The Coastal Packet

Saturday, September 23

State legislator switches to Green Party

After unenrolling from the Democratic Party this spring, Maine State Rep. Ralph Chapman announced Thursday he has joined the Maine Green Independent Party, becoming the only Green state representative in Maine, and the first since John Eder finished his term in the 122nd Legislature in 2006.
In a letter announcing his enrollment with the Maine Greens, Chapman wrote, "I have joined the Maine Green Independent Party in order to highlight the democracy-diminishing effects of corporate funding influence on the statehouse party leadership of Maine's two largest political parties."

The Greens, he notes, do not accept corporate donations, in contrast to the Democrats and Republicans. "I saw more clearly," Chapman said, "that even our state legislature is largely controlled by accountability to funding sources, not people. The Maine Green Independent Party offers an alternative. In essence, the Maine Green Independent Party is demonstrating, by its actions, how to behave as though the Citizens' United Supreme Court decision were overturned."
Chapman is in his fourth term serving District 133, which comprises Blue Hill, Brooklin, Brooksville, Castine, Sedgwick and Surry. He sits on the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.

Collins can't make up her mind whether to support one of the worst bills of recent times

WCSH- As for health care, the latest and almost certainly last Republican plan this year for repealing and replacing Obamacare is in deep trouble. Collins has not come out against it, but says she has serious reservations and is leaning against it, despite intense pressure on her from President Trump, Vice President Pence and Governor LePage.

“The governor in particular has stepped up his efforts,” Collins says. “In the end I just have to do what I think is right for the people of Maine and for our country. If I don’t do that, I can’t look myself in the mirror.”

Friday, September 22

What a depressed economy looks like

Maine Center for Economic Progres - Tens of thousands of Mainers disheartened by the dim prospects of good paying, middle-class jobs have given up looking for work. Some are discouraged to the point of despair, turning to substance misuse and even suicide. That’s the stark and somber finding of MECEP’s latest report, The State of Working Maine 2017.
Using numerous data sets and incorporating the latest national research, the State of Working Maine demonstrates how Maine’s stagnant economy, rising inequality, and the erosion of the American Dream have resulted in chronic levels of deep poverty, poor health, and lack of work. While the entire country was hit hard by the Great Recession, the State of Working Maine lays bare the extent to which Maine’s recovery has been especially slow, with damaging consequences.

At the most basic level, Maine’s economy is smaller than before the Great Recession. Maine’s Gross Domestic Product, once adjusted for inflation, is 1% below 2007 levels. Meanwhile, New England’s economy grew 8% over the decade, and the national economy grew 12%.

Wednesday, September 20

Cumberland County Sheriff won't hold ICE detainees past scheduled release

Press Herald - Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce will no longer cooperate with requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold prisoners at the county jail beyond their scheduled release, becoming the first jurisdiction in the state to take a stance against the controversial practice.

The policy shift comes as federal agents ramp up immigration enforcement across the nation, including in Cumberland County, where the number of ICE detainees has more than doubled from last year.

Joyce announced the decision in a Sept. 14 letter to ICE officials in South Portland, citing recent federal court decisions that undercut ICE’s authority to detain someone without providing a warrant from a judge or showing probable cause.

New England losing 65 acres of forest a day

Press Herald-New England has been losing forestland to development at a rate of 65 acres per day – a loss that comes at a time when public funding for preservation of open land, both state and federal, has also been on the decline in all six states.

That’s the conclusion of a report by the Harvard Forest, a research institute of Harvard University. The study found public funding for land conservation in New England dropped by half between 2008 and 2014 to $62 million per year, slightly lower than 2004 levels. During the same time, the pace of regional land conservation slowed from an average of 333,000 acres per year in the early 2000s to about 50,000 acres per year since 2010.

Tuesday, September 19

Portland turns Columbus Day into Indigenous Peoples' Day

Press Herald - The Portland City Council voted unanimously Monday to designate the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The vote came after nearly an hour of public comment.

