The Coastal Packet

Sunday, August 28

Maine churches speak out

One of the reasons we have been cursed with the likes of Donald Trump is because institutions of rationality and decency - such as academia and non-evangelical churches - have been far more quiet then they were, say, in the Sixties. Here's a pleasant exception.

Sun Journal, ME -  The Maine Council of Churches on Saturday weighed in on Gov. Paul LePage's profanity-laced voicemail to a state lawmaker, calling it a "vitriolic personal attack."

"The words he chose to use in the message and interview (after) were unspeakable — and yet he spoke them, disgracing the office of governor and dishonoring our state in the eyes of the nation," read the statement from council spokeswoman Rev. Jane Field.

On Friday, LePage made national headlines after audio came out of a message he'd left for state Rep. Drew Gattine calling the Westbrook democrat, among other things, "a son-of-a-b****, socialist (expletive)." He followed that up by telling a reporter that he'd like to invite Gattine to a duel where he'd point the gun "right between" his eyes.

LePage said later he'd left the message and made that comment because he believed Gattine had called him a racist, which Gattine denied.

The Maine Council of Churches represents nine denominations and their 550 congregations across the state. The council has invited political candidates this summer to sign a "Civil Discourse Covenant," agreeing to act respectfully, avoid personal attacks and avoid "untrue statements."

Field urged LePage to consider signing it.

Saturday, August 27

LePage in rage

Talking Points Memo -  Maine Gov. Paul LePage, left a bizarre and threatening voicemail for a Democratic state lawmaker he thought called him racist:

“Mr. Gattine, this is Gov. Paul Richard LePage,” a recording of the message begins. “I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you cocksucker.”

“I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-bitch, socialist cocksucker,” the governor continued. “You … I need you to, just friggin. I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you.”

The governor later called [a] news crew to his home to continuing slamming Gattine as “a snot-nosed little guy” that he would love to challenge to an old-fashioned duel.

“I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825,” he reportedly said. “We would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this Legislature to help move the state forward.” 

Huffington Post -    LePage was widely criticized earlier this year for claiming men with names like “Smoothie, D-Money and Shifty” were coming into his state to deal drugs. Earlier this week, he said he keeps a binder with mugshots of all the drug dealers arrested in Maine, and he claimed that 90 percent of the people in that binder were black or Hispanic.

Note that 95 percent of Maine residents are white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

LePage first denied that Maine police officers were racially profiling people - an obvious concern if they really are arresting almost exclusively people of color for drug crimes.

Then the governor suggested that people of color in Maine were “the enemy.”

“Look, a bad guy is a bad guy, I don’t care what color it is. When you go to war, if you know the enemy, the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, you shoot at red, don’t you?” he said. “You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority right now coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin. I can’t help that. I just can’t help it. Those are the facts.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine had pointed out Thursday that research shows blacks and whites deal drugs at similar rates.

“According to the governor, Maine police are nine times more likely to arrest people of color for selling drugs than white people, even though we know white people are just as likely to commit drug offenses,” Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said in a statement. “This alarming disparity in arrests raises significant concerns that Maine law enforcement is participating in unconstitutional racial profiling.

Monday, August 22

93,000 Maine women will get $3200 pay raise if wage referendum passes

Maine's climate change future

This chart, from the NY Times, show how hot America will be in 2100. Note Maine's status on the low side. This supports something we have been arguing for some time: Maine needs to expect, and plan wisely for, a significant population growth thanks to climate change. Among the things to consider is a new urbanism which places high value on nearby agricultural and open space. Because of the worse weather elsewhere, Maine is going to have to grow more of its own food and needs to plan for it.

Maine rated as middlin' economy

Maine has the 28th best economy as rated by Governing  based on six variables from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis: the current state unemployment rate; the improvement in the state unemployment rate over the past year; the per capita state GDP in 2015; the percent change in real state GDP between 2014 and 2015; the percent change in state personal income per capita, from the third quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016; and the percentage growth in year-to-date increases in jobs for 2016.

Friday, August 19

Huge increase in "dark money" affecting Maine elections

Bowdoin Daily Sun - Between 2006 and 2014, spending on Maine legislative campaigns by outside groups that did not disclose their donors increased from $100,000 or so to $11 million. In contrast, disclosed spending in 2014 was just under $4 million.

Michael Franz, associate professor of government, told MPBN that “once a candidate is elected to office, they have to wonder if they were elected because of the positions they put forward or because of the power of independent advertising expenditures. He continued, “…So a candidate doesn’t know if they have been given a mandate or just survived.” This, he said, raises questions for policymakers, who will likely face lobbying from the same groups that spent dark money to influence their elections.

U.S. Supreme Court rulings such as Citizens United have invited virtually unlimited spending on political elections, without any disclosure requirements, from donors such as corporations, wealthy individuals, labor unions, and nonprofits, MPBN reports.

