The Coastal Packet

Wednesday, October 1

Ballot questions

Press Herald - While Question 1 on the statewide ballot is about bear hunting, all the other ballot questions are bond requests:

Question 2: Do you favor an $8,000,000 bond issue to support Maine agriculture, facilitate economic growth in natural resources-based industries and monitor human health threats related to ticks, mosquitoes and bedbugs through the creation of an animal and plant disease and insect control laboratory administered by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service?

Question 3: Do you favor a bond issue to provide $4,000,000 in funds to insure portions of loans to small businesses to spur investment and innovation and to provide $8,000,000 in funds to make flexible loans to small businesses to create jobs, revitalize downtowns and strengthen the rural economy?

Question 4: Do you favor a $10,000,000 bond issue to be awarded through a competitive process and to be matched by $11,000,000 in private and other funds to build a research center and to discover genetic solutions for cancer and the diseases of aging, to promote job growth and private sector investment in this State, to attract and retain young professionals and to make the State a global leader in genomic medicine?

Question 5: Do you favor a $3,000,000 bond issue to be awarded through a competitive process and to be matched by $5,700,000 in private and public funds to modernize and expand infrastructure in a biological laboratory specializing in tissue repair and regeneration located in the State in order to increase biotechnology workforce training, retain and recruit to the State multiple biomedical research and development groups and create a drug discovery and development facility that will improve human health and stimulate biotechnology job growth and economic activity?

Question 6: Do you favor a $10,000,000 bond issue to ensure clean water and safe communities across Maine; to protect drinking water sources; to restore wetlands; to create jobs and vital public infrastructure; and to strengthen the State’s long-term economic base and competitive advantage?

Question 7: Do you favor a $7,000,000 bond issue to facilitate the growth of marine businesses and commercial enterprises that create jobs and improve the sustainability of the State’s marine economy and related industries through capital investments, to be matched by at least $7,000,000 in private and other funds?”

Tuesday, September 30

Maine healthcare cooperative proving a success

Portland Press Herald, ME -    Maine Community Health Options will offer insurance through the federal marketplace to people throughout New Hampshire next year, a move made possible by a major federal loan and local success that has surprised industry experts and allowed the company to dominate the Maine market.

... Cooperatives are an often-overlooked component of the Affordable Care Act and were designed as an alternative to traditional insurance companies, especially in states where there might be limited choices. In the co-op model, the governing board is ruled by its members, and any profits are plowed back into operations. In a traditional insurance company, profits can be distributed to shareholders.

Co-ops exist in 26 states, according to the National Alliance of State Health Co-Ops. Through the health insurance marketplaces created by the federal law, where people can apply for subsidized benefits on healthcare.gov, the cooperatives offer plans against big players in the industry, such as Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and State Farm.

Nationwide, the co-ops have had varying levels of success, but health experts rated the co-op in Maine an overwhelming success.

Despite being a start up competing against longtime insurer Anthem, Maine Community Health Options captured 83 percent of the 44,000 Mainers who signed up for insurance on the marketplace in 2014, surprising state health care experts. The co-op and Anthem offered similarly priced plans, and yet most chose the new nonprofit over the established company.

“Maine was hungry for an alternative,” said Mitchell Stein, a Cumberland-based independent health policy analyst

Monday, September 29

The sorry history of school consoidation

Press Herald - An analysis by the Maine Sunday Telegram five years after the [school consolidation] law took effect found that combined districts did achieve modest administrative savings, but that the average district did not reduce overall spending or pass savings along to taxpayers.

... Former Gov. John Baldacci’s watershed school consolidation law was designed to reduce administrative costs by creating larger, more efficient school districts and to equalize and improve educational opportunities for students across the state. In some cases it did, and the majority of the 127 communities that merged to comply with the law has so far stuck with the 24 new multi-town school districts created in 2009.

However, more than 30 communities have at least formally considered leaving their new districts. Nine have already gone through the lengthy divorce process and 10 more are scheduled to vote on withdrawal in November, including Freeport, Windsor and six of the eight towns in Belfast-based RSU 20.

Friday, September 26

Cutler is backing LePage

Not exactly, but with his own poll showing him at ten points, the only reason for him to stay in the race other than to massage his inflated ego is to help LePage win reelection. Voters should consider him a LePage enabler.

Out of state contributions flooding governor race

Washington Times - Out-of-state donors have poured nearly $1.5 million into Maine’s gubernatorial race — more than quadrupling the amount of money received by the three top gubernatorial candidates in 2010, said a report from Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.

The report showed that out-of-state donors have given $1.47 million to the gubernatorial candidates — nearly 22 percent of total donations. Four years ago, the candidates raised a grand total of $349,709 from out-of-state contributors — more than 5 percent of total giving — over the course of the entire campaign.

