The Coastal Packet

Friday, October 31

Ebola update

NY Times - The State of Maine has issued a court-ordered quarantine, requiring a nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa to stay in her hometown, avoid public transit and businesses, and remain at least three feet away from others when outdoors.

The order was signed on Thursday by Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere, the chief judge for the Maine District Courts who serves on courts in Kennebec and Somerset County.

“This decision has critical implications for Respondent’s freedom, as guaranteed by the U.S. and Maine Constitutions, as well as the public’s right to be protected from the potential severe harm posed by transmission of this devastating disease,” Judge LaVerdiere wrote in the order.

The judge ordered a hearing on Ms. Hickox’s quarantine to take place within 10 days, when he can weigh whether it violates her civil rights.

Down East Notes

The number of homeless people in Maine counted during an annual census fell 9.6 percent between 2013 and 2014 but remains higher than in 2010, according to federal survey results

Both parties are working to boost voter turnout, and so far Democrats are ahead of Republicans in the absentee ballot count.

Thursday, October 30

Portland area has long term job growth, rest of the state not

Maine Center for Economic Policy -  The greater Portland area—extending from Kennebunk in the south to Freeport in the north—continues to account for most of the job growth in Maine over the past seven years, according to MECEP analysis of metropolitan area nonfarm payroll employment figures released today by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Since the Great Recession officially began in December, 2007, the Portland metropolitan area has added about 2,900 jobs, while the rest of the state has lost about 11,800.

Portland’s jobs recovery is comparable to the recovery in the nation as a whole, while Maine as a whole ranks near the bottom among states. The Portland area returned to per-recession employment levels last spring, reaching the milestone at about the same time as the nation. Meanwhile, Maine has about 611,800 jobs, which is still well short of the 620,700 it had in December, 2007, at the start of the recession.

Down East Notes

In a short documentary, journalist Steven Jackson profiles a group of anonymous street artists in Portland, Maine. Graffiti may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Maine—or the second, third, or fourth—but this small, devoted group reveals the complex cocktail of ego, discipline, and deviance behind their trade. "There's a strange feeling about being recognized for something you're doing and still being anonymous," one graffiti artist explains, "that is extremely fucking addictive."

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King  announced his support for U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in the Maine governor’s race.

More than 5.5 percent of Maine’s nearly 964,000 registered voters have already voted in the 2014 election, slightly ahead of the pace of the 2010 gubernatorial race, according to data from the Maine Secretary of State. The numbers also show that registered Democrats have cast 1,803 more ballots than registered Republicans, but Republicans are doing better if the ballots are counted as a percentage of party registration.

 MPBN - Among former Cutler supporters who have now abandoned the independent to support Michaud, Cutler's remarks fell short of what they had hoped to hear. At a press event featuring former Cutler backers, Jim Shaffer, a member of MPBN's Board of Trustees and a retired media executive, said Cutler should have delivered on a pledge he made to his campaign contributors. "I've heard several positions from Eliot on the spoiler question and earlier this year he looked at several of his check-writing supporters and said, 'I'll just guarantee you that Paul LePage won't be the next governor' -- I think he's backed away from that position," Shaffer said. "It's one thing to make that guarantee, but it's another to simply say, 'Vote your conscience.' "

Wednesday, October 29

Down East Notes

At left is 1967 photo of Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger on a train to Bangor provided by Gary Price

Independent candidate for governor Eliot Cutler says he's staying in the race, but told his supporters this morning that if they no longer think he can win, they should vote for someone else.

The Republican Governors Association has released an ad in an attempt to boost the lagging campaign of third-place candidate Eliot Cutler. The ad highlights U.S. Sen. Angus King’s endorsement of Cutler.

Maine's most endangered historic sites

Got a spare coat to help an older Mainer stay warm this winter?

Tuesday, October 28

Police beat

Bangor Police Department - I had 13 phone calls, 7 emails and a bunch of messages to try to entice me to get a photo of my "coffee plant" on FB. Here it is. You're welcome!

Fed nothing but black coffee for approximately 2 months. Do I know what kind of plant it is? No. I have been informed by several botanical experts that some people refer to it as a goldfish plant. This does not sound very scientific. I believe them. I just call it the plant. Did I mention that I play music for it as well? It actually seems to move when I play April Wine's Sign of the Gypsy Queen.

Down East Notes

Maine voters by town and party

Two Maine lawmakers are proposing a citizens' initiative to eliminate the current winner-take-all system in favor of "ranked choice" voting. That's a system where a candidate can only win with more than 50 percent of the vote.