Portland closes Tent City

Press Herald

Residents of a Portland homeless encampment known as “Tent City” are packing up and trying to figure out their next move after police gave them until month’s end to vacate the property.

More than two dozen homeless individuals – including at least one family with a small child – have been tenting in a trash-strewn wooded grove behind a strip mall on Brighton Avenue, some for as long as 2½ years. But while most drivers on Route 25 and the Maine Turnpike are likely unaware of the sprawling encampment’s presence in the trees, Portland police said they have responded to an increasing number of incidents in Tent City in recent months, including incidents of domestic violence, arson and individuals with outstanding warrants. "We're not bothering anybody, so why are (police) bothering us?" asked Tricia Leavitt, 31, a New Hampshire native who is among the residents of Portland's "Tent City." Brighton Avenue on the outskirts of the city. She is one of many homeless campers who face eviction from the camp.

Wednesday, August 17

How Maine teachers subsidize the schools

Maine Beacon

In new digital ads launched this week by the Stand Up for Students referendum campaign, Maine teachers describe in detail how a lack of adequate school funding has often led to them to pay for school supplies out of their own pockets.

“When I have a student who wants to read a book, and we don’t have that book, it’s so important for me for them to be connected to a book that they want to read, that I will go to Barnes and Noble and I will buy books, and I’m not the only teacher who does that,” explains Tamara Ranger, a reading intervention teacher at Skowhegan Area Middle School and Somerset County’s Teacher of the Year.

Other teachers in the ads describe buying presentation supplies, art prints and even food for their students who come to school hungry. Others describe having to limit basic classroom supplies like markers, paper and desks.

Studies show that almost all teachers buy supplies with their own money, spending an average of $500 each every school year across the country.

The Stand Up for Students initiative, Question 2 on November’s ballot, would increase funding for classroom instruction in local schools by creating a new tax surcharge on income in excess of $200,000 a year. Maine’s wealthiest currently pay a lower effective tax rate than Mainers at other income levels.

Tuesday, August 16

How LePage has hurt Maine' economy

Budget austerity 8-15-2016FINAL chart 1


Conservative fiscal policies at the state and national level have been a key cause of the lackluster economic recovery following the Great Recession, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. EPI’s findings are especially relevant for Maine; while EPI cites the post-2009 recovery as one of the longest on record, Maine’s recovery has been even slower. The U.S. economy recovered its pre-Recession employment levels 51 months after the trough of the recession. Maine is still waiting after 84 months for its employment levels to recover. EPI identifies short-sighted policies like cutting public spending, failing to invest in infrastructure, and refusing to accept federal monies as causes of this slow growth recovery. While Maine has suffered under these poor policy choices, there’s still opportunity to reverse them, and get our economy back on track.

Monday, August 15

Using beer to push ranked choice voting


Craft breweries throughout Maine will be holding “beer elections” during the month of September, hosting tastings and allowing customers to rank their beers as part of a campaign to bring attention to the ranked choice voting referendum on the ballot this year. The events, organized by the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting, are designed to showcase how straightforward and empowering voting in future elections will be if Question 5 passes in November.

19 breweries are backing the referendum and hosting the demonstrations, with the first scheduled for Friday, September 2nd at Oxbow Brewing in Newcastle. (See the full list of breweries here.)

If approved by voters, Question 5 would give Maine voters the power to rank candidates for public office up and down the ballot. The voting system, already in use in Portland mayoral elections, is designed to allow a greater degree of voter choice. If a voter’s first-place choice can’t win after the ballots are tallied, their vote is instantly counted for their next choice, removing the possibility of “spoiler” candidates or the need to vote strategically for a candidate other than one’s top preference.

Saturday, August 6

Maine Somalians seem to reduce crime, not increase it as Triump implied

Donald Trump said some nasty things about Maine's Somalians, including blaming them for an increase in crime. In fact, although correlation is not causation, if you;re going to make that sort of argument, he was 180 degrees off base.

Boston Globe - In Lewiston, where an estimated 7,000 Somalis live, police said that crime is going down, not up.

“The Somalis have not caused any increase in crime. They’re integrated here in our city,” the acting police chief, Brian O’Malley, said. “The Somalis come here because they want somewhere safe and good schools to raise their kids, and that’s what Lewiston has.”

Crime in the city fell 17 percent in 2015 compared with the year before, continuing a steady, downward trend, O’Malley said.

At least 12,000 Somali refugees are estimated to have migrated to Maine following a horrific civil war in their East African homeland. Many settled first in cities such as Atlanta before moving to Maine to take advantage of more affordable housing and other services.

Monday, August 1

Library book boxes poppng up in Maine

Bangor Daily News -  It’s hard to know exactly where it began, but a Wisconsin man in 2009 built a model of a one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. Todd Bol’s schoolhouse book box was the beginning of the official Little Free Library movement, which aims to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.

