The Coastal Packet

Friday, September 21

Question One would help 27,000 seniors

Maine Beacon - A new report  by the Muskie School of Public Service shows that, if Question 1 is passed this November, 27,000 Mainers who currently need in-home assistance would be eligible for home care support.

Currently, only about 5,600 of the 27,000 Mainers with home care needs are able to access public long-term care services, a proportion set to worsen as Maine’s senior population grows over the next two decades — with Mainers over 65 expected, according to the report, to represent almost a third of the state’s population by 2032.

The study also makes clear that the universal home care could expand and complement existing programs, eliminate waiting lists, and trigger increased federal matching funds.

Professor Sandra Butler, Resident Scholar at the University of Maine’s Center on Aging, pointed to a knowledge gap that exists between what older adults think Medicare covers and what it actually does.

“Most people don’t understand that long-term care is not funded by Medicare,” said Butler, “and they don’t save for long-term care, so they come up short when they need it. It is often unattainable for a great majority of older adults.”

“The biggest and most important takeaway from this report is clear: 27,000 Mainers, many of whom currently receive no help at all in meeting their family’s care needs, would be eligible for assistance if Question 1 passes and is implemented,” said Kevin Simowitz, political director at Caring Across Generations. “Without universal home care, those families will remain without help for the care they want and need.”

 Maine Center for Economic Policy - The Home Care referendum on November’s ballot would affect 34,442 Mainers at the top of the income distribution, according to a new analysis conducted by MECEP. That represents 3.36% percent of all Mainers with income


Friday, September 14

King says he'll vote no on Kavanuagh, Collins still can't decide whether she likes Trump better than women

Maine teachers spend millions of their own money on schools

Maine Center for Economic Policy -  Maine’s teachers spent at least $4.2 million out of their own pockets on basic school supplies in 2016, the most recent year for which we have data, illustrating the inadequate public resources dedicated to educating the next generation of Mainers. Instead of asking educators, who are already underpaid, to foot the bill for the essentials needed to educated Maine students, the state should take steps to adequately fund public classrooms.

Teachers throughout Maine are being forced to pick up the slack caused by underfunding. The IRS publishes statistics on the number of Mainers who claim a $250 educator expense deduction on their annual federal income tax returns. In 2016, 16,610 Mainers claimed the deduction. That’s more than 95 percent of eligible educators, according to Census Bureau data.

Maine remains oldest state

Thursday, September 13

Mianers income grew last year but still lags behind national average

Press Herald -The state’s median household income was $56,227 in 2017, an almost 4 percent increase from 2016, according to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau. The estimate has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.

Maine’s rate of income growth outpaced the national average, but the median U.S. household income was $60,336, about $4,000 higher than in Maine. In New England, the median income was about $71,494.

Monday, September 10

Senator Collins: Just a reminder

 A poll, conducted on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America by Public Policy Polling in Maine, finds that the majority of voters, including two-thirds of independent voters, do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and would oppose any nominee to the Supreme Court who would overturn it.
The poll also found that a senator who vote for such a nominee would face peril in their upcoming election.

Saturday, September 8

Just a thought

If Susan Collins can't figure out whether to vote for or against Kavanaugh, she not only is wrong she's not smart enough to be in the Senate.

Thursday, September 6

Maine food insecurity above national average

Maine Public Broadcasting -According to new figures released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 14.4 percent of Maine households between 2015 and 2017 were classified as food insecure, while 6.4 percent of those households qualified as "very food insecure," meaning that people in those homes reported running out of food, skipping meals and going hungry.

The national average was 12.3 per cent, with 4.8 percent of families experiencing very low food security.

94% or seniors want more support for independent living

Maine Beacon -Ninety-four percent of Mainers over the age of 50 feel a candidate’s position on helping older people live independently will impact their voting decisions in the upcoming November mid-term elections, a new poll released by Maine AARP shows.

Wednesday, September 5

Yes on Question One gets rolling

Maine Beacon -Volunteers and organizations that are part of the Mainers for Home Care coalition officially launched the Yes on Question 1 campaign on Tuesday to guarantee universal access to home care to seniors and Mainers with disabilities, saying the ballot initiative that will go before voters in November represents the best opportunity to fix a broken system.

