The Coastal Packet

Saturday, November 2

Lobster catch down

News Break - Early numbers show Maine's lobster catch has declined as much as 40 percent this year; equaling roughly 50 million pounds. State officials calculated these results using data gathered from September 2018 to September 2019. However, there are still a few months worth of data from lobster..

Tuesday, October 15

Impeachment would hurt Collins

Political Wire - A new Public Policy Polling survey in Maine shows Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has a dismal 35% to 50% approval rating.

Collins trails a generic Democrat for reelection 41% to 44%. That represents a big drop for Collins compared to a September poll when she led a generic Democrat by 6 points at 44% to 38%.

Also interesting is that 53% of Mainers support impeaching President Trump with 44% opposed. When asked who they would choose if Collins opposed impeachment, she goes from a 3-point deficit against a generic Democratic opponent for reelection to a 7-point deficit at 40% to 47%.

Monday, October 14

Feds lend support for refuigee agriculture

The federal government’s investing more than $600,000 in a Portland group that works with immigrants and refugees to teach sustainable farming practices.

Saturday, October 5

Border Patrol harass citizens in Brunswick

Press Herald - Border patrol agents stopped travelers to ask about their citizenship at the Brunswick transportation station last week, a move which American Civil Liberties Union officials say “erodes basic Fourth Amendment rights.” The stop, also known as a “hub check” is “nothing out of the ordinary,” said Michael Niezgoda, a public affairs officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. He would not say how often they perform these checks or when the next one may be.

Emma Bond, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Maine, said in an email that the checks, which she called “bus raids,” “erode basic Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches.”

It is important in these situations, to know your rights and inform others, Bond said.

Monday, September 30

Maine incomes dropped last year

Press Herald - Mainers’ household incomes dropped 3.3 percent from 2017 to 2018, the largest decrease among the states, the Census Bureau said. Economists said the figures likely reflect Maine’s aging population and the move of many workers from jobs into retirement, with more limited income. However, the economists also cautioned that the figures are estimates drawn from relatively small sample sizes, and year-to-year changes are less reliable than those recorded over a longer period.

Monday, September 23

Portland sets temperature record

Press Herald -The temperature in Portland hit 88 degrees at 2 p.m. Monday, breaking a previous high temperature record for Sept. 23 set in 1941, according to the National Weather Service. And if the temperature doesn’t drop below 68 degrees before midnight Monday, Maine will tie another record for the highest low temperature on record for the date.

Saturday, September 21

State says mobile tiny homes are no longer vehicles

Press Herald -Maine state officials say mobile tiny homes will no longer be recognized by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles... The change means owners need to apply and pay for a single-use permit each time they move their unit. Those opposed to the change say it especially affects lower-income people who may rely on vehicle titles to get bank financing to purchase a tiny house.

Friday, September 20

Judge temporarily lowers fine for Maine driver cell phone violations

Press Herald -A Maine judge agreed on Friday to temporarily lower the fine for first-time offenders who run afoul of the state’s new law requiring drivers to put down their phones when behind the wheel.

The move brings the fine down to a base rate of $50 from $170, or more than triple what lawmakers believed they were imposing when the Legislature adjourned three months ago. The law contained imprecise language that set the first offense at a minimum of $50, instead of requiring that exact amount.

The six-month delay gives legislators time to correct the error during the next legislative session. If legislators fail to act, the base fine amount will increase to about $170 on April 6, 2020. With fees, a first offense would cost $230.

Maine water temps normal so far this year

Maine Public -It's often reported that the Gulf of Maine's waters are warming faster than 99 percent of the largest saltwater bodies on the planet. But scientists will tell you the trend can be volatile. This year, for instance, surface water temperatures in the Gulf have been their coolest since 2008. That may be providing some relief for some of the Gulf's historic species, but ongoing climate change means that long-term prospects are still uncertain.

