The Coastal Packet

Monday, July 25

The collapse of Maine sailing

Portland Press Herald 

Once a staple of the Maine summer – and Maine’s boatbuilding industry – sailboats are still the stuff of bad office art and good tourism brochures, but their numbers are dwindling, along with people with the passion for this most sustainable form of recreational boating.

When Matt Minson, who used to coach the sailing team at Maine Maritime  is out on the water in his Lindenberg 28 he sees maybe 15 other sailing vessels. A decade ago, “It would be nothing to see 40 boats,” Minson said. “It is very depressing to me.”

Experts suggest a variety of reasons for the drop-off, including generational and parenting shifts and an American lifestyle that puts a premium on expediency. It’s hard to quantify what the biggest factor is. But industry statistics bear out the fact that observations of less sailboat traffic such as Minton’s are not just longing for some illusionary golden past.

“Sailboat sales are about a quarter of what they were 15 years ago,” said Thom Dammrich, the president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

During the recession, all sales of new boats dropped off, he said. Then as the financial crisis eased, sales of powerboats ramped back up. “They have been growing for the past five years,” Dammrich said. “In the last 12 months, they’re up 9 percent. This has been a good year.”

Not so for sailboats. Sailboat sales encompass only about 2.5 percent of all new boats.
... Hinckley Yachts, once known for the elegant sailboats it built on Mount Desert Island, now puts out a steady stream of powerboats. The success of its picnic boat, a sleek powerboat introduced in 1994, which counts the likes of Martha Stewart as fans (and an owner), put sailboats on the back burner. Hinckley has a few sailboats under construction this year, including a Bermuda 50, an updated model of one of its classics, but for years the company had virtually shut down its sailboat division.

.... “I could have a million sailboats right now, for free or less,” said Michael Chasse, who founded his Freeport business, Northeast Sailboat Rescue, 12 years ago. He’s been buying abandoned sailboats from boatyards around the state, restoring and selling them. Back when he started Northeast Sailboat Rescue, he said he could sell 200 boats a year. So far in 2016, he’s sold none. (He’s planning on retiring soon and moving to some good-sized Maine lake. To sail.)


Thursday, July 21

News Notes

Maine CDC wants to restrict what public is told about disease outbreaks A year after the Portland Press Herald sued to get the names of schools with multiple chicken pox cases, the agency looks for more authority to deny records requests.

Monday, July 18

Tip to Portland residents

Don't wait until the city dumps your 'hood into its master plan. Come up with your own plan for the neighborhood, beginning with what needs to be preserved. The clearer the plan and the stronger those are organizing behind it, the less likely the city will be to screw things up. - Sam Smith

Friday, July 15

News Notes

Bowdoin and Malcolm Gladwell have it out of college's food policy

Press Herald -  The federal Environmental Protection Agency warned that Friday’s air quality in parts of New England could be unhealthy for some people. The regional branch of the EPA says air in coastal Connecticut, all of Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts and southern and central coastal Maine could exceed the Federal air quality standard for ozone.

Secretary of State Matt Dunlap certified that the Libertarian Party of Maine has achieved enough enrollments to qualify as a political party.

Angus King endorses Clinton

How should journalists handle serial liar LePage?

Tuesday, July 12

Portland's family shelter overstretched

Press Herald - Portland’s shelter for homeless families is being stretched beyond capacity by an influx of new arrivals – especially asylum-seeking immigrants – combined with a housing crunch that is hindering the city’s ability to move families out of the shelter system. Portland social services officials have been forced to house several families in overflow spaces, such as administrative offices converted at night into makeshift sleeping quarters, because the city’s 36-unit family shelter and three standby hotel rooms have been full for several weeks. Meanwhile, several churches and individuals are trying to build a coalition of host families willing to provide temporary housing and other assistance when demand outstrips space in city shelters.

Wednesday, July 6

News Notes

In Maine, 140 whites per 100,000 are in jail, while 839 blacks per 100,000 are

Saturday, July 2

Collins and King vote to undermine Maine GMO law

Press Herald - The Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association is leveling criticism against both of Maine’s U.S. senators for their votes this week that could lead to a federal law that would overturn a Maine law requiring labels for foods made with genetically modified organisms.

