The Coastal Packet

Thursday, March 22

Collins pushing health bill that would hurt many

Maine Beacon -Maine Sen. Susan Collins has advanced a new bill that she says will finally make the changes necessary to stabilize insurance markets disrupted by the repeal of parts of the Affordable Care Act. However the bill contains a number of “poison pills,” according to health care advocates, including provisions that would effectively eliminate abortion coverage for individual plans, reduce subsidies for low-income people, and increase the number of uninsured Americans.

Monday, March 19

Portland's too smart lights

ACLU -Portland is moving forward with a plan to install LED lights with advanced technological capabilities. Falmouth, South Portland, Biddeford, Rockland and Scarborough have all considered similar projects.
This move, according to Portland City Manager Jon Jennings, will make Portland an attractive place to live: “As we roll out smart-city technology and overall innovation we’re going to see an increased interest in Portland and, I believe, an improvement in the quality of life,” Jennings said.

But there's a catch.

The problem isn’t with the lights themselves – or with the excitement of turning Portland into a technology innovation hub. It’s not that we can’t see the “green” side of saving energy by automatically turning the lights off and on the streets of Portland.

What raises the alarm is the fact that these LED lights could become the backbone of a new surveillance system, scrutinizing and recording us without adequate privacy policies to limit overreach. Such ‘smart city’ technology has the capability to capture mountains of data.

According to the city’s call for bids, “[t]he City seeks to build a network of LED streetlights with advanced controls that can serve as the backbone on which to deploy ‘smart city’ technologies that offer increased functionality of infrastructure, innovative services to residents and visitors, and opportunities for public/private partnerships that may expand services while providing revenue streams to the City.”

And according to the city’s agreement with the winning contractor, there will be a wireless network with “video cameras installed in Strategic Locations.”

These smart devices employ an array of sensors and cameras that are able to collect and feed data into software, which can do everything from detecting long lines, to recognizing license plates, to analyzing the habits of ordinary citizens of Portland. With such advances, it is a small jump to endless surveillance activities: from tracking citizens’ locations by communicating with their smart phones to registering their heart rates as they pass by an LED street light.

As technology rapidly progresses, privacy and oversight safeguards lag behind. As it stands, there is nothing to stop third parties from accessing this mountain of information, storing it forever, and selling it to other parties for a profit.

Maine people are entitled to know what kind of data is being collected about them and why. There is very little awareness of how poorly designed LED lighting could have a potentially devastating effect on privacy, human health, and our environment.

City officials need to engage Portland citizens and develop privacy policies related to such surveillance equipment, which is ripe for privacy abuses. We need to ensure that, as we move towards a smarter city, we put in place enough safeguards to the protect civil rights and civil liberties of the public.

Wednesday, March 14

King and Collins lend support tor another bank disaster

Maine Beacon-  Maine’s two U.S. senators are facing criticism for their votes supporting a new bank deregulation bill that fellow senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warns will “set the stage for another financial crisis” and “increases the chances of another taxpayer bailout.”

Both Senators Angus King and Susan Collins voted to advance S.2155, which eliminates protections within the Dodd-Frank Act that was passed in the wake of the 2007 financial meltdown.

King, who typically caucuses with Democrats, voted with every senate Republican and 16 Democrats to end debate on the measure.

Critics of the bill say it is littered with giveaways to big banks, and have pointed out that many of the legislation’s supporters have received sizable campaign contributions from the financial industry.

Both Maine senators are among those who have taken Wall Street money.

Monday, March 12

Nestle makes billions out of water for which it pays practically nothing

Bloomberg -Last year, U.S. bottled water sales reached $16 billion, up nearly 10 percent from 2015, according to Beverage Marketing Corp. They outpaced soda sales for the first time as drinkers continue to seek convenience and healthier options and worry about the safety of tap water after the high-profile contamination in Flint, Mich., about a two-hour drive from Mecosta. Nestlé alone sold $7.7 billion worth worldwide, with more than $343 million of it coming from Michigan, where the company bottles Ice Mountain Natural Spring Water and Pure Life, its purified water line.

