The Coastal Packet

Friday, August 28

Maine has highest baby vaccination rate

Press Herald - Maine has gone from the middle of the pack in vaccination rates for 19- to 35-month-old children to the highest in the nation in 2014, according to new figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine’s vaccination rate for the series of seven vaccines protecting against 11 diseases was 84.7 percent, according to a CDC report , compared with the national average of 71.6 percent. That’s a 16.7 percentage point increase over the state’s 2013 rate, when Maine’s 68.0 percent coverage was slightly below the national average of 70.4 percent.

Wednesday, August 26

Maine Greens to allow independents to vote in its primary

Maine Public Broadcasting - Up until now, the Maine Green Independent Party has followed the practice of the state's two major parties by allowing only enrolled members to vote in their primaries. But at its state convention last weekend, the Greens decided to welcome all unenrolled Maine voters to help decide nominees in gubernatorial and legislative contests.

Maine's Greens are sending a simple message to all of the state's unenrolled - or independent - voters: It's our party and you can take part without having to join.

That's something that Green Party Co-chair Gil Harris says should be attractive to voters who do not identify with a political party - and they are the largest voter segment in the state. "There's a growing number of people who have alienated themselves from both of the Maine corporate parties."

The change will not extend to the Greens's presidential selection process, which is conducted through a caucus

Monday, August 24

Only one Mainer gave to anti-gay marriage PAC

Press Herald - The National Organization for Marriage has filed its campaign finance report from its 2009 bid to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law, revealing its donors to the ballot initiative for the first time. The report, released Monday, marks the culmination of a four-year-long battle between the country’s leading opponent of gay marriage and the Maine Ethics Commission.

The list of donors includes one person from Maine: Richard Kurtz of Cape Elizabeth. Kurtz, who along with his wife, Virginia, has donated to Gov. Paul LePage and the Maine Republican Party, donated $50,000 to NOM in 2009. Kurtz is also listed as giving $1,000 to the 2008 campaign to overturn California’s marriage equality law.

Saturday, August 22

Sanders even affecting the Greens

Sam Smith - Attended the Maine Independent Green convention which ended with an hour plus debate over whether Greens should be backing Bernie Sanders. To some it's disloyal or futile, to others a rational form of fusion politics. Ben Meiklejohn called it "a very constructive discussion ... where Greens who support a Green nominee, Greens who support no nominee and Greens who support Mr. Sanders all had dialogue with each other in a respectful manner where nobody was made to feel like they should leave the party." . . . Some Maine Greens have started a Greens for Sanders Facebook page which caused some controversy as did what some saw as censorship of debate on the state party's Facebook page. Nothing was settled at the convention but it was another reminder of the impact that Sanders is having.

My own view has been that the Greens have spent too much effort on unsuccessful presidential campaigns that mainly show the party as politically weak. Others believe these campaigns bring in money that can be useful to state and local candidates as well as the presidential one. But the last thing the Green Party needs - especially in a state like Maine where it has a significant impact - is to be torn apart over the issue.

Friday, August 21

Maine gets a hurricane every 30-50 years

Tom Johnston - On average, the center of a hurricane passes within 50 nautical miles of the Maine coastline every 30-50 years.

Housing sales up

Press Herald - Sales of single-family homes in Maine showed a double-digit increase in July over the same month last year, but prices inched up only slightly. Maine Listings reported that 1,749 single-family existing homes sold last month, a 20.21 percent jump from July 2014. The statewide median sales price for homes sold during the month of July was $188,900 – an increase of 4.08 percent compared to last July. Related Headlines. Nationally, sales of single-family homes are up 11 percent from last July. According to the National Association of Realtors, the national price rose 5.8 percent to $235,500.

Tom McMillan enters Portland mayor's race

Press Herald - Tom MacMillan, leader of the Portland Green Party, has submitted voter signatures in his bid to become Portland’s next mayor.

