The Coastal Packet

Monday, January 21

Craft breweries booming in Maine

Bangor Daily News -Breweries and related activities by their suppliers and employees contributed a total of $260.4 million to the Maine economy in 2017, up from $225 million in 2016, according to a report released by the Maine Brewers’ Guild and the University of Maine School of Economics.

That translates into $1.5 million in excise taxes, $168 million in beer sold and 2,560 jobs with a total of $54.8 million in wages. Most of that, roughly 1,910 workers, was direct employment, up from 1,600 in 2016. Another 650 jobs were attributed to the multiplier effect of expenditures by brewery suppliers and employees.

In 2017 there were 114 breweries, up from 85 in 2016.

Friday, January 18

200 Maine inmates to get tablets

Maine Public Broadcasting -Nearly 200 inmates in the Maine State Prison system will soon have access to secure, digital tablet technology and limited texting. It's part of a new initiative at the Department of Corrections to enhance educational programming and prepare prisoners to reenter society.

The tablets are being provided at no-cost to taxpayers, but there is concern about related fees charged to prisoners and their families.

Around the country tablet technology is making its way into jails and prisons. More than 18 states, including Maine, have adopted some form of specialized tablets that are distributed by vendors like Chicago-based Edovo, a private startup that got off the ground six years ago.

Thursday, January 17

Mill orders early release of food stamps

News Center Maine -Thousands of Maine families will receive next month's SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits early on Thursday as the government shutdown enters day 27.

Gov. Janet Mills made the announcement early this week to prepare for the shutdown's impact on federal money coming into the state.

Maine is not alone in this move with states across the country releasing the money to recipients early--federal money Mill's says the state already has.

180,000 Maine families are impacted by this. That is roughly one in every seven people.

Saturday, January 12

Collins opposes national emergency

Press Herald -Maine Sen. Susan Collins, one of a handful of Republicans involved in negotiations to broker a deal that would end a three-week government shutdown, said Friday that she would oppose any plan by President Trump to declare a national emergency to fund a border wall.

Collins said she believes lawmakers can still find a compromise, and said she hopes to persuade some Democrats to join her small group of senators in crafting a solution that will earn White House approval.

Friday, January 4

Report shows 8% drop in space for marine uses of Portland waterfront

Mills’ ‘Executive Order 1’ makes 70,000 more Mainers eligible for health insurance

Maine worst in electric power disruption

Maine Public Broadcasting -Maine electricity users endured the most frequent service interruptions and the longest outages of any state in the U.S. in 2017, according to federal reliability data.

Utilities say that highlights the natural challenges they face here, but critics say the findings also point to the utilities’ failure to rise to the challenge.

Data compiled by the federal Energy Information Administration show Maine electricity customers in 2017 experienced, on average, more than three service interruptions — the highest rate in the country and more than double the national average. And Mainers were in the dark longer than anywhere else — on average more than 40 hours.

Wednesday, January 2

New Portland community center for artists of color

Maine alternative sex website launched

News Center Maine -A new online resource guide for Maine's LGBTQ community is now live online. The website Out In Maine connects Mainers to resources, gay-friendly businesses, as well social events. The free website is connected with resources in all 16 Maine counties including stores, businesses, places of worship, and schools in addition to LGBTQ support organizations.

Saturday, December 22

Real Christmas tree market thinning

Maine Public Broadcasting -This year, about 95 million households across the country will put up a Christmas tree, and about 80 percent of those trees will be artificial. Christmas tree growers in Maine and across the United States have seen their markets for live trees melting away for at least two generations. They’ve tried to turn the trend around, but the industry is divided over how to grow demand.

Friday, December 21

Federal judges reject emergency block of ranked choice election

Press Herald -A  panel of federal judges rejected Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s request for an emergency injunction to block Maine from certifying Jared Golden as the winner of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race.

In a one-sentence order, three judges on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that the request doesn’t show Poliquin “to have a strong likelihood of success on the merits.”

