The Coastal Packet

Sunday, May 20

Summary of Democratic gov candidates on key issues

Poverty wages forcing home care givers to quit

Maine is home to a large proportion of seniors who in a few years will be facing the critical question of whether they can remain in their homes. The largest obstacle for those who want to stay is often finding consistent, quality care and new research shows that is becoming increasingly difficult. According to a new benchmark study, annual turnover in the homecare industry has risen to more than two thirds, with poverty wages paid to those caring for seniors and people with disabilities being the main driver of the trend.

According to the annual Home Care Benchmarking Study conducted by industry research firm Home Care Pulse, 67 percent of caregivers left their jobs in 2017. The group, which surveyed 730 care providers, found that the spike was tied closely with low pay.

Friday, May 18

A Mainer shows how to pass on a business

Popular Resistance - Two months ago, Rock City Coffee, a cafe and coffee roastery [in Rockland, ME], became a worker-owned cooperative, with employees buying the business from its previous owner and founder, Susanne Ward.

For [Susanne] Ward, selling the business to her employees was a reward to people who worked for her and a way to ensure that what she and her husband began 26 years ago would live on true to character.

For the employees, the opportunity allowed them a path to business ownership and to keep Rock City as the place where they love to work.

“I hated the idea of somebody else coming in and trying to change everything. I feel like because it’s [an employee] cooperative, it will always be Rock City,” said Kevin Malmstrom, who has worked at Rock City for 14 years and is now one of the 17 employee-owners.

Until closing day on the loan the cooperative took out to purchase Rock City, each of the 30 employees had the opportunity to join the cooperative and become part owners of the business.

Employee-owned cooperatives are on the rise across business sectors, according to Rob Brown, director of business ownership solutions at the Cooperative Development Institute. This is especially true in Maine, Brown said, largely due to the state’s aging population, with business owners finding themselves at retirement age but not wanting to endure the traditional sale process.

Sunday, May 13

Poll: Mainers not hot on Trump

An interesting Survey USA poll of Maine voters offers some encouragement for Democrats. Only  31% of all voters and 28% of those earning less than $40,000 a year have a favorable opinion of Trump. Further, 88% say they are registered, 99% of those 65 or over.

Saturday, May 12

Collins plans to vote for torturer

Maine Public Broadcasting - After extensive questioning of President Trump's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, Maine's two U.S. senators have come to different conclusions about whether to confirm Gina Haspel for the post. Republican Sen. Susan Collins says she plans to vote yes. " Ms. Haspel is an accomplished intelligence professional who will bring 33 years of experience to her new role."

Mills and Moody lead in poll

Bangor Daily News - Republican Shawn Moody and Democrat Janet Mills are clear front-runners in Maine’s June gubernatorial primaries...

The poll of nearly 2,200 Mainers shows highly unsettled primaries: In the 2nd District, 31 percent of likely Democratic voters didn’t know who their first choices would be and 24 percent of likely Democratic voters and 22 percent of likely Republican voters were undecided on who their nominees should be to replace to term-limited Gov. Paul LePage.

But Moody, a businessman, and Mills, the Maine attorney general, emerged as clear front-runners in the Republican and Democratic fields. Among likely voters in each party who made first-round choices, Moody was favored by 44 percent and Mills by 41 percent.

Friday, May 4

Maine Republican Party files federal lawsuit to stop ranked-choice voting in June primary

Food stamps crucial to Maine

Maine Center for Economic Policy - Data from Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that SNAP is especially important for the economy of rural Maine, in the western and northeastern parts of the state. In those counties, as many as one in four households use the program to put food on the table, and SNAP benefits pay for up to 18 percent of all grocery sales in those areas.

Wednesday, May 2

ACLU files suit over bus citizens harassed by border patrols

The ACLU of Maine has filed a lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security after the agencies flouted their responsibility under the Freedom of Information Act. The ACLU charges the agencies ignored a FOIA request for records about investigations into the citizenship status of bus passengers in Maine.

The ACLU filed the records request in January, after learning that CBP agents were questioning passengers boarding a Concord Trailways bus in Bangor. The government has failed to turn over records or respond to the request in any way, in violation of FOIA law.

CBP claims the authority to question people, for any reason at all, within 100 miles of any national or coastal border. This zone encompasses the entirety of Maine. Across the country, there have been increasing reports of CBP stopping bus passengers to check their citizenship status, without a warrant, reasonable suspicion or probable cause. This includes multiple reports in Maine.