Portland became the latest municipality in Maine to recognize indigenous people instead of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, who arrived in the New World on Oct. 12, 1492. Belfast was the first to make the switch in 2015, Bangor did so last month and Orono followed suit last week. Later Monday night, the Brunswick Town Council voted 8-1 to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

While one resident at Monday’s meeting called Christopher Columbus “a murderer,” another said that eliminating the Columbus Day holiday in Portland “is like a slap in the face to the Italians who reside here.” public domain

Sam Smith - It's probably too late to do anything about it, but "indigenous people" has always struck me a phrase invented by liberal academics or bureaucrats. Real people don't use words like that for everyday descriptions. I much prefer terms used in Canada like First Nation or First People. Just a suggestion. 

Saturday, September 16

Effects of Gulf of Maine warming

Colin Woodward, Portland Press Herald [The Gulf of Maine] is the second fastest warming part of the world ocean, with plenty of implications for life here, marine and human alike.

New research -- by a team including many of the same scientists who worked on the previous studies -- shows Gulf summers are getting longer by two days a year, and that almost all the annual warming is concentrated in the summer months meaning, among other things, less of a cold-water "speed bump" is present to protect the Maine coast from hurricanes.

The AP followed up on this story later in the week.
In recent weeks, right whales have been dying in large numbers in the northeast Atlantic -- possibly due in part to secondary climate effects -- and researchers have estimated that many commercial fish species in the Gulf may run out of thermally appropriate habitat in coming decades.

Thursday, September 14

Mainers without health insurance stays steady

Sun Journal - New U.S. Census Bureau figures show that the number of Maine residents without health insurance stayed steady from 2015 to 2016. According to a new federal report released Tuesday , Maine's uninsured rate of 8.6 percent is a drop from 11.2 percent in 2013. About 106,000 Mainer residents lacked health insurance last year, down from 147,000 residents in 201

Tuesday, September 12

The fight for ranked choice voting

Another LePage legacy: food insecurity

Beacon-A new report released this week from the US Department of Agriculture found that while the nation as a whole has continued to make progress against hunger, over the last year Maine has dropped from 9th worst in the country to 7th worst in food insecurity. Over the past decade, food insecurity in Maine has increased by 27%.

Maine ranks even worse, third in the country, for the percentages of households falling into the even-more dire category of “very low food security.”

Food insecurity in Maine is now 25% worse than the national average, with 16.4% of households are food insecure compared to 13% nationally. To be “food insecure” means that a person or family does not have reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable, nutritious food. 7.4 percent of Maine households now have very low food security.

Thursday, September 7

Portlanders will get to vote on rents rezoning rules

Press Herald - The Portland City Council voted early Thursday morning to put two citizen initiatives on the November ballot. One measure seeks to rein in rising rents and the other would give neighbors more say in the city’s rezoning process.

Wednesday, September 6

Longer summers in the Gulf of Maine

Environmental News Network - Summer is coming to the Gulf of Maine, longer and warmer than ever — as much as two months longer. That’s the message of a new research article by a team of scientists led by Andrew Thomas of the University of Maine School of Marine Sciences. The study, published in the journal Elementa, examined the seasonality of sea surface temperature trends along the northeast coast of the United States.

For all but a small region immediately north of Cape Hatteras at the southern edge of their study area, the researchers confirmed that surface water temperatures have an increasing trend over the last three decades, with the Gulf of Maine warming at about 0.4 degrees Celsius per decade.

Monday, September 4

LePage's war on Medicaid

Greg Kaufmann, Talk Poverty - Recent congressional proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would have reduced Medicaid enrollment by up to 15 million people, and, despite being defeated, congressional Republicans aren’t done yet: It’s likely they will attempt to gut the program during the upcoming budget debate. Meanwhile, more than half a dozen conservative governors are trying to take a hatchet to the program—at the open invitation of the Trump administration—through a vehicle known as a “Medicaid waiver.”

Waivers are intended for state pilot projects designed to improve health care coverage for vulnerable populations. But that’s not what conservative governors are pursuing. In Maine, for example, as citizens prepare to vote on a referendum that would force the state to expand Medicaid to 70,000 people, Gov. Paul LePage (R) is moving in the opposite direction. His Department of Health and Human Services has requested permission to create a 20-hour-a-week work requirement, impose co-pays and premiums, and implement a $5,000 asset cap on Medicaid beneficiaries. The result, health care experts warn, will be that low-income people in Maine will be kicked off the program.