“We are a grassroots coalition of more than 40 organizations and tens of thousands of individual Mainers who recognized the road we are on as a state is about to take us off a cliff,” said Ben Chin, campaign manager for Mainers for Home Care, which gathered 67,000 signatures last year to place the initiative on the ballot.

The average annual cost of home care for a senior in Maine was $52,624 in 2017. While that is cheaper than a one year in a private room in a nursing home — which cost $117,165 in 2017 — it is out of reach for most Maine families, the organizers say, and Medicare does not cover in-home care.

Monday, September 3

Poll: Collins and Kavanaugh

Axios-Maine voters are less likely to support Republican Sen. Susan Collins for re-election if she votes to confirm President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey.

If Collins votes for Kavanaugh, 47% of Maine voters said they would be less likely to vote for her, while 31% said they would be more likely to support her.

Nearly half (49%) of voters in her state think she should vote against Kavanaugh. And a majority (56%) don't think Collins should vote on the nomination until there's been a full review of Kavanaugh's documents.

Maine home care referendum gets national attention

Sunday, September 2

Hottest August ever in Portland

Record warmth in Gulf of Maine

Bangor Daily News -The waters off New England are already warming faster than most of the world’s oceans, and they are nearing the end of one of the hottest summers in their history.

That is the takeaway from an analysis of summer sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine by a marine scientist with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland. The average sea surface temperature in the gulf was nearly 5 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average during one 10-day stretch in August, said the scientist, Andy Pershing, who released the work Thursday.

Tuesday, August 28

LePage joins 15 other GOP states to make it legal to fire gay and transgender workers

Press Herald -  Maine Gov. Paul LePage has joined 15 other states in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that companies can fire workers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity without violating federal workplace discrimination law.

[The suit] argued that Congress did not intend for the ban on sex discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to cover bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender employees. That law, they claim, was intended to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, not gender identity.

Laws in 20 states, including Maine, ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Monday, August 27

Seals in trouble

Salon - More than 180 seals have washed up on the shores of Maine alone in August, with most of them either already dead or eventually dying, according to Maine Public. Meanwhile Sarah Perez, a rescue assistant with the New Hampshire Seacoast Science Center, says that the number of seal strandings she has seen has nearly quadrupled from its usual rate.

The concern here goes beyond the fate of the lovable pinnipeds. If seal species are suddenly experiencing an abnormal depletion — as opposed to a form of natural population control — it could be a warning sign of other problems that might ultimately effect whole ecosystems.

The Seacoast Science Center, like Marine Mammals of Maine, has been sending samples to labs to try to get to the bottom of what’s going on. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have also been investigating, and announced the first clues.

"We've gotten results back that are positive for either avian influenza or what we call ‘phocine distemper virus,’" says Jennifer Goebel, a spokesperson for NOAA.

Avian flu and distemper have been linked to past seal mortality events. Goebel says it's too early to tell whether the diseases are the primary cause of this year's spike in deaths and says that testing will continue.

Sunday, August 26

Immigrants contributed $1.2 billion to greater Portland in 2016

Bngor Daily News -Foreign-born residents in Greater Portland contributed $1.2 billion to the area’s gross domestic product in 2016, according to a new study released Friday. The report comes from the bipartisan organization New American Economy, which supports both increased opportunities for immigrants to enter the U.S. workforce and strengthened international borders.

Fishermen concerned about Portland's waterfront

Monique Coombs, Letter to Press Herald -Fishermen are especially concerned about Portland’s working waterfront. Commercial Street is home to 100-plus fishermen, bait dealers, lobster buyers, seafood businesses and the Portland Fish Exchange, where almost all of Maine’s groundfish is landed. A current hotel proposal on Fisherman’s Wharf is challenging the dignity of the existing mixed-use zoning ordinances and, if approved, would open a path for others to also challenge the rules, increase the speculative value of other properties, alter the character of the waterfront and set a poor precedent for the rest of Maine’s coastal communities.