Collins in email: New investigation of Kavanaugh could ‘ruin’ a ‘decent man

Wednesday, September 18

Climate strike events

Bowdoin Climate Strike
Friday, September 20th, 10:00 a.m.
Bowdoin Art Museum steps
Brunswick, United States
Bowdoin Climate Strike
Portland ME Sept. 20th Strike
Friday, September 20th, 12:00 p.m.
Portland City Hall
Portland, United States
Portland ME Sept. 20th Strike

Sunday, September 15

Gulf of Maine second fastest warming portion of world's oceans

Colin Woodard, Press Herald -The Gulf of Maine is the second fastest-warming portion of the world’s oceans, a vast laboratory for ocean scientists studying how global warming affects the marine environment and for policymakers trying to figure out how to minimize the damage to fisheries, communities or, as in the case of the 2012 lobster glut, civic peace. Their discoveries underscore the seriousness of the changes and the complexity of the required policy responses.

...Since the record-breaking heat wave of 2012-2013, the Gulf of Maine has continued to warm, seeing its second and third warmest sea surface temperature years on record in 2016 and 2018.

Friday, September 13

Census data shows more than 100,000 Mainers continue to go without health coverage

Shortage of substitute teachers

Press Herald -Local school districts, including those who have raised pay rates, continue to struggle to find enough substitute teachers to cover their classrooms, leading to “great havoc” in schools.

“There are many days we have assignments unfilled,” said Westbrook Superintendent Dr. Peter Lancia. “When there isn’t a substitute available, we patch together coverage to find people who can cover parts. It impacts the kids.”

With only 35 substitute teachers this year, Gorham is “desperately trying to recruit more,” said Superintendent Heather Perry.

Districts across the state have tried for years to increase their rosters of substitutes to an adequate level, using online recruiting systems, placing help wanted ads in local newspapers and following up on word of mouth recommendations. There’s “always a shortage of substitute teachers,” said SAD 6 Superintendent Paul Penna.

Wednesday, September 11

How climate change may affect Maine

Pine Tree Watch -Much of rural Maine is vulnerable to cascading economic impacts as climate disruptions intensify due to what NASA calls “the relentless rise” in atmospheric carbon dioxide from increased combustion of fossil fuels.

Maine is ramping up efforts to cut carbon pollution, but global emissions in 2018 reached an all-time high. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have now topped 415 ppm, the highest level recorded.

Some warming is already baked into the atmospheric system, scientists warn, and will cause marked upheaval in coming decades – even if rapid cuts are made in carbon emissions. Some climate impacts could descend with hurricane force, while others accrue incrementally.

 Maine Climate Hazards

County races next target for RCV movement

Tuesday, September 10

Three Maine colleges make US News & World Report top ranks

Press Herald -Three Maine liberal arts colleges rank among the top 25 in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report, which released its annual rankings of colleges and universities Monday.

Bowdoin, Colby and Bates colleges each climbed higher in the rankings of the country’s most prestigious private schools, while the University of Maine dipped when compared to other public universities around the country.

In Maine, Bowdoin College in Brunswick ranked sixth – up one spot from last year – among national liberal arts colleges followed by Colby College in Waterville, which ranked 11th. Bates College in Lewiston was rated 21st out of 223 schools.

Last year, Colby tied for an 18th place ranking and Bates was 22nd.

Among 146 public universities nationwide, the University of Maine was rated 100th — down three spots from a 97th place ranking last year. Maine’s flagship public campus in Orono was tied for No. 202 among all U.S. universities.

Other Maine schools in the rankings include the University of New England, rated 246th out of 399 national universities; and Maine Maritime Academy, which ranked 5th among 58 Northeast regional colleges.

Friday, September 6

Trump could cause 44,000 Mainers to lose food assistance

Maine Public Broadcasting -Officials from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services say more than 44,000 Mainers would lose food assistance under a rule change proposed by the Trump administration in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. That's more than a quarter of all SNAP recipients in the state. DHHS says nearly half of those are children, older Mainers, and people with disabilities.