While Poliquin’s broader appeal of a lower court ruling is still alive, the rejection is the latest blow against his legal case challenging the ranked-choice voting process that ended with Golden, a Democrat, unseating the two-term Republican incumbent.

Thursday, December 20

Portland waterfront: Just a suggestion

Since most maritime activities take place on the first floor, one compromise on the Portland waterfront issue is to distinguish what goes on at ground level from what can go on above it. In short, lobsters on ground level, lawyers and tourists above.

Monday, December 17

South Portland students rebel against grading system

Forecaster -High school students say they are frustrated with administration’s response – or lack thereof – to what they called “strong resistance” to the district’s 4-year-old proficiency-based grading system.

A survey circulated last week by the South Portland High School Student Senate, which advocates for students by representing their viewpoints to the school administration, asked students to identify a school issue where they would “like to see change.” According to Max Saffer-Meng, the senate vice president, 82 percent of the 250 students who took the survey selected “grading.”

Under the district’s system students are graded on a scale of 1-4, as opposed to the traditional 1-100 scale.

Thursday, December 13

Muslim born in Somalia wins Maine city council seat

Press Herald -An experienced social worker soundly defeated a longtime local business owner in Tuesday’s citywide special election for the District 5 City Council seat.

Deqa Dhalac, intercultural program manager at the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, beat Donald “Cookie” Cook, owner of Rolando’s Redemption on outer Main Street, 1,418 to 700. Deqa Dhalac, left, defeated and Donald Cook 1,418 votes to 700 in the District 5 City Council contest. D

Dhalac, 52, is believed to be the first African-American and the first Muslim to be elected to the council, said Kathy DiPhilippo, a city historian.

“This is absolutely wonderful,” Dhalac said after hearing the results Tuesday night. “I am so proud and humbled that the voters of South Portland have placed their trust in me. It’s a privilege and a responsibility, and I’m ready to go to work for them.”

A single mother of three, Dhalac said her campaign was a labor of love and she would have been proud of her effort even if she had lost. But she admitted to a particular sense of satisfaction having succeeded as an immigrant and a woman of color at a time when hateful political rhetoric is common.

“I’m glad that a little girl who looks like me will see me and think, ‘I can do that, too,’ ” said Dhalac, a native of Somalia who became a U.S. citizen in 1998 and moved to South Portland in 2008.

South Portland is 92% white and 1% African American

Even Mainers with good jobs have trouble paying medical bills

Tuesday, December 11

Collins votes for anti-environmental energy commissioner

Maine Beacon -U.S. Senator Susan Collins voted in line with her Republican colleagues to confirm Bernard McNamee to be commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week, even after a video surfaced showing McNamee advocating for the continued use of fossil fuels over renewable energy and criticizing environmental groups. Citing McNamee’s bias towards fossil fuels, independent Sens. Angus King and Bernie Sanders and Senate Democrats voted on Dec. 6 against McNamee’s appointment to lead the agency that oversees U.S. electricity markets.

Monday, December 10

Worldwide Woodard -The Gulf of Maine -- already the second fastest warming part of the world's oceans -- just saw the third warmest year on the 37-year long satellite record, with average sea surface temperatures reaching levels only seen in 2012 and 2016.


Saturday, December 8

Maine ranks 24th for high speed Internet

Maine Public Broadcasting - Maine ranks 24 in the nation for high-speed internet access, but it is dead last in New England. New census data indicate that that rate varies widely among the state's counties. New England has some of the highest rates of broadband access in the nation with New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the top two positions, between 87 and 89 percent. Just under 83 percent of Mainers have a subscription to broadband internet at home, and that number is lower in rural areas.

Lobstering and climate change

Guardian -The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99% of the world’s waters, rising at three times the global  average. That warming has created optimal conditions for lobsters to reproduce and survive into adulthood.