Maine without a fishing industry is inconceivable, and the effects would be innumerable. From Cutler to Portland, fishermen are genuinely concerned about the continued ability to have access to working waterfront infrastructure because of developments and land disputes.

We are not asking for all development to cease, but we are asking for everyone to take a step back and consider what’s most important to the future of Maine’s economy and way of life. Living in a fishing community is more than just boats and buoys; it’s strong family values, a willingness to help your neighbor and a way of life that is enviable to many other parts of the U.S. Mainers, let’s conserve a way of life and save the working waterfront.

CMP in trouble

Press Herald -Never before in Central Maine Power’s 119-year history has the company been under assault from more directions. CMP is facing a storm of attacks for how it treats and bills its customers and whether it’s telling the truth about problems at the utility.

State regulators have launched investigations into storm response, rate charges, company earnings and a proposed transmission line. Attorneys for ratepayers are seeking a class-action lawsuit over extraordinarily high electric bills. They are even alleging corporate fraud – saying CMP trained its workers to blame spiking bills on customers, rather than the company’s faulty billing and metering systems, a charge CMP strongly denies.

Friday, August 24

Maine ranks first in women-owned business job growrth and revenue

Press Herald - From 2007 to 2018, Maine ranked first among the 50 states and the District of Columbia for both revenue and job growth among women-owned businesses, according to the eighth annual State of Women-Owned Businesses Report commissioned by the financial services firm American Express.

Most businesses in Maine are small, and some are one-person operations that can include anything from plumbers and accountants to people who sell crafts online. According to the report, Maine has an estimated 45,600 women-owned businesses that employ 51,600 workers and generate roughly $13.6 billion in annual sales.

Thursday, August 23

Supreme Court: LePage must move forward with Medicaid expansion

The Hill - Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) must move forward with Medicaid expansion after the state’s highest court denied his request to delay implementation.

The ruling Thursday by the state Supreme Court dealt a blow to LePage, who has been blocking Medicaid expansion ever since voters approved it in November.

However, the court did not rule on the merits of the case; it dismissed LePage’s appeal of a lower court decision, sending the case back to Superior Court.

Wednesday, August 22

Someone's stealing Maine navigation buoy bells

Press Herald - The Coast Guard is offering a cash reward for information about the theft of bells from navigational buoys off the Maine coast.Tampering with aids to navigation is a federal offense and can lead to up to one year in prison or fines of up to $25,000 per day.

Your editor was executive officer on a buoy tender in the early sixties and we never had one stolen. Here's what the more normal activity was like. 

 The Spar was 180 feet long. Unlike most Coast Guard cutters that were painted barn siding white, the buoy tenders had black hulls and white superstructures. We sometimes referred to them as The Great Black Fleet. The Spar was equipped to break ice and her rugged construction and towing ability made her an excellent heavy weather search and rescue craft. She was also used to bring fuel, water and crews to the Nantucket Light Vessel and to the several of the nearby lighthouses. But her main task was to maintain 170 buoys from Block Island to Buzzard's Bay. My main task, other than to make sure the ship got where it was going, was to put the buoys where the charts said they were.

For every buoy we knew the correct angles of three fixed shore objects such as a tower or building. On each wing of the bridge a quartermaster would take hold a sextant horizontally and read off the the bearings between two of the objects. A single screw ship, the Spar was not easy to maneuver and we approached the buoy location dead slow, the quartermasters calling out their angles: "76 degrees, 13 minutes on the left -- correcting." From the other wing: "82 degrees, 52 minutes on the right -- uncorrecting." I would stand on a wing of the bridge with a chart and three-arm protractor keeping up with the position of the ship. As the position plotted over the right black or red dot on the chart I would tell the captain, "She's on." He would cry to the chief on the buoy deck below, "Let her go." A seaman swung a mallet to the chain stopper. Fifteen tons of sinker and buoy were released and as she settled into her position, a final check on the angles was made we backed away.