LePage’s administration argues that the work requirement will help people earn more and become more self-sufficient. But according to Hannah Katch, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a former administrator of the California Medicaid program, 80 percent of Medicaid patients nationwide are already in working families. “The vast majority of people who aren’t working are either taking care of a family member, have a physical or behavioral health condition, or are in school, or have a combination of these factors,” said Katch. “While a work requirement is unlikely to help them get a job, it is very likely to take away health coverage from people who can’t work.”

Saturday, September 2

Maine urban unemployment remains low

Maine Public Broadcasting - Labor markets remained strong in all three of Maine’s major urban areas in July.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found unemployment low and edging lower in Bangor, Lewiston-Auburn and the Portland-South Portland labor markets.

The Portland-area jobless figure was the lowest: 2.8 percent. Lewiston-Auburn, at 3.4 percent, was still a bit lower than the state’s unemployment rate last month. Bangor was a bit higher than the state figure, at 3.7 percent.

For all of Maine’s metro areas, unemployment percentages this July were lower than they were in July 2016.

Sunday, August 27

Lobster union helping with sales

Press Herald- A few months after buying a lobster pound and processing plant, Maine’s lobstering union is now tapping its connection to unions across the country to rack up online retail sales and reap greater financial returns for its members.

The union is now shipping live Maine lobster caught by its 400 members anywhere in the country. The path these lobsters will take on their way from the ocean floor to your door is completely unionized, from the Vinalhaven lobsterman who traps it to the Rockland truck driver who picks it up from a transfer boat to the Lamoine plant worker who packs it to the UPS teamster who delivers it.

Friday, August 25

Maine student education costs remain too high

The Maine Center for Economic Policy’s analysis of a report released by the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities reveals that Maine students at four-year public colleges still bear too high a burden for higher education. Since the Great Recession, tuition at Maine’s public colleges and universities have increased by $1,198 or 14.1 percent over the past decade. Maine also ranks 21st in the country for in-state tuition costs. Despite a slight increase in state funding this past year, real per-student spending is still below pre-Recession levels. As a result, Mainers will still find it harder to afford college and will still graduate with large student debt burdens.

Over the past ten years, from 2008 to 2017, state funding cuts have forced layoffs, consolidations, and program cuts resulting in reduced quality. Of the 900 jobs lost, 523 staff, 322 faculty and 57 administrators were laid off.

The median federal debt load for graduates of the University of Maine’s flagship campus is $26,000, significantly higher than the debt burden for graduates of Bowdoin ($20,000), Bates ($16,000), or Colby Colleges ($19,000). Reductions in state funding for public universities and a lack of investment in state aid programs mean that, for many families, public colleges are no longer providing affordable access to education.

To renew investment in higher education—and prevent further disinvestment—Maine should reject calls for tax cuts and consider fairer options for new revenues.

Thursday, August 24

Interior Secretary back northern Maine monument

Sun Journal - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wants to retain the newly created Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Maine, but he might recommend adjustments to the White House. Share E-mail this story Print this story

His recommendation the 87,500-acre (35,410-hectare) monument came a year to the day that then-President Barack Obama formally announced the land designation.

President Donald Trump has accused previous administrations of turning a 1906 law that lets the president protect federal land into a "massive federal land grab."

Republican Gov. Paul LePage is vehemently opposed, saying federal ownership could stymie economic development in the region. He even went so far as to prevent state workers from installing road signs to direct motorists to the property.

Wednesday, August 23

LePage invents some Maine history

Bangor Daily News - Calling himself “a history buff,” Gov. Paul LePage revised Civil War history as we know it in a Tuesday radio interview when discussing the racially charged violence in Virginia and saying “7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy.”

Maine State Archivist David Cheever said that approximately 30 people are confirmed to have gone from Maine to the Confederacy, including students who left Bowdoin College in Brunswick and what is now Colby College in Waterville to fight, but they could have been from other parts of the country.

