The Coastal Packet

Friday, December 9

Poland Springs wants to grab millions more gallons of our water

Maine Public Broadcasting - Poland Spring is proposing to expand its water withdrawal operations to Rumford. The company pitched its plan to the Rumford Water District at a meeting Wednesday night. The plan calls for a long-term contract to withdraw up to 150 million gallons from two well sites in the Ellis River watershed. Mark Dubois is the natural resource manager for the company. "We believe we can sustainably withdraw spring water up there while the district maintains its commitment to serve ratepayers."

The superintendent of the water district says the town will have its own geologist review Poland Spring's data to verify whether it the project can be sustainable or not. After that the town will hold a public meeting on the plan. Poland Spring would also need to approval from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Public Utilities Commission and the Drinking Water Program. The company currently has eight working spring sites in Maine and Dubois says the business is expanding. "

How repealing Obamacare would affect Maine

Center on Budget & policy Priorities

In Maine, repeal means the loss of $388 million in federal marketplace spending in 2019 and $4.2 billion between 2019 and 2028. Maine would lose $41 million in federal Medicaid funding in 2019 and $498 million between 2019 and 2028. In addition, the growth in the number of uninsured residents would increase demand for uncompensated care by $1.1 trillion nationwide between 2019 and 2028.

Assuming fixed federal spending on uncompensated care, state and local governments and health care providers would have to bear this cost. 95,000 fewer people in Maine would have health insurance in 2019 if the Aff ordable Care Act  is repealed, new Urban Institute estimates show. 

Republican policymakers plan to move quickly in January to repeal much of the health reform law without enacting a replacement. This would cause families in Maine to go without needed health care and expose them to financial risk. Nationally, most of the coverage loss would occur among families with at least one worker and among people without college degrees, doubling the number of uninsured and leaving a higher share of people uninsured than before the ACA. Repealing the ACA without putting in place an adequate replacement plan that ensures a ordable coverage would take health coverage away from 29.8 million people nationwide by 2019, more than doubling the total number of uninsured to 58.7 million, the Urban Institute estimates.

Wednesday, December 7

Guilty federal political contributor appears to have used same technique for LePage

Tens of thousands of Mainers would be hurt by Obamacare cutback

Maine Beacon - More than 63,000 Mainers ... receive a monthly premium support tax credit averaging $342 in order to afford coverage. Many more have benefited from other provisions of the Act, including a prohibition on denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

It’s not clear exactly how president-elect Donald Trump and a Republican Congress will go about attempting to repeal the law, also known as Obamacare. In the past they have passed bills repealing it completely with no alternative mechanism for coverage, but that was when they knew that President Obama’s veto would prevent their proposals from becoming law.

On Friday, Maine Senator Susan Collins expressed some opposition to a repeal of the ACA without a plan to continue some of its key provisions, including coverage for those who have purchased insurance through the marketplace.

Tuesday, December 6

Maine police may be spying on your social media posts

Maine Public Broadcasting - Maine police have been using a controversial computer program developed to monitor the public’s social media posts.

The program, known as Geofeedia, works by pinpointing the location of people who are posting publicly on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Geofeedia was developed with financial support from the CIA. As it has gained traction with police who use it to track protests and look for danger signs like the word “gun” online, it has also become the center of a national debate over privacy and government surveillance.

“People don’t realize that the government is monitoring the personal information they share,” said Zachary Heiden, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. “This isn’t just the police standing in a public square. This is the police standing in our bedrooms and living rooms.”

Police say that they are merely listening in on public statements. But privacy and free speech advocates contend that people shouldn’t have to worry about government surveillance when speaking their minds online. Perhaps as a result of such criticism, last month Facebook, Twitter and Instagram cut Geofeedia off from their data.

The South Portland Police Department began using Geofeedia in 2014 and recently renewed its subscription for a third year, said officer Kevin Gerrish, who coordinates the program for Maine’s fourth most populated city. The Maine State Police also purchased a license for the program, according to Gerrish and State Police officer Kyle Willette, although neither could provide details.

But thousands of dollars later, the South Portland police say that, at least for their department, the high-tech surveillance hasn’t led to any arrests.