More than 5.5 percent of Maine’s nearly 964,000 registered voters have already voted in the 2014 election, slightly ahead of the pace of the 2010 gubernatorial race. . . The numbers also show that registered Democrats have cast 1,803 more ballots than registered Republicans, but Republicans are doing better if the ballots are counted as a percentage of party registration.

Could you step on a train in Brunswick or Freeport and step off in New York City? Or Montreal? Or Chicago? TrainRiders Northeast, a self-described “passenger rail advocacy organization responsible for the arrival of the Downeaster Amtrak service between Portland and Boston,” believes the idea isn’t so far-fetched.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy is saying that per-capita, per-pupil spending has declined by more than $700 since the 2008 recession.It's the most in New England and among the top in the country

The state ranks 48th for average teacher salaries. Education leaders said two of every five people that go into teaching leave after their first five-years of teaching. 

Rebirth of country music in New England

 Clifford Murphy, Science 20 - This past June, radio conglomerate Clear Channel (now known as iHeartRadio) announced it was converting Boston’s 101.7 FM to a country station. The story they told the Boston Globe was a familiar one: country had gone mainstream, and people in greater Boston were clamoring for it. The once-vaunted home to Boston’s alternative rock station WFNX is now WBLW – “The Bull” – playing the hits of Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, and Blake Shelton.

To the casual observer, country music seems out of place in New England. iHeartRadio exploits this perception, presenting country as something new – even exotic – in a northern metropolis like Boston.

Yet it was only 60 years ago that New England was home to a robust country music culture all its own – not only in small-town Grange Halls, but also in high-brow urban locales like Boston’s Symphony Hall, where the weekly “Hayloft Jamboree” showcased live performances of New England country talent every weekend. The music was instantly recognizable as country, even though many of the singers’ accents indicated ethnic heritages – Italian, Polish, Armenian, Quebecois, Greek – not typically associated with they mythical Anglo-Saxon mountain origins of country music.

And it was only 50 years ago that New England’s biggest regional star – the eyepatch-wearing Dick Curless of Bangor, Maine – rode the Maine potato truck-driving anthem - A Tombstone Every Mile  to national fame, in part through substantial airplay on mainstream independent radio in Boston.

From the 1920s through the 1950s, most of the music heard on the radio in New England was performed live, by local musicians, seven days a week. Even then, many of those musical broadcasts featured New Englanders performing country music – either of the ballad variety or of the “Western” sort, complete with yodeling. Stations in Boston (WBZ) and Hartford (WTIC) had powerful signals that reached deep into the South, the Midwest, and Canada, and both were home to regional country music stars like Georgia Mae and the Down Homers. Smaller stations in Providence, Bangor, Springfield, Portsmouth, and Portland launched the careers of singers like Lone Pine and Betty Cody, and Jerry and Sky. Country music broadcasts generated live performances in towns and cities throughout the region, and musicians earned a full-time living – far better than the alternative at the local shoe mill – playing live music.

So what happened? If this music was so prevalent in working-class New England, where did it go, and why?

I spent several years documenting New England’s country music history and traditions in order to understand this reversal of fortune. In short, the arrival of television compromised the profit margins of radio, replacing live musicians with disc jockeys. Meanwhile, the country music industry consolidated in Nashville, where country format radio was born.

When the Country Music Association formed in 1958 (an effort by a reeling industry to respond to the popularity of rock'n'roll), Nashville marketing agents streamlined country’s image, eliminating “western” music from the airwaves (and changing the genre’s name from “country and western” to “country” in the process), while packaging and promoting country as strictly rural, southern, and white. Suddenly, once-popular local tunes sung with regional accents were replaced by a nationally oriented sound sung with a Southern drawl – regardless of what corner of the continent the singer hailed from.

In the 1950s, Nashville’s burgeoning record industry began promoting the brand of country music that most listeners now associate with the genre.

We, as a nation, have adapted to this image of the genre. But it is false. Country music is not Southern music – at least not exclusively. Country music is working-class music, and its regional variations have been muffled by the stranglehold that the heavily centralized music industry has on the content of our regional broadcasts.

This is a tragedy – not so much because something once beautiful has been lost (though it is that), but because it represents a larger problem: wherever we come from, it is very difficult to hear ourselves reflected in major media broadcasts. This extends beyond country music – or any music, at that – and into virtually every cultural sphere of regional American life. It wasn’t always this way, and there is still a generation of Americans who can recall a time in which the content of radio broadcasts struck a balance between the interests and styles of both the region and the nation.