The Michigan operation is only one small part of Nestlé, the world’s largest food and beverage company. But it illuminates how Nestlé has come to dominate a controversial industry, spring by spring, often going into economically depressed municipalities with the promise of jobs and new infrastructure in exchange for tax breaks and access to a resource that’s scarce for millions. Where Nestlé encounters grass-roots resistance against its industrial-strength guzzling, it deploys lawyers; where it’s welcome, it can push the limits of that hospitality, sometimes with the acquiescence of state and local governments that are too cash-strapped or inept to say no. There are the usual costs of doing business, including transportation, infrastructure, and salaries. But Nestlé pays little for the product it bottles—sometimes a municipal rate and other times just a nominal extraction fee. In Michigan, it’s $200.

In the U.S., Nestlé tends to set up shop in areas with weak water regulations or lobbies to enfeeble laws. States such as Maine and Texas operate under a remarkably lax rule from the 1800s called “absolute capture,” which lets landowners take all the groundwater they want.

How Republicans try to discourage young voters

Maine Beacon -In what has become a distressingly perennial event, Lewiston’s conservative political establishment is once again in the news for using its resources to confuse, intimidate, and suppress young and new voters.

Last week, over 200 recently registered voters in Lewiston, roughly a third of whom are students at Bates College, received an official letter from Lewiston Mayor Shane Bouchard “thanking” those voters for being part of Lewiston’s civic community before warning those individuals that registering to vote qualifies as a declaration of residency in the state of Maine, triggering a series of financial hooks that include requirements to obtain a Maine driver’s license and registering any vehicles within the state.

Student groups at Bates, representing a constituency that votes consistently for Democratic candidates, said the letter reminded them of past attempts to directly intimidate student voters at Bates from participating in local elections–efforts that have occurred with regular frequency over the past several years.

Friday, March 9

Bias at WGME-TV and WPFO-TV

Colin Woodard, Portland Press Herald -Marc McCutcheon of South Portland was watching WGME’s evening newscast as he has for half a century when something came on that shocked him.

In the midst of the local news, a taped commentary from President Trump’s former special assistant Boris Epshteyn appeared on the screen, trumpeting the administration’s position with what he thought selective use and abuse of facts.

McCutcheon, a small-business owner and political independent, describes the experience as “surreal,” “extremely jarring” and “so out of place with the friendly, local broadcast from news people I’ve come to trust over the years.” There was no rebuttal, no context, no alternate point of view – a situation he found concerning.

WGME-TV (Channel 13) and WPFO-TV (Channel 23) each carry the segments nine times a week on orders from their owner, the Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcasting Group, the nation’s largest owner of local television stations and an aggressive, unabashed disseminator of conservative commentary supporting the Trump wing of the Republican Party.

 NY Magazine- Never the pride of the Fourth Estate, local television journalism has been notorious for its sensationalism, credulity, obsession with crime (particularly, crimes committed by racial minorities), and superhuman corniness. But for all the medium’s liabilities, it retains two rapidly appreciating assets: a nonpartisan image, and genuine ties to communities outside of New York City and Washington, D.C.

These qualities have helped to make “local news organizations” the most trusted source of information in Pew Research Center’s polling on trust in media. They have also made local TV news stations an excellent tool for disseminating propaganda.

And the nation’s largest owner of such stations is using them to do just that.