Geofeedia has cost the South Portland department $13,500, which was mostly paid for through a grant, according to the department.

But the program mostly returns false hits.

Union leaders welcome Fairpoint sale

Press Herald - Leaders of the unions representing FairPoint workers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont said they viewed the sale, which is subject to approval by shareholders and state regulators, with “cautious optimism.”

“It’s clear that the ill-advised sale of (Verizon’s landline business) to FairPoint in 2008 has had a profound negative impact on workers and consumers in Northern New England. Just last month, FairPoint announced another major layoff of nearly 10 percent of its workforce even as regulators continue to investigate their service quality failures,” Peter McLaughlin, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2327 in Maine, said in a written statement Monday.

In an interview, McLaughlin said members are disappointed with FairPoint and have hoped for a new owner since the Verizon deal. Among other issues, McLaughlin mentioned frustration over delays in service for customers.

Monday, December 5

Fairpoint to be bought for $1.5 billion

Reuters - Consolidated Communications Holdings Inc said on Monday it would buy broadband service provider FairPoint Communications Inc in an all-stock deal valued at $1.5 billion, including debt. Mattoon, Illinois-based Consolidated's acquisition of Charlotte, North Carolina-based FairPoint marks the fifth such deal in the past two months as growing demand for data and video services drives companies to expand their fiber optic networks in new regions.

Tuesday, November 29

Opponents of Question 2 education tax withdraw recount request

Maine's public works contnue in bad shape

Portland Press Herald - The overall condition of the state’s infrastructure has not improved in the past four years and the condition of some facilities is declining, according to a report.The 2016 report card, from the Maine chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, gives the state a C minus across 14 categories, including energy, roads, bridges, airports, schools, water systems and public transportation. It was the same grade the state received in 2012.

Maine: A different Somali story

I first realized something different about Maine when I was in a Washington DC cab driven by a Somali. He asked me where I lived and I told him Maine which led him to ask, "How's the cab business in Portland?" I knew exactly why he asked it, but was surprised that he knew how many Somali cab drivers there were in Maine's largest city. Then I learned that Maine had gained a friendly reputation among Somalis, especially Lewiston  - Sam Smithy

Meanwhile, Donald Trump said some nasty things about Maine's Somalians, including blaming them for an increase in crime. In fact, he was 180 degrees off base.

Boston Globe - In Lewiston, where an estimated 7,000 Somalis live, police said that crime is going down, not up.

“The Somalis have not caused any increase in crime. They’re integrated here in our city,” the acting police chief, Brian O’Malley, said. “The Somalis come here because they want somewhere safe and good schools to raise their kids, and that’s what Lewiston has.”

Crime in the city fell 17 percent in 2015 compared with the year before, continuing a steady, downward trend, O’Malley said.

At least 12,000 Somali refugees are estimated to have migrated to Maine following a horrific civil war in their East African homeland. Many settled first in cities such as Atlanta before moving to Maine to take advantage of more affordable housing and other services.

Maine Beacon - A new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress examines how well refugees from four key groups are integrating into American society.

One finding is that Lewiston is a prime example in New England of the positive effects of Somali integration.

David Dyssegaard Kallick, a senior fellow and director of the Immigration Research Initiative at the Fiscal Policy Institute, says about one in 12 immigrants arriving in the U.S. comes here as a refugee.

“Sure, they need some help to get started,” he states. “When they first come to the United States, they come from some of the most horrific situations around the world.

“But when you look at the long term, people become integrated, they start to get jobs, they own their own homes, they learn English – you know, they become Americans.”

Kallick says one refugee group is playing a particularly important role in breathing new life into cities like Lewiston: “Somalis, around Lewiston especially, have really been part of revitalizing the economy there, helping to stabilize what’s otherwise been population loss,” he states. “And I know that they’ve found jobs in some of the Lewiston factories, for example. So, I think that’s one real standout within New England.”

Times Argus - Roughly 1,000 Somali refugees who had been resettled elsewhere in the U.S. began relocating to Lewiston of their own accord from February 2001 to August 2002.

“That’s unplanned, unprogrammed, ‘here we are’ relocation,” Deputy City Administrator Phil Nadeau said. “Considering the size of our community, that’s a large relocation happening is a short amount of time.”