“We shouldn’t have to prove our citizenship just to ride the bus,” said Bond. “Allowing government agents to demand that we ‘show our papers’ any time they feel like it is a threat to our freedom and democracy.”

Cote and Sweet biggest Democratic gubentorial candidates

Adam Cote is leading Betsy Sweet and Janet Mills in the campaign fundraising race among Democrats running for governor in the June primary election, according to reports filed Tuesday with the state.

Meanwhile, Shawn Moody and Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, a clean election candidate, appear to be the top fundraisers among the Republican running for governor. Adam Cote Adam Cote Related Headlines

Democrat Adam Cote leads Blaine House candidates in campaign fundraising

Candidates for governor had until midnight Tuesday to file their campaign fundraising reports with the Maine Ethics Commission.

The finance reports can be telling in terms of which candidate is getting the most financial support before the June 12 primary.

There are 16 candidates running for governor including seven Democrats, four Republicans and five independents. The independents won’t be on the ballot for the June 12 primaries.

Cote, of Springvale, raised more than $278,000 between Jan. 1 and April 24 – the most recent campaign finance reporting period – giving him a total of more than $804,000 for his June primary campaign.

Sweet, a Democrat and clean election candidate, has now raised more than $647,000 according to the Ethics Commission website. That figure includes $150,000 that was approved Tuesday by the Ethics Commission. Sweet’s campaign collected over 4,000 contributions of $5 from Maine voters.

“Betsy Sweet is the only Democratic candidate for governor who is running a Clean Elections campaign and is not accepting corporate and lobbyist money,” Stephanie Clifford, her campaign manager, said in a statement.

Mills, Maine’s attorney general, raised more than $221,000 during the recent reporting period, bringing her total raised for the primary election to more than $571,000.

Importance of June 12 election underrated

Mitch in Maine -I was out at the Portland Farmer's Market on Saturday doing advocacy for Ranked Choice Voting.

I was surprised how few people knew they need to come out to vote YES on 1 June 12 to save Ranked Choice Voting, and defend the right of the people to change our elections to the benefit of all of us.

Especially Independents, non-aligned, and disillusioned voter and non-voters need to come out. There are not enough Republicans and Democrats who support RCV for it to pass if Independents do not come out to vote.

Maine voters who do not support the two dominant parties are 42% of the Maine population, that is the largest portion of the voting public.

What makes it worse is that June 12th is a primary election, so Independents and others do not normally come out to vote, but this time there is an important reason. There will be a ballot question. If Yes does not win, all the efforts of the people of Maine to improve our election system will fail, and the entrenched politicians will have defeated the people.

Monday, April 30

Tourism stats

An estimated 36 million visited the state in 2017, up 2.5 percent over 2016. It marked the fifth-consecutive year of visitation increases, which have averaged 5.7 percent.

Wednesday, April 25

Press Herald -    Canadian scientists have measured record-breaking temperatures in the deep water flowing into the principal oceanographic entrance to the Gulf of Maine, prompting concerns about effects on marine life.
     
The deep current entering the gulf via the Northeast Channel – a deep passage between the Georges and Browns banks – normally consists of chillingly cold water originating off Labrador and Greenland, and contributes to Maine’s unusually productive ocean waters. But this month researchers working from the Canadian Coast Guard cutter Hudson recorded temperatures exceeding 57 degrees at depths of 150 to 450 feet – nearly 11 degrees above normal for this time of year and the highest seen in 15 years of surveys.

MPRE

Tuesday, April 24

Collins votes for anti-science bigot to head NASA

Maine Beacon -Senator Susan Collins last week cast the deciding vote to confirm Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) for NASA administrator in what critics are calling a “rubberstamp GOP vote” to entrust the climate change-denying politician with leading the critical science and research agency.

Collins told The Hill that she met with Bridenstine and that she had been “lobbied both for and against him. People are raising some concerns that I’m looking further into,” she said before casting her vote in favor of his nomination.

Among those concerns are Bridenstein’s denial of the fact that humans are the main driver of climate change, as well as a record of being “an outspoken opponent to the rights of LGBTQ individuals, immigrants, and women,” as Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) warned in an October 2017 letter.

“Since its creation, NASA has played a singular role in American life,” Murray wrote to Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), chair and ranking member of the committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. “The agency has inspired countless young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math and has stirred curiosity in billions of individuals across the world. Rep. Bridenstine’s denial of fundamental scientific facts and long record of bigoted and hateful statements run counter to this legacy.”

Saturday, April 21

Maine's unemployment the lowest in at least four decades

Maine's unemployment rate of 2.7% is the lowest since official records were first kept in 1976 and could be the lowest since 1957 based on other stats.