Maine’s history as one of the proudest Union states is well-documented. It sent about 73,000 people to war — a higher proportion than any other state — and more than 9,000 died, though there were some pockets of Southern sympathizers.

Friday, August 18

Nestle sued over character of its Maine water

Bangor Daily News - A group of bottled water drinkers has brought a class action lawsuit against the company behind Poland Spring, alleging that the Maine business has long deceived consumers by mislabeling common groundwater.

The civil suit was brought by 11 people from the Northeast who collectively spent thousands of dollars on Poland Spring brand water in recent years. It is seeking millions of dollars in damages for a nationwide class and appears to hinge on whether the sources of Poland Spring water meet the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of a spring.

The suit comes as the company, a subsidiary of the Swiss food giant Nestle, is looking to expand its operations in Maine.

LePage accually said this. . .

NY Post - Maine’s Republican governor likened the removal of Confederate statues across the country to tearing down monuments to those who died in the terror attacks on Sept. 11.

“To me, it’s just like going to New York City right now and taking down the monument of those who perished in 9/11. It will come to that,” Gov. Paul LePage told Maine radio station WGAN-AM in an interview Thursday.

Thursday, August 17

Poland Springs to grab over 2 billion gallons of Maine water

MainePublic Broadcasting - The Rumford Water District has signed a deal with Poland Spring Water Co., that will allow it to draw up to 150 million gallons of water per year for 15 years, from two district wells.

But Water District Superintendant Brian Gagnon says, under the deal, the town's needs will come first. "We come first, and we're holding an amount of up to a million gallons a day that would be used for the townspeople."

Gagnon says in addition to estimated $200,000 to $300,000 in revenues a year from the sale of the water to Poland Spring, Rumford will also get just over $1 million from the company over the next four years, to use as it sees fit.

Mt. Desert towns rebel against cruse shiip damage to lobstering

Tuesday, August 15

A school where students work as well as study

Maine Public Broadcasting - For most kids, school is a focus on those three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. But more and more, educators are trying to teach students skills they’ll need on the job, too, such as work ethic and teamwork. At one coastal Maine school, that curriculum includes real work.

On a small plot of land behind the Harpswell Coastal Academy, sixth-grader Easton Dundore scoops shovelfuls of mulch into a small hoop house he helped design to grow vegetables. Dundore says he spends most school days out here, working with three or four other students.

“So this project is mostly for like, team building and career development. And communication,” he says. “I feel like it’s good hands-on work. I feel like that connects to my brain and helps me learn better. I think if I was inside writing papers about career development, it would almost be a little less effective than being out here, doing this, with other people.”

Maine state worker would get pay raise if they give up union right

Press Herald - Negotiators for the largest state employees union have agreed to a new two-year contract that would increase wages by 6 percent while also giving Republican Gov. Paul LePage a long-sought victory in his effort to eliminate mandatory union fees for workers in jobs represented by unions.

Under the contract, which will go out to members of the Maine State Employees Association, Local 1989, for a ratification vote on Aug. 30, state workers who choose not to join the union would not have to pay the fees that are collected to cover the union’s cost of collective bargaining and other services, including lobbying the Legislature.

Monday, August 14

How the Department of Health and Human Services has failed Mainers

Plan afoot to restrict prisoner visits

Sun Journal - Motivated at least in part by a desire to keep drugs out of the hands of prisoners, the state is eyeing a proposal that would eliminate a requirement that inmates in county jails have access to contact visits. Share Sun Journal file photo

Joseph Jackson, coordinator of Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition, said Monday the move would bar prisoners — even those who haven’t been convicted — from giving a child a hug or holding a spouse’s hand.

He called the proposal “a giant step backward” and harmful to the goal of getting people back on track.

“They are attempting to take away human touch and the ability of inmates to see their loved ones in person,” Jackson said.

The new policy proposal, which runs counter to a move in the Legislature to expand visitation options, would provide for “video only” visits that often cost the family money.

8 Democrats running for governor

WCSH - Progressive organizer and former state Rep. Diane Russell is now one of eight Democratic candidates for Maine governor.

