The Coastal Packet

Monday, September 1

Down East Notes

Maine has a plumber shortage

Somali named to Lewiston School Board

Bangor Daily News - Zam Zam Mohamud, described as popular and well-regarded in the community by a Bates College professor, is the city’s first Somali to serve on the Lewiston School Committee.

Her appointment is a turning point for Lewiston, “when our city representatives begin to reflect our shifting demographics,” said Elizabeth Eames, an associate professor of anthropology at Bates. Of Lewiston’s student-age population of 5,139, 23 percent are English Language Learners, the majority from Somali families.

“Zam Zam bridges all sides of the community with her charismatic personality, high-voltage energy supply, linguistic facility and multiple cultural competencies,” Eames said.

Michaud emphasizes farming and fishing

Maine Public Broadcasting - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud says he wants the state to become the food basket of New England through a series of new initiatives aimed at revitalizing the state's farming and fishing industries.

Bonds and grants to provide the capital for farmland and waterfront acquisitions are part of Michaud's plan. But Michaud also hopes to persuade state and municipal institutions to purchase more of their food from Maine producers.

Michaud's comprehensive plan is featured in an 18-page report highlighting the need for new industry infrastructure, including support for business planning and low-interest loans; increased commitment to protecting farmland and working waterfronts; and an institutional program that will put more Maine products into schools and other state-supported organizations.

The militarizing of Maine

Rachel Healy, Maine ACLU - In 2012, the Portland Police Department acquired a Lenco BearCat, which is essentially an armored, four-wheeled mini-tank with a turret and spaces to fire guns out the sides. The $270,000 price tag paid for by a federal Port Security Grant.

After that acquisition, Lewiston inherited Portland’s old M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, which is the same machine used by the U.S. military in the jungles of Vietnam.

The South Portland, Brunswick, Sanford, and Old Orchard Beach police departments all have Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, as do the sheriff’s departments in Cumberland, Franklin, and Oxford Counties. These MRAP vehicles come equipped with a turret at the top for a gunman.

Every year, billions of dollars worth of funding and military equipment flows from the federal government to state and local police departments. This money and weaponry comes from the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice. It allows local police to stockpile wartime arsenals.

The truth is, we don’t even know the full extent of federal defense dollars flowing into Maine police forces. A year ago, the ACLU of Maine filed FOIA requests with multiple police departments in Maine to determine the extent of militarization, and we were told that much of the information was confidential and would need to be redacted, and that it would cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to obtain.

Saturday, August 30

Portland has to pay legal fees in Congress Square fracas

Press Herald - A judge has ordered Portland to reimburse Friends of Congress Square Park more than $50,000 in legal fees incurred during the group’s successful legal battle involving the fate of the plaza. The legal dispute culminated on May 6 when Maine’s highest court rejected the city’s attempt to block a referendum on the future of the downtown park. Specifically, Friends of Congress Square Park was denied petition forms, which it requested after city officials decided to sell two-thirds of the plaza to Rockbridge Capital, the company that renovated the adjacent Westin Portland Harborview Hotel. Portland voters passed the ballot question a month later, thwarting the sale of the park and changing the process for selling other public spaces in the future.

Ypung farmers back in Maine

WCSH - Between 2007 and 2012, Maine  showed a 40% increase in farmers 34-years-old and younger. .. The U.S.D.A. census showed an increase in the number of farms in every state in New England.

Deer Isle's model worker cooperative

Community Wealth - Beloved for its charming landscapes and fresh lobster, the rural community of Deer Isle, Maine is now gaining attention in the cooperative world. When Verne and Sandra Seile, proprietors of Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and Pharmacy, and The Galley, decided to retire last year, they sold their businesses to their employees. With 62 new worker-owners, Island Employee Cooperative, Inc. is now the twelfth largest worker cooperative in the nation.

In a small community of just more than 2,500, with a workforce of 1,300, the loss of 62 jobs would have been felt intimately. Where family-owned businesses are significant, communities face additional challenges. Only 30 percent of family-owned businesses, like the Seile’s, survive to the next generation. When these businesses are closed or sold to outside investors, communities lose wealth. For example, an Institute for Local Self Reliance study analyzing the local multiplier effect in Maine, found that for every $100 spent at a big box retailer, $14 in local spending is generated compared to $45 when the money is spent at a locally-owned business. Additionally, communities sacrifice social benefits fostered by ownership of local business, such as good health and a politically engaged community. Hoping to keep wealth rooted in their home of over 40 years, the Seiles began working with the Maine- based Cooperative Development Institute and the Independent Retailers Shared Services Cooperative to convert their businesses to a worker-owned cooperative.