Friday, April 20

Maine sees significant decline in opioid prescriptions

Maine Public Broadcasting - The number of opioid prescriptions being written by doctors in Maine declined by 32 percent between 2013 and 2017. In 2017, opioid prescriptions numbers fell by 13.3 percent – the fifth biggest decline in the country.

Monday, April 16

Tourism up again

Working Waterfront - An estimated 36 million visited the state [in 2017], up 2.5 percent over 2016. It marked the fifth-consecutive year of visitation increases, which have averaged 5.7 percent.

One number of particular significance to tourism officials is the first-time visitor count. Research has shown that once people visit Maine, they are highly likely to return Last year, 5.3 million visitors came to Maine for the first time.

Direct tourism spending was $6 billion in 2017, supporting about 106,000 jobs. Spending on tourism-related recreation grew by 8.5 percent last year, and overnight visitation increased by about 7 percent.

Thursday, April 12

Maine Senate approves marijuana sales

Maine town okays tiny ohmes

Maine Public Broadcasting -What is believed to be Maine's first tiny homes subdivision moved closer to reality Tuesday night after the Swanville Planning Board gave its final approval to a proposal to build a half-dozen of the 440-square foot structures on a 50-acre parcel on Oak Hill Road. Derek Davis, of Thorndike, and Chad Tozier, of Unity, have formed a partnership to market the homes which are being constructed by the Amish-owned Backyard Buildings of Unity. Davis says the next challenge for the project will be connecting the tiny homes with renters or buyers. Tozier says the subdivision will allow residents to have a smaller carbon footprint, due in part to the inclusion of solar power.

Tuesday, April 10

Maine school test scores hold steady

Maine students continued to score at or above the national average in math and reading on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress test, with relatively stable state results since 2015,

Monday, April 9

The Republican mindset

From a Portland Press Herald story on Maine's debate over ranked choice voting:

 “People are losing sight of the fact that we live in a constitutional republic, not a democracy,” says Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason of Lisbon Falls, one of four Republicans seeking to succeed Gov. Paul LePage and a longtime opponent of ranked-choice voting,

Sunday, April 8

Collins support tariff raises against China

Word: Why the GOP opposes ranked choice voting

Ben Chin, Maine Beacon - My support for ranked-choice voting, which also seeks to eliminate the effect of “spoiler” candidates that draw votes away from the top finishers, is not because of some perceived political advantage. It’s simply about fairness. Majority rule is axiomatic with democracy. Our elected officials should represent most voters in their district. And if they aren’t those voters’ first choice, then at least they represent the majority of their preferences.

I really don’t think that perspective needs to be partisan. Democracy is democracy. Fairness is fairness. Further, ranked-choice voting isn’t even going to be implemented during the general election in 2018. Republicans can’t be worried that it hurts their chances this November, so perhaps there is a negative impression about what it does for their candidates in June.

Ranked-choice voting would seem to advantage underdog candidates that might typically fail to gain a plurality of votes in the first round. Yet, oddly, some of the most conservative Republican gubernatorial candidates seem most interested in resisting Ranked Choice Voting implementation. For example, Sen. Garrett Mason, simply by virtue of having been a Republican for the whole of his political career, is one of the only legitimately conservative Republicans running for governor. Despite this, he has failed to achieve front-runner status, with former Democrat Mary Mayhew and former independent Shawn Moody running ahead of him, according to the data we have so far and what seems to be conventional wisdom about the race. One would therefore expect him to support ranked-choice voting in the hope that, when Rep. Ken Fredette is eliminated in the first round of voting, Mason would earn enough of his supporters to consolidate a big enough conservative base to outdo either Mayhew or Moody. But he isn’t doing that.

Maybe Republicans have some kind of ideological opposition to Ranked Choice Voting, more powerful than immediate political interest. If that’s the case, it’s not clear what it is. The GOP has done a very poor job articulating an argument against the system outside of legal minutiae. The new system does not seem to pose any threat to “free markets,” gun ownership, the well-being of the wealthy, the over-policing of women’s bodies, or ensuring the exclusion of immigrants from society—the top priorities, near as I can tell, of the conservative agenda. Ranked-choice voting is about…ranking candidates. It’s hard to see why it makes sense to go to the mattresses.

