The Coastal Packet

Wednesday, April 16

Down East Notes

Where to get river flooding info

Press Herald - The city of Portland is appealing a federal court ruling against its ban on panhandling and other activity in street medians.. . .While the city argued the ban was a matter of public safety, the plaintiffs argued that it interfered with their rights to free speech. In February, U.S. District Judge George Singal ruled the ordinance was unconstitutional because it does not apply to people who stand on medians to post campaign signs.

Press Herald - Maine is likely to suffer a shortage of medical professionals in the coming years unless the industry boosts student enrollment at health care-related schools in the state and recruits more workers from outside Maine, according to a report ...The workforce development problem will be especially dire in the fields of dentistry and psychology, in which two-thirds of all current practitioners in the state are older than 50 years old, said the report, by the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information. Occupations for which nearly half of the existing practitioners are older than 50 include pharmacists, nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses, it said.

It's not enough to justify him being elected governor, but a tip of the hat to Eliot Cutler for supporting our proposal to have a shifting sales tax by season to catch all those summer visitors. His plan: "A seasonal sales tax rate of 7 percent from May 1 through October 30, excluding auto sales and building materials, and a rate of 5 percent during the rest of the year, for estimated new revenues of $90 million." He also would raise restaurant and lodging sales taxes to 8 percent.

Al Diamon in the Phoenix  takes a slap at the Maine Greens, arguing that they're not effective and "come off as a party badly in need of adult supervision." But whatever weaknesses the Greens may have, they come off a lot better than papers like the Phoenix that are too busy finding the best bar in town to get their readers seriously involved in  politics. As we have noted in the past, "The so-called alternative weeklies , with sadly few exceptions, foster a compliant corpacool culture in which hipness is defined by one's purchases; dissent is limited to critiques of style, activism is something you do at the gym, and politics the last refuge of the hopelessly dull. When the faux-hip "alternative weeklies" began replacing the underground newspapers of the 1960s and 70s, they gave the impression that when the revolution started, the guerrillas would come down the mountains on Head skis listening to their Walkmen."

Shenna Bellows has raised less than half as much as Susan Collins but then she doesn't have pals like World Wrestling's Vince and Linda McMahon dumping out of state money into her account. If you want the more glutton-free candidate, Bellows is your choice.

Mike Tipping, Press Herald - The tax haven bill, which is estimated to save the state $5 million a year in recovered taxes, passed with mostly party-line votes in the House and Senate, but is expected to soon be vetoed by Gov. LePage. It’s a shame that this has become a partisan issue and that the governor will likely step in to protect these accounting tricks...In fact, recent polls by Hart Research on behalf of Americans for Tax Fairness found that it’s by far the most popular proposed change to the nation’s taxation system, with the support of around 80 percent of voters.

It could be worse

Red River Bridge

Red Bridge NB:  The Woodstock Fire Department responded to reports of rapid flooding of the Meduxnekeag River in Red Bridge, New Brunswick.... Four cows in danger of drowning were transported safely.  According to Woodstock Fire Chief Rick Nicholson, the water rose over two feet in less then an hour.





Saturday, April 12

Down East Notes

The Democratic-led state Senate delivered a blow to Gov. Paul LePage’s proposal to create “Open for Business Zones,” that, among other things, would have exempted large companies from requiring employees to pay union dues

LePage vetoes another good piece of legislation

USM backs off faculty cuts

Press Herald - University of Southern Maine President Theodora Kalikow on Friday rescinded the 12 faculty layoffs that had prompted weeks of protests, saying she’s open to alternative plans for finding up to $14 million in cuts.

“Those retrenchment (layoff) notices are off the table for now,” Kalikow said Friday afternoon at the USM Faculty Senate meeting. She said she made up her mind at 2 p.m., just as the meeting began, and didn’t even have time to tell the affected faculty.

The room erupted in applause and backslapping as she revealed the news.

The surprise announcement came as the Faculty Senate unveiled a draft 27-point proposal for alternative cuts and about two dozen students traveled to Augusta to lobby state lawmakers. The students met with members of the Portland delegation and the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee...

Students’ actions included drafting emergency state legislation seeking to freeze the cuts and analyze the system’s financial data, publishing several analytical pieces picking apart the fiscal argument for the cuts, and media-messaging that got the attention of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and philosopher and liberal hero Noam Chomsky.


While the students were keeping up high-profile protests, behind-the-scenes discussions and diplomacy continued between faculty members and administrators.


Friday, April 11

Down East Notes

Senator Angus King, of no known political identity, may bounce to the GOP caucus if they win the Senate, something which is quite possible.

Researchers seeking cause of moose decline

LePage threatens lives of 60,000 low income Mainers

Maine’s four-month scallop season that ended in March apparently will be the state’s strongest in years, despite a harsh winter and new regulations unpopular with some fishermen, preliminary data show.

Maine facts:  WCSH-TV signed on in 1953 from studios at the Congress Square Hotel in downtown Portland. The station was owned by the Rines family through their Maine Broadcasting System; the family had built the hotel in 1896, and established WCSH radio (970 AM, now WZAN) on the top floor in 1925. The name: W Congress Square Hotel.

Thursday, April 10

Obama has more important concerns than Maine highway signs

One of the ways that we from standard views of the federal government by both liberals and conservatives is that we believe in federal involvement in all sorts of things, but not federal nitpicking and interference in decisions that are best made at the state or local level. These seemingly minor problems are a major reason why there is so much hostility towards the federal government. Here is a great case in point:

Portland Press Herald -  You can’t get there from here.

Some businesses and town officials fear that old Maine saying could turn out to be true if state lawmakers pass a bill to eliminate dozens of signs on the Maine Turnpike and interstate highways.

Business owners and representatives of communities from Arundel to Lubec condemned the measure Tuesday at a three-hour public hearing before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee, saying it would hurt tourism by making it harder for visitors to find rural attractions.

The bill, developed by the Maine Turnpike Authority and the state Department of Transportation, seeks to create standards for turnpike and interstate signs and bring Maine into compliance with federal standards that define which attractions merit signs. Officials say Maine could lose millions of dollars in federal funding if it doesn’t meet the standards.

Along the turnpike and interstate highways are three types of signs.

The green signs that mark upcoming exits would not be affected by the legislation. Also unaffected would be the blue “services” signs advertising businesses such as restaurants, gas stations and tourist attractions. Each business pays $1,500 a year, per sign, to have its logo displayed.

The bill concerns “supplemental guide signs,” which are brown with white lettering and give exit numbers for destinations that aren’t immediately off the highway interchanges. Those signs, like the green directional signs, are publicly funded.

The state’s proposal would alter 30 percent of the supplemental guide signs on the turnpike, Interstate 295 and Interstate 395, a 5-mile road between Bangor and Brewer.

A total of 68 of the 225 signs would be affected, including 26 that would be removed. Forty-two would either be moved closer to the places they point out or be removed but qualify for logo signs.

Peter Mills, executive director of the turnpike authority, and Deputy Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note were the only people who spoke in favor of the bill at Tuesday’s hearing...