A family of conservative multimillionaires owns Sinclair Broadcast Group. And Sinclair Broadcast Group is on the cusp of owning enough local television stations to reach 70 percent of American households. Every news station under Sinclair’s umbrella is required to syndicate commentary that comports with its owners’ ideological views. Over the past 13 months, this has meant regularly providing viewers with the insights of Sinclair’s chief political analyst, former Trump spokesman Boris Epshteyn. It has also meant featuring analysis from conservative pundit Mark Hyman, and updates from the “Terrorism Alert Desk” (sensationalized coverage of recent terror attacks from around the world) on a routine basis. Trump's War on the Media Has Been Years In The Making

Now, Sinclair is taking its “covert state media” game to new, Orwellian heights: By the end of this month, Sinclair will require all of its local news anchors to condemn “national media outlets” for publishing “fake stories” and “using their platforms to push their own personal bias,” according to internal documents obtained by CNN. Those documents instruct local news directors to air these criticisms of “biased and false news” — criticisms that, of course, echo the president’s own — over and over again, so as “to create maximum reach and frequency.”

State threatens to wreck Wiscasset over parking

Press Herald -The Maine Department of Transportation has threatened to remove all parking from Wiscasset’s Main Street without building alternative spaces if the town requires the state’s Route 1 traffic improvement project to comply with local ordinances, the town asserted in a court filing. Related Headlines

Such a move would leave downtown Wiscasset without adequate parking, a scenario that local business owners describe in catastrophic terms. The state’s threat represents a further escalation in tensions among this midcoast community of 3,700, the department and Gov. Paul LePage, who many residents believe is behind the department’s aggressive strategy to force through the project on its terms.

Thursday, March 8

Mainers oppose offshore driling

Maine Public Broadcasting -The Department of the Interior is proposing to open nearly all of the nation’s coastline to exploratory drilling for oil and gas. The feds held an open house in Augusta  to collect public comment, which was largely in firm opposition.

“Now is the time for Maine people to speak up and oppose this short-sighted giveaway to the oil industry,” says Lisa Pohlman, the executive director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Pohlman says studies have shown that there is little potential for finding oil or gas off the Maine coast while the risks from exploration, she says, are enormous.

“The Trump Administration’s plan to sell off our ocean waters to the oil industry poses a major, unacceptable risk to Maine’s coast, residents, economy and marine life," she says. Melissa Gates of the Surfrider Foundation told the group that neither Maine nor the rest of the country can afford to risk the harm that would be caused by a spill or drilling accident off the coast.

“We say loud and clear, No!” Gates says to the crowd. “Can you all join me in saying that? No! Not here in Maine, not here in New England and not anywhere in America.”

Others say even exploratory drilling could cause serious harm to existing Maine industries, including tourism and commercial fishing, which are part of Maine’s identity.

“There’s no one that comes to the state of Maine to the coastline to eat a chicken sandwich,” says State Rep. Mick Devin, a democrat from Newcastle. “If we don’t maintain our pristine coast we might as well pack it up and become part of Massachusetts again because we won’t be able to survive.”

Emergency visits of opioid overdoses jumps 34% in Maine

Press Herald-  Emergency department visits for suspected opioid overdoses increased by 34 percent in Maine from 2016 to 2017, during a time when drug overdose deaths in the state reached an all-time high.

At the same time, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island all reported decreases in emergency department visits for opioid overdoses, making Maine the only New England state to experience an increase, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Statewide data was not available for the other two New England states, Vermont and Connecticut

Wednesday, March 7

Governor's race getting a little wierd

Maine Public Broadcasting - A Republican candidate for Maine governor is catching heat for his unique solution for deadly school shootings.

Shawn Moody of Gorham was asked on WVOM about gun control measures. Instead of floating more conventional proposals such as beefing up school security, he offered what he described as a common-sense solution.

“There are fire extinguishers, dry chemical fire extinguishers, in every commercial building, school, and almost within 100 feet of wherever you are, and a fire extinguisher can be a great deterrent if somebody gets out of control or if anything happens,” he said. “A teacher, anybody could break that glass, set the alarm off, grab that dry chemical fire extinguisher and spray it towards somebody, and I’ll tell you right now that could put them to their knees.”