The migration was attributed to Lewiston having a low crime rate, a good quality of life and cheap housing. Studies provided by Nadeau rejected claims it was because of Maine’s generous welfare benefits, noting that many came from states that were equally or even more generous.

It wasn’t a smooth process. At one point, Lewiston’s mayor wrote an open letter to the Somali community asking them to discourage additional Somalis from coming, which prompted a white supremacist group to hold a rally in the city.

There was also a fear that public assistance — administered on a municipal level in Maine — would be overwhelmed. While many Somalis started out on public assistance, Nadeau said they moved out ,and in 2015 Lewiston spent the same amount in public assistance — about $1 million — as it did circa 1991.

“If you adjust for inflation, what we spent in ’90-’91, in 2015 dollars, it was $2 million,” he said.

The migration continued, and by 2011, the Somlai population of Lewiston was estimated at 5,000. The city — which totals roughly 36,000 people — also began to take in refugees and asylum-seekers from other nations.

Fifteen years later, Nadeau said Lewiston’s current condition indicates the newcomers integrated successfully.

“Many news organizations, many academics, have talked about us because they believe what we’re doing is good work,” he said. “Do I personally believe it? You betcha. I’m very biased ... but it’s defensible because other people are saying it about us.”

Stanley Delorm, spent time in Lewiston as district manager of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company before moving away. He returned to the area — he lives in the mountains outside of town — about five years ago.

“I lived here from ’81 to ’86,” Delorm said. “You probably saw half a dozen blacks. The other day, when I was down on the main street, I saw 50 black people and probably one white one. I gotta tell you what I heard about them — the young children are probably the best in the school.”

Delorm drove by some massive industrial buildings.

“These were all shoe factories, years ago,” he said. “Some are apartment houses now. Some are vacant. They’re thinking about using some for other things. They’ve torn some of them down.”

He turned onto Lisbon Street, a downtown area with businesses including a bike shop, a smoke shop and a Halal grocery.

“Used to be, most of these stores were empty,” he said. “That big three-story building was full of pigeons, no windows.”..

Indeed, business owners and city officials alike describe the city as undergoing a “renaissance.” While the renaissance coincided with the arrival of the refugees, Nadeau said it was not because of the refugees, but rather a concerted development effort that was already underway.

Even if the refugees were not part of how Lewiston got to where it is now, Nadeau said they were an important part of where the city is going.

“Lots of these people are working in jobs around the community ... they’re all contributors,” he said. “Every time they take up residence in an apartment downtown — that had a pretty high vacancy rate — that’s economic development.”

With an aging population in Maine Nadeau said immigration is vital.

“We need these younger demographics to fill the jobs,” he said. They’re part of something that was well on its way when they got here. They are going to be a part of something really important. If they hadn’t gotten here, we might be having a really different discussion about our future and our ability to fill jobs.”

Nadeau said the refugees did have a visible impact in the downtown area.

“It’s not every storefront on Lisbon Street (occupied by Somali-owned businesses) ... but it’s noticeable,” he said. “It’s important because these storefronts might not otherwise have ever been filled.”

One of those Lisbon Street storefronts is The Mogadishu Store. Roadwork was underway right outside it t. The shelves inside were mostly stocked with relatively familiar ingredients like lentils, tea and spice mixes, but once cooler held packages of ground camel meat.

The store also does a brisk takeout trade in samabusas — Somali meat pies not immediately distinguishable from Indian samosas.

Farhiya Mahamud, daughter of the owners, said when her family first arrived in 2002, her parents took entry-level jobs.

“(Her father) was a professor in Somalia,” she said. “He had a Ph.D. in chemistry. When he came here, he had to do college all over again because they didn’t recognize the African credentials. He wound up working at CVS as a clerk. My mom was a janitor at the high school.”

Down the street and around the corner from the Mogadishu Store is Simones Hot Dog Stand. Owner Jimmy Simones was celebrating his 43 anniversary with the family business.

Simones he said he started work there the day after he finished high school. He was the third generation of Simones to sling hot dogs at the restaurant, which was founded in 1908.