What, then, is the explanation? Here’s the best I can come up with: One’s conservative credentials no longer depend on adherence to an ideology, or even partisan advantage. Conservatism now is just about backing the craziest person in the room, whoever most wants to watch the world burn. It’s worth noting that this is a completely anti-conservative notion. In the long tradition of conservative politics, stretching from Machiavelli through Hobbes to Kissinger, conservatism has been about conserving the existing social order—not pushing it to the edge of chaos by, for example, trying to undermine the legitimacy of elections a few months before important votes.

Saturday, April 7

Education vs. prison costs in Maine

Data from 40 states depict how much government money is spent per year to educate an elementary/secondary school student compared to the cost of keeping an inmate imprisoned. As the chart shows, Maine has one of the worst disparities.

Thursday, April 5

Word: ML King on hate and darkness

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. - Martin Luther King

Soaring premiums sending thousands over healthcare cliff

Press Herald -Escalating premiums and deductibles have driven about 10,000 Mainers over a health care “cliff,” where they can barely afford coverage thanks to a vulnerability in the Affordable Care Act exploited by the actions of the Trump administration.

Depending on the plan chosen, premiums have increased by about 70 percent or more since 2014 for people who earn too much to qualify for subsidies for the federal health care program. By contrast, ACA enrollees with subsidies have been mostly shielded from rate increases. The lack of a cap on premium increases, or other cost controls, for ACA enrollees who earn more than 400 percent of the federal poverty limit leaves them unprotected, making the “affordable” part of the program for some impossible.

New evidence that Maine's minimum wage hike worked

Maine Center for Economic Policy - New Occupational and Employment Statistics, or OES, data released  by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics continued to strengthen the case that Maine’s new voter-approved minimum wage law has successfully lifted Mainers’ wages without causing harm to Maine workers or Maine’s economy.

Conclusions drawn from this latest OES report data reinforce those MECEP found in a preliminary analysis in January, based on a the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, or QCEW, which reported aggregate wages paid statewide in the first half of 2017, along with average weekly earnings.

The QCEW data showed that the minimum wage law coincided with the largest annual wage gain in a decade and did not cause the job losses predicted by the minimum wage law’s opponents. Now, the OES data shows that the law also hasn’t spurred employers to cut their low-wage workers hours to “make up for” the increased wages.

Taken together, these data sets indicate the minimum wage law is working exactly as proponents had intended. Mainers are seeing more money in their paychecks, without the economy shedding jobs or employers cutting their employees’ hours.

Ranked choice voting headed back to court

Bangor Daily News -A Maine judge ordered Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap to move forward with the implementation of ranked-choice voting in the June primaries, but the issue was back in court on Wednesday and could soon go to the state’s high court.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy’s decision, released Wednesday, was a win for supporters of ranked-choice voting, which has been fraught with constitutional and other legal issues since Maine voters approved the system in 2016.

But Murphy also said in response to a separate Tuesday filing by the Republican-led Maine Senate that there are “significant constitutional issues which deserve expedited review by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court” because of the June 12 primary election.

Thursday, March 29

Chaos develops over ranked choice voting

Press Herald - Questions swirled about whether Mainers will use the ranked-choice voting system in the June primaries after Secretary of State Matt Dunlap raised concerns about a conflict in the law.

Dunlap said his office learned Wednesday about “legal concerns regarding the implementation of ranked-choice voting” caused by conflicting sections of the law dealing with whether primary candidates are elected by a majority or a plurality of votes. As a result, Dunlap said he was reviewing the law even as he moved forward with implementing ranked-choice voting for the June 12 primaries that will decide the Democratic and Republican contenders for governor, Congress and the Legislature.

But Dunlap’s surprise announcement sparked a frenzy of activity in Augusta to salvage the system less than three months before Maine was slated to stage the nation’s first statewide election using ranked-choice voting. The debate also took on political overtones when two of the seven Democrats running for governor questioned whether Dunlap acted to benefit another Democratic candidate, Attorney General Janet Mills.

ooo  


An unpopular governor and a voter uprising are leading to historic political reforms that could reverberate across the country.

Monday, March 26

How climate change is affecting maple syrup

Maine Public Broadcasting -On a spring day so cold the sap froze in the few old-fashioned buckets that Mark Cooper of Coopers Maple Products still uses, the Windham maple producer talked about the changes he has noticed over the 31 years he’s been in business. The season used to start in late February and run through early April. “It was pretty consistent,” he said. Not anymore. These days, it’s not uncommon for him to make maple syrup in January or to have balmy 65 degree February days followed by huge snow storms and frigid temperatures in March. He’s noticing his maple trees have struggled some, with fungal diseases or branches on otherwise healthy trees that drop to the ground for no reason he can ascertain. Red maples are moving in and sugar maples are losing ground, he’s noticed. Big wind and snow storms also have taken a toll on the trees. And even when the sap is running, there’s just not as big a flow as there used to be. “We certainly have seen a change, and not for the better,” Cooper said.

