The Coastal Packet

Saturday, October 22

State health insurance bills due to leap

The biggest increase in 2017 will be for individual plans offered by Community Health Options, which is raising rates by an average of 25.5 percent.

Ten point lead for Clinton in Maine

A Maine People’s Resource Center gives Hillary Clinton a ten point lead but only a one point lead (statistically a tie) in the Second District. Our running poll average also has Clinton with a ten point lead for the whole state. 

The poll, based on phone calls to 890 likely votes, pegged Clinton’s overall lead in Maine at 42-36 in a four-person race or 49-39 if only the major party candidates are included.
But in the 2nd District, which includes Lewiston and Auburn, the race is nearly deadlocked, with Clinton up 38-37, well within the margin of error.

Maine government misused children poverty funds

Maine Beacon - The state office responsible for ensuring government funds are used according to law recently determined that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services  misspent $13.4 million in federal money intended to help children living in poverty.  Rather than taking responsibility for this inappropriate diversion of dollars earmarked for poor families with children, DHHS chose to issue a statement casting aspersions on the auditor.

Sadly, more Maine children are facing deep poverty in far greater proportions than the rest of the nation; in fact the proportion of Maine children living in deep poverty increased at a rate that was a staggering 8 times greater than that of the rest of the nation between 2011 and 2015.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is intended to provide support to poor families so they can meet their basic needs and get the skills needed to sustain employment. Fewer and fewer poor children are able to access this help in Maine.  In 2011, the state imposed a lifetime limit on assistance and stricter sanction policies. Over the last five years, approximately 16,000 children have lost access to the basic assistance and support that TANF provides.

Now only 16% of poor children in Maine receive this support (down from 35% in 2011).

Friday, October 21

Worst drught in more than a decade

Press Herald - According to U.S. Drought Monitor data, almost 70 percent of the state is experiencing drought conditions, including large parts of northern and eastern Maine that previously were not affected. Roughly 1.2 million people, almost the state’s entire population, are living in drought conditions.

Extreme and severe drought conditions continue in the southern third of the state, including parts of Androscoggin County, and have not spread significantly in the past three weeks. However, the area experiencing moderate drought conditions tripled in size in the past seven days, from 14 percent of the state to almost 43 percent. Most of Oxford, Franklin, Somerset, Piscataquis, Penobscot, Hancock and Washington counties are now affected by drought, according to the Drought Monitor.

Democrats registering most new vcters

Portland Press Herald -   Voter registration is at an all-time high in Maine, with Democrats gaining most of the ground at the expense of Republicans and unenrolled voters, according to data from the Secretary of State’s Office. Unenrolled voters still make up the biggest bloc in Maine, about 36 percent, but Democrats have registered more than three times as many additional voters as Republicans since this time last year.

The number of registered Democrats has jumped by nearly 16,000,... Republican ranks increased by more than 4,000,...The number of unenrolled voters has decreased by about 6,000, from 365,130 last year to 358,963 today.

The Maine Green Independent Party has gained about 2,500 registered voters in the past four years and stands at 40,096, about 4 percent. And for the first time, Libertarians are an established political party in 2016. So far, 5,388 have checked that box, about 0.5 percent of all registered voters, according to the secretary of state.

Thursday, October 20

Poll shows Clinton gaining

Beacon - Polling numbers for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton have significantly improved in Maine in recent days, according to a new tracking poll conducted for Beacon by the Maine People’s Resource Center. Clinton now holds an eight-point lead over Republican Donald Trump in a statewide race with third-party candidates included, garnering 44% of the vote to Trump’s 36%. In a September poll, Clinton and Trump were virtually tied statewide.

Clinton and Trump are now in a statistical dead heat in the Second Congressional District, at 39% and 40% of the vote respectively in a four-way race. Trump had previously held an 11-point lead in the District.

Clinton leads by 17 points in Maine’s First District, 49% to 32%.

Where to get referenda info

Ballotpedia has done a great job of summarizing Maine's upcoming referenda, indicating who supports and opposes them, and how much money had come in and from where,

It also includes the latest polling data which finds all six headed for approval, albeit ranked choice voting has less than a majority.

The scores so far:

64% Gun control
53% Mariuana legalization
60% High income tax for education
60% Minimum wage increase
48% Ranked Choice Voting (29% no; 23% undecided)
66% Transportation bond

Tuesday, October 18

Drought update

Press Herald - Drought in New England isn’t common. Typically, the fluctuation in precipitation doesn’t have nearly as large a range as snowfall.  There are fewer than 10 years since 1872 in which the total precipitation has been more than 10 inches below the long-term average of just over 41 inches of rainfall. This year, Portland has had just over 25 inches of rainfall, 10 inches below where we would typically be by now.

Monday, October 17

The benefit of Question 2

Maine Center for Economic Policy -Question 2 on this November’s ballot increases revenue for education by $159 million a year. The state would distribute revenue raised through the existing state funding formula, and state funding would reach  55 percent of statewide education costs, a funding benchmark Maine voters mandated in 2004. Fully 94 percent of Maine students live in districts likely to receive increased state funding if Question 2 passes. Question 2 would provide adequate funding of Maine schools and help communities invest in quality education.