Russell has called for the Democratic Party to eliminate superdelegates and backed presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The rest of the field includes veteran and attorney Adam Cote of Springvale, progressive lobbyist and activist Betsy Sweet of Hallowell, former state Sen. Jim Boyle of Gorham and retired Coast Guard commander and health care CEO Patrick Eisenhart of Augusta

Saturday, August 12

Maine health insurers plan much higher charges

Press Herald - Maine’s top insurance regulator plans to approve double-digit rate increases for all three of the state’s providers of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The increases for 2018 would be approved if the rate requests were revised to amounts slightly lower than the health insurers requested, said Eric Cioppa, superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Insurance, in written orders posted to the bureau’s website. Cioppa said he would approve revised increases of 27.1 percent for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, 17.5 percent for Maine Community Health Options and 18.8 percent for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Mainers to consider Medicaid expansion this fall

WCSH - A question on the Nov. 7 ballot would expand Medicaid for adults under 65 — for a single person who earns below $16,000 and for a family of two less than $22,000. Liberal groups and health care providers say that roughly 70,000 low-income Mainers could access health care including drug treatment as overdose deaths rise.

Wednesday, August 9

Mayhew leads Collins

Maine Pubic Broadcasting - A telephone survey earlier this month by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling shows Republican Mary Mayhew leading Sen. Susan Collins by more than 10 points in a head-to-head race for the Republican nomination for governor. Several Maine political scientists say the poll points out a problem for Collins, but warn that it's still very early in the game – if there’s a “game” at all. There are any number of reasons to be wary of early polls. First, the primary is not until next June, and Collins has not actually said that she will run. That has not lessened interest in the race for governor that's already spawned 11 announced candidates. In addition to Mayhew, there are six Democrats, two Greens, an independent, and a Libertarian.

For once, LePage is right

WCSH -  In a letter delivered to House members Tuesday, Governor LePage slammed representatives for voting into law a new legal age to purchase tobacco. "Quite simply, you are hypocrites," LePage writes. "You agree to try them as adults in a court of law; you ask them to vote for you in our elections.... and you allow them to smoke 'medical' marijuana. But now you say they cannot decide for themselves whether they want to buy cigarettes."

The new age to purchase tobacco is 21. Later on in the letter, he acknowledges the dangers of smoking to a person's health. "I would never encourage anyone of any age to smoke cigarettes. However, you can't have it both ways."

Saturday, August 5

LePage making it harder for Mainers to get Medicaid

Maine Public Broadcasting - People who receive MaineCare — the state’s version of Medicaid — may soon have to work and pay monthly premiums in order to get benefits. Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services officially filed an application this week to the federal government to make those changes. Critics say Maine’s plan would erect barriers to health care that will drive up costs for everyone. If DHHS’s waiver application is approved, people who receive MaineCare would be required to work 20 hours a week, pay monthly premiums and chip in $10 if they go to an emergency department for a non-emergency issue.

Rent control headed for Portland ballot

Maine Public Broadcasting - Fair Rent Portland, a Portland rent reform group, says it has enough signatures to put a rent control ordinance on the Portland City ballot this fall. The proposed ordinance would cap the amount that certain landlords could increase their rent each year, and includes other renter protections.

Maine lobstermen unionize

Maine Public Broadcasting - Maine lobstermen have long been known as a fiercely independent lot. But some are looking to the power of unity, in the form of a statewide, catch-to-table co-op. The goal is to harvest a larger and more predictable share of the profits.

Friday, August 4

The financial affects of Maine Care cuts

Maine Center for Economic Policy - Last year, half of Maine’s hospitals ran an operating deficit. According to figures from the Maine Health Data Organization, two thirds of Maine’s hospitals have just one month’s cash on hand (or less). Why is this important for Mainers? Not only are hospitals the primary providers of health care in the state, they are also the largest employers in nearly every county. For years, the Maine Hospital Association has warned about the financial strain on our hospitals, leading some to begin laying off staff, or shutting down entire departments. The major cause of this crisis is Governor LePage’s decision to not only refuse to expand Medicaid access under the Affordable Care Act, but to restrict Medicaid eligibility in Maine (known as Maine Care) – driving up the number of uninsured Mainers.

