The Coastal Packet

Thursday, December 18

More evidence that ranked choice voting works

Fair Vote - This year, Virginia’s Arlington County Democratic Committee successfully implemented ranked choice voting (which they refer to as instant runoff voting), to select nominees for three special elections.

The ACDC decided to make the switch for two primary reasons  - to ensure the nomination of a consensus winner and to encourage positive campaigning.  All three primary contests had strong turnout with thousands of voters participating, and one contest served to nominate a candidate for state legislature who now is serving in the Virginia Assembly.

Like many nomination contests in Virginia, Arlington Democrats do not have a taxpayer-financed primary. Instead, the party runs its own contest. Some parties will nominate candidates at a convention, but that can limit participation to those able to spend hours on a nomination. More frequently, parties are using what is called “firehouse primaries” – that is, privately administered nomination contests.

Fair Vote conducted an exit survey of participants to gauge how voters understood and perceived the use of IRV in this contest. Fair Vote staff and volunteers were were able to speak to over 1,000 voters as they were leaving the polls. Here are some highlights from our findings:

Voters Understanding of IRV

    85% of respondents found ranking candidates easy and 11% of respondent said that ranking was neither easy nor difficult.
    70% of respondents said that they understood IRV very well, 23% of respondents said they understood IRV somewhat well.
    88% of respondents found the instructions on the ballot very easy to understand.
    88% of respondents said that they ranked at least 2 candidates on their ballot.
    97% of the voters who participated in the caucus had their vote continue into the final round out counting.

Perceptions of IRV

    49% of respondents said that there was less criticism in this race, compared to only 2% that thought there was more criticism.
    26% of respondents said that they were more inclined to vote for their most preferred candidate as opposed to 3% who said they were less likely to vote for their favorite candidate.
    60% of respondents support using IRV for nominations, 32% of respondents had no opinion.
    73% of respondents would favor using IRV for state and congressional primaries.

Down East Notes

The Maine State Police will be asking lawmakers to make it legal for police to test drivers who may be impaired when using marijuana. A bill from the Department of Public Safety is seeking to establish a limit for legally operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana, similar to the state’s law against drunken driving.

Three new facilities inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – two poultry processing plants and a slaughterhouse dedicated to red meat – are slated to open in the next few months. A 2014 survey found that nearly 80 percent of Mainers say they want to buy local, but local meats aren’t always readily available or at the right price points to drive sales. Growing the number of federally inspected facilities in the state could increase supply and allow more Maine meat to be sold across state lines.

Wednesday, December 17

The serious warming of the Gulf of Maine

NY Times -  In the vast gulf that arcs from Massachusetts’s shores to Canada’s Bay of Fundy, cod was once king. It paid for fishermen’s boats, fed their families and put their children through college. In one halcyon year in the mid-1980s, the codfish catch reached 25,000 tons.

Today, the cod population has collapsed. Last month, regulators effectively banned fishing for six months while they pondered what to do, and next year, fishermen will be allowed to catch just a quarter of what they could before the ban.

But a fix may not be easy. The Gulf of Maine’s waters are warming — faster than almost any ocean waters on earth, scientists say — and fish are voting with their fins for cooler places to live. That is upending an ecosystem and the fishing industry that depends on it.

Regulators this month canceled the Maine shrimp catch for the second straight year, in no small part because shrimp are fleeing for colder climes. Maine lobsters are booming, but even so, the most productive lobster fishery has shifted as much as 50 miles up the coast in the last 40 years. Black sea bass, southerly fish seldom seen here before, have become so common that this year, Maine officials moved to regulate their catch. Blue crab, a signature species in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, are turning up off Portland.

In decades past, the gulf had warmed on average by about one degree every 21 years. In the last decade, the average has been one degree every two years. “What we’re experiencing is a warming that very few ocean ecosystems have ever experienced,” said Andrew J. Pershing, the chief scientific officer for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute here.

Saturday, December 13

Down East Notes

Found on Craig's List - "Free coyote bait ( bowdoinham ) I have two deer carcasses call 449-5164 or text must go soon!! Do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers"

Turnpike reports 2/3 of toll revenue paid by out-of-state drivers

Thursday, December 11

Down East Notes

Maine's number of Lyme disease cases will exceed 1,000 for the fourth straight year.

Bangor Daily News -  The organizers of an effort to bring ranked choice voting to Maine say they have pulled within striking distance of their goal to force a statewide referendum on the issue with only a month left until the deadline to put the question on the 2015 ballot. Former independent Sen. Richard Woodbury, principal officer for the Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting, said  his group has collected more than 45,000 signatures and aims to handily eclipse 61,000 signatures by Jan. 7.

Maine slipped from 16th to 20th in an annual “healthiest state” survey, a slide that health experts attribute in part to increases in infant mortality and whooping cough, and a decline in childhood immunizations.

