Governor Paul LePage has wasted nearly $200,000 additional funds to pay for the controversial no-bid Alexander Group contract.The Alexander Group, has produced a biased report in Pennsylvania. Their initial work in Maine exhibited the same level of unprofessionalism. Lawmakers have submitted a bill, An Act to Cancel the No-Bid Alexander Group Contract to Produce Savings in Fiscal Year 2014, in order to prevent further waste of taxpayer dollars.
“It amazes me that the state continues to pay the Alexander Group when there is no new product,” said bill sponsor Rep. Richard Farnsworth, the House Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “It seems to me that standard business practice is that you pay when you receive either goods or services. At this point we have received only flawed goods and only a small portion of those goods at that.”
On Feb. 7, the administration made a payment of $193,360, bringing total taxpayer dollars spent on the failed contract to $378,000 total, according to payment records from the non-partisan Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review. The contract is expected to cost taxpayers $1 million, if it continues.
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Tags: Government transparency·Maine's quality of life·Need the ACA in Maine
On a telephone town hall forum last Thursday night, Congressman Mike Michaud joined more than 1,000 members and supporters of the Maine People’s Alliance to answer questions about federal and state health care issues and discuss how everyday Mainers can get involved in the effort to accept federal funding in order to expand health care coverage in Maine.
“Mainers are already seeing the advantage of the Affordable Care Act and hopefully this legislature will be able to move forward with the expansion of the MaineCare program which is not only the morally right thing to do, as it will cover approximately 70,000 people but it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do as well,” said Michaud during the event. “Maine will save approximately $600 million over a ten year timeframe because of that expansion and hospitals will receive an addition $438 million over that timeframe. It’s a win-win all the way around.”
Michaud worked in Congress to make sure Maine was able to access an enhanced reimbursement rate for Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act and has been outspoken in favor of the state accepting federal funding. More recently, has been meeting with and hearing the stories of some of the 70,000 Mainers who would be helped by expanding coverage.
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Tags: Congressman Mike Michaud·Health Care in Maine·Maine's quality of life
Green Living, an eco-conscious lifestyle magazine, has declared Portland Maine as one of 7 Happy Cities in America.Green Living magazine, published in Scottsdale Arizona, declared Portland as the only one “Happy City” in the East.
“This designation by Green Living confirms what Portland residents already know – that life is good here,” said Mayor Michael Brennan.
Simone Butler of Green Living magazine indicates that Portland is one community that “reigns superior” as a result of national polls and surveys.
Portland’s organic foodie atmosphere was emphasized, as well as having the best lobster in the county.Other benefits the magazine listed were that the city has “impressive air and water quality”, waterways for boating and the scenic White Mountains for hiking and other outdoor adventures. They also identified the lower than average obesity rate and twice as many physicians per capita than other cities.
The others that made the list were San Diego, CA., Honolulu, HI., Boulder, CO., Bend, OR., Lincoln, NE., and Minneapolis, MIN.
Tags: Maine·Maine's quality of life·Portland
The VolturnUS floating offshore wind turbine 1/8th pilot at it’s launch. VolturnUS is the only offshore wind turbine in the Americas. photo by Ramona du Houx
The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved in a 2-1 vote for Maine Aqua Ventus’ pilot floating offshore wind energy project, VolturnUS. The opposing PUC commissioner said the project would cost ratepayers too much. In reality the impact of the pilot project on ratepayers is about 75 cents per month per home for the life of the 20-year project. Overall the long-term project could attract $20 billion in private investment and create thousands of jobs.
“There’s 150 gigawatts of offshore wind off of our coast, enough to power the state of Maine 70 times over. It’s our largest resource and we’re making an investment today to figure out how to harvest this resource for future generations,” said Habib Dagher, of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine and project director. “It’s an important day for the state of Maine and an important day for the country.”
Dagher said the vote also represents “an important step” to advance the second Maine Aqua Ventus pilot project, which would consist of two six-megawatt turbines off Monhegan Island. A one-eighth scale floating wind turbine, VolturnUS, was launched off Castine last spring for testing and observation. The “floating lab,” as Dagher calls it, was the first offshore wind turbine in the Americas to produce energy to the electric grid and continues to do so. VolturnUS will be taken out of the water this May.
“The PUC’s decision is the next step in securing the grant for which Aqua Ventus was shortlisted last year, which is critical for the success of this important project for our state,” said Maine Aqua Ventus 1’s Jake Ward.
The Department of Energy grant is worth $46 million and will help create a wind farms, far out at sea, that can produce power at competitive rates.
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Tags: Cutting-edge technology·Maine's quality of life·Offshore wind floating turbine
J.D. Irving Ltd., Maine’s largest landowner with 1.25 million acres of forestland, has been exempted from some clear-cutting regulations and harvesting standards of the Forest Practices Act after signing a five-year agreement with State forestry officials.
The agreement was made on May 2012, but only became public this month after Maine Forest Service submitted a report to state lawmakers on Outcome Based Forestry, an experimental tree harvesting program.
J.D. Irving’s deal allows the company to clear-cut 250 individual acres without state approval.
With major landowners agreements being mostly confidential and regulations been overseen by a panel appointed by Gov. Paul LePage, environmental groups say 10 million acres of certified forestland could be endangered.