But other things affected buoys besides wanderlust. The pockets that hold the light batteries might leak water, shorting the electrical system. The batteries might discharge sooner than expected. The flashing device might be defective. All four bulbs in the automatic lamp changer might be burned out. A clapper might be off a bell. A light might be burning steadily instead of flashing its proper characteristic. Bird droppings might obscure the lens. Or the buoy might simply be scheduled for replacement or servicing.

Brenton Point Lighted Whistle Buoy S2 was a large buoy in Rhode Island Sound near the entrance to Narragansett Bay, in plenty of deep warter. On a Friday in February, she was scheduled to be serviced. It was a good day for tending buoys. Not too cold and not too rough. If your specialty was repairing lanterns you appreciated this. You could remember a night deep in that same winter when you had climbed aboard an ice-covered buoy that was careening carelessly against the side of the ship. You could remember mounting fifteen feet of slippery cage to the lantern, almost losing your grip every time you inched higher. And you could remember sitting atop that rocking pinnacle trying to rewire a lamp-changer in the winter wind. Your memories made you glad for a day like this.

The officer on the port wing of the bridge could see the buoy a hundred yards ahead. "God damn current's setting me down too fast." The buoy approached almost imperceptibly as the ship edged forward. It rolled gently in the slight swell and every four seconds a weak red flash came from its light. The officer shoved the stick beside him forward and called to the helmsman inside the wheelhouse, "Increase to right full." The helmsman spun the wheel. There was a groan from somewhere deep inside the ship as the diesel engines responded to the thrust of the throttle and released their full energy. The officer returned the stick to a vertical position and the groan ceased.

There was no surge of speed when the lever moved forward. The ship continued to creep towards the buoy, but the engines and the rudder had combined to turn her bow to starboard. The buoy was off the port bow now. "Shift your rudder. " The turning of the bow was checked. Down on the buoy deck, below and forward of the bridge, a small group of men in safety helmets and dungarees watched the buoy. Over their heads a large buff-painted boom hung in wait.

"Ease your rudder.'' The buoy was close and the officer shoved the lever aft.

This time there was the groan and more. The whole ship shook in protest as the engines tried to stop the forward momentum of 1000 tons of steel moving through the water. The buoy struck the side of the ship and started scraping its way aft. Before it had traveled more than half the way down the buoy port its motion was checked. The officer returned the lever. The roll of the ship and the roll of the buoy didn't coincide, but the men on the buoy deck anticipated the erratic movement. A wire strap was led through the cage of the buoy and back to the hook that hung from the boom. The chief in charge on the buoy deck held up his hand.

The electric boom motor started to spin, the boom cable became taut, pulling at the strap. Up on the bridge a second officer was plotting the position of the buoy. "She's two hundred yards north of station, Captain."

"Very well,'' the captain replied, without lifting his eyes from the operation below. A half-dozen men were trying to bring a twelve ton buoy aboard a rolling deck and there were a half-dozen things that could go wrong.

Only last week the nylon cross-deck had suddenly snapped with the crack of a rifle. The men tending the lines were thrown to the deck. Others nearby ducked and headed for what protection they could find. The buoy had swept a path across the deck. "Drop it," the chief had yelled and the boom operator had let the buoy crash to the steel surface. Fortunately it had been a calm day and no one was injured. But it had been a sharp reminder that things can go wrong without warning. This day, however, the buoy came aboard smoothly. As it arose from the water a large cylindrical body was revealed, coated with mussels and green slime. And extending down from the body there was a long tube that counterbalanced the upper portion of the buoy when it sat in the water. Light, cage, body, and tube were dragged aboard, restrained by the boom and the cross-deck line. For a few seconds the huge buoy hung suspended, but the moment the chief could see that the chock was properly placed underneath the giant it was quickly lowered to the deck and secured. The helmeted men set about the familiar routine, scraping the body and tube of its marine growth. checking the lantern, replacing the long black batteries that rested in two pockets in the body, The buoy chain rested with one of its links securely slipped into a chain stopper on the edge of the buoy deck. Now the chain would be hauled and checked and then the whole buoy would be replaced, refreshed and properly positioned on its station in Rhode Island Sound.