The Coastal Packet

Thursday, December 14

Collins staff locks her office doors before GOP tax scam vote

Share Blue - With the GOP tax scam being debated in conference and set for a vote next week before Doug Jones can take office, all eyes are on Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Collins, a Republican, voted for the original Senate bill, which includes an individual mandate repeal similar to the one she voted down in July. She did so with the assurance that two other bipartisan bills would be passed to offset any coverage losses, even though neither bill would do any such thing — and Paul Ryan never committed to pass them anyway.

Collins’s constituents are furious and demanding to meet with her on the issue. But not only is she nowhere to be found — her staff actually locked protesters out of her Senate offices in Maine, in the middle of regular business hours.

According to one protester, over 50 people gathered at the office in below-freezing temperatures to make their voices heard, only to be met with a locked door and cold silence from their senator.

After a long wait, a member of Collins’s staff finally turned up — to threaten them with arrest:

Friday, December 8

A guide to where Maine politicians' money comes from

For citizens who want to understand how the Maine Legislature works, Pine Tree Watch provides a guide to the private financial interests of lawmakers, the bills they have sponsored and what committees they sit on. You'll find here the sources of income for legislators and their family members, what businesses they own as well as the bill numbers and summaries of legislation on which the lawmakers were primary sponsor in the current two-year session.

Thursday, December 7

Collins snookers her supporters

Daily Kos - Remember when Maine Sen. Susan Collins was pretending like she really didn't want to pass a massive tax bill to reward Republicans’ big corporate donors? When she was extracting promises from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, promises that everyone knew he could not keep? But he made them, all right. And then promptly broke them.

The link there is to the House’s short-term funding bill that Congress is going to pass—or try to pass—before the final vote on the tax bill. Remember when we said that McConnell couldn’t make promises for the House? Yeah, that. You already know what’s not in it: everything that Collins said McConnell promised was going to happen in exchange for her vote.

Collins isn’t stupid, she knew there was no value in any of what McConnell was promising, and probably also knows that even were the fixes to the Affordable Care Act that are in Alexander-Murray and reinsurance passed, they wouldn’t counteract the dire impact that repealing the individual mandate is going to have on the law.

No, she’s not stupid, but she hopes the American people are. She hopes that we’re dumb enough to believe that she was dumb enough to be snookered by McConnell. We’re not.

Saturday, December 2

More Mainers seeking affordable housing

Maine Public Broadcasting - A nonprofit organization that owns 2,200 affordable housing units in southern Maine and southern New Hampshire says it has seen a large increase in the number of people seeking those accommodations. Avesta Housing Development Officer Greg Payne says, through the first three quarters of this year, nearly 3,000 households have contacted the organization looking for an affordable place to live. “But in that same period of time we were only able to help 278 households move into an apartment, and that’s because the housing that we do have is filled, for the most part, and there’s very limited turnover and there’s so few dollars available to create new housing,” he says. Payne says the number of people calling Avesta looking for affordable housing is growing significantly year to year, something he says reflects what’s going on in the community as a whole. “From 2014 to current we’re talking about a 30 percent increase in the numbers of people seeking an affordable home from Avesta,” he says

Wiscasset and state vary on Maine's top traffic jam

Colin Woodard - If you've visited Midcoast Maine in the past quarter century of summers, you're probably aquatinted with the state's most notorious traffic bottleneck: Route 1 as it passes through the historic village center of Wiscasset and then over the bridge crossing the Sheepscot River. There's not much way to avoid it -- unless its backed up for miles, in which case even an extra twenty minute diversion up to Sheepscot Village in Alna and back around again is worth it.

The Maine Department of Transportation has a fix in mind. But in today's Portland Press Herald I report on how the town has just filed a suit against the agency, asking a judge to block the plan which they allege breaks state law as well as local ordinances. The project, critics have said, will destroy the downtown, level a 101-year old building, cost Maine taxpayers a load of money, and won't improve the traffic delays.

Collins an extremist like the rest of her GOP colleagues

Senator Collins voted with her fellow Republicans for what is probably the worst tax bill passed in American history

Thursday, November 30

Fishing crew find lobster with Pepsi imprint

Independent, UK - A lobster with the Pepsi logo imprinted on its claw has been discovered, sparking concern over the amount of debris littering the oceans.