State officials counter that the panel of experts will review the scientific rationale for each harvest and the aesthetic impact of each cut beforehand.
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Tags: Agriculture·Clear cutting·Government transparency·Maine's quality of life
The Maine AFL-CIO published its 2013 Working Families Legislative Scorecard this week and has mailed it to 40,000 active and retired workers across the state.
For the first time this year, the Working Families Legislative Scorecard also ranked the Governor’s actions on important workers’ rights bills. Of the eleven scored bills, six reached his desk. The Governor vetoed five and refused to sign the sixth, earning him a zero score for 2013.
“This past session we saw numerous bills passed by the Legislature that would have helped working families, like a bill to raise the minimum wage, Buy American legislation that would have created jobs, and health care expansion that would have ensured more Mainers can go see their family doctor. Sadly, these bills to improve the lives of Maine workers were vetoed by Governor LePage. The Governor stood in the way of helping working families and was often supported by legislators in doing so. Working people need leaders who will support them and work for an economy that works for everyone,” said Don Berry, President of the Maine AFL-CIO.
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Tags: Maine's quality of life·unions
Superior Court Judge Joyce Wheeler has ruled against the City of Portland with regard to a lawsuit filed by the Friends of Congress Square. At issue was the City of Portland’s rejection of petition efforts by the Friends of Congress Square to amend the City’s Land Bank ordinance. City of Portland attorneys argued that the sale, acquisition and dedication of City property are administrative actions that fall within the purview of City Council, and may not be the subject of citizens’ initiatives.
Danielle West-Chuhta, Corporation Council for the City of Portland, said the City plans to appeal.
“Upon review of the decision, and based upon our understanding of the case law, our office remains convinced that the City of Portland’s position is correct. We are currently completing the required appeal documents including a request for a stay of the Judge’s decision and we plan to have our filings submitted as soon as possible. Given the ongoing legal process and the complexities surrounding this matter it is difficult to determine the impact, if any, of this decision on the sale of Congress Square,” said West-Chuhta.
City officials declined further comment on this matter due to the ongoing legal proceedings.
Tags: Maine's quality of life·Portland
On Tuesday the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) held a long-awaited public hearing on their proposal to exempt Maine from some anti-smog regulations and loosen controls on new and modified sources of ozone pollution.
“Governor LePage’s proposal to reverse Maine’s anti-smog protections takes our state in the wrong direction,” said Eves. “These very air quality protections have made our air cleaner, protecting our natural resources and our public health. In a state that relies on tourism and our natural resources to drive our economy, anti-smog provisions are good for business.”
Maine led the effort in forming the 13-state regional partnership pact to reduce cross-border air pollution under the Baldacci administration. Since the formation of that pact, pollution in Maine’s air has dropped to meet federal standards.
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Tags: Maine's quality of life
Climate change is the most serious threat to America’s freshwater fish and urgent action is needed at all levels to preserve key species and their habitats, according to a new report released today by the National Wildlife Federation. Swimming Upstream: Freshwater Fish in a Warming World details how climate change is already putting many species of freshwater fish in Maine, New Hampshire, and across the nation at risk, creating an uncertain future for fishing traditions and risking many jobs sustained by the angling and fish-processing industries.
“This report adds urgency for President Obama’s climate action plan to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change in Maine’s precious streams and lakes,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The Environmental Protection Agency should finalize national limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants as soon as possible to protect freshwater fish in Maine and elsewhere.”
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Tags: Climate change·Climate Change hurts fishing·Maine's environment·Maine's quality of life
Bangor City Councilman Joe Baldacci is so committed to the cause to keep the Odlin Road bus route operational and he will forego his City Council salary to help defray cost.
“Earlier this month I said I would be willing to donate my salary as a Bangor City Councilor to keep the buses running on the Oldin Road route. Today I kept that promise,” said Councilman Baldacci. “I delivered to the city manager an authorization to assign the equivalent of my salary for one year, or $2,000, back to City Hall to extend the bus route for an additional month.”
The city has cited their goal of saving roughly $20,000 dollars as the primary reason for closing the route.The shut down of the bus route was proposed even though ridership has steadily increased.
On Monday the City Council took action to create a public fund with the initial goal to keep the bus route running until November 1st. It was indicated that at least $4,000 would be needed to make this happen.
“With my donation, and another private donation made Monday night, our short term goal has been reached. Now we have time to work on our longer term goal of creating a public/private partnership to keep that bus route up and running,” said Baldacci.
The route serves primarily low-income working people who are struggling to overcome poverty. There are few other transportation options for those living in this region.
“We appreciate Councilor Baldacci’s support. For myself and many other riders, the Community Connector is the only affordable way to get to work and meet our basic needs. This is why public transit is a critical part of a just community,” said Ted Rippy a Food AND Medicine (FAM) board member.
Donations are still needed-
“It would be great if private businesses in the area and other interested citizens come forward with donations – big or small – everything will help,” said Councilman Baldacci. “People rely on this bus service for work and other important services. This lifeline needs to continue for the well being of our citizens and the growth of Bangor’s economy.”
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Tags: Importance of buses·Jobs·Maine's quality of life·Transportation