“It’s actually been really positive for us. We’ve seen probably the most favourable environmental conditions for lobsters ever,” said Patrice McCarron, the executive director of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, which represents more than 1,000 members of the state’s lobster industry.

But while the warming waters have resulted in a lobster bonanza, scientists say climate change will ultimately bring a bust to the boom: As the Gulf of Maine continues to warm , that temperature sweet spot for lobsters will continue to move north. That could result in a similar spike in lobsters in Canada, but leave Maine’s industry broken.

According to a report released earlier this year from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, while the lobster population has risen over 500% along Maine’s coast over the past 30 years, the population is expected to drop by between 40% and 62% by 2050.

Friday, December 7

Susan Collins does it again

Maine Beacon -Senator Susan Collins fell in line with the Senate GOP on Thursday in a 50-49 vote to confirm Kathleen Kraninger to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The nomination was opposed by Maine’s independent Senator Angus King and Senate Democrats, who raised concerns about Kraninger’s lack of experience in consumer protection, her role in implementing the Trump administration’s family separation policy, and her involvement in botched hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

Democrats see Kraninger as a protégé to Mulvaney, who was vocally opposed to the mission of the bureau, which was created in the wake on the 2008 financial meltdown, as a watchdog against financial sector fraud. Mulvaney, who once described the bureau as a “sick, sad” joke, has scaled back the bureau’s enforcement efforts by seeking to relax restrictions on payday lenders, freezing data collection from the banking industry and curbing the CFPB’s independence by giving Congress control over its spending.

Wednesday, December 5

Climate change raising cost of pier in Portland

Press Herald -The threat of sea level rise has forced city officials to consider replacing the Portland Street Pier rather than just fixing it, a move that would cost an additional $600,000 but help ensure the facility’s long-term viability.

Replacing the long-neglected municipal pier also would cost taxpayers less in the long run, engineers said, by avoiding more expensive future upgrades that would be necessary to accommodate rising tides. It’s the latest example of how communities are responding to environmental threats anticipated by federal agencies because of accelerating climate change.

Tuesday, December 4

Second District won't have a congressman when new session opens

IVN - Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office announced  that the recount in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District will take approximately 4 weeks.

The recount will pause on Christmas week from December 24 to January 2, and will begin again on January 3 if it is not completed sooner. Members of Congress are sworn in on January 3.

In other words, voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District won’t know who will end up representing them until after the new session begins.

Saturday, December 1

Collins helped electd racist Mississippi senator

Maine Beacon - Dirigo PAC, a political action committee affiliated with Maine Senator Susan Collins, gave the maximum contribution allowed by federal elections laws, $5,000, to Mississippi Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who drew national media attention for remarks about lynchings and her support for the Confederacy in the lead up to Mississippi’s runoff election Tuesday.

Thursday, November 29

Collins supporting racist judge

Share Blue - Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is backing one of the most divisive and racist judges Trump has ever nominated for the federal bench. With this move, Collins is abandoning all pretenses of being a moderate and proving that she fully embraces the sordid Trump agenda.

Thomas Farr has engaged in a “lifetime crusade to disenfranchise African-Americans and deprive them of their rights,” Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, told NBC News.

By supporting Farr’s nomination, Collins is standing with Trump and against the voting rights of millions of African-Americans.

As a North Carolina attorney, Farr played a key role in drafting a racist North Carolina voter ID law that, according to a federal appeals court, was written to disenfranchise black voters “with almost surgical precision.”

Farr also defended racially gerrymandered districts, which multiple courts struck down as illegal.

As far back as 1990, Farr was an attorney for the re-election campaign of notorious racist Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC). That year, the Helms campaign sent out 120,000 postcards to primarily black voters which were “intended to intimidate them from voting,” according to NBC News. Farr denies any knowledge of the activity.

Idea mill: Social issue book circles for students

Forecaster - Middle School teacher Katie Coppens hopes to make her students more aware of social issues and inspire them to find solutions through literature circles.

