduced its prescription drug and heroin addiction statewide by expanding access to multiple forms of treatment and prevention, including medication assisted treatment and counseling. They’ve also focused intently on targeted solutions for rural areas that are often epicenters for growing substance abuse.

    This session Democrats will work to identify more solutions to the drug crisis using every resource Maine has to offer. 

    By recognizing addiction for what it is - a disease and a public health crisis - and treating it with smart, diverse approaches, we can help combat substance abuse addiction in Maine.

  • Trump manipulates you and the press with using cognitive bias

    AMERICANS BORN IN the United States are more murderous than undocumented immigrants. Fighting words, I know. But why? After all, that’s just what the numbers say.

    Still, be honest: you wouldn’t linger over a story with that headline. It’s “dog bites man.” It’s the norm. And norms aren’t news. Instead, you’ll see two dozen reporters flock to a single burning trash can during an Inauguration protest. The aberrant occurrence is the story you’ll read and the picture you’ll see. It’s news because it’s new.

    The problem here is not just that this singling out creates a distorted, fish-eye lens version of what’s really happening. It’s that the human psyche is predisposed to take an aberration—what linguist George Lakoff has called the “salient exemplar”—and conflate it with the norm. This cognitive bias itself isn’t new. But in a media environment driven by clicks, where politicians can bypass journalistic filters entirely to deliver themselves straight to citizens, it’s newly exploitable.

    You know who else isn’t as likely to commit murders in the US as native-born citizens? Refugees. Or immigrants from the seven countries singled out in President Trump’s shot-down travel ban. Or for that matter, immigrants at all. According to numerous studies, increased immigration correlates with lower violent crime rates in a community. Yet next week, Trump is promising a revised travel ban in the name of safety.

    In the past, the president has also promised to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. What he hasn’t promised to publish is a list of crimes committed by Americans. That’s not news. But his list is likely to create the false impression that undocumented immigrants are especially prone to commit violent crimes—an impression in which the human brain is complicit.

    Taking Advantage of Bias

    Lakoff, a University of California, Berkeley linguist and well-known Democratic activist, cites Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” as the signature “salient exemplar.” Reagan’s straw woman—a minority mother who uses her government money on fancy bling rather than on food for her family—became an effective rhetorical bludgeon to curb public assistance programs even though the vast majority of recipients didn’t abuse the system in that way. The image became iconic, even though it was the exception rather than the rule.

    Psychologists call this bias the “availability heuristic,” an effect Trump has sought to exploit since the launch of his presidential campaign, when he referred to undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists.

    “It basically works the way memory works: you judge the frequency, the probability, of something based on how easily you can bring it to mind,” says Northeastern University psychologist John Coley. “Creating a vivid, salient image like that is a great way to make it memorable.”

    This is the same bias that makes you fear swimming in the ocean lest you get attacked by a shark, despite shark attacks being far less common than, say, death by coconut. When something is memorable, it tends to be the thing you think of first, and then it has an outsize influence on your understanding of the world. After the movie Jaws came out, a generation of people was afraid to swim in the sea—not because shark attacks were more likely but because all those movie viewers could more readily imagine them. 

    Psychologists stress that your brain has to work this way, to a certain extent—otherwise you’d have a very hard time differentiating and prioritizing the avalanche of inputs you receive throughout your life. “It’s not a cognitive malfunction,” says Coley. “But it can be purposefully exploited.” When Trump uses a salient exemplar that will lodge in your brain, he’s manipulating your brain’s natural way of sorting information.

    But if you can’t totally eliminate your brain’s predisposition, you can at least work against the potential for bias it creates by understanding that it exists. Journalists in particular need to be mindful because exploiters of this bias, such as the president, are taking advantage not just of the way the human brain works but the way journalism works. The daily news at its worst becomes a catalog of salacious salient exemplars that only serve to distort the reality journalism in its most ideal version aspires to reflect. “We haven’t done as good a job of actually explaining how things function at a higher level, the success stories,” says Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. This failing aided Trump during the campaign, Lipinski says. By focusing on negative stories, the news helped to paint a picture of an America in need of “being made great again.”