The creature was found by a lobster fishing crew off the coast of Grand Manan in New Brunswick, Canada.

Karissa Lindstrand, who reportedly drinks 12 cans of Pepsi a day, spotted the lobster as it was loaded into crate to be banded.

“It seemed more like a tattoo or a drawing on the lobster rather than something growing into it.”

Ms Lindstrand said she had never seen debris branded onto a sea creature in her four years of fishing off the Grand Manan coast.

“This tells me there is a lot of garbage in the ocean, if that's what's happening to the lobsters we get out from the water,” she said.

Tuesday, November 28

Tax bill could eliminate health insurance for 50,000 Mainers

Maine Beacon - US Senate Republicans’ proposal to reduce access to health care in order to pay for additional tax cuts for the wealthy, large corporations, and foreign investors would drive up the cost of health insurance in Maine significantly, and cause 50,000 fewer Mainers to have health insurance in 2027, according to a Maine Center for Economic Policy analysis. This is because the GOP tax plan now includes a provision to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” – the requirement that every American who can afford it have health insurance, or pay a penalty relative to their income level. This mandate is vital to protecting the health and stability of private insurance markets and reducing health care costs for everyone.

Friday, November 24

Second state legislator turns Green

Henry John Bear, Tribal Member Representing the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in the Maine House of Representatives, officially registered as a member of the Maine Green Independent Party.

The move [came] in anticipation of his announcement as a Green candidate for U.S. House Representative to Maine's Second Congressional District, challenging incumbent Congressman Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine.

In registering as a Maine Green Independent, Bear joins Ralph Chapman, G-Brooksville, as the second legislator in Maine serving in the Maine House of Representatives. Maine now has the two highest elected Greens in the United States.

Bear is a distinguished House member, in his third term representing the Houlton Band of Maliseets. He has been roundly praised for his work on the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, helping to move through a bill to provide tuition assistance for veterans, for example, and earning the American Legion's Legislator of the Year Award in 2016. A 15-year veteran of the Coast Guard, Bear works as a designer on the guided missile destroyer program's naval weapons electrical systems at General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works.

Now he looks toward serving the tribes and all people of Maine's second congressional district in a federal role, prioritizing issues on the environment, civil rights, strength through non-violent and humanitarian military sophistication, and economic equity.

Thursday, November 23

This is not just a big city problem

Mane Public Broadcasting - Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant has admitted sending a sexually explicit photo of himself to a woman through text message, and is now facing additional allegations of improper sexual conduct by the union representing employees of the sheriff’s office. The new allegations against Gallant surfaced in a published report in the Portland Press Herald. Gallant was first confronted about the sexually explicit photo by Portland TV station WGME, and in a statement admitted that it was taken in his office and that he was partially in uniform. Gallant apologized for the photo and said he would resign as president of the Maine Sheriffs Association. But he also told the Bangor Daily News that what he did was not illegal, but “an adult thing” that occurred two years ago.

Tuesday, November 21

Conference on saving Maine farmland

Maine Public Broadcasting - A recent study indicates that more than 400,000 acres of Maine farmland will change ownership over the next 10 years as farmers age and retire. That’s the focus of the third annual Farmland Access Conference taking place early next month and co-hosted by Maine Farmland Trust and Land For Good. Ellen Sabina, outreach director at Maine Farmland Trust, says the daylong conference will take a look at what happens to that land and how to get farmers onto it. “We expect that a lot of this land will be up for sale. Of retiring farmers don’t have a plan to transfer their land or their farm to another farmer or a family member then there’s a really high risk that a lot of land will transition out of farming” she says. “We want to make sure as much of this land as possible stays in farming.” Among topics to be discussed are using conservation easements, the effect of public policy on the generational transfer of farmland and crafting and maintaining leases. The conference is scheduled for Dec. 4

Friday, November 17

Ending healthcare mandate could leave 50,000 Mainers uninsured

Maine Public Broadcating - About 50,000 Mainers would lose health insurance under the proposed Senate Republican tax bill, according to progressive-leaning state and national policy organizations. They say the tax bill’s provision to eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate tugs at a thread that would significantly unravel the federal health law.