Coppens said literature circles, or social issue book groups, are a good way for small groups of students to read at the same pace, while also being introduced to issues ranging from the environment to poverty to civil rights.

She said it allows them to gain both knowledge and perhaps a passion for a specific topic.

Students are participating in the literature circles this fall in preparation for an upcoming unit called the solutionary program, which was first tested as a pilot program in the sixth grade last spring, Coppens said.

In the solutionary program, Coppens said, students first learn about a range of social issues, then select a topic of interest and work in a group to learn about the root causes of the problem and the systems that perpetuate it. Then each group creates an action plan to solve the problem.

Thursday, November 15

Golden wins 2nd District race

Portland Press Herald -Democrat Jared Golden was declared the winner of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race on Thursday following a historic tabulation of ballots using ranked-choice voting. Golden, a Marine Corps veteran and state lawmaker from Lewiston, began the day roughly 2,000 votes behind incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin. But Golden surged past Poliquin after the ranked-choice votes of two independents in the race were redistributed Thursday morning. ....This is the first time in U.S. history that a congressional race was decided using ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to cast ballots for their favorite candidate but also rank other candidates in order of preference.

 Rob Richie, Fair Vote -  The results show that voters in the 2nd District handled the ballot well, a testament to the fact that ranked choice voting is easy. Only 0.18 percent of voters who voted in the race made an error that invalided their ballot, which means that more than 99.8 percent of 2nd District voters cast valid ballots. For many voters, this was their first-ever ranked choice voting election.

In addition, 65 percent of backers of the independent candidates used their freedom to rank at least one of the major party candidates as a backup choice, with Golden earning 69 percent of those votes to Poliquin's 31 percent. The "dropoff" in active votes between the first round and the second round was less than 3 percent, far lower than the average decline in turnout of nearly half of first-round votes (47 percent) in congressional primary runoffs this year.

Judge okays ranke choice count go ahead

Sunday, November 11

Trump trade war hits the lobster industry

Bloomberg Businessweek -As Trump has rewritten America’s economic relationships, some of the country’s most prized exports—Kentucky bourbon, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Midwestern soybeans—have become retaliatory targets for China and the European Union. For its part, Beijing began imposing a 25 percent tariff on a long list of imports from the U.S., including live lobsters, on July 6.

The blow is significant for Maine, the country’s top producer and exporter. The state’s lobstermen had found a lucrative market in China, where consumer demand has grown exponentially in recent years. In 2017, U.S. exports of live lobsters to China were worth $128.5 million, up from a third of that in 2015. Maine’s dealers have responded by scrambling to find other markets.

Luke Holden, who left investment banking in 2009 to start Luke’s Lobster, a “shack” in New York’s East Village that’s since become an international restaurant chain and lobster-processing business, is worried that the tariffs and other trade effects will force structural changes in the industry. “The reality is that these tariffs have created a very long-term uphill battle,” he says, “and we’ve just started to climb that hill.”

One problem for American lobstermen is their Canadian rivals. Thanks to a trade agreement Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struck with the EU, Canadian crustaceans now land in Europe duty-free. U.S. lobsters, meanwhile, face an 8 percent tariff with no sign of imminent relief. (While Trump is discussing a limited EU deal on industrial goods, European officials have resisted including agricultural trade, which bodes badly for lobsters.)

Friday, November 9

Protests in 18 Maine towns calling for protection of Mueller investigation

Women win in Maine

Press Hearld -   In Maine, voters elected 60 women to the House and 12 to the Senate, for a total of 72 women in the Legislature – claiming 39 percent of the total 186 seats. The last Legislature had 64 women, or 34 percent of the seats.

Sam Smith - With the results in, residents of my 'hood now have a woman governor, speaker of the house,member of Congress,  state representative, town council member, school board member, and police chief.