The standards have been in effect for years, but Maine has erected signs over the years that do not adhere to them, Mills said. He said signs are supposed to provide direction to drivers clearly and effectively, and should not serve as advertisements for particular businesses, as the federal standards say.

Attractions like universities, national and state parks, and major recreational areas qualify for supplemental guide signs if they meet certain guidelines for numbers of visitors and distance from interchanges, the standards say. Many businesses and attractions that don’t qualify could instead buy logo space on the blue service signs, which typically are posted before exits to indicate what services and attractions are available there.

Some towns, including Arundel, Hallowell and Topsham, would lose signs directing drivers to them because they have populations of less than 10,000 and are not considered major attractions.

After the Maine Mall opened in 1971, the state refused to put a sign for the Mall on the turnpike. So Allen, who became the mall’s first general manager, got the city to rename Payne Road to Maine Mall Road in 1975, and the Maine Mall Road exit sign served the purpose.

Sen. David Burns, a Republican who represents towns in Washington County, said tourism is critical for the county’s economy, and removing signs for places like Quoddy Head State Park and Roosevelt Campobello International Park because they’re too far from the attractions would hurt the area.

Under the proposed legislation, ski areas with a minimum vertical drop of 1,000 feet and 40 or more maintained trails would qualify for supplemental signs.

Gregory Sweetser, executive director of the Ski Maine Association, said he opposes the bill because removing signs for smaller ski areas – like Lost Valley in Auburn – would hurt an industry that plays an important role in the state’s rural economy.

Todd Shea, town manager of Arundel, said it would be unfair to remove a sign for Arundel, while pointing out that more than five miles of the turnpike go through the town.

Hallowell officials echoed his concern, saying it is essential for the town’s small businesses that visitors find their way downtown.

 

Michaud's lead widens

While the Maine's governor race is still too close to call, Michaud has increased his margin in the last two polls and is only one point from a statistical safe lead in our moving average of polls. The latest PPP poll has him seven points ahead of LePage with Cutler 30 points behind Michaud.

Wednesday, April 9

Scientists looking for new way to map lobsters

Climate Progress - Scientists in Maine are competing for a share of $11 million of NASA grant money in hopes of creating a real-time lobster distribution monitoring system. The proposed project is a joint collaboration between the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Science.

For years, fishery managers have had to rely on historical catch data to plan for the upcoming season. But thanks to climate change, conditions in the Gulf of Maine are diverging from past patterns. Over the past decade the pace of the warming in the Gulf has increased ten-fold. For now, that means that the lobster catch is exploding, but it could also be a signal of trouble to come. Even in good years, a sudden boom in lobsters numbers, if not well managed, can be devastating for the fishermen who end up with such a glut of lobsters that prices plummet.

“We’re encountering conditions that really we’ve never seen before,” Andrew Pershing of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute told the Morning Sentinel.

Lobster landings in the Gulf of Maine have hit record highs in recent years, but scientists warn that this may be the boom before the bust. While current warmer water temperatures have put the fishery right at the temperature sweet spot for lobsters, anything above 20º C is extremely stressful for lobsters and can cause a deadly outbreak of shell disease. In 1999, lobstering in Long Island Sound collapsed without warning after a record-breaking hot year unleashed a shell disease epidemic.

Lobsters make up 80 percent of the value of Maine’s fisheries, and support not only the fishermen, but also the boat builders, mechanics, bait sellers and local tourist industry. The economies of the northernmost counties in Maine are 90 percent dependent on lobstering.

Down East Notes

Press Herald - For what could be the first time in Maine, a judge has stripped a criminal defendant of his constitutional right to have an attorney and has ordered the man to represent himself at his trial. Today's poll: Difficult defendant

Even though he has gone through five court-appointed attorneys, Nisbet says he doesn’t want to represent himself at trial, as a judge has ordered. Joshua Nisbet, 36, of Scarborough, who is charged with holding up a convenience store in South Portland at knifepoint, faces as much as 30 years in prison if he is convicted of robbery. He has no legal training, and has said he doesn’t want to represent himself.

But the judge in the case, Justice Thomas Warren, said Nisbet’s behavior and the fact that he has gone through five court-appointed lawyers since his arrest in 2011 has left “no other alternative” than to order Nisbet to represent himself. The judge issued the order last month after Nisbet’s most recent attorneys, Jon Gale and Neale Duffett, sought to withdraw from the case, claiming in a motion that Nisbet threatened Gale while they met with him in the Cumberland County Jail on Feb. 26. According to the motion, Nisbet told them, “I don’t care if I get 15 years, when I get out, I will be outside your house with a high-powered BB gun and I will take your eye out. I’m not getting life. I’ll never forget. I’m coming after you when I get out."

Artists make Portland cool, then can't find space to work

Maine ranked second for support of local food


Tuesday, April 8

Down East Notes

Salon calls Bellows country's "most progressive" Senate candidate

Brunswick council votes against full environmental review of train facility: "Neighbors of the facility, led by the Brunswick West Neighborhood Coalition, contend the enormous facility is ill-suited to a residential neighborhood. They have raised concerns about noise, pollution and vibrations as well as how the building will affect their property values."

Augusta area roads picked as worst in Maine

Cross campus coalition takes on university cutbacks

Monday, April 7

Down East Notes



WGME - Police are looking for the person who went "number two" on the city's historic Two Penny Bridge. People in Waterville are offended to learn that a large pile of human excrement was found on the footbridge that spans the Kennebec River. A Winslow man used a bucket of water to wash it off yesterday. Waterville and Winslow police and public works officials reportedly said cleaning up human waste is not their responsibility.

Long good piece on USM student protests

You can now get burning permits online

Press Herald - Eliot Cutler’s campaign trumpeted its popularity on Facebook last week, saying its more than 20,000 “likes” outpace his competitors, Paul LePage and Mike Michaud. What the independent candidate for governor’s campaign didn’t say was this: It has paid Facebook $16,000 to promote the campaign page, and that overall likes to a page are not a reliable measure of audience engagement.

Spring must be coming:  The snow is melting and the bumps are blossoming





Labelling politicians as well as food

From the Progressive Review:

Sam Smith

As we await a constitutional amendment or public election finance legislation to counteract the gross Supreme Court decisions on campaign funding, it might be useful to take a hint from the underrated activists promoting local and healthy food, who are, in fact, among the most effective organizers of our era.

After all, law doesn’t solve all our problems and, when it does, it often takes an extraordinary long time. Meanwhile there is plenty that can be done.

Such as changing the language we use and how we use it.

For example, the growing local food movement is boosted by the fact that people can walk into an increasing number of markets and find labels indicating nearby origins of a particular item. Other food is marked as organic or sugar and gluten free. The secret is not just laws for firewalls but labels for eyeballs.

What if we treated politicians the same way as we do corn or bread and label those relying on local and reasonable funding as organic pols, while the rest – generically modified by oligarchs (or GMO) - as outsourced pols? Clean local money vs. dirty offshore money.