Tuesday, March 6

Ranked choice voting heads for the ballot

Independent Voter Network -It’s been a rough and uncertain road for ranked choice voting in Maine. It was the first statewide ranked choice initiative in the nation to get approval from voters, was made law in 2017, survived repeal attempts in the regular legislative session, but then was delayed and set for repeal in 2021 during a special session.

But the people of Maine fought back against state politicians, and successfully gathered enough petition signatures to put the people’s veto of an “An Act to Implement Ranked-choice Voting in 2021” on the June 12 primary ballot. Because the petition campaign was successful, ranked choice voting will be used in the Republican and Democratic primaries for all state and federal elections.

Press Herald - Voters also will be asked June 12 whether they want to keep the ranked-choice system for federal elections in November. If that “people’s veto” measure is approved, it would nullify the Legislature’s vote to delay and then repeal the law passed by voters in 2016 unless the Maine Constitution is amended.

In November 2016, 52 percent of voters approved a ballot initiative that would make Maine the first state in the nation to implement ranked-choice voting.

Saturday, February 24

Home care referendum gets enough signatures

Maine Beacon - Maine’s Secretary of State announced today that the grassroots effort to ensure seniors and Mainers with disabilities can get the care they need to stay in their own homes has collected enough valid signatures to place a citizen-initiated referendum on the ballot this November.

Within ten days, the Secretary of State will refer the initiative to the legislature, where they can choose to pass the measure into law or send it out to Maine voters

Thursday, February 22

Brunswick welcomes immigrants

Portland Press Herald -The Brunswick Town Council voted 8-1 to adopt a resolution expressing the town’s desire to welcome new residents – particularly immigrants, but the move has encountered opposition from those who say it’s a step toward potentially pitting the town against federal law.

Titled “Resolution welcoming new residents,” the idea was put forward by Sanctuary Brunswick, an organization dedicated to the acceptance of immigrants. With the resolution, the council said the town would “welcome and support the successful integration of immigrants into our community as it also seeks to deepen the sensitivity of our citizens to the challenges faced by our newest neighbors.”

The decision comes after the council approved a new banner in the town office that depicts a variety of ethnicities and the phrase “Welcome New Mainers.” Supporters of the resolution said it follows the same sentiment as the banner.

Wednesday, February 21

Warmest February day in Portland since 1957

King gets 100%, Collins 33% from NAACP

Hannaford workers go on strike

Bangor Daily News - Hundreds of Hannaford workers at the South Portland distribution center launched a 24-hour strike early Wednesday morning, appearing to buck the supermarket giant’s attempt to avoid it through mediation talks. About 250 workers voted to authorize the strike Saturday after they rejected the supermarket giant’s “last, best offer” on a three-year contract.

Monday, February 19

Maine ranked choice voting action seen as national precedent

Fair Vote - In his latest in Vox, Lee Drutman accurately points to the upcoming election in Maine as a crucial one for proponents of electoral reform in the United States.

He writes, “If Maine implements ranked-choice voting, over the objection of threatened political incumbents, it could set an important precedent for the nation, building momentum for a much-needed reform to our broken electoral system.”

Ranked choice voting (RCV) is used in more than a dozen cities across the country, but should the RCV referendum pass, Maine will be the first state in the nation to use it to vote for its members of Congress and to nominate all state offices in primary elections.

Saturday, February 17

Ranked choice voting suit filed to put it into effect

A lawsuit asking the Kennebec County Superior Court to order the implementation of Ranked Choice Voting for the June 2018 primaries has been filed  by a group of eight candidates and the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting. The candidates named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are congressional candidate Lucas St. Clair, gubernatorial candidates Jim Boyle, Mark Dion, Mark Eves, Sean Faircloth, Diane Russell and Betsy Sweet, and state senate candidate Ben Chipman.

“Actions and statements from state officials have created uncertainty about implementation of Ranked Choice Voting,” said former State Senator Dick Woodbury, chair of the Committee. “We are asking the court to establish some clarity.”