Sunday, October 16

Major papers back ranked choice voting

The editorial boards of the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Morning Sentinel all endorsed the ranked choice voting referendum

Friday, October 14

LePage wants minimum wage increase leaders in jail - like Trump wants Clinton

Bangor Daily News - Blasting a ballot measure that would hike Maine’s minimum wage, Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday that two proponents of the increase — Ben Chin and Mike Tipping of the Maine People’s Alliance — “should be thrown in jail for what they’re doing to the elderly.”

Tipping, a Bangor Daily News blogger, has long been a LePage antagonist. Chin, who lost the Lewiston mayoral race to Bob Macdonald last year, works with Tipping for the Maine People’s Alliance, a progressive advocacy group that has clashed often with LePage and is working to pass Question 4, which would increase the minimum wage in Maine to $12 an hour by 2020.

Meanwhile. . . .

Maine Beacon -  Advocates for Maine seniors are backing the minimum wage increase on the ballot this November, and the campaign has launched its first TV ad highlighting the story of one of the many older Mainers who would get a raise if the minimum wage is raised to $12 by 2020.

“After my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I found myself caring for him and trying to make ends meet with an office job making $7.50 an hour. We lost our house because I couldn’t afford to make repairs,” said Kathy Rondone, whose story is featured in the ad. “I agreed to tell my story on TV because I’m not alone. One in three Mainers over the age of 65 will get a raise if Question 4 passes. I don’t think people realize how many senior citizens often have to keep working after what you might think is retirement age.”

New Upvoter Maine poll

Clinton 55% (+14)
Trump 41%

Good cop news

WCSH, Portland ME - The Bangor Police Department Facebook page has gained national attention. Now the department has used it to reach out to help the community.

After hearing the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter was in need of supplies in preparation for winter, the department's weekly 'Got Warrants' Facebook post asked their nearly 178,000 followers to send in sleeping bags.

The response: an outpouring of donations coming from all over the U.S.

"It's been a really good turnout and I think and they're still coming in. I know Bangor PD showed up today with four or five more sleeping bags. They're coming from as far away as Alabama,” Boyd Kronholm, Executive Director of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter said.

The post claims Winterport Boot Shop provided 24 pairs of winter boots and Wigwam sent 200 pairs of socks.

Thursday, October 13

Wardens raise concerns about gun-sales background check proposal

Maine drivers license may be no good for flying

Sun Journal - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has told Maine officials that the state will no longer receive any extensions to comply with the federal REAL ID law. The letter indicates the federal government will not accept Maine state IDs or drivers' licenses as identification starting in January and Maine travelers will have to provide an alternative form of identification to fly on a plane a year later.

Maine passed a law in 2007 refusing to comply with REAL ID and it appears as if the state has run out of options for further delays.

The federal law requires digital photos on licenses that can be used with facial recognition software and a state-maintained database that includes personal information on residents. It also calls for federal-approved security markings on licenses.

Business behind minimum wage hike

Portland business owners back it

So do state Chamber of Commerce members

Wednesday, October 12

Morning Line

The three last polls average Clinton's lead in Maine to three, a statistical tie. The latest poll, however, finds her ahead by 17 in District 1 and behind by only 1 in District 2. This would produce a tie in electoral votes

Saturday, October 8

Maine company makes all-American clothing

Maine Public Broadcasting - Maine’s textile industry had its heyday a century ago, but one company in Portland sees a bright future in textile manufacturing and is producing garments stitched from 100 percent American-made materials. As they did a 100 years ago, immigrants are the workforce that’s helping to fuel this new textile industry into the future.

Fleece jackets are so ubiquitous these days, you’d think it would be easy to find the materials needed to make them. But not if you are committed to using only materials that are made here in the U.S.

“It took us six months to find pocket fabric made in the U.S. for jackets and vests,” says Ben Waxman, co-founder of American Roots, which specializes in company apparel — fleece jackets, vests and pullovers that can be customized with a business’s logo.

In fact, it took a good year of sleuthing to find all American-made material, he says. Those pockets are made in Colorado, most of the fleece is made in Massachusetts, the zippers are manufactured in California and the labels are made right here in Lewiston.

They’re all stitched together at American Roots’ bright, daylight-filled warehouse just a few blocks from downtown Portland. Eight sewing machines hum along to the sounds of Bruce Springsteen.

Once the search for U.S.-made products was complete, American Roots co-founder Whitney Reynolds says she had to embark on another difficult search.

“We needed to find a workforce, and we found it really wasn’t out there, so we needed to train them,” she says.

American Roots partnered with Portland Adult Education, Goodwill and Coastal Enterprises to offer a 7-week training program. Reynolds says 30 people responded to the ad.

“Out of that 30 that we vetted, two of them were native Mainers, and I was shocked to see that,” she says. “Two of those people‚ and then one didn’t show up for interview. So clearly the majority was new Americans.”

Before starting American Roots, Waxman spent more than a decade working for the national AFL-CIO. In that time, he met workers who had felt firsthand the effects of the decline in domestic manufacturing, and he dreamed of starting a business that produced something 100 percent U.S.-made.