What offends many of the New England country musicians I have interviewed over the years isn’t so much the stylistic shift (from the boom-chikka-boom-chikka-boom style of yore, to the “Lynyrd Skynyrd with a pedal steel” sounds of modern country). Rather, it’s the movement away from “the people,” whether it’s at concerts where country musicians no longer take requests, or on radio stations where it’s impossible for local musicians to get in the door, let alone on the air. Many who have witnessed this change resent the fact that New England working-class values are mined as a resource, manufactured in Nashville, and sold back to locals as a cultural import.

Monday, October 27

New poll finds governor's race tied

Political Wire - A new Magellan Strategies poll in Maine finds Gov. Paul LePage (R) tied with Mike Michaud (D) for governor, 42% to 42%, with Eliot Cutler (I) way behind at 13%. 

The Progressive Review's moving average of polls currently has Michaud three points behind LePage. 

Maine and Vermont lead the nation in protecting voting rights for incarcerated

Maine ACLU -  Every year almost 6 million Americans are legally barred from voting due to their involvement in the criminal justice system. In all but two states (Maine and Vermont) there are restrictions in place that deny the right to vote to people currently incarcerated, on probation, or, in some states, anyone with a felony record.

As we've written, "Disfranchising people following their criminal conviction accomplishes exactly the opposite of what we should be doing to promote re-entry. In fact, removing the right to vote can only diminish an inmate’s stake in society and lessen their motivation to maintain their social ties. In this way, disfranchisement of citizens with criminal convictions is actually harmful" to their long-term prospects for reintegration into society. To read more about the ACLU of Maine’s work to protect the voting rights of incarcerated Mainers click here.

Sunday, October 26

LePage leads in new poll

Press Herald - Republican Gov. Paul LePage has opened a lead over Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud in the closing weeks of the gubernatorial campaign, according to a Maine Sunday Telegram/Portland Press Herald poll. The findings mark a significant shift from previous polls showing both candidates running in a virtual dead heat.

LePage leads Michaud 45 percent to 35 percent, with independent Eliot Cutler at 16 percent and 4 percent undecided, according to the poll of 639 likely voters conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. The landline and cellphone poll has a 3.8 percent margin of error and was conducted from Oct. 15 to 21, a period that coincided with three televised debates, leaving questions about whether the forums affected the results.


Police beat

Bangor Police Department - Moose are being amorous. This is a problem for us. The dark beasts sometimes travel to their significant other's crib while using the same paths of travel that motor vehicles will. Crashes have been common this year.

This past week we had at least one roaming around in downtown Bangor. Clubs were closed and word has it the moose had no cash for the cover charge anyway. He didn't even have pockets to carry cash.

Pay attention. The eyes of a moose do not reflect like those of a deer, or like the eyes of a significant other. They are dark shapes that have a big impact on you if struck by your car. Pay attention. Drive slowly in moose infested areas. Just north of Bangor on the Interstate is troublesome. Keep it in mind. Have a great Sunday. The men and women of the Bangor Police Department will be here!

Moose are being amorous. This is a problem for us. The dark beasts sometimes travel to their significant other's crib while using the same paths of travel that motor vehicles will. Crashes have been common this year.

This past week we had at least one roaming around in downtown Bangor. Clubs were closed and word has it the moose had no cash for the cover charge anyway. He didn't even have pockets to carry cash. 

Pay attention. The eyes of a moose do not reflect like those of a deer, or like the eyes of a significant other. They are dark shapes that have a big impact on you if struck by your car. Pay attention. Drive slowly in moose infested areas. Just north of Bangor on the Interstate is troublesome. Keep it in mind. Have a great Sunday. The men and women of the Bangor Police Department will be here!

Saturday, October 25

Cutler receives $50,000 from Republican couple

Bangor Daily News - After receiving only $4,500 in donations from mid-July through the end of September, Campaign for Maine — a political action committee working to elect independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler — has received a $50,000 cash injection from a Kansas couple with a long history of financing Republican candidates.

Democrats said it’s just the latest sign that Republicans are propping up Cutler’s candidacy, but Cutler’s campaign said the explanation is a lot more simple.

“Eliot has been friends with this person since they were 18,” said Cutler spokeswoman Crystal Canney. “They went to school together, they were in business together. This is a personal friend of almost 50 years.”