“With seven weeks of the most intense fundraising still to go, out-of-state contributors are playing a larger role than ever before in our politics,” Andrew Bossie, executive director of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, said in a statement. “Without a gubernatorial Clean Election option and with dramatically increased contribution limits, candidates are increasingly using wealthy out-of-state donors to fund their campaigns at the expense of everyday Maine voters.”

Wednesday, September 24

UM trustees approve cuts

Maine Public Broadcasting - News of the possibility of another round of painful budget cutting at USM came as UMaine system trustees gave final approval to a plan to eliminate the American and New England studies, geosciences and the Lewiston-Auburn Arts and Humanities programs at the university. The cuts have been protested by faculty and students at USM for months.

Jerry Lasala chairs USM's Physics Department and heads the faculty senate."Every cut that we have is likely not only to harm students currently in the programs but actually a much broader spectrum of students who question whether USM is going to be the place for them," Lasala said.

Tuesday, September 23

Michaud gets endorsement of national Social Security group

Press Herald - A leading national advocacy group on seniors citizens’ issues took the unusual step Thursday of endorsing a gubernatorial candidate – in this case Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.

The National Committee on Preserving Social Security and Medicare, a Washington, D.C.-based group with 15,000 members in Maine, normally endorses only candidates for Congress, since the federal government has jurisdiction over benefits programs.

However, Max Richtman, president and chief executive officer, said the group felt compelled to jump into the Maine governor’s race because of the ongoing debate about expanding MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program – and because of a controversial statement from Gov. Paul LePage’s office in June that seemed to classify Social Security as a form of welfare.

Saturday, September 20

Water grabbers take a hit in Maine

Portland Press Herald - Nestle Waters North America, which bottles Maine water under the Poland Spring brand, has been dealt a potential setback in its effort to secure long-term supplies from Fryeburg’s privately held water utility at prices critics say are too low.

The proposed contract should not be approved by the Public Utilities Commission, a PUC staff report made public Friday recommended.

The report, by PUC hearing examiner Matthew Kaply, said the local utility – the family-controlled Fryeburg Water Co. – had been established to “convey to the village of Fryeburg a supply of pure water for domestic and other uses” and not to sell that supply as a “bulk commodity” to bottlers like Nestle.

The development raises the possibility that the PUC might invalidate not only the proposed contract but Nestle Waters’ current arrangement in Fryeburg as well. “I would say if this ruling were adopted by the commission and became final – and wasn’t vacated by the Supreme Court on appeal – that the existing contracts should be considered void,” said Bruce McGlauflin, the attorney for several opponents of the contract in the proceedings.

“The report validates everything we’ve been saying all along: that this 25-year proposal with options of extending it to 45 years … was a shameful sweetheart deal with a multinational corporation to strip a local community of its right to water,” said Nisha Swinton of Food & Water Watch, an advocacy group that has been campaigning against the contract.

Wednesday, September 17

Great achivements of Paul LePage

What should you call Mike Michaud?

Maine Public Broadcasting - Pronunciation of the Michaud name runs the gamut. Chris Hayes of MSNBC introduced the gubernatorial candidate on his show a few months ago: "Joining me now Democratic Congressman Michael Michaud (Mih'-show) of Maine who is running for governor this year against Paul LePage."

Wait, did he just say Michael? We'll get to that in a minute. And this is how the first recognized Franco-American elected to Congress in 2003 was recently introduced at the United Steelworkers convention in Las Vegas: "Brothers and sisters, it's my great honor to introduce the next governor of the great state of Maine, our brother, Mike Michaud (Mish'-oo)."

And, finally, a 2012 GOP television ad criticized both the congressman and the president, using yet another often repeated pronunciation: "This is Congressman Michael Michaud (Mee-shoo)."

.. "Je m'appelle Michel Michaud (Mih-SHOW')," says the man himself, Mike Michaud.

And there you have it, straight from the candidate's mouth. But he says there are two acceptable pronunciations.

"It's proper pronunciation either way," Michaud says. "The French name is Mih-SHOW. The anglicized version is MIH-shoo. And actually everyone I've talked to that has the same last name, when a telemarketer calls, it's MICH-ard."

But, for the sake of consistency, Michaud's campaign manager, Matt McTighe, says the campaign is going with "Mih-show."

Word

When State Troopers are on food stamps, but political appointees get a huge increase in paid vacation, something is very wrong. - Mike Michaud

LePage disses the poor, pads his pals

Bangor Daily News -  A new policy instituted by Gov. Paul LePage in February substantially increased paid vacation time for 54 political appointees and governor’s office staff, by crediting prior, relevant work experience into how their time is accrued...