Change the labels to whatever works, but the point is that we have the ability to alter  attitudes about this rotten situation by the very language we use and how we use it.

For example, at a state, county, or city level, normally non-political organizations like churches, small business organizations, and non-profits could come together to reach a consensus on what a clean election would look like. The logical starting point would be how much, if any, non-local money a responsible candidate could accept in order to win the group’s easily visible Clean Candidate label. The other candidates would de facto become the dirty ones.

As a case in point, Senator Susan Collins, who is running for reelection in my state of Maine, would not qualify. The Collins Watch has noted, “One couple gave Sen. Susan Collins more than any other--the legal maximum of $10,400--during the most recent filing period. And there's a good chance you've heard of them: Linda and Vince McMahon, the duo behind World Wrestling Entertainment [who have a] history of virulent homophobia and misogyny.”

According to Wikipedia, “McMahon has a $12 million penthouse in Manhattan, a $40 million mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, a $20 million vacation home, and a 47-foot sports yacht named Sexy Bitch. Forbes has noted McMahon's wealth at 1.1 billion dollars.”

To put this in some perspective, with that wealth the McMahons could give every Maine adults almost a thousand dollars although it was far cheaper and easier to cozy up to Susan Collins.

Despite the view of anti-justices Roberts and Scalia, there is nothing in the Constitution that allows someone of such distance and disconnection to bully voters in another state.


We need to start thinking of such people and the candidates who live off them much as we do unsafe and dirty food. After all, even if they were edible they would be the sort of things we wouldn’t let our children eat.

And we shouldn’t be too polite about it After all, the system has completely failed us in this matter. We need to find new language – like clean and dirty candidates – based on where they get their money.

And the local and organic food folk have shown us how to start.

Saturday, April 5

Down East Notes

WCSH - Resident lifetime licenses for hunting, fishing, trapping or archery are now available to Mainers who are 15 years of age or younger and residents 65 and older. Officials said this investment will help reduce the cost of hunting because hunters won't have to renew their license every 13 months. The Maine resident lifetime license application for infant to age five offers eight different licenses. The prices range from $150 to $400. If residents wait to get the kids hunting license later, between the ages of six to 15, then all prices double. This means the prices jump to the $300 to $800 range.

Collins Watch - According to the filings at FEC.gov, one couple gave Sen. Susan Collins more than any other--the legal maximum of $10,400--during the most recent filing period. And there's a good chance you've heard of them: Linda and Vince McMahon, the duo behind World Wrestling Entertainment.... At issue for Maine voters in the mutual support between Collins and the McMahons is (among other things) the WWE's history of virulent homophobia and misogyny: While Collins fancies herself a champion of civilty, McMahon has made her fortune trafficking in ugly sterotypes and sexually-tinged violence--up to an including a mock gay wedding played for laughs and storylines about sexually predatory lesbians.

According to Wikipedia, “McMahon has a $12 million penthouse in Manhattan, a $40 million mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, a $20 million vacation home, and a 47-foot sports yacht named Sexy Bitch. Forbes has noted McMahon's wealth at 1.1 billion dollars.” 

American Water Blog -  A paper was published in the journal Environmental Health that could have significant health and policy repercussions across the country. Titled “A cross-sectional study of well water arsenic and child IQ in Maine schoolchildren”, the study shows a clear correlation between arsenic and decreased cognitive function in children. ... They looked at 272 third through fifth graders in three Maine school districts, comparing arsenic levels in their home wells to their scores on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children  tests...  The results are pretty clear. Even after removing the effects of maternal education and IQ and the quality of their home environment, children with higher levels of arsenic in their water scored lower on general intelligence tests.

Press Herald -  “Frontline,” public television’s award-winning investigative program, will air a segment later this month on the reform of solitary confinement at the Maine State Prison in Warren. click image to enlarge. “Solitary Nation” offers “a shocking look at the practice of isolation” and the effort to limit its use – an area in which Maine is recognized as a leader nationally, according to a news release announcing the show...In Maine, the transfer to solitary for punishment now has to be approved by the warden, rather than a supervisor, a change adopted under Ponte. Keeping an inmate there for more than three days must be approved by the corrections commissioner. The prison also is required to look at what prompted the inmate’s disruptive behavior and what can be done to change it. If a prisoner has a mental illness, that must be considered before assigning him to solitary.

Profile of Shenna Bellows in the Daily Beast - Bellows is pressing her case aggressively from the start, delaying her interview with The Daily Beast so she could slam Collins for dragging her feet on raising the minimum wage and the release of a CIA torture report. (“It’s time we have a leader in Washington who does the right thing not because they are pushed or have cover, but because it’s the right thing to do.”)

Rise in Maine's heroin use and deaths

Monday, March 31

Down East Notes

Washington Post - So long as independent Eliot Cutler remains in the race, unpopular Gov. Paul LePage (R) has a fighting chance. Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud (D) has run a solid campaign and looks like the frontrunner, even with Cutler in the race. But without him in the picture, Democrats could breathe much easier here.

WCSH -  Equality Maine has a lot to celebrate, for 3 decades they've been fighting for equal treatment in the workplace and in the legislature for the lesbian, gay and transgender community.[March 22] marked their 30th anniversary celebration. Equality Maine President Jane Clayton joked, "our best and brightest volunteers haven't even been on this earth for 30 years," at the banquet. Over the decades they have fought to end workplace discrimination of gay and lesbian people, to stop legislation that would have banned same sex marriage and, triumphantly, fought to secure marriage equality for all consenting adults in the state of Maine.

Test Obsession update - Maine students in grades three through eight scored lower on the state’s reading and math exams in 2013 than they did the year before.The tests were taken by nearly all students last October and are used to satisfy state and federal school accountability requirements. The scores also are used to determine each school’s grade on its Maine Department of Education-issued report card. About 69 percent of the students tested demonstrated that they were reading at grade level, according to a statement released by the state Department of Education on Monday. That’s down from 71 percent the year before.....Next year, students will take an exam that tests them on the Common Core standards, a set of expectations that 45 states have adopted for their students. Educators predict that the new exam will be harder and that students scores will drop further as a result.  - From the Sun Journal.

MPBN - Paralegals and other legal professionals at a Topsham law firm have formed a union. The International Association of Machinists - or IAM - has negotiated an agreement with legal professionals at McTeague, Higbee, Case, Cohen, Whitney & Toker. The new three-year contract includes wage increases, improved health, pension and grievance benefits, improved paid time off and more, says Carol Sanborn, paralegal and bargaining committee member."The only way to really have a voice that matters is when people are a unit, collectively," Sanborn says. The firm has 13 lawyers. About 20 legal professionals are in the union bargaining unit, Sanborn says.The IAM Union represents 3,900 Maine workers, including shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works, workers in paper mills and manufacturing, as well as municipal workers and the newly-created Maine Lobstering Union.

Sun Journal - Bucking the national trend, Maine adults in the middle income range actually struggled more than their low-income counterparts to pay medical bills. About 35 percent of mid-range earners — with incomes between about $33,000 and $93,000 a year for a family of four — faced problems or were unable to afford their bills during the prior year, compared to 32 percent of those earning less. Many middle-income Mainers receive no government aid and don’t earn enough to buy a health policy with sufficient coverage, the survey results noted.