The donors, James and Marilyn Hebenstreit, have together given at least $484,000 to GOP candidates for federal office, according to the Federal Election Commission. Those have included House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and groups such as the National Republican Congressional Committee, The Republican National Committee and the Republican Governors Association.

Great thoughts of Paul LePage

Mike Tipping, Bangor Daily News, ME - At a speech to a conservative audience in Falmouth last week, Governor Paul LePage made a statement that is deeply revealing.

“About 47% of able-bodied people in the state of Maine don’t work,” said LePage.

On the recording you can hear a member of the audience ask “what?” LePage repeats himself: “About 47%. It’s really bad.”

Currently, around 65% of Mainers over the age of 15 are working or are unemployed and actively seeking work. Of the remaining 35%, almost all are retired, are caring for children or other family members, are pursuing education or training or have a disability that prevents them from working. Only a tiny fraction aren’t working for other reasons. The conservative Heritage Foundation, using U.S. Census data, puts this number at 1.1% nationally.

Friday, October 24

Down East Notes

Latest poll has Michaud and LePage tied at 40% each with Cutler at 17

Wednesday, October 22

Down East Notes

WCSH - Union leaders say with their workers out on strike, the storm impacting Maine the next few days will be a real test for FairPoint Communications. They say replacement workers brought in from out of state won't be able to meet the challenges that come with high winds and heavy rain.

Press Herald -  Single-family home sales up statewide by 6.58 percent The median sales price was $175,000 in September, up 1.16 percent from a year ago.

Press Herald - A proposal to sell The Portland Phoenix alternative weekly newspaper to one of its employees has fallen through.

The Channel 8 governor's debate was one of the best we've seen locally or nationally. Reason: the moderators asked tough but fair questions, followed up on BS, and nudged the candidates back to facts.

Voter registration by party. Did you know 9.1% of the voters in Winterville Pit, Aroostock County are green?

Sam Smith - Your editor sometimes describes himself as a bad comedian: "I get the punch lines right; I just deliver them too soon." Case in point, I have argued for some time that Maine should have a seasonal sales tax increase for those months when visitors double our population. Just learned that Eliot Cutler has proposed that as part of his tax package. Nice to see him do something right.

Tuesday, October 21

Voting information

Maine People's Alliance - You've probably seen the polls or heard the talking heads on TV say it over and over - this election is going to be close. It may seem cliche to say, but in elections like this one, every vote counts: in 2010, LePage won by just 1.7% and in 2012 several legislative races were decided by only a handful of votes.

The results from this election could define the state of progressive politics in Maine. At stake are critical issues like whether or not 70,000 Mainers will finally have access to health care and whether struggling families will see an increase in the minimum wage.

So vote early today: click here to request a ballot be sent to you at home.

Remember that Thursday, October 30th is the last day to request an absentee ballot. After the 30th, if you're going to be out of town or unable to make it to the polls on Election Day, you can still vote in-person at your local town clerk's office on Friday or Monday (hours of operation may vary).

The polls in your town will open sometime between 6am and 10am on Election Day (Tuesday, November 4th) and will close at 8pm.

Because of our victory in the voting rights referendum in 2012, you can still register to vote on Election Day. Just make sure to bring proof of residency (like a driver license or utility bill with an address on it).

Monday, October 20

Why Maine Greens should endorse Michaud

Sam Smith – With 37,000 registered voters – or close to 4% of the total – The Maine Green Independent Party could determine the outcome of this year’s gubernatorial race if it had the heart to do it. Unfortunately, the Green Party too often sees itself more as a conventional religion than a pragmatic political organization and thus has put faith ahead of works. To actually support a Democratic candidate has been seen as a betrayal of the party’s virtue and not to be considered.

This is, however, is in sharp contrast with a more successful period of third party politics in the 1880s and 1890s when parties like the People’s and the Populists saw putting the names of selected Democratic candidates on their ballots as part of a movement known as fusion politics. Back in 2008, David Morris explained how it worked in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
A little more than a hundred years ago, Minnesota and the rest of the nation allowed third parties to grow without simply being spoilers. The process is called fusion politics. Third parties can ally (fuse) themselves with major parties (or vice versa). In the 1880s and 1890s third parties like the People's Party and the Populist Party allied with the Democratic Party and won a number of elections. Which led the minority Republican Party, when it controlled state legislatures, to pass laws that banned fusion. One Republican Minnesota legislator was clear about his party's goal: "We don't propose to allow the Democrats to make allies of the Populists, Prohibitionists, or any other party, and get up combination tickets against us. We can whip them single-handed, but don't intend to fight all creation."