Both the Maine Center for Economic Policy and the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress crunched the numbers from a Congressional Budget Office analysis to get state-specific data on the effect of repealing the individual mandate. They arrived at the same conclusion.

If the individual mandate is repealed, [analyst James Myall] says younger, healthier people will likely opt out of buying health insurance. That will leave older, sicker consumers in the marketplace. To cover the cost of their care, insurance companies will likely raise premiums.

The Center for American Progress estimates the average marketplace premium for a family in Maine will increase about $2,300. Steve Butterfield of Consumers for Affordable Health Care says that will wipe out any benefit the tax bill might provide middle class families.

89% of Maine is covered by forest, the most of any sstate

Monday, November 13

Tick disease more severe than Lyme

Cases of anaplasmosis, an illness with flu-like symptoms that are similar to Lyme but typically more severe, have jumped from 52 a year in Maine five years ago to 433 this year, through Oct. 24, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Of this year’s 433 cases, 113 were hospitalized, according to Maine CDC statistics.

The deer tick, the same tick that’s a carrier for the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, is also a carrier for anaplasmosis.

....  Anaplasmosis responds well to antibiotic treatment if caught early, but it’s difficult to catch early.

Prevention is also key. Wear long clothing and repellents when in tick habitat, such as the woods, and when picking up dead wood or leaves. Check often for ticks, which are difficult to see. Lubelczyk said one of the more common ways to pick up a tick is from your pet. The tick that’s on your pet can drop off after feeding and crawl on you.

People who do find a tick on them should remove it immediately and have it tested. In most cases, ticks need to be attached to a human for 36 hours before diseases can be transmitted. Share facebook tweet email print Read or Post Comments

Sunday, November 12

Ranked choice supporters get over half of needed signatures

Press Herald  Supporters of ranked-choice voting have collected more than half the signatures needed for a 2018 referendum to overturn a law that delays switching to the voting process for four years. Campaign volunteers got approximately 32,000 signatures outside the polls Tuesday, a day after receiving state approval for the petition, said Kyle Bailey, campaign manager for the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting. The campaign needs 61,123 signatures from registered voters to get a people’s veto on the June 2018 ballot.

Committee for Ranked Choice Voting

Saturday, November 11

Medicaid expansion: The fight ahead

The Hill - Backers of [Maine Medicaid] expansion initiative, which voters approved on Tuesday, said they hope cooler heads will prevail once the legislature reconvenes in January. They believe that despite his defiance, LePage can’t succeed in blocking the expansion from happening.

But if the governor tries, expansion supporters said they will take him to court to force its implementation.

“He can stall it, but the terms of the law call for him to implement [expansion],” said Christine Hastedt, public policy director for Maine Equal Justice Partners, a legal advocacy group. “Once there is a law establishing your right to benefits under the program, you have to provide it,” even in the face of a budget impasse.

“[LePage] doesn’t get to pick what laws he decides to observe and not observe,” Hastedt added.

Under Maine’s constitution, a voter-approved initiative that requires the state to spend money will automatically become law 45 days after the legislature next convenes if there hasn’t been money appropriated.

The legislature convenes Jan. 3, 2018, so the expansion would become law in mid-February. The administration then has 90 days from that date to submit the required paperwork to the federal government, and a total of 180 days to start implementing the newly expanded coverage.

If everything happens according to schedule, newly eligible Medicaid beneficiaries won’t start getting covered until sometime in August, 2018.

Friday, November 10

Someone left false teeth at Portland voting place

Press Herald - Someone left behind a pair of dentures in a Portland voting booth on Tuesday. The false teeth were discovered by an election clerk at Merill Auditorium. The choppers are now in a plastic bag in the City Clerk’s office at City Hall waiting to be reunited with the owner of the appliance.

Thursday, November 9

Nurse, 26, upsets longtime mayor with ‘grandkids older than she is’

Bangor Daily News- In an upset victory Tuesday night, Belfast’s incumbent mayor, who has held political offices at the state and local level for more years than his challenger has been alive, has been ousted.

Samantha Paradis, 26, a registered nurse at Waldo County General Hospital and now Belfast’s mayor-elect, took on Walter Ash, a 72-year-old retired mechanic and lifelong Belfast resident who was vying for his fifth term as mayor.