Maine’s Ranked Choice Voting law took effect in January 2017 after being adopted by a majority of voters at the polls in November 2016. The Legislature, in October 2017, attempted to overrule the voters by adopting legislation that would delay use of Ranked Choice Voting until 2021, but more than 80,000 Maine voters responded with a People’s Veto initiative to get Ranked Choice Voting back on the books and at the polls for the June 2018 primaries. The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting spearheaded the referendum effort.

Friday, February 9

Every Republican on legislature labor committee voted to cut minimum wage

Maine Beacon -  In a party-line, 6-to-7 vote, Democrats on the Maine Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Development committee rejected legislation submitted by Governor Paul LePage and sponsored by Rep. Joel Stetkis to cut scheduled increases to Maine’s minimum wage and create a new class of workers who can be paid lower wages.

Wednesday, February 7

Saturday, February 3

Maine to be first state to implement ranked choice voting

Press Herald -Supporters of ranked-choice voting submitted more than 80,000 signatures Friday to send the issue back to the Maine ballot in June after lawmakers voted to delay and potentially repeal the law.

In November 2016, voters approved a ballot initiative that would make Maine the first state in the nation to implement ranked-choice voting. But lawmakers passed a law delaying the effective date until December 2021 and then repealing the ranked-choice voting process altogether if a constitutional amendment hasn’t been passed by then to address legal concerns.

The campaign needs 61,123 signatures from registered Maine voters to qualify for the Maine ballot, and campaign spokeswoman Crystal Canney said town clerks have already certified 72,175 of the roughly 80,000 signatures.

Friday, February 2

More Patriot haters than fans

CBS Boston -A survey from Monmouth University finds that 37 percent of Americans are rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles to win Super Bowl LII, compared to just 16 percent who want another Patriots championship.

Furthermore, 39 percent said they are actively cheering for the Patriots to lose, while only 12 percent are explicitly against the Eagles.

When sampling just the northeast, the Eagles are still favored over the Patriots by 45 percent to 28 percent.

Overall, 39 percent of Americans say they will be watching on Sunday. But many don’t even care who lifts the trophy, as 49 percent say the commercials will be the most interesting part.

The poll also revealed something about the reputation of both fan bases. Twenty-six percent said they’d be worried about running into Eagles fans in a dark alley, compared to 14 percent who would be nervous about the same encounter with Patriots fans.

Religious leaders becoming more active

Maine Beacon -The nine faith leaders who were arrested at Senator Susan Collins’ Portland office last December learned Thursday that their charges would be dismissed. But rather than pledging submission, the interfaith clergy members told reporters afterwards that their activism would continue as long as the “legislatively enshrined injustice and oppression” continues.

“We have reached an agreement with the District Attorney’s office and are prepared to resolve this case,” said Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill of Portland’s HopeGateWay United Methodist church outside the Cumberland County courthouse. “However, our work is far from finished.”

“Under the umbrella of a grassroots interfaith group called Moral Movement Maine, we will continue to shine a light on legislatively enshrined injustice and oppression, to communicate the moral obligation to care for those who are struggling, and to remind our leaders of their responsibility to provide for the common good,” he continued. “We will not be dissuaded or deterred. This is our calling. This is our commitment.”


Wednesday, January 31

Legalized pot delayed

Press Herald -Republican House Leader Ken Fredette is calling for the delay of recreational marijuana sales in Maine until next year, or until lawmakers approve needed regulations.

A ban on retail pot sales technically lifts Thursday, but the state hasn’t set up a way for marijuana retailers to get the required licenses.

Meanwhile, the Maine Senate on Tuesday accepted Republican Sen. Roger Katz’s bill to delay sales until this spring. The matter faces further votes.

Voters in 2016 approved legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. But while pot possession and use is legal, sales have remained illegal as lawmakers try to overhaul the voter-approved law and spur the regulatory process under Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration.

