The Coastal Packet

Thursday, August 21

Stupid police tricks

Tactical Life - Police in South Portland, Maine recently acquired a MaxxPro MRAP vehicle.
The South Portland, Maine Police Department is one of seven police departments to acquire a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle vehicle. According to, municipal police departments in Brunswick, Sanford and Old Orchard Beach also recently received MRAPs, as well as sheriff’s departments in Cumberland, Franklin and Oxford Counties.

As Jacqui Deveneau put it: "Between SoPo stopping the tar Sands and voting on legalizing marijuana, they are going to need this for sure."

Mike Michaud does it again

The only candidate for governor in the US who is a Democrat, gay, member of the steelworkers union, and endorsed by the state police association has done it again.

Working Maine - The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine treleased its grades for Maine candidates for governor. The organization gave U.S. Rep. Michaud, the Democratic nominee for governor, an A-, noting that he is a longtime supporter of issues important to Maine sportsmen.

“He has worked to help fund important programs within the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, including Search and Rescue and he has received the SAM endorsement in the past and was an important part of the moderate Blue Dogs in Congress (Democrats that worked for middle ground on many issues) including the protection of the Second Amendment. He is an advocate of preserving land and resources, as well as the rights of rural Mainers,” SAM wrote.

SAM noted that Michaud received an A- because he supports expanding background checks, which the organization opposes.

“As a lifetime SAM member, I'm proud to receive such a high grade after devoting much of my career to protecting Maine’s proud sporting heritage for fishermen and hunters, protecting our public lands and improving access to trails for snowmobilers, ATV enthusiasts and hikers,” Michaud said. “Even though we may not agree on my support for strengthening background checks, I'm committed to maintaining a strong partnership with SAM and its members as governor."

Wednesday, August 20

Maine's economy grows slower than national average

Between 2009 and 2013, Maine's economy grew by 3% as opposed to Rhode Island's 6%, New Hampshire at 9%,  Massachusetts at 11% and Vermont at 12%. Nationally, the economy grew 10%.

On the other hand, in the last quarter of 2013, Maine's growth exceeded that of all other New England states except Connecticut

Agressively passive housing for a Maine dorm

TerraHaus passive dorm, Unity College
Photo: Trent Bell

Sierra Club - College housing has come a long way from Brutalist bunkers with crammed quads, hissing radiators, buzzing fluorescent lights, and few of the comforts of home. And a leader in new dorm design is a school that doesn’t even have an architecture department: Unity College, a small school in central Maine that sees sustainability as a campus-wide mission.

Its 2,186-square-foot TerraHaus, completed in 2011, is the first U.S. college residence hall certified to the Passive House standard, the highest standard for energy efficiency. With its gray shingles and simple lines, the building fits right into the traditional New England farm-and-cottage aesthetic.

Oriented to take full advantage of the sun, TerraHaus can be heated on just $210 worth of electricity a year. Rooftop solar panels warm the showers for the 10 students who live there, and super-insulated walls keep them cozy through Maine’s frigid winters. Enormous, super-efficient windows in the common room let in ample heat and light and offer dramatic views of the surrounding campus.

“People study right in front of the windows. During the day, you’re really warm. At night, you can see the stars,” says Stephanie Alley, a marine biology major. “It’s my favorite part of the house.”

One of those days


How mlitarized are Maine police?

Maine Public Broadcasting -  It's not quite clear how much military equipment is being used by Maine law enforcement. Rachel Healy of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine says that's part of the problem.

"The ACLU of Maine has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with multiple police departments in Maine to determine the extent of militarization. Unfortunately, we were told that much of that information was confidential and would need to be redacted, that it would cost thousands of dollars to obtain."

Healy says she knows for certain the Portland Police Department acquired an armored mini tank called a BearCat in 2012. The Lewiston Police Department subsequently inherited Portland's old M13 armored personnel carrier. Robert Schwartz of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association says more police departments have embraced the program.
"There are probably a half a dozen or so, maybe more, that have got vehicles, weapons, things like that under the law," Schwartz says.

The Oxford County Sheriff's Department was hoping to add an armored personnel carrier to its fleet last year, but had to put the plan on the back burner when the cost to ship it from Colorado proved too pricey. Chief Deputy Hart Daley says the vehicle would have been useful this past weekend in an armed standoff in Mexico.