Saturday, March 22

Down East notes

Portland Press Herald - About 100 University of Southern Maine students protested outside the office of the provost Friday as a dozen faculty members got layoff notices, chanting “Cut from the top” and holding signs that read “Cuts only lead to more cuts.”USM faces a $14 million budget shortfall for the year starting July 1, part of a $36 million shortfall throughout the University of Maine System caused by flat state funding, declining enrollment and tuition freezes.

Common Dreams - People sat on the floor and leaned against walls as chants and even songs broke out amid discussions about "next steps" for holding the university accountable. "We're using this as a space to organize," said Meaghan LaSala, student in Women and Gender Studies...Occasionally, laid-off faculty addressed the crowd in emotionally-charged statements just moments before or after receiving notice.Meanwhile, at a nearby university event for gubernatorial candidate Michael Michaud, students took to the microphone to speak out against budget cuts.

Wednesday, March 19

Down East Notes

Popular Resistance - Fifteen Green Independents have qualified for the ballot in 2014, the most since 2004. Among the 15 candidates are 5 candidates for State Senate, an all-time high for the Maine Green Independent Party. Unlike the Democrats and Republicans, the Maine Green Independent Party and its candidates refuse to accept corporate and PAC funds. Notable among candidates for Senate are 2012 candidate for State Senate Maine Green Independent Party Chair, Asher Platts (SD-28 Portland), 2012 candidate for State House and party treasurer Fred Horch(SD-24 Brunswick) and attorney and Single Payer healthcare advocate Alice Knapp (SD-23 Richmond). Among the candidates for House are Portland Green Independent Committee chair Tom MacMillan (HD 38, West End, Portland), former state senate candidate and social worker Daniel Stromgren (HD 54-Topsham), Banking Reform advocate Randall Parr (HD-95 Appleton), and environmental advocate Paige K. Brown (HD 97-Norport).

According to a new investigative report by the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the LePage administration over the past two years has privately developed a plan to dramatically increase logging on Maine’s public lands without disclosing the plan to Maine lawmakers or the public and without providing a science-based justification or opportunity for public comment. Internal documents secured by NRCM reveal that the state foresters and land managers responsible for timber management in Maine’s public forests initially were excluded from discussions of the plan, which departs radically from a decades-long state policy to grow bigger, older trees in Maine’s public forests. NRCM believes that the administration’s plan, which calls for a 27 percent increase in logging, would result in unsustainable overcutting on lands valued for their wildlife habitat, backcountry recreation, and high-quality timber. Approximately 400,000 acres of Maine’s forests, which comprise less than 3 percent of the state’s 17.6 million acres of timber lands, are publicly owned and managed for commercial timber and other public values.


Monday, March 17

Down East Notes

Bloomberg: In Maine, the insurer that has enrolled the most Affordable Care Act customers isn’t the state’s well-established Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, owned by WellPoint Inc. It’s WellPoint’s only rival: Maine Community Health Options, a startup that didn’t exist three years ago. The newcomer, funded primarily by taxpayer money lent under the U.S. health care law, has won about 80 percent of the market so far in Maine’s new insurance exchange, exceeding its own expectations, said Kevin Lewis, the chief executive office.

Update on Michaud's replacement election in 2nd District

Sunday, March 16

Down East Notes

Asher Platts is running for state senate as a Green -  He writes: 
Yesterday I knocked a door that had two registered Greens, the spouse and the daughter. The husband answers the door, I ask him if the other two are there.

He asks why, I tell him it's to get my friend on the ballot. He asks what party, I tell him the Maine Green Independent Party.He gets a confused look on his face and turns around and yells at his wife, "You're still registered as a Green!?!?" She yells back, "Yeah?" He turns back to me with an angry smirk on his face, "she doesn't want to sign-- I just asked her." And he shut the door in my face.

Paul LePage described Medicaid expansion as "sinful." Other details of LePage's counter-Christian theology are not available at present. 

 For a more Christian (and sensible) view of the matter


Thursday, March 13

Down East Notes

Kennebec Journal - Central Maine Power Co. wants customers that generate some of their own electricity from renewable sources to pay higher monthly service charges, but the idea is being challenged as an attack on Maine’s renewable-energy industry.... The charges would have “a devastating impact” on colleges that are committed to promoting sustainability, said Laurie Lachance, president of Thomas College in Waterville. In 2012, the college had a 12,600-square-foot solar-electric array installed on its athletic center. The system is designed to supply 11 percent of the school’s electricity. CMP’s proposal would add $38,000 to the college’s bill over five years, a 56 percent increase, Lachance said.

Fred Horch has turned in his petition sheets to become the Green Independent candidate for Senate District 24, which includes Brunswick, Harpswell, Freeport, Pownal and North Yarmouth.

Photo

MIKE HARMON
 

Wednesday, March 12

Down East Notes

Senator Susan Collins is the only member of Maine's congressional delegation that has not called upon the State Department to do a full environmental review were Portland Pipe Line Corporation to seek permits to move tar sands through Maine. Collins supports the Keystone pipeline project.

About Portland's new food co-op

Michael Michaud's
own poll finds him with 39 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for Gov. Paul LePage. Independent candidate Eliot Cutler trails with just 16 percent. This is the eighth consecutive public poll that shows Michaud leading the race, but almost all within the margin of error.

NY Times - In the 1980s, moose numbered about 4,000 in the northwest part of [Minnesota]; today, there are about 100. In Northeast Minnesota, the population has dropped by half since 2006, to 4,300 from more than 8,800. In 2012, the decline was steep enough — 35 percent — that the state and local Chippewa tribes, which rely on moose meat for subsistence, called off the moose hunt. ... Researchers elsewhere, along the southern edge of moose territory in New Hampshire and Montana, are also beginning to notice declines in the animals’ numbers. Seth Moore, a wildlife biologist in Grand Portage, theorizes that recent years of warmer, shorter winters and hotter, longer summers have resulted in a twofold problem. The changing climate has stressed out the moose, compromising their immune systems. And warmer temperatures have allowed populations of white-tailed deer, carriers of brain worm — which is fatal to moose — to thrive.

Tuesday, March 11

Down East Notes

Press Herald - Central Maine Power Co. wants customers that generate some of their own electricity from renewable sources to pay higher monthly service charges, but the idea is being challenged as an attack on Maine’s renewable-energy industry. CMP says its plan would help cover the overall cost of service while keeping such customers on the grid even if they don’t need power all the time. Advocates of solar and wind power say the so-called standby charge would kill the economics of investing in renewable generation and run counter to the state’s policy of encouraging renewable energy development.

Phoenix - About 40 people attended a meeting in East Bayside to discuss the viability of establishing a collaborative arts and innovation center in the city of Portland. The Portland Arts and Creative Enterprise, as envisioned by the organizers, would be a place for artists, entrepreneurs, and makers to work, build, and test new ideas. It would involve local academic institutions such as the University of Southern Maine and the Maine College of Art; it could provide studio and incubator space for artisans and techies, as well as a new life for city-owned buildings in Bayside.