“As you can see, we have a lot going on, a renaissance going on,” Simones said. “(The Somalis) contributed — no question about that. It took them a while to get acclimated, but they’re learning. We get along well with everyone. They’re our customers.”

Simones recalled when the Somalis began arriving.

“The apprehension was, where are we going to put all these people?” he said. “Where are they going to live? We didn’t have the housing stock. We’re building more new units and, more and more, they’re buying their own places.”

James Gibney,Bloomberg, 2015 - When they arrived, they found a city back on its heels. Lewiston’s population had dropped by 10 percent in the 1990s, its downtown had never recovered from the closure of mills and the businesses they supported, and jobs were scarce. In a city with two of Maine's poorest census tracts, a swelling contingent of welfare-dependent non-English-speaking immigrants traumatized by war and violence didn’t exactly promise an economic miracle. Nonetheless, they brought new life to downtown -- new restaurants and shops, businesses, even a mosque. Many found jobs in and around Lewiston, and for those who didn’t, their welfare payments still helped the local economy.

More importantly, they grew and rejuvenated Lewiston’s population. That’s critical for Maine, a state whose demographics are a slow-motion economic disaster. As the Maine Department of Labor’s chief economist has noted, Maine’s unenviable status as the oldest state in the union has less to do with a lot of seniors than a lot of Baby Boomers who didn’t have many kids.

That affects everything from the labor force to school and university enrollments. By one estimate, Maine has to attract at least 3,000 new residents annually for the next 20 years to sustain its workforce, in addition to keeping its existing youngsters from moving away.

As a result of Lewiston’s African influx, since 2002 the number of kids in its schools has risen by 10 percent. If that’s a burden, it’s one that nearby communities might like to have: The school population for the rest of Androscoggin County has fallen by 15 percent.

At one level, Maine’s zany, Tea Party-steeped governor Paul LePage understands that his state needs more people to thrive. "We have more people in Maine dying than being born," he said last year.

But that was in remarks reiterating his opposition to abortion. His administration has sought to strip asylum seekers of general assistance, even though federal law prohibits them from working while their applications are pending. And he has regularly blamed "illegals" for everything from welfare fraud and crime to the spread of disease -- positions whose spirit Lewiston's current mayor has echoed.

Lewiston's director of economic and community development told the Boston Globe this summer that the unemployment rate among Somalis is only slightly higher than the state rate of 4.7 percent. And it boasts the lowest crime rate of Maine's cities.

What's real, abiding and understandable is the kind of culture shock that comes when an established, tight-knit community is deluged by newcomers. Lewiston's overwhelmingly white, Catholic, Franco-American inhabitants were themselves victims of ordinances banning French in local schools until only a few decades ago.

Injecting African Muslims into their midst is a huge challenge for both sides, especially in a state with so little diversity to begin with...

As one Somali college graduate leaving Maine for a big-city university in another state said, "It's exhausting … being Somali and living in Lewiston because it's not just limelight, it's kind of like a shining, beaming spotlight that goes with you wherever you go."

That challenge of integration and adjustment faces communities across the United States, whether Somalis, Guatemalans, or -- eventually, perhaps -- tens of thousands of Syrians. Meeting it will require not just more federal and state support, but greater understanding on all sides, from refugee organizations that take more time to consult with local stakeholders to officials who resist the political temptation to scapegoat new arrivals for old problems..

Lewiston’s polyglot high school soccer team, with players like Abdi Shariff-Hassan, Maulid Abdow and Noralddin Othman, just won the State Soccer Finals. Go Blue Devils -- and don't leave Maine!

Saturday, November 26

Missing posts

We accidentally deleted our most recent posts. Here are some of them
Nearly two thirds of state legislture candidates used public funding
Maine’s 2nd District saw more negative advertising during the campaign than any other U.S. House race

Minimum wage hike more popular than Trump or Clinton

Maine drought to continue
Press Herald - The long-running drought in much of the Northeastern United States is expected to persist through the winter.