The Oxford County Sheriff's Department has received a range of different types of gear, including jackets, boots, cameras, and first aid equipment, that it considers essential. "I mean, I'm sitting here staring at a box of tourniquets," Daley says. "They're probably $30 to $50 each if you purchase them."

Daley says the goal with all of this is not to militarize, but to be safe. But the ACLU of Maine's Rachel Healy says there's a fine line. "Having this sort of equipment on hand puts the police in the position of being able to act as military," she says. "So even if we aren't seeing that, the capacity is certainly there."

Healy says states should enact laws to require more transparency when police acquire military equipment, and implement safeguards to ensure it's being used properly.

Monday, August 18

Angus King gives big boost to LePage

Angus King has given a important boost to Paul LePage's chances of reelection by giving his support to conservative independent Eliot Cutler. No knowledgeable politician would back Cutler without realizing that the decision helps LePage.

Saturday, August 16

Great moments with Paul LePage

From Bill in Portland, Daily Koz
  • The Commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources resigned, bringing to four the number of cabinet-level officials who have resigned since April. Norman Olsen, an eminently experienced and credible man for the job, was assured by Gov. LePage that he wouldn’t be hamstrung in the position. But hamstrung he was, and Olsen did not resign quietly. This is from the open letter he wrote:
    Instead of backing me in our joint aims of managing Maine's marine resources for the benefit of the entire state, the Governor and his senior team cut me off. […] So, I am leaving, not for health reasons, and not to spend more time with my family, and not to pursue other interests, which are all the commonly used themes for such resignations, but because this administration is more interested in pacifying special interest groups than in responsibly managing Maine's marine resources for the benefit of the entire state. I cannot be part of that.  The legacy of my fishermen father, grandfather and great grandfather will not allow it.
  • Gov. LePage also signed on to Rick Perry's crazy fundy hoedown:
    Gov. Paul LePage has taken up a call by fellow Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas to proclaim Aug. 6 a "Day of Prayer and Fasting for Our Nation." …  mirroring the language of Perry's. […]

    The event---called The Response---is labeled non-denominational and apolitical but is sponsored by the American Family Association, a Mississippi-based conservative evangelical group. According to its website, the event has adopted the American Family Association's statement of faith. The association was listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group in 2010 because it promoted "known falsehoods" and "demonizing propaganda," according to news reports.

  • And speaking of robo-governing, LePage has apparently honed that skill in record time:
    Confidential administration dossiers show Governor Paul LePage crafted significant portions of his regulatory reform agenda by literally copying and pasting passages from the memos his staff received from corporate lobbyists and their clients, turning swaths of it into little more than a set of giveaways to favored companies. […]

    Simply put, LePage makes policy by letting corporate interests do it for him, and he often endorses their formulations over even his own. […] "Directly photocopying from lobbyists' wish lists is problematic in the message it sends on how seriously he takes his job and how much he is weighing different interests," says Ron Schmidt, head of the political science department at the University of Southern Maine. "I would think that would make a lot of citizens uncomfortable."

Thursday, August 14

Rain tally

WCSH - Previous record for rainfall in Portland on August 13 was 2.38 inches in 2004. Wednesday there was 6.43 inches.

Wednesday, August 13

Cutler PAC head quit

Press Herald - The leader of a political action committee dedicated to electing Eliot Cutler as Maine’s next governor has resigned.

Betsy Smith said  that she stepped down as director of Campaign for Maine on July 15. “The PAC and I had different goals and strategies for how to run this political action committee,” Smith said. “My decision to leave the PAC has nothing whatsoever to do with Eliot. I still think he’s the best candidate. It has only to do with the PAC.”

Campaign for Maine was established in 2010, when Cutler made his first run for governor, finishing behind Republican Paul LePage and ahead of Democrat Elizabeth Mitchell. Campaign for Maine has raised $257,500 this year and had about $71,000 on hand as of July 15, according to the latest fundraising data reported to the state ethics commission. Most of the money was spent on television advertising time promoting Cutler.

“When it came to the point to decide what path are we going to go down … we had a difference of opinion,” Smith said.

 Smith was director of Equality Maine during the successful campaign in 2012 to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine. She left the organization in September 2013, after 14 years.

Although both Saturley and Smith declined to be specific about why Smith left, Saturley said Smith was instrumental in setting up the PAC’s operations.