Monday, March 10

Down East Notes

Common Dreams - The tar sands oil industry scored a regulatory victory when the Canadian National Energy Board approved a plan by energy giant Enbridge to reverse the flow of Canada's 'Line 9' oil pipeline eastward from Ontario to Montreal. The decision has regional environmental groups sounding the alarm, warning the industry is now one step closer to being able to transport tar sands and other corrosive crude oil from the west, through Ontario and Quebec, over the border into Vermont, and then to the Maine coast for export... Groups such as The Natural Resources Council of Maine, Sierra Club, 350 Maine, 350 Vermont and Environment Maine say the reversal of Line 9 is "the final link" before the Maine-based Portland Pipe Line Corp. reverses its own pipeline that runs through New England, completing "energy giant Enbridge’s path from the oil sands of Alberta to tankers in the Atlantic port of South Portland," the Bangor Daily News reports.

Fears that the New England pipeline would soon be reversed to transport Canadian tar sands to the Maine coast were sparked last year when oil companies poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign that ultimately defeated an anti-tar sands referendum in the coastal town of South Portland, Maine. The referendum would have barred a proposal to construct a tar sands pipeline terminal on the city's waterfront.

Newsweek reports that Poland Spring water outsold Coca Cola in the New York metropolitan area by 36 percent. Poland Spring is owned by Nestle's which has been working hard to privatize Maine water. As Commnity Water Justice points out:"Nestlé has been a champion in the commodification of our water commons and hooking the public on the idea of bottled water."

Bangor Daily News -  The University of Maine System’s seven campuses and the system office are each working to close their share of a $36 million budget gap for fiscal year 2015 and are at varying stages of the painful process. Much of the gap will be filled by cutting employees. UMS Chancellor James Page told the Legislature that up to 165 positions will be eliminated, plus an extra 95 positions if the Legislature moves ahead with proposed cuts

The Maine House has rejected early voting

Second graders raise over $23,000 for food pantry

MSNBC takes note of Shenna Bellow

Supreme Court agrees to rehear beach access case

Mutant lobsters in Casco Bay

 

Sunday, March 9

Maine Greens stirring things up

Opposition News  - In Maine, the state’s Green Party affiliate is the Green Independent Party. And the statewide group has blazed a trail of political success that other Green Party chapters are emulating. The most note-worthy recent victory was Portland, Maine’s voter referendum that legalized recreational use of marijuana within the borders of the state’s largest city. The vote won in the November General Election by a vote of 67-33 percent.

It isn’t only marijuana reform that voters, the Greens and the state of Maine will have to decide on in the coming months and years. One recent local party report mentions a few of the hotly-contested issues and proposals facing the state and its largest city writing, ‘Nestle wants to privatize our water. We need an oil pipeline. A bunch of ugly high rises in Bayside will revive Portland. We should turn Washington County into a tax free zone. And so forth.’

Tuesday, March 4

The real Maine economy

Visitors spend about $201 million annually at national parks in Maine.

Maine farm income is $500-600 million a year

Customers bet more than $1.1 billion on slot machines at two casinos last year.


Down East notes

Press Herald - Portland voters will decide June 10 whether to enact a citizen-initiated ordinance that would reverse the City Council’s decision to sell two-thirds of Congress Square Plaza, in addition to giving further protection to 34 city-owned parks. But the council also moved Monday to enact its own, weakened version of the ordinance, which would have no effect on the Congress Square Plaza sale. The council decided to send its version of the protection ordinance to a workshop later this month, so that it would have time to debate and potentially enact the ordinance by May.

Some fun farm facts from Ag Classroom

• The average number of days in which the temperature reaches 90° F or above ranges from one
in northern Maine to five in southern Maine, while the average number of days in which the
temperature is 32° F or below ranges from 187 days in northern Maine to 156 days in southern
Maine.
• The growing season is about 135 days.
• The soils of most of central and northern Maine are characterized as glacial till. The soils of this
region are somewhat acidic but treated with lime they are highly productive for farming.
• Much of the soil in southern and central Maine are lake and ocean bottom soils which are free of
stones and are excellent for farming.
• Maine leads the world in production of wild blueberries.
• Maine is 2nd in the nation in the production of maple syrup and Maine’s Somerset County produces
more maple syrup than any other county in the country.
• Maine ranks 8th in the nation among producers of fall potatoes.
• Maine leads the nation in production of brown eggs.

Sunday, March 2

Down East notes

Press Herald - About 17,750 Maine seniors benefited last year from the Maine Senior FarmShare program, which gives $50 farmers’ market food vouchers to seniors. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has not yet released funding for the program this year, raising concerns about whether the program will be rolled out in time to help farmers and seniors take advantage of the upcoming growing season.

Maine CSA directory

Media Mutt, The Bollard - On Jan. 3, WCSH-TV anchor Pat Callaghan aired a long interview with Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, during which he gingerly inquired about a possible conflict of interest. “Some people get concerned about who’s influencing Congress,” Callaghan said. “Your husband is, runs a lobbying firm or is a partner in it. Is that …” Collins cut him off with a sharp “No,” and Callaghan seemed to shrivel. “Oh, OK,” he said. The senator interrupted again to say her husband, Tom Daffron, is the chief operating officer of a “small consulting firm. He does no lobbying.” As Dan Aibel at the Collins Watch website pointed out, that reply was disingenuous. While Daffron himself doesn’t lobby anymore, the company he oversees, Jefferson Consulting Group, does plenty of it, listing lobbying as one of its three “practice areas” on its website.

WCSH - Portland Buy Local celebrated the opening of its new office space on Congress Street. The non-profit formed in 2006 when a few business owners noticed the high number of local businesses that were shutting down.Eight years later, Portland Buy Local has more than 450 members. "If you even just buy one gift locally that you didn't before, that makes a huge difference to our local economy," Coffee By Design Owner Mary Allen Lindemann said. "So we've noticed businesses that are locally owned are having record-breaking seasons because of Buy Local Portland."

Portland Buy Local diretory


Lobster catch only 1 percent below last year's record

Friday, February 28

Bellows attacts liberal-libertarian alliance

US News - Democrat Shenna Bellows, a former American Civil Liberties Union leader who grew up without electricity or running water until the fifth grade, is attempting to cobble together a unique coalition of liberals and libertarians to try and upset Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins.

But while she’s been dubbed “the Elizabeth Warren of Civil Liberties” by the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee, she also finds herself seeing eye to eye with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on issues of national security and foreign policy.

“I think he and I do share a lot in common in terms on our perspective on NSA surveillance and the USA Patriot Act and I think it would be very exciting to work with Republicans in the Congress to restore our checks and balances, to restore our individual liberties,” she told U.S. News in an interview.