Thursday, January 25

Maine sets another record in home sales

Press Herald -  For the third consecutive year, Maine set a statewide record for home sales volume in 2017 with 17,633 existing single-family homes sold, an increase of 0.7 percent from 2016, according to Maine Listings data.

“Home sales … have been up annually each year except two since the historic low of 9,782 (sales) in 2008 – at which time they had declined an unprecedented 19 percent from the year before,” said Michael Sosnowski, owner and broker of the Portland real estate brokerage Maine Home Connection.

The evidence that limited inventory in southern Maine curtailed what could have been an even bigger sales year can be found in the data for York and Cumberland counties, Sosnowski said. Sales volume in York County remained practically unchanged from 2016, and home sales actually declined by 3.7 percent in Cumberland County, according to Maine Listings.

Tuesday, January 23

LePage appointing a Nestle staffer to environmental board

Community Water Justice - Maine Governor Paul LePage is in the process of appointing a full-time long-term Nestle/Poland Spring employee Mark Dubois to our Board of Environmental Protection, with the help of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee Chair, Senator Thomas Saviello.

This is a serious conflict of interest, that gives additional power to private interests. We are amidst the 'global water grabs' where water rights are quickly being secured by the world's most wealthy individuals, corporations and banks. We should not be giving power to foreign corporate interests as this or to any private entity when we should be putting our groundwater under a public trust.

Senator Saviello is the Senator of Maine's 17th district, a region where Nestle operates an expanding bottling plant with several extraction and test well sites feeding into it. We wonder how much in campaign contributions he's received from Nestle, as they are one of the biggest corporate donors in our state.

Maine unemployement at lowest rate in 40 years


Friday, January 19

Minimum wage increase has helped the state economy

Maine Center for Economic Progress -Wage and employment gains during the first six months of 2017 reveal that Maine’s voter-approved minimum wage increase has not hurt the state’s economy as the referendum’s opponents warned it would. Instead, one year after the first minimum wage increase went into effect, available data suggest that the initiative is working as intended by helping to increase wages with no apparent adverse impact on employment.

According to MECEP analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, total wages in Maine grew by $587 million in the first half of 2017 compared with the first half of 2016. That’s a 4.7 percent year-over-year increase, the largest such increase since before the Great Recession.

Thursday, January 18

New CMP head says: Sure, put solar panels on your roof if you want

Maine Public Broadcasting -  Maine's largest electric utility has a new CEO.  Doug Herling took over operations of Central Maine Power Company Jan. 1, a day after the utility's long-time leader Sara Burns stepped down.

Herling says although solar power advocates often criticize the company, he supports build-out of the renewable energy technology in Maine."I think everyone should put solar panels on their roof if that's what they want to do," he says.

How Maine would be affected by a federal shutdown

Press Herald - If Congress can’t avoid a government shutdown over immigration policy this week, the most visible effect in Maine would be the closure of Acadia National Park.

Heating and housing assistance for the poor also might be vulnerable to disruption, although state officials have been unable to get their federal counterparts to clarify the situation. Related

Federal employees also would not receive paychecks, some civilian workers could be furloughed, and there could be delays in getting passports.

Otherwise, Mainers would notice few changes, at least at first, because the state has relatively few federal facilities and employees

Wednesday, January 17

Biggest employer in Maine is non-profits: employ 1 in 6 workers

Your Maine drivers license is stll good to fly

Maine Public Broadcasting - Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap says he wants to remind Maine residents that state driver’s licenses and ID cards are currently valid for federal purposes such as air travel. Maine has a waiver in place through Oct. 10 of this year as the state works to comply with the federal Real ID law. Dunlap says many people are seeing outdated or inaccurate information online, particularly on social media. Maine was one of a few states that had resisted compliance with Real ID because of cost and privacy concerns. State lawmakers passed legislation last year to require the state to make the necessary changes.