Sunday, September 1

Understanding ranked choice voting in presidential primary

Bill Nemitz wrote a confusing piece in the Press Herald implying that ranked choice voting won't work right in a presidential primary because voters are selected for a caucus distribution - not a single candidate. In fact, Fair Vote - the movement behind RCV - clarified this a couple of month ago. including this:
Those casting RCV ballots will rank the candidates. If their first choice has at least 15 percent, their ballot will keep counting for that candidate. If their first choice is in last place and below 15 percent, their vote will count for their second choice. This will continue until all candidates are above 15 percent...
The 15 percent threshold set by the Democratic National Committee means that in primaries without ranked choice voting, any presidential candidate who receives less than 15 percent of the caucus or primary vote (either in a congressional district or statewide) will not earn any delegates, and their supporters’ votes will not help nominate delegates nor help determine who is the strongest candidate among the top candidates.

When ranked choice voting is used, more votes count. This is how the tally will be done: There will be one RCV tally statewide and one for each congressional district, as Democrats award delegates based on both of those results:
  1. Voters rank candidates in order of their choice.
  2. If any candidates earn less than 15 percent of the vote, the ranked choice vote tally starts. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and those voters have their ballots count for their second choice (or next choice among active candidates).
  3. This process continues until all active candidates have at least 15 percent of votes. Delegates are then allocated proportionally.
 The full report is here.

Saturday, August 31

Big waits at BMV for dirvers licenses

Press Herald -Many Maine motorists have been stuck in the slow lane at the state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicle branch offices this summer – with thousands waiting more than 1½ hours to get their licenses renewed or new cars registered.

Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for the Maine Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees the BMV, said Friday that the situation isn’t normal for an agency that is usually praised for its speedy and helpful customer service.

One major factor, Muszynski said, is a staffing shortage that’s left the BMV offices with 15 staff vacancies across the three different regions of the state – south, central and north.

Wednesday, August 28

Maine teachers will spend $5.2 million of their own money on school supplies

Maine Center for Economic Policy This year, Maine’s public school teachers will spend $5.2 million — an average of $356 per teacher — to keep their classrooms well stocked with school supplies.

That’s according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, which calculated teacher spending in all 50 states using survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

More concern about Maine's public charter schools

Pine Tree Watch -Growing concerns about how well Maine’s nine public charter schools are educating students have some predicting that legislation to shut down charter schools will be on the docket next session. Maine’s Democratic lawmakers succeeded where no other state did this year in passing bills to limit charter schools. It’s a sign that there may be political will to go a step further and begin closing charter schools next year, said Todd Ziebarth, a state advocate with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Maine is nation’s whitest, most rural state that doesn’t vote Republican

Maine Beacon -Maine tops a list of just seven states where demographics have not yet become a reliable predictor of whether voters will break towards Democrats or Republicans in national elections. 

Maine, which has a higher share than average of white, rural voters without a college education, should vote much redder, suggests a study of nationwide voting trends. But the state has gone purple to blue in recent elections.

The list was created by the national political magazine, Governing. They looked at federal data, which does reinforce a dominant media narrative around national elections — Republicans have the most traction among rural, white voters without a college degree while Democrats tend to do better in more diverse urban areas with voters with at least an undergraduate degree.

Friday, August 23

Susan Collins challenger hit with ethics complaints

The Hill -Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat running to challenge Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) next year, is facing ethics complaints filed Friday by a former GOP lawmaker over Gideon's political action committee's  activities. Former state Sen. Ed Youngblood (R) filed complaints with the Federal Elections Commission and the Maine Ethics Commission alleging that Gideon broke the law by accepting reimbursements for her political donations from her own PAC.

Thursday, August 22

Ranked choice voting petition in Portland falls short of signatures

A referendum to extend ranked-choice voting to all City Council and Board of Education races in Portland failed to get enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot in November, the city clerk said.