... LePage’s Democratic opponent in this year’s governor’s race, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, described the new policy as hypocritical. “Gov. LePage has vetoed an increase in the minimum wage for hard working people. He’s denied health care to 70,000 Mainers, including 3,000 veterans. Five times. He’s raided the pensions of state workers. … He’s tried to roll back child labor laws and worker protections,” Michaud said in a written statement. “But when it comes to his political appointees, he’s a lot more generous.”

Tuesday, September 16

Collins again opposes paycheck fairness

Bellows for Senate -  Susan Collins again voed to block the Paycheck Fairness Act - her fourth such vote in the past four years. Collins voted to filibuster the bill in 2010, 2012 and again earlier this year.

"Women deserve equal pay for equal work," Shenna Bellows said. "The Paycheck Fairness Act would put in place commonsense protections for workers who stand up against pay discrimination. Any employer deliberately discriminating against his or her employees should be held accountable, and every working American should know that pay is based on merit."

Collins has not released a statement this year about her opposition to the bill. Her last press release was June 5, 2012, when she said -- without citing evidence -- that it "would unnecessarily expose the small business community to excessive litigation"

Far fewer green crabs

Press Herald - Scientists say an explosion of invasive green crabs that threatens Maine’s lucrative soft-shell clam industry appears to have tapered off, at least temporarily... This year, the amount of crabs is 10 percent of last year’s level at a key Freeport trapping site.

LePage names anti-feminist to UM board

Maine Public Broadcasting Network - At a confirmation hearing next week, state lawmakers are likely to spend time probing the views of one of Gov. Paul LePage's recent appointments to the University of Maine board of trustees. Susan Dench heads the Informed Women's Network, a Falmouth-based group that encourages women to join together and advocate for conservative ideals. Dench is also a former blogger for the Bangor Daily News, and it's a column she wrote on the influence of feminism in schools that's generating controversy.

That column, titled "The Irony of Feminizing Schools," was published in the BDN back in May. In it, Dench wrote, "But in our quest to build girls up, we’ve also feminized our schools, making them more sensitive, less competitive, more cooperative places that mitigate risk-taking and failure. We’ve given out medals for just showing up. And instead of encouraging boys and girls to achieve at a higher level, we’ve lowered the bar to the lowest common denominator, so we don’t hurt the feelings of those who don’t achieve."

Susan Dench referred all questions about her past writing to Gov. Paul LePage's office, which did not return a request for comment by air time.

Monday, September 15

Poll: Michaud only one point ahead of LePage, Cutler slipping

A new Public Policy Polling survey released Sept. 14 shows that U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud remains the frontrunner in the race to be Maine’s next governor, with the independent candidate losing support.

The poll, which surveyed 1,059 voters on Sept. 8-9, has the lowest margin of error of any poll conducted since last spring. It shows Michaud with 43 percent of the vote, followed by Gov. Paul LePage at 42 percent. Eliot Cuter trails far behind with just 11 percent.

Friday, September 12

Ethnic bias in Maine law enforcement

Maine ACLU - According to the Uniform Crime Report data 

- Black people in Maine are 3.64 times more likely to be arrested than white people.

- Black youth in Maine are 3.83 times more likely to be arrested than white youth. .

- Black people in Maine are 3.68 times more likely to be arrested for a drug crime than white people.

- In York County, black people are 8.71 times more likely to be arrested for a drug crime than white people.

- Black people in Maine are 6.53 times more likely to be incarcerated than white people.

Susan Collins votes to continue corporate purchase of elections

Vox

Bellows for Senate -  After taking more than $1.9 million from business PAC sources this election as of June 30, a figure sure to climb throughout the race, Susan Collins voted in lockstep with Senate Republicans today to block Sen. Tom Udall's effort to allow reasonable congressional and state regulation of political spending. Republicans filibustered Udall's Constitutional amendment to overturn the divisive Citizens United Supreme Court decision 54-42.

"Despite years of verbal support, Susan Collins still hasn't found a reform effort she's willing to vote for," said Bellows campaign manager Katie Mae Simpson. "She voted against the DISCLOSE Act twice in 2012, against it once in 2010, against the Udall Amendment today, and she won't offer any reason beyond Republican Party talking points.."

What LePage will spend money on

Press Herald - The state of Maine, private businesses and a rising NASCAR driver from Fort Kent will unveil a marketing partnership Friday that will transform the young racer’s car into a high-speed billboard for Maine, one partially funded by taxpayers.

Austin Theriault, 20, will drive a Maine-branded car in front of a national television audience in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race Sept. 20, said Peter DelGreco, director of Maine & Company, a co-sponsor.

... The state will kick in at least $15,000 in taxpayer money from Gov. Paul LePage’s contingency account, in addition to other government funds, according to records obtained by the Portland Press Herald. The car is being billed as the “Maine Open for Business Chevrolet,” referring to the marketing slogan introduced by LePage, and will have the name “Maine” featured prominently on the hood.