The grass-roots effort is clearly catching on. As of this June, there were 40,000 registered Little Free Library book exchanges in all 50 states and in over 70 countries. In Maine, there are official Little Free Libraries all over, from Stockholm to York and from Eastport to Mount Vernon. Bangor has six registered libraries, including ones located close to Hayford Park, Broadway Park and in other downtown locales.

Waldo County has no official, registered book exchanges, but sharp-eyed residents may have noticed more small and sometimes whimsical library boxes popping up around the region. Thanks to an effort by the Literacy Volunteers of Waldo County, there are free library boxes located on Bridge Street in Belfast, at the Belfast Transfer Station and at Swan Lake Grocery in Swan Lake. More will be coming soon, according to Denise Pendleton, the coordinator of the local Literacy Volunteers group.

“A volunteer said, ‘I have more books than I know what to do with,’” she said, adding that someone in the group knew about the free library on Spring Street and about the international movement.

And so they decided to start building little libraries of their own.

Friday, July 29

Howard Dean on ranked choice voting

Howard Dean  - If I could do a single thing in American politics, it would be to get rid of the single-vote for your favorite candidate. Right now, we vote for one person, and that person either wins or doesn’t win. That is, if there’s ten candidates in a race, you get one vote.

There’s a system called ranked-choice voting, where you don’t get just your vote for the top choice that you have, you also get to vote on all the other choices. And you get to rank them. So that if your candidate doesn’t win, your second-choice vote counts. What that does is create as the winner, the person who is best respected and best liked overall in the electorate. It’s just a good system.

.. I think that makes voters happy, it makes politicians behave better, and it’s something that’s coming slowly to the United States and where we have it, it works well.

Wednesday, July 27

LePage wants to cut 20% of state government obs

Press Herald

Gov. Paul LePage wants to cut about 2,300 jobs from the state workforce during the next two-year budget cycle, according to an internal administration memo circulated by a top adviser.

The governor has set a ceiling target of 9,500 state employees, the memo said. That would require a decrease of nearly 20 percent.

As of Tuesday, there were 11,810 executive branch positions on the state’s payroll, said David Heidrich, a spokesman for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services. That figure does not include employees of the Maine National Guard, Maine Turnpike Authority, state Legislature, Maine Judicial Branch, the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System, the Finance Authority of Maine and some other quasi-independent agencies, Heidrich said.

Monday, July 25

The collapse of Maine sailing

Portland Press Herald 

Once a staple of the Maine summer – and Maine’s boatbuilding industry – sailboats are still the stuff of bad office art and good tourism brochures, but their numbers are dwindling, along with people with the passion for this most sustainable form of recreational boating.

When Matt Minson, who used to coach the sailing team at Maine Maritime  is out on the water in his Lindenberg 28 he sees maybe 15 other sailing vessels. A decade ago, “It would be nothing to see 40 boats,” Minson said. “It is very depressing to me.”

Experts suggest a variety of reasons for the drop-off, including generational and parenting shifts and an American lifestyle that puts a premium on expediency. It’s hard to quantify what the biggest factor is. But industry statistics bear out the fact that observations of less sailboat traffic such as Minton’s are not just longing for some illusionary golden past.

“Sailboat sales are about a quarter of what they were 15 years ago,” said Thom Dammrich, the president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

During the recession, all sales of new boats dropped off, he said. Then as the financial crisis eased, sales of powerboats ramped back up. “They have been growing for the past five years,” Dammrich said. “In the last 12 months, they’re up 9 percent. This has been a good year.”

Not so for sailboats. Sailboat sales encompass only about 2.5 percent of all new boats.
... Hinckley Yachts, once known for the elegant sailboats it built on Mount Desert Island, now puts out a steady stream of powerboats. The success of its picnic boat, a sleek powerboat introduced in 1994, which counts the likes of Martha Stewart as fans (and an owner), put sailboats on the back burner. Hinckley has a few sailboats under construction this year, including a Bermuda 50, an updated model of one of its classics, but for years the company had virtually shut down its sailboat division.

.... “I could have a million sailboats right now, for free or less,” said Michael Chasse, who founded his Freeport business, Northeast Sailboat Rescue, 12 years ago. He’s been buying abandoned sailboats from boatyards around the state, restoring and selling them. Back when he started Northeast Sailboat Rescue, he said he could sell 200 boats a year. So far in 2016, he’s sold none. (He’s planning on retiring soon and moving to some good-sized Maine lake. To sail.)


Thursday, July 21

News Notes

Maine CDC wants to restrict what public is told about disease outbreaks A year after the Portland Press Herald sued to get the names of schools with multiple chicken pox cases, the agency looks for more authority to deny records requests.