Lewiston principals blocks student protest posters

2300 member food co-op opens in Portland

Monday, December 8

A British look at the Bean boot problem

Morwenna Ferrier, The Guardian, UK -  LL Bean duck boots, the extraordinarily warm rubber-and-leather boots which, of course, look nothing like a duck, are predicted to sell almost half a million pairs this winter. Then there’s the 100,000-long waiting list. The good (or perhaps useless) news is that they do ship from their Maine plant to the UK, but it takes a few weeks so you can expect yours to come in time for Easter 2015.

While the three year waiting list days of the Birkin have slowed down (this bag, created by Herm├Ęs for the French singer Jane Birkin in the 1980s supposedly after the company’s CEO saw her struggling with a giant bag while boarding a plane, created a frenzy of demand), waiting lists are still two-a-penny. In fact, the sure-fire way to turn anything cult is to make a limited run of it....

According to Carolyn Beem, company spokesperson at LL Bean, kids are to blame. “Younger people are buying them,” she told Yahoo Style. “They’re all over college campuses and high schools ... without changing anything, they’re back in style.”

Add that to the sudden boom in practical outerwear, their appearance last winter on The Sartorialist, the polarising rise of the lumbersexual and possibly Alexa Chung in a lumberjack jacket for Tommy Hilfiger, and practical footwear is having a moment...

The obvious solution is to make more of them, except it’s not that easy. Inundated with requests, the company issued a statement on their site: “We make our boots by hand, so sometimes we just can’t make them fast enough, but we promise that our team of stitchers in Brunswick, Maine, will start handcrafting yours as soon as possible”. What’s more they’re apparently hiring 100 workers as well as a second injection-moulding machine.

Saturday, December 6

Down East Notes

About half of those moving to Maine have a college degree, which makes Maine 10th in the nation for percentage of internal immigrants with a college degree.

Between contracts, retirement payments, benefits, salaries and grants, federal money passed on to Maine in 2013 was equal to about 30 percent of the state’s total economic output, ranking fourth in the country. The state ranked sixth nationally for federal spending per person, estimated at $12,104 per resident.

New historic atlas of Maine

News of the Fairpoint strike


Friday, December 5

New census data for Maine

Press Herald - In 2013, the median age of a Mainer was 44, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found – compared with 37.5 years old for the country as a whole – and the state remains the oldest by median age in the country.

Maine’s population is 95.2 percent white, compared with 74.0 percent for the United States as a whole. Only 1.4 percent of Mainers are Hispanic, compared with 16.6 percent nationally, and only 1.1 percent of Mainers are African-American, compared with 12.6 percent of the country as a whole.

In the latest survey, Maine’s African-American population percentage tied with Utah’s and exceeded percentages in Vermont, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. However, only in West Virginia did Hispanics make up a smaller share of the population, with 1.3 percent.

The survey also showed that Mainers have deep roots in the U.S. – 3.4 percent are foreign-born, compared with 12.9 percent nationally. And English is the only language spoken in 93.2 percent of Maine households, compared with 79.3 percent nationally.

The median household income was $48,453, below the national figure of $53,046. The Census Bureau said that 25.1 percent of Maine families had income of less than $25,000 a year, compared to 23.4 percent nationally. At the other end of the scale, 16.8 percent of Maine families brought in more than $100,000 a year, compared with 22.5 percent nationally. But while 9.1 percent of Maine families were below the poverty line, the national figure was higher, at 11.3 percent.

Wednesday, December 3

DownEast Notes

Sun Journal - Nationally, online retail sales have grown year-over-year by double-digit percentages from about 2000 through 2012, when online sales made up an estimated 5.2 percent of all retail sales, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2012, a 14.7 percent rise in online shopping came with an increase in total retail sales. But Maine sales last year remained 5 percent lower than 2007 and slightly lower than 2008, not counting holiday-related food store spending.

Tuesday, December 2

In one town: more votes than there were voters

Ballotpedia - With the legislature due to meet Wednesday, one race still remains undecided following a controversial recount that shows more votes than voters in an island town outside of Portland. Unofficial results for the State Senate race in District 25 had Cathy Breen (D) defeating Cathy Manchester (R) by 32 votes, but the recount showed a different result, with Manchester winning by 11 votes. The state Democratic party rejected the recount's findings, sending the matter to a seven-member special Senate committee, which will make a recommendation to the chamber at-large. Democrats take issue with the tabulation of 21 ballots from the town of Long Island, all of which were for Manchester. One hundred seventy-one votes were counted in Long Island on November 4 and preliminary returns agreed with the count; after the recount, results showed 192 votes. Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (D) said in a statement last Tuesday, "This type of discrepancy has not occurred in recent memory." He did not, however, suggest an impending investigation by his own office, instead deferring to the State Senate. Party attorney Kate Knox called the issue "very problematic, in terms of voter fraud," and said the party was looking into legal action.