Tuesday, August 12

Down East notes

Top bid so far on Halfway Rock: $56,000

Speed limit up to 70 mph on Maine Turnpike

Rockport introduces public Internet service to Maine

Press Herald - The town of Rockport  unveiled its own ultra-high-speed Internet network – a 1.6-mile string of fiber-optic cable...

For the first time in Maine, a town spent public dollars to build an Internet network that, albeit small, represents a break from business as usual in the state, where there is relatively little consumer choice when it comes to buying Internet access.

“Infrastructure runs the economy,” said Fletcher Kittredge, CEO of GWI, the Biddeford-based telecommunications company that provides Rockport with Internet access. “There are all sorts of companies that can’t start up in communities without this.”

Although only 70 households or businesses have the option to buy the service, proponents of faster, more equitable Internet access say the model in Rockport is likely to be replicated more and more in Maine and throughout the nation, as Internet service becomes less a privilege and more a staple of modern life and business.

At about $69 a month for 100 megabits per second of upload and download speed, Rockport’s service outpaces Time Warner Cable, whose fastest advertised service is 50 megabits per second for downloads and 5 megabits per second for uploads, at about $65 per month, plus the cost of leased hardware.

Thursday, August 7

Major milestone in tidal power

Think Progress -A full-scale, 156-ton tidal power generator meant to display the potential for harnessing tides as a source of renewable energy has been unveiled in Wales for a 12-month trial. If the trial goes well the company behind the generator, Tidal Energy, hopes to set up a nine more of these seven-story mechanisms and generate 10 megawatts of power, enough to supply electricity to around 10,000 homes in the area.

The device is anchored by weight and does not require costly and environmentally destructive seabed drilling. The company hopes to minimize maintenance costs as well with this design, which is meant to withstand some of the most turbulent ocean currents — those are the ones that provide the most power.

The patented DeltaStream device developed by Cardiff-based tidal stream technology company Tidal Energy Ltd will be installed in Ramsey Sound, Pembrokeshire, following its unveiling.

Across the Atlantic in Maine, Halcyon Tidal Power is meeting with state officials, residents, and investors this week as part of its efforts to build a $125-million tidal energy project in Cobscook Bay that could power more than 13,000 homes according to Ted Verrill, the company’s president.

Called a “tidal barrage,” the plant would use pressure from falling and rising tides rather than the currents that many other tidal energy installations target. Tidal barrages exist in Canada, France, and South Korea, but Halcyon is especially focused on minimizing environmental impacts and differentiating their device from what could almost be considered a dam. The setup would use pumps to replicate natural tides when necessary and turbines meant to allow for fish to pass through.

Wednesday, August 6

More Maine high school grads going to college

Maine Public Broadcasting - College attendance among Maine high school graduates is on the rise, according to a new report from the Portland-based Mitchell Institute.

Researchers are especially encouraged that the improvement has matched gains in the state's high school graduation rate.

Over the past seven years, Maine's high school graduation rate has jumped from 80 to 86 percent.

Tuesday, August 5

Stolen steer statue recovered by police

Law enforcement officers pose for a photo with Charlie the steer after he was found on a small island off the Androscoggin River in Auburn. 

South Portland to vote on legal marijuana

Press Herald  - Voters will decide in November whether they want to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in South Portland, putting the city in position to be among the first few on the East Coast to legalize the drug. The City Council voted unanimously to put the question on the ballot, but not before the majority of councilors voiced their opposition to legalizing marijuana. The proposed ordinance was brought forward through a petition, meaning city councilors could either adopt it as written or send it to voters.

Monday, August 4

The tale of Google's barge

Gov Exec - Once upon a time, Google had a dream. A floating dream. They wanted a showroom at sea, housed in a large barge. Unfortunately, this plan never got off the ground  and now the Google Barge that never was is headed off to a sad fate: the scrap yard.

The barge is four-stories high, made of 63 shipping containers... But the barge was never finished, and the project was essentially abandoned, though Google has not disclosed any reason why or provided further details about the project.

The barge has been sitting in the Portland harbor since last year. This week, it was moved to Turner's Island Cargo Terminal in South Portland. There, it will be taken apart. Lance Hanna, the deputy harbor master at Portland Harbor, told the Portland Press Herald the 63 containers would be taken apart and sent to be scrapped.

On the bright side, the city of Portland earned $400,000 in property taxes from the docked barge that did nothing.

What teens in Maine can teach Israel, Hamas and America