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King joined 65 other senators in a vote to take up a bill aimed at creating a federal GMO labeling law.

The association contends that the proposal, which is being touted as a compromise by its sponsors, is far weaker and less transparent than laws approved by state legislatures, including Maine’s

Thursday, June 30

News Notes

League of Women Votes boost ranked choice voting

Only a third of Mainers are feeling financially secure and almost half saying they would find it difficult to cover an unexpected $1,000 bill.

Wednesday, June 29

Clean election candidates do well

Mike Tipping, Bangor Daily News - Maine’s newly-revamped system of public campaign financing was successful in a wide range of contests across the state on Tuesday, with a majority of Clean Elections candidates winning in primary races where they were matched against privately-financed opponents. Clean Elections candidates won eight of thirteen such match-ups for the State Senate and four of seven State House contests.

These result are particularly noteworthy given that primary candidates running Clean are limited to a single disbursement, unlike in general election races where they can collect more $5 checks from district voters to qualify for additional public funds. The primary is therefore, theoretically, the part of the electoral cycle where they should be at the greatest disadvantage.

News Notes

Six in 10 Mainers know someone who has used heroin or abused prescribed opiate painkillers. The Portland Press Herald poll that was conducted by the University of New Hampshire shows roughly 780,000 Mainers have seen the crisis up close. The 60 percent figure is higher than the 44 percent in a recent Kaiser Health national survey who said they knew someone who abused heroin or opiates.

Stupid Paul LePage tricks

Maine Beacon - Maine Governor Paul LePage announced on Monday that, due to a refusal of legislative leaders to call a special session to reconsider certain legislation, he will use an executive order to begin making cuts to and transfers from a set of state-administered health care programs, including the Low Cost Drugs for the Elderly and Disabled Program and the Fund for a Healthy Maine.

“All the bills are funded. There is no need for this order,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond in response. “These programs have been on Gov. LePage’s chopping block for a long time, and he’s using this manufactured chaos as cover to slash their funding,” said Sen. Alfond. “He wasn’t able to win support in the Legislature to gut these programs, so he’s abusing his authority to make the cuts by executive order.”

Monday, June 27

Big money buying small Maine elections

Common Dreams

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law published a landmark report documenting how secret donations have corroded democracy at the state level, where it is "arguably most damaging."

"Mining companies secretly targeting a legislator who opposed permits. Food companies battling a ballot measure to add labeling requirements. Payday lenders supporting an attorney general who promised to shield them from regulation," writes Brennan Center president Michael Waldman, listing the ways that outside money has corrupted local politics.

According to the report, secret spending on the local level rose from 24 percent in 2006 to 71 percent in 2014. This is largely due to a new phenomenon the authors have dubbed "Gray Money," which is when "organizations, which are legally required to disclose their donors, route money through multiple layers of PACs to obscure its origin."

The first of its kind survey analyzed spender and contributor reports in six geographically and demographically diverse states, where sufficient data was available: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, and Massachusetts. The sample represents approximately 20 percent of the nation's population.

Saturday, June 25

Maine's child well being rank drops sharply

Maine Public Broadcasting - There's been a sharp decline in Maine's ranking when it comes to overall child well-being.  That's according to the Maine Children's Alliance annual Kids Count Data Book, which indicates that Maine ranks 17th in the nation, dropping five spots from last year. The report, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, finds that child well-being has improved nationally as a result of federal and state policies, but Maine is among states that have seen a dramatic decline. Claire Berkowitz, executive director of the Maine Children's Alliance, says areas of concern in Maine include an increase in the rate of children without health insurance, an increase in the percentage of low-birth-weight babies and stagnant reading scores.

Friday, June 24

The true cost of LePage's food stamp plan

Huffington :Post - Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is putting vulnerable people in his state at risk with his food stamp crusade, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture said .

In a recent letter to the Obama administration, LePage said that if the federal government won’t let him stop Mainers from using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program debit cards to buy candy and soda, then the state will wash its hands of the SNAP program altogether and let the federal government deal with it.