    Recently, Trump told an audience of senior military commanders at CENTCOM that the “very, very dishonest media” didn’t report on terrorism. The implication was that journalists bury important news about terrorism because of some alternate agenda. Later that day, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer released a list of terrorist acts the president felt that journalists didn’t spend enough time covering. Journalists pounced: Hey, we reported on ALL OF THOSE! We won Pulitzers for our reporting! Here are a bazillion front page headlinesproving it!

    In doing so, journalists took the bait. The stories about their stories fed the narrative that terrorism is everywhere (it’s not). Instead, reporters need to get smarter about covering the non-aberrant, to show that commonplace does not equal mundane. It may not be rare, but it’s reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Legislation in Maine could help keep children out of harms way of led in water

    By Ramona du Houx

    Citing growing evidence of pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Environment Maine launched a new Get the Lead Out campaign in February of 2017.  

    An analysis by Environment Maine Research and Policy Center gave Maine a grade of F to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. The Maine Public Health Association, Prevent Harm, and State Senator Rebecca Millett all joined Environment Maine in calling for swift action to ensure lead-free water in Maine’s schools and daycares.

    “Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but state is failing/not doing enough to protect our kids from lead in drinking water said Laura Dorle “Kids’ developing brains are especially susceptible to highly toxic lead so it’s time to get the lead out.”

    As more Maine schools test their water, they are finding lead.  For example, last year officials in the Yarmouth School District found lead levels above the EPA’s standard of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

    Yet a new report Get the Lead Out: by Environment Maine Research and Policy Center shows that such confirmed cases of lead-laced water are likely just the tip of the iceberg.  For example, the report cites new data from Massachusetts, where half of more than 40,000 tests conducted last year showed some level of lead in water from taps at school.

    “Lead is a potent neurotoxin, affecting the way our kids learn, grow, and behave,” said Rebecca Boulos of the Maine Public Health Association.  “There is no safe level of lead for children.”  

    All too often, schools (and homes) have pipes, plumbing and/or fixtures that leach lead into drinking water.   In some cases, old service lines – the pipes that brings water from the mains in the street into buildings – are made entirely of lead. 

    Unfortunately, current state law does far too little to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school.  Maine law only requires testing of water at schools that draw their water from non-public sources and does not require remediation.  In Environment Maine Research and Policy Center’s comparison of 16 states, these shortcomings gave Maine a GRADE OF F.

    “We were disappointed to find that Maine’s efforts are a GRADE at the back of the class for protecting children from lead at school.  Our kids deserve better,” said Environment Maine Research and Policy Center’s Laura Dorle.

    LD 40: An Act to Strengthen Requirements for Water Testing in Schools, introduced by State Senator Rebecca Millett, who represents South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and part of Scarborough would help to change that by starting a system that would require all schools are rigorously testing for this issue.

    ““All families deserve to know that the drinking water at their children’s schools is safe,” said Sen. Millett. “We cannot have a strong set of standards for some schools and a lesser standard for others. Lead poisoning can have disastrous effects on children, and it is our responsibility to protect all of them, regardless of where they live. We have got to do better than that.  We owe it to our kids.”

    These efforts have wide support including from environmental health advocacy group Prevent Harm, Toxics Action Center, the Maine Academy of Pediatrics, the Maine Public Health Association, and more.   Parents are especially eager to see the bill move.

    (PHOTO: press conference at the state house about LD 40)

    “Do we really want to wait for more tests to show that our kids have been drinking lead?” asked Gretchen Migliaccio, UMaine Augusta student and parent whose daughter attends Laura E. Richards Elementary School in Gardiner.  “It’s time to get the lead out.”

    Parents in other states are demanding action too.  Environment Maine’s counterparts are working with doctors and parents and community leaders in seven other states to advance policies that Get the Lead Out of schools and daycares.

  • Congressional legislation introduced to improve the federal historic tax credit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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