Tuesday, January 16

Ranked Choice Voting has 90% of needed signature

Ballot Access -  The Maine referendum petition to save ranked choice voting now has 55,000 signatures, according to this story. It needs 61,123 valid signatures, which are due in three weeks.

Monday, January 15

Deep freeze may reduce insects

Press Herald - People who know bugs and trees say there could be an upside to the sustained freezing temperatures that have challenged Mainers for more than a month, besides providing ideal conditions for ice fishing and pond hockey.

The devastating winter moth and hemlock woolly adelgid – and possibly the brown-tail moth and spruce budworm – may be especially susceptible to subzero temperatures that set in just after Christmas, said Jim Dill, a pest management specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Saturday, January 13

Delays in heating oil delivery

Maine Public Broadcasting -It’s been a rough start to the new year for thousands of customers who rely on home heating fuel and for the companies that provide it. More than a week after a blizzard and a spate of record-low temperatures, suppliers are still facing a backlog of orders, customers have run out and some deliveries still can’t be scheduled for another two weeks.

Friday, January 12

Maine now has 11 elected Greens

Eleven registered members of the Maine Green Party now hold elective public office. The newest is Michael Dignan, who was elected to the Oxford Hills School Board last November.

Minimum wage increase worked

Maine Center for Economic Policy - According to MECEP analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, total wages in Maine grew by $587 million in the first half of 2017 compared with the first half of 2016. That’s a 4.7 percent year-over-year increase, the largest such increase since before the Great Recession.

Wage and job growth in the first half of 2017 coincided with the first minimum increase in eight years, which raised Maine’s wage floor from $7.50 to $9 per hour starting on January 7, 2017. The tipped minimum wage also increased from $3.75 to $5.00 per hour. As expected, data from the state’s largest employment sectors indicate that workers in the lowest-paid industries experienced the biggest proportional wage gains. That’s because low wage workers benefitted most directly from the higher minimum wage.

Maine drug overdose deaths rise at half the national average

Figures from the Center for Disease Control found that between June 2016 and June 2017, drug overdoes deaths in  Maine rose 8.3%. This was half the 16.3 percent average for the country as a whole.

Wednesday, January 10

California water board takes action against Nestle

Story of Stuff -The State Water Board confirms allegations made against Nestlé Waters North America that the multimillion dollar corporation is taking water from the San Bernardino National Forest in Southern California to which it has no legal claim. The announcement validates the complaints filed in favor of this investigation by citizens in the San Bernardino region and public advocacy organizations The Story of Stuff Project and Courage Campaign Institute.

The Water Board has directed Nestlé to limit its water take to an annual 8.5 million gallons, what is legally permitted by the company’s water right. Nestlé takes, on average, 62.6 million gallons a year to supply its Arrowhead brand water bottles. To be in compliance with the Board’s conclusion, Nestlé must immediately cease any unauthorized diversions. This includes a series of well complexes in the San Bernardino National Forest from which Nestlé draws the majority of its water.

The investigation substantiates concerns that Nestlé continues to bottle public water taken off public lands in California for private gain without adhering the legal framework established to ensure that water use, in an increasingly drought-ridden state that has been devastated by wildfires in recent months, is reasonable, efficient, and benefits all Californians as well as the state’s natural ecosystems.

Maine's largest solar project

Coastal Journal - A $2.5 million solar array project, constructed by ReVision Energy, had a ribbon cutting on Jan. 9 at Brunswick Landing. With its completion, the solar array – to-date, the largest in the state, containing over 4,500 photovoltaic panels – is providing power to over 100 businesses at the former naval air base. In addition to the Brunswick Landing project, a smaller project at the former Woolwich landfill on Middle Road has also powered up, generating electricity for the town office and other municipal buildings.

Friday, January 5

Storm second worst for flooding

Maine Public Broadcasting - In addition to snow and wind, Thursday’s blizzard brought historic flooding to the southern Maine coast, from Portland all the way into New Hampshire.