Uninsured patients are much more likely to be unable to pay for medical treatment, and leave hospitals with charity care costs or bad debt that they eventually write off. Data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, which maintains a database of state-by-state hospital inpatient admissions, show that Maine’s hospitals are seeing an increasing share of patients who have no insurance coverage whatsoever; a trend that coincides with a decline in the share of Maine Care admissions. 

How LePage damaged Maine's healthcare

From closing school-based health centers to dismantling public health partnerships to eliminating public health nurses to stymieing opioid treatment to cutting Medicaid to refusing or misusing federal funding, the LePage administration has systematically degraded Maine’s health care systems. Among the results are skyrocketing overdose deaths and increasing infant mortality. A Maine Beacon podcast on this topic

Thursday, August 3

Legislature fails to override LePage veto of solar bill

Natural Resources Council of Maine - The Maine House of Representatives voted to sustain Governor LePage’s veto of the solar bill, despite the fact that the bill passed the House and Senate initially by more than a two-thirds super majority. Seven Republican legislators changed their position from their prior support and today voted to sustain LePage’s veto of the measure. The Senate voted 28-6 to override and the House voted 88-48, falling three votes short of two-thirds.

“Today, too many lawmakers turned their back on jobs of the future for Maine and bowed to pressure from the Governor's office, Central Maine Power, Emera, and other utility and fossil fuel industry groups from across the nation,” says Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “They failed to support the small businesses that are struggling to create and sustain jobs from Kittery to Fort Kent, and they ignored the need and desire to transition to cleaner, renewable energy sources.

“At the strong urging of the governor, lawmakers today voted to raise electric bills, deny Mainers good jobs, generate more pollution, stall Maine’s transition to clean energy, and make it harder for Maine people and businesses to generate their own solar power.

“This vote allows the Public Utilities Commission to begin its extreme, nationally unprecedented new tax on self-consumption of power. That’s a bitter pill for a state whose forest products industry has long depended on the right to consume the power they produce without penalty, and bad news for a state trying to catch up on a revolutionary technology that allows every home and business to affordably produce their own power, too."

Thursday, July 27

Funding for school health centers killed

Press Herald - Roughly two dozen school-based student health centers in Maine lost their state funding this week because the state’s recent budget deal required the Department of Health and Human Services to eliminate $5 million in funding for the centers and other programs.

“I don’t know when I’ve been any more upset with a decision that’s been made in state government,” said Calais School District Superintendent Ron Jenkins, whose center lost $46,200 in funding. About 80 percent of middle and high school students in the district are signed up to use the center, which provides medical and dental care, suicide prevention and drug and alcohol prevention services.

Tuesday, July 25

Portland grabs farmland for gentrification

Press Herald -The Portland City Council voted 5-4 Monday night to rezone 45 acres of open space on outer Westbrook Street to allow a developer to build nearly 100 single-family homes, while preserving 25 acres of recreational open space for public use.

The project would trigger the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, which would set aside about eight or nine units of workforce housing, which would be affordable to people making up to 120 percent of the area median income. In this case, a four bedroom house would sell for over $300,000, but that would be affordable to a family with an income of nearly $100,000, planning staff said.

“We must leverage our moment to max our impact on the affordable housing crisis,” Strimling said. “On this one, I just don’t feel like we got there.”

Coastal Packet - A much wiser approach for Portland would be to redefine the relationship between Portland and other Maine cities and surrounding rural areas. Maine has the opportunity to create a new, more environmentally conscious relationship between urban and rural, but this is a lousy way to start. 

Monday, July 24

Mishandling Maine youths in trouble

Maine ACLU - A report released by the Maine Department of Corrections in January shows that more than three quarters of youth in their custody are there for low-level, non-felony offenses. 85 percent of them have three or more co-occurring mental health diagnoses, and 42 percent were sent directly from a residential treatment facility. Contrary to the claims of DHHS spokeswoman Samantha Edwards, the vast majority of kids incarcerated at Maine’s Long Creek Youth Development Center are not in prison merely “because they committed a crime.” They’re there because Maine has neglected to get them the services they need, and, in the words of Assistant District Attorney Christine Thibeault, “the only place that can’t refuse to take [them] is Long Creek.”