Bellows is campaigning on repeal of the U.S. Patriot Act and wants to severely curb the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program – two issues that resonate with the left wing of the Democratic Party as well as libertarian-minded voters who propped up Ron Paul’s strong showing in the 2012 presidential caucuses there.

“What I think we need is targeting based on individualized suspicion, reasonable suspicion that people are engaged in criminal or terrorist activity,” she says in response to a question about what she thinks the NSA should be able to monitor. 

Collins, seeking her fourth term, supports reforms to improve transparency and accountability but would not curtail the program to the extent Bellows wants to.

“As we increase transparency and erect further barriers to intelligence collection, we must be careful that we do not put our country at greater risk of attack,” she said in a statement last month.

Bellows’ candidacy was being largely ignored by national media until she revealed earlier this month she had raised more money than Collins during the last quarter.

Wednesday, February 26

Legislature restores $40 million in revenue sharing

Working Maine - - An urgent measure to restore $40 million in funding cuts to Maine cities and towns became law without Governor Paul LePage’s signature. The strongly endorsed bipartisan bill, LD 1762, was a top priority for Democrats, who fought back efforts by Governor LePage to eliminate revenue sharing funding for Maine communities in the state budget, which he describes as “welfare.”

Under the LePage administration, aid to towns, or revenue sharing funds to towns, has plummeted. If the Legislature did not blunt these proposed cuts, aid to towns would decline by 79 percent in Fiscal Year 2015.

Tuesday, February 25

Down East notes

WCSH - The York Board of Selectmen will wait to hear more from a city attorney before debating the purchase of privately owned beaches in the town...Board Chair Ron Nowell has suggested that the town consider purchasing privately owned beaches...Some residents spoke out against the idea. "If it's going to be for sale at the market price or for some exorbitant price, then I think it doesn't make any sense for the town to purchase it," said Ron McAllister. "I'd rather see a cooperative partnership between the property owners and the town."

Phoenix - A surfeit of salt manufacturers have cropped up in the state over the last few years, harvesting salt near the immense Bay of Fundy on the Atlantic coast by the Gulf of Maine. The Bay of Fundy boasts the greatest tidal range in the world (upwards of 50 feet), which makes the region a primary resource for independent harvesters, all of whom are eager to note the differences between sea salt, which has a mineral content of around 30 percent, and mass-produced table salt, where minerals are filtered out and trace anti-caking chemicals are added.

Common Dreams - “Maine’s lakes generate more than $3.5 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 52,000 jobs,” says Rebecca Kurtz, Executive Director of the Maine Lakes Association. “Yet the health of these treasured and invaluable assets is declining as non-point source pollution is flushed across the land and into our lakes"... “It’s important to understand that Maine’s lakes are really fragile and we’re heading toward a tipping point on many of them,” said Peter Lowell, Executive Director of Lakes Environmental Association. “We are much closer to losing our traditional water quality than most people realize."

Press Herald -  The 2012 Census of Agriculture, which was conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture, shows that while the number of working farms declined by 4 percent nationally, the number of Maine farms has increased slightly since the last census was done in 2007. The data... also show that Maine has more working farms than any other state in New England, with Massachusetts and Vermont ranked second and third. The number of farms in New England as a whole also increased during the five-year period.
In 2012, there were 8,174 farms operating in Maine, up from 8,136 in 2007 and 7,196 in 2002.

Tagging a young moose can be tricky

Vermont and Maine tied for least restrictive on ex-felon voting

Working Maine - A group of Maine lobstermen who are members of the newly formed Maine Lobstering Union took classes in Maryland last week on the legal aspects of their union, how to reach out to lobstermen to talk to them about the union, how to organize a meeting, and more.

Monday, February 17

Why Michaud and Cutler are really different


Sam Smith - A number of people are saying that they’re going to wait to choose their Maine governor candidate until the fall and then go with either Michaud or Cutler, depending on who’s ahead.

The problem with this is is that Michaud and Cutler are not as close politically as such a view implies.

Admittedly, Michaud is a blue dog Democrat, has voted the wrong way on a number of issues, and doesn’t leave you cheering when he speaks. But Michaud and a Democratic legislature would politically be miles ahead of a self-centered independent governor willing to cut deals with whoever makes him look more powerful and successful.

Michaud with a Democratic legislature provides a working team. Cutler with a Democratic legislature gives you more unpredictable bad show business.

Besides, Cutler is nowhere near as liberal as some seem to think. Asked during a 2010 debate to name some politicians outside the state whom he admired, he came up with two Republicans, Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels.
On another occasion, Cutler identified conservative Erskine Bowles and the barely coherent Alan Simpson as "the only people who even tried to address" the fiscal crisis. Bowles and Simpson had been out to sabotage Social Security and Medicare among other things.  And remember that, as Harry Truman used to say, when anyone tells you they're bipartisan you know they're going to vote against you.

Independent Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos put it this way: "Why am I throwing my support to Michaud rather than fellow independent Eliot Cutler? Cutler’s successes have come on the wrong side of the economy at the expense of common people. His relationship as a director of a bankrupt mortgage company, Thornburg Mortgage, whose former top executives are facing allegations of fraud, and his employment and association with the Dallas-based international consultancy Akin Gump, where outsourcing jobs to China is part of the mission, disqualifies Cutler as a person who can lead Maine out of this serious recession Maine people are experiencing."

Maine's four categories of snow

Sunday, February 16

Down East Notes

Press Herald - Opponents of a high-rise development in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood are accusing the city of violating Maine’s Freedom of Access Act by destroying audio recordings of Planning Board meetings and not creating meeting minutes. Keep Portland Livable, a group of residents and businesses challenging the city’s decision to approve four 165-foot tall residential towers on Somerset Street, said in a news release the records either don’t exist or were “mysteriously erased.” ..."It’s disgraceful to think that Maine’s largest city doesn’t keep even minimally adequate records of its public meetings,” co-founder Tim Paradis said in a prepared statement.... A Feb. 6 email from Portland Senior Planner Rick Knowland provided by Keep Portland Livable indicates that audio recordings for five meetings in early 2013 were accidentally erased."

Bowdoin College officials are disputing many of the claims made by those trying to sell the Harriet Beech Stowe property in Brunswick. Vice President Scott Hood issued the following statement to Huffington Post :
There is no factual basis for the claim that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote any part of Uncle Tom's Cabin in the house now for sale at 28 College Street in Brunswick, Maine. Historians and Stowe scholars have long acknowledged that the book was written at a different home in Brunswick (63 Federal Street) where the author lived with her husband while he was teaching at nearby Bowdoin College. This property on Federal Street was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The house and adjacent structures were purchased by Bowdoin College in 2001. The only "evidence" offered about the other property on College Street is an assertion that receipts were found in the house connected with the rental of a room by Stowe. To our knowledge, these receipts, if they exist, have never been subjected to examination by a professional scholar or historian, or by a museum specialist or archivist. In our view, this counter-claim about the location of Stowe’s work is merely an attempt to sell a once-moved historic Brunswick house at an inflated price. MORE
Willie Nelson is coming to the Bangor waterfront on June 19th

Salon - Back in 2013, the lawmakers of the state of Maine decided to freeze state merit and longevity pay for its state troopers. According to a report in the Bangor Daily News, for at least some state troopers — and their families — the consequences have been dire. Speaking to the state Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee, two off-duty state troopers testified in support of a bill to restore roughly $6 million to the Maine’s general and transportation funds in order to reestablish merit and longevity pay increases. One trooper said that he has at times been forced to feed his family of six with roadkill, while the other claimed that his children have had to wake up in the cold because he could not afford furnace oil. "“During the winter seasons, we often have to buy heating oil a few gallons at a time, because we rarely can afford the minimal delivery amount,” Trooper Elgin Physic said to the committee. “Due to the merit stoppage, I had to sell my wife’s engagement ring, military souvenirs from the war and other personal items just to make ends [meet].”

