The Coastal Packet

Saturday, September 20

Water grabbers takes 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."


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


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.

Catch the Northern Lights tonight

Accuweather - Stargazers could be in for a rare display Friday night as an Earth-directed solar flare ignites the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, in the United States. As a result of the flare's direction and strength, the dazzling light display could reach as far south as Maryland in the East and down over Nebraska farther west.

Along with the brilliant light display that may be visible to some in the northern part of the country, a flare of this magnitude could also have adverse effects on GPS, radio frequencies and cell phone and satellite reception as well.

Thursday, September 11

The Hampton Inn you subsidized

A new Hampton Inn has opened in Lewiston, ME, but the Sun Journal forgot to mention in its story something it reported some time back, namely that it was built with a subsidy from the Agriculture Department which is actually meant to be helping farmers in Maine and elsewhere.

Sun Journal, ME - Developers will receive a $7 million guaranteed loan to help build a 93-room Hampton Inn on Lincoln Street. The $7,023,258 USDA Rural Development Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan to Lincoln Street Hoteliers LLC will be in partnership with Machias Savings Bank..

The $12.3 million facility is expected to contribute to the city’s continuing downtown redevelopment efforts. It would be marketed as a three-star hotel, slightly less expensive than Auburn's Hilton Garden Inn Riverwatch hotel on the other side of the Androscoggin River.

The purpose of USDA Rural Development’s Business & Industry Guaranteed Loan Program is to improve, develop or finance business, industry and employment and improve the economic and environmental climate in rural communities.

USDA Rural Development has invested a total of $402.5 million in Maine communities in the last fiscal year.

Tuesday, September 9

Michaud still leads by 4 points

The latest Rasmussen poll shows that all the campaigning isn't having much effect. Michaud still leads by a too close to call margin of 4 points. It's Michaud 43, LePage 39 and Cutler 15.

The best solution would be for Obama to offer LePage enabler Cutler a high post soon.

Monday, September 8

Maine house prices rise second fastest in country in July

In July, Maine house prices rose 10.4% over the previous year. That's second only to Michigan that rose 11.4%

How to keep an island going

Although Maine has had a pretty vapid economy since the end of the Civil War, it somehow keeps going. How? One reason is a factor that is totally ignored in national economic calculations: cooperation. You can't be a successful farmer, a lobsterman or own a small business without helping others along the way. And having others help you.Here's an example of how it works: 

Rob Snyder, Working Waterfront - A boat yard doesn't clean out its biggest shed for just anyone. Yet that is exactly what the folks at Chebeague Island Boatyard agreed to do at the request of a few Chebeague residents for what turned out to be an incredible day at the Sustain ME conference this past month.

For a number of island participants, the conference began a day early. They left Isle au Haut, Monhegan and other remote locations so that they could get to Chebeague early, to "allow their brains to breath" as the crowds began to arrive. They came to be inspired, share their stories as entrepreneurs, and discuss how they are overcoming the challenges of doing business in remote locations.

As I listened to the speakers, I began to understand what sets the island and remote coastal entrepreneurs in attendance apart in the world. In their work to diversify their local economies they share a set of commitments that may hold promise as a foundation for the future of our coastal economy.

The most basic commitment everyone shares is to meet basic needs. Seems obvious, I know, but it's hard to think about working toward a greater good until you have shelter, food, and water.

... At one point early in the conference I asked all 150 attendees to raise their hands if in addition to their businesses, they held a public office, volunteered on a local nonprofit board, or volunteered within the last six months to support a specific cause. The entire room had a least one hand up. Every single person.Many attendees had two hands and a foot raised.

....Meeting basic needs, meeting the needs of those who depend on us, producing a social surplus, and investing in the stewardship of our common resources—the Chebeague Island Boat Yard embodied these commitments when it emptied a shed to do something for the community. These are the commitments that I see all along the coast that distinguish Maine's island and coastal entrepreneurs.

Maine overpaid for its school Ipads

Colin Woodward, Press Herald - Inthe winter and spring of 2013, the state of Maine and the Los Angeles Unified School District were both shopping for computing devices to put in the hands of their students and teachers.

When each finished its negotiations with computer maker Apple, Los Angeles wound up with a much better deal than Maine, even though the contracts were for exactly the same device and a similar number of users. Los Angeles got a 43 percent discount off retail prices. Maine’s discount was only 14 percent. Additional Images

“Maine grossly overpaid for these devices,” says Stan Smith, owner of The MacSmith, the Falmouth-based business consultancy for Apple users that undertook a detailed comparative analysis of the contracts because he believes the state officials running Maine’s program have too close a relationship with Apple. State officials, when presented with Smith’s calculations, did not dispute them.


Sunday, September 7

Maine has second most museums per capita in country

Ray Routhier, Press Herald - Maine has the second-most museums in the country per capita, according to new data from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

... Vermont ranks No. 1 with 47.88 museums per 100,000 people and Florida is last with only 6.57. Maine has 41.86 museums per 100,000 people. Larger Northeastern states, such as Massachusetts and New York, aren’t as museum-rich as Maine, with 16.33 and 12.33 museums per 100,000 residents, respectively.

Maine seems to be something of a museum mecca for two reasons. First, it’s hard to find even the tiniest Maine hamlet that doesn’t have its own historical society or historic markers dotting the landscape. Second, the state attracts creative types (read “slightly crazy”) who are so passionate about a particular thing that they decide to start their own museum dedicated to it. That’s why Maine has museums focused on umbrella covers, snowmobiles and Bigfoot-type creatures.