MacMillan, a native Portlander and a longtime resident, works in special education. Tom MacMillan, chair of the Portland Green Independent Party, submitted signatures Thursday to get on the ballot as a mayoral candidate.

He is running, in part, based on his role to place a question on the November ballot asking residents to raise the local minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Wednesday, August 19

Lobsters moving north to maine

Press Herald - The lobster population has crashed to the lowest levels on record in southern New England while climbing to heights never before seen in the cold waters off Maine and other northern reaches — a geographic shift that scientists attribute in large part to the warming of the ocean.... Maine fishermen have landed more than 100 million pounds of lobster for four years in a row, by far the highest four-year haul in the state’s history.

Monday, August 17

Maine's economy is ranked 46th

Business Insider has ranked Maine's business economy as 46th among states in the nation. Last year Forbes ranked it 49th.

Shipbuilding and maintenance jobs are disproportionately common in Maine, home to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, one of the four main shipyards used by the US Navy. The federal government employs about 4,700 workers in these industries. Maine saw low GDP growth in 2014 of only 0.2%. Maine's housing market was also slow, seeing only a 1.07% increase in housing prices. Maine's average weekly wage of $826 was also a bit lower than the national average of $1,035.

Wednesday, August 12

LePage's drug testing a flop

Yahoo - Gov. Paul LePage hailed drug screenings for certain welfare recipients as a way to protect taxpayer dollars. But since the program was launched a few months ago, only a handful of recipients have been ordered to take tests and most people who have lost their assistance have done so because they failed to show up, the administration said...Just 15 recipients were scheduled for screenings through June, the latest month for which data was available. . .Of those, 13 were barred from receiving benefits because they didn't show up to take either the screening assessment or the subsequent urinalysis.... Only one person tested positive for drugs and was stripped of benefits, the department said.

LePage threatens to use National Guard against drug users

Central Maine - Gov. Paul LePage says he is considering calling in the Maine National Guard to combat the state’s drug epidemic.

The governor told Bangor radio station WVOM  that he’ll deploy the guard if “the Legislature refuses to give us the resources we need.” The governor has repeatedly asked lawmakers to include money in the state budget for hiring additional agents at the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency. The Legislature approved funding to add six MDEA agents, two state prosecutors and two judges for additional arrests and court cases this year, but LePage has said that he wants more and called the funding “chump change.”

It’s unclear how the governor would utilize the National Guard. A federal law known as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 limits how the federal government can use military personnel to enforce domestic laws. However, National Guard forces operating under state authority can be exempted from the act’s restrictions and could be used in some capacity as part of the state’s response to a drug problem.

Tuesday, August 11

The November ballot

Issues on the November ballot:
  • A citizen's initiative that seeks to strengthen the state's public financing program for legislative and gubernatorial candidates. Final wording hasn't been approved. 
  • A $15 million bond to build more housing for low-income seniors.
  • $85 million bond to improve roads, bridges and other public works.

Thursday, August 6

Court overrules LePage on vetoes

Press Herald - Maine’s top court has ruled unanimously against Gov. Paul LePage in his dispute with the Legislature over whether he has more time to veto 65 bills already processed into law, delivering a significant blow to a governor already engulfed in withering criticism and scrutiny seven months into his second term.

The court’s advisory opinion ruled that the governor misread the Maine Constitution when he failed to veto 65 bills within the 10-day period prescribed by law. LePage’s legal team argued that the Legislature prevented the governor from returning the vetoes because lawmakers had temporarily adjourned. However, the ruling by six of the seven justices on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court rejected that reasoning. The seventh justice recused himself and did not participate in the proceedings.

In its essence, the 55-page opinion asserted that while the constitutional language describing a situation that prevents the governor from returning bills is ambiguous, the Legislature determines when it’s in session and when it adjourns, not the governor.

Maine reporter writes his own obituary

Jeffrey Davies Clark, Desmond Funeral Home, Bath, ME The advantage of knowing when you’re going to die is that you get to write your own obituary. For a journalist, that’s the gold standard.