Loberstmen fall overboard more frequently than some would think


Wednesday, February 12

Federal court throws out Portland's median strip ban

Maine ACLU -  The United States District Court for the District of Maine declared that a Portland ordinance that prohibits anyone from standing on a median strip for any reason but planting political campaign signs, including for all other forms of protected free-speech activity, is unconstitutional. The challenge to the ordinance was brought on behalf of two activists, who have a long history of standing on median strips holding political issue signs, and a young woman who stands on medians asking for personal financial assistance.

Portland sought to defend its ordinance as necessary to protect the public safety of pedestrians and drivers. The Court agreed that protecting public safety is very important, but it rejected the city’s argument that this ordinance is necessary to accomplish that goal.

Portland had voluntarily agreed to cease enforcement of the ordinance pending the outcome of the litigation. Today’s decision permanently enjoins enforcement.

A copy of the Court’s decision can be found here.


Urban dictionary's definition of Sanford

TWITTER

Urban Dictionary

Sanford: At the other end of Route 111, Sanford Maine is home to a large population of Welfare Cadets, Pregnant Teenagers, Drug Addicts and general Scumbags. Ironically, the average Sanford resident is completely unaware of the fact that they are wallowing in shit. Adversely, most long term residents may even feel an allegiance to the shit hole which they have become accustom to .
Man, Biddeford really blows...We should move! I hear Sanford is pretty shitty too!

Dude, I hooked up with this chick in Sanford, and now I've got AIDS.

I parked my car in Sanford to run in the store and my change got stolen out of it!

Dude, now that we graduated from Wells High School we should totally move to Sanford!

Note: We don't really understand this phenomenon. Just reporting it.   

Tuesday, February 11

Down East Notes

Portland Press Herald - A ruling by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court vacated a lower court’s finding that the public has the right to use Goose Rocks Beach... “We are very disappointed,” said Amy Tchao, the town’s attorney. “Everyone in the state should be disappointed. The court seems to be saying that it is impossible to establish a public prescriptive easement on any beach in Maine. This a radical departure from anything we’ve seen from this court.” Tchao said the ruling appears to have overturned the decision in Eaton v. the town of Wells in 2000, in which the court said the town and the public have a right to use the dry sand portion of Wells Beach and the intertidal zone. “This decision seems to be saying that even if you have established a century-long history of public use, all it takes is for one landowner to say, ‘No, you can’t use the beach,’ ” Tchao said. The Superior Court judge ruled in 2012 that the town, back-lot owners and the public have the right to use both the wet- and dry-sands portions of the beach. But the Supreme Court ruled that the back-lot owners should not have been allowed to intervene and vacated the lower-court ruling.

Shipyard Brewing Company of Portland, Maine has begun distributing several of its beers in Italy.

Press Herald -  Long before CVS made national news  by announcing that it will stop selling tobacco products, Maine’s Downeast Pharmacy made the same decision. Michael Fiori, a Brunswick resident who owned the 17-store chain in Maine and Vermont, stopped selling tobacco at all of his stores on March 17, 1993. ...“It was really almost radical for its time,” he said....In Freeport, the Bow Street Market stopped selling tobacco in early January. Its owner, Adam Nappi, said that was a goal when he opened a new, bigger store in 2011. He wanted to make sure the business was financially secure before taking the plunge. .. Nappi said the store is giving up $100,000 per year in revenue, but it’s a small and “diminishing” percentage of the overall revenue.

WCSH -  Representative Chellie Pingree, a strong advocate for local farms, wrote legislation that ended up in the final [farm] bill including 150 million dollars to help promote farmer's markets. The farm bill also eliminates a five percent surcharge for organic crop insurance, helping to level the playing field for organic farmers. And some smaller family farms in Maine will be able to take advantage of diversified crop insurance which allows whole farms to be insured, not just specific crops.

 David Swanson will be in Maine this weekend to discuss and sign copies of his new book, War No More: The Case for Abolition. Swanson is the host of Talk Nation Radio. He helped plan the nonviolent occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington DC in 2011. Swanson was press secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org and works for RootsAction.org. Swanson is Secretary of Peace in the Green Shadow Cabinet. Both programs are on Saturday:
  • Saturday 3 - 5 p.m. Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick
  • Saturday 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Lee Hall, Wishcamper Center, USM, 34 Bedford Street. Portland
Savvy Blog  Eliot Cutler has almost no chance of winning, but he can run a strong enough campaign to once again tip the race to LePage. You can bet that LePage’s people are counting on it, not that they can do much about it. Or can they? You probably won’t see them going after Cutler much in ads or public comments. They want Cutler to do well. In fact, don’t be surprised if some anonymous independent expenditure campaign surfaces, funded by Republicans, to help nudge Cutler’s numbers into the 25-30% range. If that happens, LePage wins.

Saturday, February 8

Find out where people are going (and coming from) in your county

Quite an impressive tool from the Census Bureau that allows you to see a map of where people are migrating to and from your county. Quick and easy


Wednesday, February 5

Why Maine matters


Sam Smith

We hear a lot these days about Maine’s economic problems: not enough job growth, not enough young people, the decline in farming, fishery problems and so forth.

There is merit in all of this but it is only part of the story. After all, if the sought after economic improvement is to take place there has to be positive reasons for it to occur.

To be sure we are bombarded with suggestions. Nestle wants to privatize  our water. We need an oil pipeline. A bunch of ugly high rises in Bayside will revive Portland. We should turn Washington County into a tax fee zone. And so forth.

I’ve seen this before. Among the stories I covered,  back in 1957, was about one of the first major urban renewal projects in America, in Southwest Washington where over 20,000 residents and businesses were forcibly removed. . Some 80% of the businesses never went back into operation.

The design was hailed by planners and liberals; a 1955 report for the District was titled No Slums in Ten Years. Not everyone was so sanguine, however. In a 1959 report of the National Conference of Catholic Charities, the Rt. Rev. Msg. John O'Grady said, "It is sad. It is not urban renewal; it is a means of making a few people rich. Instead of improving housing conditions, it is shifting people around from one slum to another."

It is a story that has been repeated repeatedly. A place is in economic trouble and the solution is to bring in new business and people and, to varying degrees, let those already there fend for themselves or force them out.To make this work, it is important to stress constantly the locale’s faults and deficiencies and seldom mention why it might be worth saving for those who are already there.