Saturday, November 3

Opponents' leader admits Question 1 won't lead people to leave Maine

Maine Beacon -The No on One campaign, which has been largely funded by business groups and corporate PACs, has used numerous lines of attack to discredit the effort, including claiming that the 3.8 percent tax on individual income above $128,400 a year would drive people from Maine.

During the segment, Solman spoke with Donna DeBlois, a spokesperson for the opposition campaign, and asked her if she could support her side’s claim.

“No one’s going to leave the state of Maine,” DeBlois replied. “It’s a bad deal for the state of Maine, but I don’t think they’re going to leave because of it.”

Friday, November 2

Absentee voting high

Press Herald -Democrats continue to outpace Republicans in absentee voting, with 61,792 ballots returned as of Thursday, or 18 percent of all registered Democrats, the Secretary of State’s Office said. Among Republicans, 40,408 absentee ballots were returned, or just over 14 percent of party members. Unenrolled voters, who make up the largest single voting bloc in Maine, had turned in 35,565 ballots, or 9 percent of all voters not belonging to a party.

Monday, October 29

Gulf of Maine one of fastest warming waters

island Institute -The Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest-warming ocean ecosystems on the planet, according to scientists at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

Over the last 30 years, it has warmed at a rate of 0.06 degrees Celsius per year (0.11 degrees Fahrenheit per year)—more than three times the global average. Over the last 15 years, the region warmed at more than seven times the global average rate. At both time scales, the Gulf of Maine warmed faster than 99 percent of the global ocean. This year has been especially warm, and scientists at GMRI are now saying the Gulf of Maine officially experienced its second warmest-ever day on Aug. 8, when the average sea surface temperature reached 68.93 degree Fahrenheit, just shy of the record set in 2012.

The Gulf of Maine’s rapid warming is related to its position on the planet, receiving cold water from Canada (and ultimately, the Arctic) that meet with warm waters from the south. A slight change in currents can mean a big difference in temperatures, and this region is experiencing more than a slight change.

Saturday, October 27

Inquiry finds police holding on to drug money

Maine Beacon -A state law intended to curb police corruption in Maine is apparently going unheeded, according to a Beacon investigation into asset forfeiture.

When cash or assets connected to a drug crime are seized by police in Maine, those funds are required by state law to be deposited in the general fund. That statute has been lauded by a national civil liberties watchdog for curbing potential police corruption by putting forfeitures proceeds under the control of lawmakers, instead of the police departments who seize the money.

That law is not being followed. At the same time, some public health responses to the opioid epidemic have gone unfunded.

Thursday, October 25

King votes liberal

Those Democrats wondering whether to vote for independent Angus King might be interested to know that King was given a 90% approval rating by the liberal Americans for Demcratic Action in its latest tally. This is the same as Nelson in Florida, Klobichar in /Minnesata, Casey in Pennsylvania, and Baldwin in Wisconsin

Wednesday, October 24

Democrats lead in early voing

Portland Press Herald - The Secretary of State’s Office reported  that 19,470 Democrats have voted in Maine compared with 12,965 Republicans and 10,708 unenrolled voters. With two weeks to go until Election Day, the state was well ahead of the early voting pace in 2014, the last year when a governor’s race was at the top of the ballot.

Some greasy secrets

Shawn Moody

Alan Caron

Saturday, October 20

Maine Public Broadcasting -Crime in Maine decreased in 2017, the sixth year in a row that the state has seen reductions in crime overall.  That includes incidents of domestic violence, which fell by 10.6 percent. But incidents of rape and other violent crimes increased significantly.

Overall, crime in Maine went down 8.2 percent last year. During the past six years, crime has dropped a total of 46.8 percent.

In addition to incidents of rape, which went up 17 percent – the third year reported rape incidents have increased – there were more homicides, assaults and motor vehicle thefts in Maine last year.

Homicides increased from 18 in 2016 to 21 last year.  Simple assaults and vehicle thefts also increased, both by about 2.2 percent.