Saturday, March 24

Lobster industry threatened by loss of white whales

NPR -The endangered North Atlantic right whale population took a big hit last year with a record number of animals killed by fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes. Now, an ongoing debate over threats posed by Maine's lobster industry is gaining new urgency as scientists estimate these whales could become extinct in just 20 years.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientist Mark Baumgartner says that to help the whales survive, the rope Maine lobstermen use to mark their traps with buoys and haul up their catch must be modified or even eliminated. And it's not just for the whales' sake.

"I feel the industry is in jeopardy," Baumgartner says. Researchers Haven't Found A Single Endangered Right Whale Calf Yet This Season National Researchers Haven't Found A Single Endangered Right Whale Calf Yet This Season

Baumgartner was in Maine this month for a Lobstermen's Association meeting to detail the whales' plight. If the lobster industry doesn't respond effectively, he says, the federal government will step in. "As the population continues to decline and pressure is put on the government to do something about it, then they're going to turn to closures, because that's all they'll have," he says. And that could mean barring traps in the same waterways the lobster fishermen count on for their livelihoods.

There were about 450 North Atlantic right whales estimated to be alive in 2016. Only five calves were born last year, while there were 17 deaths caused by rope and gear entanglement or ship strikes. Baumgartner says with no new births and another death already this year, the trend line is tipping toward the whale's effective extinction within 20 years.

But, his warnings are getting a somewhat frosty reception from Maine lobstermen, who feel they're being singled out for a problem that crosses state and even national boundaries.

"There was a lot of deaths on the right whales this year, but none in the Gulf of Maine," says Bob Williams, who has been hauling traps off Stonington, Maine, for more than 60 years.

None of the dead whales were found near Maine's coast. But three were found off Cape Cod, which is part of the Gulf of Maine — where Baumgartner uses passive recording devices to help track their movements.

Parts of Massachusetts' already diminished lobster fishery in recent years has been closed during the height of the right whales' migration.

Williams, the lobsterman from Maine, says the industry here has stepped up, too, adopting expensive gear required by regulators. Now scientists are proposing new modifications, such as weaker ropes or even rope-less technology that relies on radio signals to locate traps. But Williams says those are likely unworkable off Maine. Whales, Sea Turtles, Seals: The Unintended Catch Of Abandoned Fishing Gear The Salt Whales, Sea Turtles, Seals: The Unintended Catch Of Abandoned Fishing Gear

"Because we have heavy tides and all that, and the farther east you go down towards eastern Maine, [there are] extreme tides down there," he says. Lobster trappers need to use ropes there, but the whales get tangled in ropes and lobster buoys, slowing them down and forcing them to burn more calories just to swim.

Many fingers in Maine are pointing the blame at Canada.

"Canada needs to step up," says Patrick Kelliher, commissioner of Maine's Department of Marine Resources.

He says that while the Gulf of Maine is a known part of the whales' territory, their paths lie mostly far off Maine's coast. Meanwhile, Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence has suddenly become a killing ground. "With what's going on in the Gulf of St. Lawrence right now with the Canadian crab fishery, that's where most of that gear is. If you looked at the diameter of that rope, that's not Maine fishing gear," he says. Maine's lobster gear is lighter and thinner than the gear designed to catch snow crab.

In fact, most of the whales found dead last year did turn up in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence, rather than U.S. waters.

Friday, March 23

Unemployment at lowest level in four decades

Press Herald - For the first time in 40 years, Maine’s unemployment rate has dropped below 3 percent – a sign of an improving economy but also a reminder that the aging state has challenges in finding qualified people to fill vacancies.

February’s rate of 2.9 percent was a slight decrease from the previous month and the lowest it has been since 1976, according to the Maine Department of Labor.

Maine House votes against cutting minimum wage

Maine Beacon -Governor Paul LePage’s attempt to roll back the minimum wage hike that Mainers voted to pass in 2016 was rejected with a vote of 81-69 in the House of Representatives. Every Republican except Rep. Karen Vachon of Scarborough voted to cut the minimum wage in future years. Every House Democrat voted against LD 1757, which would have prevented the wage from increasing to $11 next year, reduced the annual rate of increase from $1 to 50 cents, reduce future cost-of-living adjustments, and established a sub-minimum training wage for workers under the age of 18.

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.