John Cannon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, says the combination of the storm and a near full moon pushed water levels to their highest in four decades.

“The flood state in Portland reached 13.79 feet. We haven’t reached that high since the blizzard of ‘78. That’s how significant this is,” he says.

State marine geologist Peter Slovinsky says the blizzard of ‘78 is actually the only storm in state history that overshadows Thursday’s.

“It’s the second highest water level we’ve seen since 1912,” he says.

Cannon says the flooding covered some roadways with a foot or more of water and, in some instances, ice.

Wednesday, December 27

Coldest days in Portland


Nestle ripping off water in California, too

Desert Sun -  California water regulators told Nestlé that the company doesn’t appear to have valid water rights for much of the water it’s been piping out of the San Bernardino National Forest and selling as bottled water. ...

Friday, December 22

The year in Maine

Maine restaurants and hotels had a record-breaking year in 2016, bringing in more than $3.6 billion in combined sales, according to estimates from the Maine Restaurant Association and Maine Innkeepers Association. Overall, lodging and restaurant sales rose 7 percent from 2015

Maine has 8174 farms (Up fro 7196 in 2002)
Since 2006, the number of small farms has increased by 13%.
Nearly 40% of Maine’s farmers are under age 34.
Agricultural sales have risen by 24 percent since 2007. - Press Herald 2017

Maine has least educated workforce in New England 2017

The Maine Department of Labor said the November [2017] rate is down slightly from 3.5 percent for October and 3.8 percent from a year ago. It is the 26th consecutive month that the unemployment rate has been below 4 percent.

Beacon-A report from the US Department of Agriculture found that while the nation as a whole has continued to make progress against hunger, over the last year Maine has dropped from 9th worst in the country to 7th worst in food insecurity. Over the past decade, food insecurity in Maine has increased by 27%. Maine ranks even worse, third in the country, for the percentages of households falling into the even-more dire category of “very low food security.” Food insecurity in Maine is now 25% worse than the national average, with 16.4% of households are food insecure compared to 13% nationally

Sun Journal - New U.S. Census Bureau figures show that the number of Maine residents without health insurance stayed steady from 2015 to 2016. According to a new federal report released Tuesday , Maine's uninsured rate of 8.6 percent is a drop from 11.2 percent in 2013. About 106,000 Mainer residents lacked health insurance last year, down from 147,000 residents in 2015

The Maine Association of Realtors says sales of single-family existing homes increased 11.5 percent in November 2017 compared to a year earlier. According to an association report, 1,576 homes were sold in Maine in November. The median home sales price also increased in Maine over the past year by 4.2 percent, to $200,000.

Maine’s economy grew sluggishly in the final three months of 2016, expanding just 0.7 percent, making Maine the slowest-growing state in New England and 43rd nationally. Figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis suggest that contractions in real estate, rental and leasing activity, along with a decline manufacturing of non-durable goods – items expected to last less than three years – were the biggest drags on the state’s economy.

Press Herald - Maine’s tourism industry saw its revenue increase for the fourth straight year in 2016, growing to $6 billion, a 6 percent bump over 2015. The 35.8 million visitors who fueled the growth included a resurgence of Canadian vacationers... Mid-Atlantic metropolitan areas such as New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have become a rich vein for Maine tourism, particularly for first-time visitors who tend to stay longer and spend more money. The state hosted about 5 million first-time visitors in 2016, half a million more than in 2015.

MPBN - A report focusing on rural roadways finds almost one 1 of 5 in Maine in poor condition and around 1 in 6 rural bridges to be structurally deficient.


Maine house sales up 11.5%

Maine Public Broadcating - The Maine Association of Realtors says sales of single-family existing homes increased 11.5 percent in November 2017 compared to a year earlier. According to an association report, 1,576 homes were sold in Maine in November. The median home sales price also increased in Maine over the past year by 4.2 percent, to $200,000.