The drought is the worst seen in more than a decade. It has been devastating to farmers and resulted in water restrictions in many places. It has dried up drinking wells and dropped lake levels.
State energy director quitting
Press Herald - Patrick Woodcock is stepping down as Gov. Paul LePage's energy director, citing a “broken” process in which lobbyists have too much influence in crafting energy policy as a contributing factor in his decision. In an interview with the Portland Press Herald, Woodcock said he enjoys the job he has held since 2013, but he expressed frustration with the power of lobbyists to define and advance energy policy in a citizen Legislature, where the turnover makes it hard for lawmakers to get up to speed on complex details.

People are burning New Balance shoes after company supported Trump

A legal answer to ranked choice naysayers

It costs a lot for the Bath built USS Zumwalt to shoot
WCSH - The new guns on the Navy’s biggest and most advanced destroyer are going to be firing blanks if the Navy can’t find cost-effective projectiles. The GPS-guided, rocket-powered projectiles developed for the new 155mm Advanced Gun System currently cost about $800,000 apiece, nearly as much as a cruise missile, making them too expensive for the Navy to buy in large quantities for the stealthy USS Zumwalt, according to officials.

LePage eyes delays on marijuana laws

Sunday, October 16

Major papers back ranked choice voting

The editorial boards of the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Morning Sentinel all endorsed the ranked choice voting referendum

Friday, October 14

LePage wants minimum wage increase leaders in jail - like Trump wants Clinton

Bangor Daily News - Blasting a ballot measure that would hike Maine’s minimum wage, Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday that two proponents of the increase — Ben Chin and Mike Tipping of the Maine People’s Alliance — “should be thrown in jail for what they’re doing to the elderly.”

Tipping, a Bangor Daily News blogger, has long been a LePage antagonist. Chin, who lost the Lewiston mayoral race to Bob Macdonald last year, works with Tipping for the Maine People’s Alliance, a progressive advocacy group that has clashed often with LePage and is working to pass Question 4, which would increase the minimum wage in Maine to $12 an hour by 2020.

Meanwhile. . . .

Maine Beacon -  Advocates for Maine seniors are backing the minimum wage increase on the ballot this November, and the campaign has launched its first TV ad highlighting the story of one of the many older Mainers who would get a raise if the minimum wage is raised to $12 by 2020.

“After my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I found myself caring for him and trying to make ends meet with an office job making $7.50 an hour. We lost our house because I couldn’t afford to make repairs,” said Kathy Rondone, whose story is featured in the ad. “I agreed to tell my story on TV because I’m not alone. One in three Mainers over the age of 65 will get a raise if Question 4 passes. I don’t think people realize how many senior citizens often have to keep working after what you might think is retirement age.”

New Upvoter Maine poll

Clinton 55% (+14)
Trump 41%

Good cop news

WCSH, Portland ME - The Bangor Police Department Facebook page has gained national attention. Now the department has used it to reach out to help the community.

After hearing the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter was in need of supplies in preparation for winter, the department's weekly 'Got Warrants' Facebook post asked their nearly 178,000 followers to send in sleeping bags.

The response: an outpouring of donations coming from all over the U.S.

"It's been a really good turnout and I think and they're still coming in. I know Bangor PD showed up today with four or five more sleeping bags. They're coming from as far away as Alabama,” Boyd Kronholm, Executive Director of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter said.

The post claims Winterport Boot Shop provided 24 pairs of winter boots and Wigwam sent 200 pairs of socks.

Thursday, October 13

Wardens raise concerns about gun-sales background check proposal

Maine drivers license may be no good for flying

Sun Journal - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has told Maine officials that the state will no longer receive any extensions to comply with the federal REAL ID law. The letter indicates the federal government will not accept Maine state IDs or drivers' licenses as identification starting in January and Maine travelers will have to provide an alternative form of identification to fly on a plane a year later.

Maine passed a law in 2007 refusing to comply with REAL ID and it appears as if the state has run out of options for further delays.

The federal law requires digital photos on licenses that can be used with facial recognition software and a state-maintained database that includes personal information on residents. It also calls for federal-approved security markings on licenses.

Business behind minimum wage hike

Portland business owners back it

So do state Chamber of Commerce members

Wednesday, October 12

Morning Line

The three last polls average Clinton's lead in Maine to three, a statistical tie. The latest poll, however, finds her ahead by 17 in District 1 and behind by only 1 in District 2. This would produce a tie in electoral votes