Multiple systems of government have failed the children who end up at Long Creek: the education system, the court system, and, of course, our health and social services system. The ACLU of Maine has talked a lot about the failures of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) here, here and here. But DHHS continues to deny that it has any part in the crisis at Long Creek, stymieing everyone else’s efforts to get kids the help they need.

While DHHS doesn’t seem to see a role for itself, we’ve come up with a short list of items that the department could undertake immediately:
  • Fund community mental health options along a continuum of acuity so kids can get help in their own communities, at the level of care appropriate for their particular needs;
  • Hold the residential care facilities licensed by DHHS accountable, so that the facilities stop calling the police for incidents that are a result of mental health or developmental skill deficits;
  • And, for the kids who are currently locked up, find beds and services that are more developmentally and mentally appropriate for adolescents than prison.

Friday, July 21

Lewiston and Bates College students aren't hitting it off

Portland mayor wants more low income housing in developments

Press Herald  Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling wants to require developers in the city to include more low-income housing in their projects.

Strimling announced Wednesday a proposal to raise the percentage of low-income housing to be included in large residential projects to 20 percent, as well as lower the income eligibility requirements for tenants seeking access to those units.

The city already has a nearly two-year-old ordinance requiring new developments with at least 10 housing units to set aside 10 percent of those units for low-income tenants, and the mayor’s proposal would amend that.

Thursday, July 20

Maine forms Socialist Party

Press Herald Socialist Party of Maine held its founding convention at the Viles Arboretum, during which they unified the Socialist Party of Eastern Maine and the Socialist Party of Southern Maine into a statewide party and started to map out strategies for running for office.

“Because we believe in democratic socialism, we take both the democratic and the socialism very seriously,” said Tom MacMillan, one of the organizers of Sunday’s event. Democratic socialism means putting people in communities in control of their lives, he said.

“In their workplaces that means promoting worker-owned cooperatives. That’s a good example. Democracy at work, democracy at the ballot box and democracy in society. We think that regular people can control their lives better than their bosses can or by the owners of big companies. If factories are owned by their workers, they are not going to be sending jobs overseas, because that’s their jobs. They (are) not going to be displacing themselves.”

Tuesday, July 18

Print media monopoly increases in Maine

Press Herald -  The owner of the Portland Press Herald is buying Sun Media Group, the company that publishes Lewiston’s Sun Journal and a host of weekly newspapers.

Reade Brower of Camden has entered into an agreement for an undisclosed price with the Costello family, which has operated the company that publishes the Sun Journal since the 1890s. The sale to Reade Brower of Camden will end more than a century of Costello family ownership of Lewiston newspapers.

The sale dramatically expands Brower’s holdings, bringing many of Maine’s newspapers, including most of its dailies, under his ownership.

GOP proposes budget that will increase poverty and deaths

Press Herald - House Republicans unveiled a 10-year budget blueprint that would dramatically increase military spending while putting the Republican Party on record favoring Medicare cuts opposed by President Trump.

The Republican plan, authored by Budget Chairman Diane Black, R-Tenn., would also pave the way for overhauling the U.S. tax code this fall, and would pair that effort with cuts to benefit programs such as food stamps.

Medicare is the second largest mandatory program after Social Security, and the House Republican plan again proposes to turn Medicare into a voucher-like program in which future retirees would receive a fixed benefit to purchase health insurance on the open market.

The plan, in theory at least, promises to balance the budget through unprecedented and unworkable cuts across the budget. It calls for turning this year’s projected $700 billion or so deficit into a tiny $9 billion surplus by 2027. It would do so by slashing $5.4 trillion over the coming decade, including almost $500 billion from Medicare, $1.5 trillion from Medicaid and the Obama health law, along with enormous cuts to benefits such as federal employee pensions, food stamps, and tax credits for the working poor.