By 1907, fusion had been banned in 18 states. Today, it is legal in only seven states: Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, South Carolina and Vermont.
Fusion politics is not permitted in Maine today, but nothing would prevent the Green Party’s steering committee or a coalition of Greens from endorsing Democrat Mike Michaud in return for his support on some key Green issues.

Even today there are some precedents, one of which is benefiting the Green Party, as reported in the New York State of Politics:
[Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie] Hawkins yesterday picked up the support of a third New York City-based liberal Democratic Club – the Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform (based in Brooklyn).
“Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform is dedicated to endorsing candidates who support the average Brooklynite,” the club’s president, Raul Rothblatt, said in a statement released by the Hawkins campaign.

“We have straight-forward values: People should get paid fairly for their work. Right now, our state government seems more interested in enriching people who get overcompensated for their work.”

“The current governor’s policies are closer in line with the GOP than with our Democratic Party values.”

“We also feel the governor failed to live up to his campaign promises of fighting corruption. The failure of the Moreland Commission is just the most egregious example of why voters in Brooklyn are angry with Governor Cuomo.”
The PHDR endorsement comes on the heels of decisions earlier this week by the Village Independent Democrats and Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club – both Manhattan-based organizations – to support Hawkins.
 Even without a formal endorsement, Maine Greens should realize that they could hold the key to this election if they care to use it. I, for one, intend to vote for Michaud and won’t feel any less Green for having done so. I just hope there are lots of others who feel the same way.

Sunday, October 19

Pumping public water for private gain

PR Watch - Around the world, private firms have been given “carte blanche rights to mine local groundwater supplies at the expense of local populations, say experts.” In 1997, Swiss food giant Nestlé signed a contract with the privately- owned water services provider in Fryeburg, Maine, to buy freshwater in bulk for its Poland Spring brand of bottled water. Fearing that large-scale commercial water exploitation would lead to groundwater depletion and the Saco River drying up, the town of Fryeburg enacted a Land Use Ordinance that required that any company pumping more than 10,000 gallons of water a day get approval from the planning board. With a constant stream of litigation and appeals, however, Fryeburg Water Co. was able to buy time while continuing its moneymaking sideline business without interruption.

In 2004, Poland Spring/Nestlé announced an expansion of operations; the firm hoped to build a bottling plant. The town’s Ground Water Regulation Work Group compiled a report, stating that the impact plan submitted by Nestlé was overly optimistic and based on incomplete data; there was, in fact, a potential risk of pumping the aquifer dry. Amid threats of a state excise tax on water bottling, Nestlé decided to ditch the bottling plant. Instead, in 2013, the company and Fryeburg Water Co. announced plans to enter into an unprecedented 45-year contract “for water extraction and lease of utility property.” Worth close to $11 million, the deal would allow Nestlé the exclusive right to draw 75+ million gallons of water a year.

Concerned residents, soon collected 136,000 signatures and presented Gov. LePage with a petition urging the Public Utilities Commission to reject the deal: “It’s our water! Stop bullying my community!” LePage refused to listen to the concerns of the protestors. (See video on right).

Reports filed with the Maine Ethics Commission reveal that Nestlé/Poland Spring spent $101,160 on lobbying the legislature between 2007 and 2013. Moreover, the media soon uncovered that all three members of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the regulatory agency charged with reviewing the contract, had ties to Nestlé. The chairman Thomas Welch, for example, worked as an attorney for Nestlé Waters until his appointment to the commission. He recused himself from the contract review, and soon the other two dropped out as well.

Following media scrutiny, the last commissioner standing, David Littel, who had also worked as an attorney for the firm representing Nestlé Waters, decided to step down in July 2014, citing a conflict of interest. LePage sent a letter to Waters expressing his “concern” about Littel’s interpretation of the recusal standards. Apparently Littel had let his moral code get the better of him. But the governor was prepared for such unfortunate eventualities. To make sure that the commission was independent in name only, he had previously passed legislation allowing him to appoint retired judges as substitute commissioners when it suited him.

In September 2014, a report by a PUC hearing examiner recommended that the contract not be approved. Fryeburg Water Co., the report notes, was established to “convey to the village of Fryeburg a supply of pure water for domestic and other uses;” it should not be sold off as a “bulk commodity” to Nestlé or other bottlers.

For Food & Water Watch, which has campaigned against the contract, “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.”

The recommendations in the report, however, are nonbinding. In October, LePage’s substitute commissioners will have the final say.