Monday, November 24

Down East Notes

Bill Nemitz - Wednesday’s announcement by Legalize Maine that it will soon begin circulating petitions for a citizens initiative referendum on legalizing marijuana in Maine was, in and of itself, an inevitable step forward in the nationwide movement to remove the penalties from possessing and partaking of pot. But here’s the rub: The Marijuana Policy Project, based in Washington, D.C., has been in Maine the past two years trying to do the same thing. And if that group makes good on its promise, it too will be circulating its own petitions for its own referendum by early spring. Meaning Maine’s marijuana future just got a whole lot more clouded. Or, as Tommy Chong once put it in the Cheech and Chong classic “Up in Smoke,” “Hey man, if we’re gonna wear uniforms man, you know, let’s have everybody wear something different!”

Maine ACLU -  While the overall number of arrests in Maine last year decreased, arrests for drug violations rose from 5,527 in 2012 to 5,599 in 2013. Of those arrests, 77 percent were for possession alone. Most notable was a 31 percent increase in the number of arrests due to opium, cocaine and derivatives. In Maine, mere possession of any quantity of many drugs (including all prescription opiates and heroin) is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Possession of certain amounts is punishable by up to 10 years.

Friday, November 21

Down East Notes

Sales of existing homes in Maine jumped 26 percent last month compared to October 2013, according to the Maine Association of Realtors. Prices were down about one percent.

Yelp ranks Portland best city to shop local

Thursday, November 20

Down East Notes

A group that wants to make it legal to possess marijuana in Maine has unveiled details of a proposal that also would allow adults to grow pot in their homes, protect much of the marijuana retail market for small farmers and permit marijuana social clubs that it says could provide a boost to the state’s tourism industry.

Wednesday, November 19

Down East Notes

Fairpoint strike resumes after mediation fails

Ogunquit  passed a ballot initiative, with 60 percent of the vote, to ban toxic pesticide use on lawns and landscapes within the town’s jurisdiction.

Membership in the Portland Food Co-op is nudging toward 2,100, exceeding earlier predictions of 2,000, several weeks before its planned opening celebration in early December.

Appeals court blocks LePage’s MaineCare cuts for young people

Tuesday, November 18

Down East Notes

Maine’s Sen. Angus King joined most Senate Democrats in blocking a bill to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, casting a pivotal vote

FairPoint officials refused to modify their demand for $700 million in cuts at a meeting Tuesday in Boston. A federal mediator arranged the meeting, which was an attempt to jump-start contract talks that FairPoint abruptly ended this summer. FairPoint’s nearly 2,000 union workers have been on strike since October 17 because of the company's unfair practices. The workers are calling on FairPoint to return to the table and negotiate an agreement that maintains good jobs and quality service for New England. “The company began these talks demanding $700 million in crippling cuts, and today they’re still making the same demand,” said Peter McLaughlin, Chair of System Council T-9 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “They’re not trying to find common ground with us, they’re trying to turn good middle-class jobs into low-wage jobs with bare-bones benefits.”

WCSH - In a 5-3 vote Monday night, the Portland City Council designated three library security staff members as "Constables," giving them the authority to issue criminal trespass violations... Hhomeless advocate Jim Devine said he thinks it will make homeless patrons feel unwelcome at the library. He said his clients need the library resources, and find it to be a safe and warm place. "We believe this move would make our members who are already vulnerable and uncomfortable due to the fact that they are homeless feel even more uncomfortable and unwelcome," said Devine. "

Friday, November 14

Down East Notes

The fall assembly of the Maine Green independents will be in East Vassalboro on December 13. 

Offshore aquaculture offers new promise

Correction: On Thursday we posted an item saying that 61% of Mainers support ranked choice voting. Now we can't find the source for that so we're pulling it. 

Thursday, November 13

Down East Notes

What the New Deal brought to Maine

Ranked choice voting movement gets half of needed signatures

Press Herald - Proponents of a citizens’ initiative that aims to bring ranked-choice voting to Maine say they gathered more than 36,000 signatures on Election Day – more than half the total needed to put a question on the ballot.

The group, the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, must collect 10 percent of the total number of votes cast during the most recent gubernatorial election, or about 60,000, to force a statewide referendum. If the group wants to put it on the ballot for 2015, the deadline for signatures is Jan. 22, but 2016 is an option as well.

Saturday, November 8

Down East Notes

MPBN - For the first time in 20 years, the two houses of the Maine Legislature will be under the control of different parties. Pending recounts, Republicans have captured 20 of the Maine Senate's 35 seats. Over in the House, meanwhile - despite some Republican gains - Democrats appear to have maintained a majority, with 79 seats

How the Coast Guard took on Google

Washington Post -  Across the country, turnout was dismally low in Tuesday’s midterm elections, when an estimated 36.6 percent of eligible voters made their way to the polls. That’s the lowest turnout in any election since 1940. But one state stood out: In Maine, 59.3 percent of the 1 million residents who were eligible to vote made their voices heard, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Elections Project.