On the other hand, I have also covered, and been involved in, numerous struggles by communities to preserve and improve themselves, often with little help from more powerful government, media or business organizations. And one of the things you find over and over is that a community that knows and values its own assets and virtues, and which defends them against predator planning and other intrusions, survives much better than one that accepts the dismal prognostications of those on top of the system. In other words, these communities plan for their own future before someone else does.

One example that illustrates this approach is the historic preservation movement. Buildings and neighborhoods that would have been easy marks for planners and their developer allies have often been preserved by supporters standing metaphorically in front of these assets and declaring to all: “Leave it alone.”

Maine faces this problem and this choice. Do his we let the future of the state be determined by those who primarily market it as a problem to be exploited or do we improve our condition while retaining, expanding and adapting our cultural achievements, virtues and assets - making progress occur for all rather than the few who specialize in feeding off less than ideal conditions?

So, for a change, let’s look at Maine as a field yet to be fully planted rather than as a collapsing barn, and see how differently things start to appear.

Here are a few suggestions:

- Maine is a covert example of the sort of place California and Colorado once were, places where people went to exercise their freedom, imagination, artistic skill and alternative ways of living. Mainers tend to  be more modest than these earlier examples, but you don’t have to go far in this state to find someone who is doing something different and interesting. This is not only a cultural asset but an economic one as well.

- Maine is full of internal immigrants, people who have moved from another state to start a different life here. Little noted about immigrants is that they are unusual members of their own culture simply because they have made the courageous choice to leave it. Combine such folk with the independent native Mainer and you have an underappreciated community of hardy individualists.

- Maine has the right scale. We forget that humans are animals, and that there is a natural sized community for us just as there is for deer. One can argue about what size that is but a city of two or three million is probably well beyond what nature intended. One reason this is important is because much planning ignores the cultural changes that higher density brings with it. Do we want to double the size of Portland or create another Portland size town somewhere else?

- Mainers naturally understand environment and ecological issues. If, for example, you’ve been a farmer or a clammer it’s not an abstract or rhetorical matter; it’s real, it’s life. The extent of ecological comprehension in the state is a huge asset at a time when nature has become such a huge factor in human existence.

- We have an especially good water supply, As one report put it, “Total annual ground water use in Maine is a small fraction of annual recharge.” And the Press Herald notes, “Drill into the ground in Maine and eventually you'll find water.. But it also reports that “The Department of Environmental Protection has found that many high-yield aquifers are at risk from pollution. In fact, the DEP has found that of the 29,000 acres of high-yield sand and gravel aquifers in Maine, only about 1,200 acres are not at risk.” In other words, we have a huge asset that could be easily damaged. How do we deal with Nestle and other privatizers? How many people can Maine handle with its water and where? How much damage will a pipeline do?

This is not ancillary problem. For example a report on a town in Canada said that “Nestlé currently holds a permit through to 2017 to take about 1.1 million liters of water per day from Hillsburgh… This occurs while other nearby towns have by-laws to restrict their personal water access during dry summer conditions. 

We can make water plans now and avoid the sort of crisis now facing California, or we can let others pursue their predatory goals at our eventual expense. 

- Maine still practices democracy pretty well. Not in the governor’s office, to be sure, but power is decentralized enough that hundreds of towns still make a lot of choices. As the problems with regional school systems shows, attempts to move to more centralized government can be at odds with Maine’s inherent principles. Democracy is disappearing in many parts of America, starting with Washington DC, so the Maine’s democratic and independent tradition is  a draw. Mainers also believe in reciprocal liberty – i.e. I can’t have my liberty if you don’t have yours – which is why it leads other states on some issues like gay rights. And, thanks in no small part to its agricultural and seafaring background, Mainers intrinsically understand that competition and cooperation are not opponents but allies. 

- Maine has long been a highly favored place for artists, musicians and writers. We tend to take it for granted, but it is, in fact, a major attribute of the state. 

- Maine is an excellent place to redefine the relationship between the urban and the rural as well as the urban and the natural. The emphasis on natural foods, outdoor activity and ecological protection make this a good place for, say, college majors in eco-urbanism or for town and city plans that deal specifically with this issue. 

- Maine has a massive amount of land that is not being used, as it once was, for farming. With drought and other crises affecting America’s food supply, we should be consuming far more than ten percent of our own agricultural output. And finding ways to help younger Mainers go into farming to fill the gap being created by retiring seniors would help greatly. But to do this, we have to stop thinking of planning primarily in urban terms. We need tax incentives for processing and distribution centers, and subsidies for new farm programs and new farmers. 

- Maine is cool atmospherically as well as culturally. In fact, it’s the third coolest state in the union, after Alaska and North Dakota. Given the growing climate crisis this is a big asset, but how does Maine remain Maine if it becomes too appealing to other Americans? This is the sort of issue that needs to be thought and talked out. 


- Finally there is the Maine skill in survival. The fix it up, make it do, use it up, do without tradition is something that much of the country is going to have to learn as times gets tougher. I recently attended a talk by Colin Woodard – journalist and author of The Lobster Coast, an excellent history of coastal Maine. He described how Maine had thrived in the early 19th century thanks to factors like sailing ships carrying  things like granite, ice, lumber and salt fish far away.

But with the Civil War, the economic progress collapsed for a variety of reasons, including the extraordinary death rate of Maine soldiers in the Civil War and the decline in the influence of Maine politics.  In a 2011 article he described other effects:

Those at home watched the state’s coastal trade and most of its once-thriving textile industry collapse, cut off from southern markets and sources of cotton. The fishing fleet contracted as the cost of everything from insurance to canvas exploded. Farmers, cut off from seaborne markets, were forced to abandon their farms, and many would flee to the south and west where, on the advice of soldiers’ letters, they could expect to find better soils and transportation links. Lumbermen decamped for the forests of the Great Lakes and, not long thereafter, the Pacific Northwest, where entire lumbering towns were settled almost exclusively by people from the Machias area.
The age of sail was over and “to make matters worse, after the war the commerce of the nation began moving east to west on the expanding railroads."

As I listened to Woodard’s description of this change, I found myself suddenly thinking, that’s not just Maine he’s talking about. It’s America today.  Our economy has been outsourced, only not to the American west but to places like Bangladesh. Our political power is slipping noticeably, and technology and history seem to be constantly working against us. Who knows more about how to deal with this than Mainers?

Bear in mind that the rest of the country is getting hotter, drier, and more crowded. As the recent traffic disaster during Atlanta’s snow storm illustrated, when a society becomes more urbanized, its citizens lose skills of survival their parents and grandparents had. They become dependent on a system that is in ore than a few ways, dysfunctional.

Maine has extraordinarily resisted life’s temptation to become over-dependent on one’s society rather than being an active and skilled participant.  I suspect more and more will start to notice this and it will have a big effect on our state. Now is not a minute too soon to start, in the best Maine tradition, to figure out what to do about it all before it’s too late.  

#Maine 
#menews