I, Jeffrey Davies Clark, was born February 8, 1950, in Belfast, Maine, to Leroy H. “Pete” Clark, of Belfast, and Edith Mae “Di” Clark, née Davies, formerly of Liverpool, England. I was the oldest of six children. After a childhood on the family farm in Swanville and a side trip to Colorado, we moved to Belfast in 1962, where I graduated from Belfast Area High School in 1968.

After three years at the University of Maine at Orono, the realization dawned that I was about to graduate with an English degree, possibly the most useless piece of paper in academia. Taking a semester off to think things over seemed a good idea to me, but not to my draft board, so in May of 1972 I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. I was stationed at Offutt AFB outside Omaha, Nebraska, where I literally found the rest of my life. I became a reporter and then editor for the Air Pulse, the weekly newspaper serving the Offutt community. And in a cornfield in Cass County I found the woman I would very happily spend the rest of my life with, Patricia Morris. She has been my rock and my light and my love.

Pat and I were married June 21, 1975, in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. In 1979, we returned to Maine, where I continued as a reporter and editor, first on Sam Pennington’s Waldoboro Weekly, then at Peter Cox’s Maine Times, and finally on Down East magazine, where Dale Kuhnert gave me the job of a lifetime chronicling the people and places of this astonishing state. In 1983 Pat and I welcomed our daughter, Jocelyn “Josie,” and in 1986 our second daughter, Erin, arrived. Two more wonderful daughters simply do not exist in this world, and I apologize to both of them for leaving too early.

For five years, I served on the board of Maine Rivers, an organization devoted to protecting Maine’s freshwater rivers and streams. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Maine Rivers at P.O. Box 782, Yarmouth, ME 04096 or Brunswick Area Respite Care at 41 Greenwood Road, Brunswick, ME 04011 in memory of my late mother-in-law, Lillie.

I passed away on August 4, 2015 from complications related to esophageal cancer... It’s been a trip, folks. Thank you to all the family and friends and complete strangers who have made this life so interesting. Now, on to the next one! Until the circle is unbroken.

Tuesday, August 4

Collins votes to defund Planned Parenthood

Portland Press Herald

Beacon -  “Senator Collins has proven once again that when it really counts, she will stand with her party instead of hard-working Maine people who value common sense above the extreme fringe of the anti-choice movement, whose illegal and unethical actions are to blame for this latest attack on Planned Parenthood.” said Andrea Irwin, Executive Director of the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor. “Her vote seriously calls into question her appreciation for the economic challenges women face in accessing reproductive health care.”

Friday, July 31

Speaker sues LePage for blackmail

Bangor Daily News - House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, filed a civil lawsuit against Gov. Paul LePage in U.S. District Court in Portland on Thursday afternoon.

The lawsuit alleges LePage “blackmailed’ Good Will-Hinckley — a Fairfield nonprofit that had recently hired Eves to be its president — by threatening to withhold state funding if the organization didn’t fire Eves.

The school did fire him, which Eves says was a result of LePage’s threat that the House speaker — in his legal arguments and public statements — said violated his civil rights.

“The governor’s actions clearly violate the First Amendment right of every Maine citizen to have their legislator speak freely and independently without the threat of the governor,” Eves said during a news conference Thursday outside the courthouse. “The time has come; Somebody has to stand up to say enough.”

In the lawsuit, Eves argues that LePage acted out of “personal rage, vindictiveness and partisan malice” in moving to get Eves fired. The effort to oust Eves from a job was “plain and simple retaliation and abuse of power,” said Eves’ attorney, David Webbert.

Webbert writes that the governor violated Eves’ rights to free speech, free association and political affiliation by seeking to deny him employment because of his political positions.

The governor’s office, which has not yet filed a court response, dismissed the lawsuit as political in nature.

Health insurance co-op makes a profit

A Maine nonprofit health insurance co-op established under the Affordable Care Act was the only one of its kind in the country to earn a profit last year, a government audit shows. Others are awash in red ink and many have fallen short of their sign-up goals.