As baby boomers reach retirement age and look to sell their businesses, the opportunities for cooperative conversions increase. Melissa Hoover, Executive Director of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, notes, “It’s generally just a lot easier and less risky to finance the sale of an existing business than to start something from scratch. These are going concerns, with a track record, customers, suppliers, relationships, employees... The barriers can be a lot lower than for a startup.” Despite these benefits, much work remains to be done. Most small business owners looking to retire in the next five years don’t have succession plans. Cooperative developers interested in co-op conversions, must first start by educating local business owners and their employees on the process of conversion. In doing so, they open up the possibility of creating two to four million new worker-owned businesses nationwide.

Thursday, August 28

Maine drinks heavily but doesn't have as many hangovers

Bangor Daily News - According to a recent study commissioned by Blowfish (a company that manufactures an Alka-Seltzer-like hangover remedy), Maine imbibes more alcohol than any other state in the country. Rounding out the top five in that list are, in descending order, Wyoming, Alaska, Delaware and Washington, D.C.

While Mainers drinks the most, according to the study, we hardly every complain about hangovers. Maine is way down at 42nd most hungover state. Vermont is the least hungover state (I guess New Englanders are very stoic), while D.C. suffers the most. Also, only 23% of Mainers have had to call out of work because of a hangover.

Wednesday, August 27

Mainers among victims of unconstitutional Real ID law

Portland Press Herald, ME - Mainers may not be able to board a plane using their driver’s licenses starting in 2016 if the state does not start complying with the federal Real ID program.

In 2007, Maine became the first state to reject the federal regulations adopted in response to a study on national security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Federal officials wanted to make driver’s licenses more uniform and secure, but opponents said the federal law was too sweeping and intrusive.

Non-compliance, however, has restricted the ability of residents from some states to access some federal buildings, and that is likely to increase.

The act requires states to maintain a database of license applicants’ information that is accessible to the federal government, and take photos of applicants that can be scanned by facial recognition software.

As of April this year, people from states that have not complied can no longer use their driver’s licenses to access some federal buildings, such as the Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C.

In July, the licenses were no longer adequate to access restricted federal facilities, such as the U.S. Mint and nuclear power plants. Residents from non-complying states need passports to enter those buildings. As of January, the licenses will not be adequate to get into semi-restricted federal facilities where a license or passport currently is required.

And by Jan. 19, 2016, Maine driver’s licenses may no longer be an acceptable ID to board aircraft.

.... Concerns about the Real ID program have united libertarian-minded citizens from both parties, especially over the portion of the law that creates a federal database of personal information that would be maintained by the state and accessible to federal officials.

“You might as well just repeal the Fourth Amendment,” Dunlap said, referring to the prohibition against unreasonable search and seizures of property.

Currently, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arizona, and Louisiana have refused to comply with the Real ID program, and several other states have not met every requirement, although most have indicated they will.

Tuesday, August 26

Something to tell your Cutler backing friends

While Eliot Cutler may look to many greater Portland liberals like one of them, politically he's not a liberal. Among those liberal organizations that have discovered this and have endorsed Michael Michaud are:
  • Sierra Club    
  • Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund    
  • NARAL Pro-Choice America
  • Maine Education Association    
  • Maine Conservation Voters
  • Human Rights Campaign    
  • Equality Maine    
  • Environment Maine
So replace that Cutler bumber sticker with one for Maine Conservation Voters. Or, better yet, one  for Mike Michaud.

ACLU says plan to drug test welfare recipients unconstitutional

WGME  - The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine says a plan to drug test some welfare recipients is unconstitutional. 

The rule change was passed by the legislature in 2011, but is just now being enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The proposal says convicted drug felons will have to pass a drug test to get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, benefits.

Robin Merrill with Maine Equal Justice Partners said TANF helps pay for housing, so entire families could end up on the street. She also said substance abuse programs can be unavailable, unaffordable, and impossible for low-income mainers to get to.

The ACLU of Maine is considering legal action if when the change is implemented.

"Having a prior conviction or applying for TANF benefits does not overcome the Fourth amendment requirement that there be probable cause before the government conducts a drug test," said Oamshri Amarasingham.

Saturday, August 23

Police prepare for all those land mines in Sanford

WCSH -The Sanford Police Department has a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected tank, also knows as an MRAP. Chief Thomas Connolly applied for the vehicle because Sanford has a regional SWAT team. Like many agencies across the country, Sanford got the tank for free because the military didn't need it anymore. They say they will only use it when absolutely necessary.

"Perhaps some people may look at it and say, 'Wow, that's overkill,'" Connolly said. "But if I have somebody inside a building who is armed and violent, and the potential is my officers who have to do something now may be injured, then we are going to use every advantage that we can."

The ACLU is calling on lawmakers to pass legislation to regulate the use of military equipment by police.

Friday, August 22

Thursday, August 21

Stupid police tricks


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.