USDA spokesman Matt Herrick says the agency can’t just step in and do the state’s job of distributing the federal benefit to low-income individuals and families.

“We don’t have the authority or the funding to administer SNAP at the state level,” Herrick told The Huffington Post.

In other words, if the state government won’t provide nutrition assistance in Maine, no one will. Such a situation would be unprecedented.

“So what this means in real terms, for real-world people, is that children suffer, they don’t have adequate nutrition,” Herrick said. “There are about 100,000 families in Maine who depend on the program, and they’re no different than anyone else, and they shouldn’t be penalized or threatened with greater hardship.”

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said said it’s “laughable” that the Obama administration doesn’t have the resources to run its own program.

Thursday, June 23

Maine Democrat moves against superdelegates

Politico - A Maine Democratic lawmaker is kicking off the expected convention fight over the role of superdelegates by proposing to abolish them altogether.

State Rep. Diane Russell is submitting an amendment to the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee co-chairs, Rep. Barney Frank and Leticia Van De Putte, that would amend the DNC's charter to eliminate the unpledged delegates.

Russell, a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders, lead a May effort to push Maine's superdelegates to align their support in proportion to the outcome of the state's Democratic caucuses. In Maine, Sanders had defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 64 percent to 35 percent, but still failed to capture most of the state's superdelegates.

Abolishing the party’s superdelegate system is one of the key reforms that Sanders is seeking at the convention, a reflection of his experience winning state contests but seeing potential delegate gains limited or erased by the votes of superdelegates. Sanders supporters and other top liberal Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and former Sen. Russ Feingold have recently expressed support for reforming or getting rid of superdelegates all together.

Tuesday, June 21

LePage rage turns to food stamps

Press Herald - In a letter sent late last week to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the governor threatened that if the USDA won’t allow Maine to ban the purchase of certain foods – sugar-sweetened drinks and candy – he will end the state’s administration of the program.

“It’s time for the federal government to wake up and smell the energy drinks,” LePage wrote. “Doubtful that it will, I will be pursuing options to implement reform unilaterally, or cease Maine’s administration of the food stamp program altogether. You maintain such a broken program that I do not want my name attached to it.”

SNAP, a food assistance program available to low-income households, is entirely funded at the federal level, but states administer the monthly benefits to individuals and assume some of those administrative costs. The program also allows states some flexibility over how to administer the program, although it’s not clear if a state can choose not to administer the program as LePage suggested. A USDA spokesperson could not provide answers to emailed questions about that Tuesday.

Mainers fight Swedish lobster ban

WCSH - Maine politicians are calling for the European Union to deny a request from the Swedish government to have American lobster listed as invasive. Sweden wants the EU to bar imports of live American lobsters into the 28-nation bloc after 32 lobsters were found in the country's waters. Swedish officials say an invasion of American lobsters could harm native European lobsters.

Monday, June 20

Report: Lewiston a national model for refugee integration

Maine Beacon

A new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress examines how well refugees from four key groups are integrating into American society.

One finding is that Lewiston is a prime example in New England of the positive effects of Somali integration.

David Dyssegaard Kallick, a senior fellow and director of the Immigration Research Initiative at the Fiscal Policy Institute, says about one in 12 immigrants arriving in the U.S. comes here as a refugee.

“Sure, they need some help to get started,” he states. “When they first come to the United States, they come from some of the most horrific situations around the world.

“But when you look at the long term, people become integrated, they start to get jobs, they own their own homes, they learn English – you know, they become Americans.”

The report is based on an analysis of the 2014 American Community Survey five-year data, and looks at the progress of Bosnian, Burmese, Hmong and Somali refugees.

Kallick says those groups make up about 500,000 of the 3 million refugees currently granted asylum and living in the U.S.

Kallick says one refugee group is playing a particularly important role in breathing new life into cities like Lewiston.

“Somalis, around Lewiston especially, have really been part of revitalizing the economy there, helping to stabilize what’s otherwise been population loss,” he states. “And I know that they’ve found jobs in some of the Lewiston factories, for example. So, I think that’s one real standout within New England.”