When the votes were tallied, Paradis earned 1,264 votes to Ash’s 959, according to the city’s official election results. She’s expected to take her oath of office during a ceremony Monday.

“I want to foster a culture at city hall that’s welcoming and where people can come in and share their concerns and issues,” Paradis said Tuesday morning.

Dealing with LePage on Medicaid expansion

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities - While Gov. LePage continues to oppose [Medicaid] expansion, it’s now state law and must be implemented. Under Maine’s constitution, a voter-approved initiative that requires the state to spend money doesn’t become operable until 45 days after the legislature next convenes (which will happen on January 3, 2018). After that, the LePage Administration has 90 days to submit a state plan amendment to the federal government to implement the expansion.

During this time, lawmakers will need to decide how to fund the expansion. With the federal government paying 95 percent of expansion costs this year, 94 percent next year, and no less than 90 percent in 2020 and the years thereafter, the state’s cost should be modest. (Gov. LePage has vastly overstated Maine’s likely expansion cost.)

All this means that Mainers likely won’t get coverage through the expansion until the second half of 2018.

Across the country, more than 4.5 million uninsured people would gain Medicaid eligibility if the remaining 18 states that haven’t adopted the Medicaid expansion did so. [Maine's] vote should encourage policymakers in these states to do right by their constituents and take another look at expansion during next year’s legislative sessions. It also should boost efforts already underway to pursue similar ballot initiatives in states like Utah, Missouri, and Idaho.

Wednesday, November 8

Introducing Mainers to those from away

Maine Public Broadcasting - For the past several weeks, “new” Mainers have been breaking bread with longtime residents of Lewiston and Auburn, swapping stories about their families and breaking down stereotypes about immigrants and refugees.

It’s part of a national initiative to address the uptick in hate crimes. One focus of the sessions is to teach bystanders how to safely intervene in a bias incident before it escalates.

Building relationships with strangers doesn’t happen on an empty stomach, so part of each conversation involves a meal. In this case, it’s a Somali potluck dinner featuring a savory pastry called sambusa served up in the basement of the Community Concepts building in Lewiston.

This is just one of nearly 20 facilitated discussions that wrap up this month. Each group meets twice, and their discussions span several hours and cover provocative themes about race, religion and prejudice — like the misperception that anyone from Somalia is a terrorist.

Election notes

LePage says he won’t expand Medicaid in Maine unless Legislature funds it
Voters turn down measure to make Portland first Maine city to cap rents

Mainers approve transportation bond, pension fund amendment

Close vote kills plan to allow Portland residents to block zoning changes

Lewiston-Auburn residents soundly reject merger of twin cities

Tuesday, November 7

Just a reminder

Don't forget to sign the ranked choice voting petition at the polls today. To get the referendum on the ballot, it needs 61,123 signatures within 90 days.

Saturday, November 4

LePage vetoes voter approve system for handling pot sales

Washington Post - Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) vetoed a bill that would legalize the sale of recreational marijuana, nearly a year after residents voted to set up a system to sell and regulate the drug. In a letter, LePage said the law would set up a bifurcated system of recreational and medical sales — which are legal in Maine — of marijuana in the state. Allowing all adults to purchase marijuana also would violate federal law, LePage said. The governor said that while the Obama administration said it would not enforce federal marijuana law, the Trump administration has said it has concerns about legal marijuana. LePage said he sought guidance from Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the matter.

Sunday, October 29

Park Service plans $70 fee to enter Arcadia

Maine Public Broadcasting - Park advocacy groups say they are surprised by the new proposed fee increases for 17 of the National Park Service’s most popular sites, including Acadia.

The NPS said in a written statement Tuesday that it is accepting public comments on its proposed new “peak season” fee of $70 per private, noncommercial vehicle. Weekly passes at Acadia are currently $25 and $50 for an annual entrance pass

60% of Portlanders can't afford average rent

Maine Public Broadcating - A new report by Portland housing staff finds that a majority of city residents do not make enough money to rent a home within what are considered standards of affordability.

The standard rule of thumb holds that to be affordable, a house or apartment should cost no more than 30 percent of household income. By that measure, the report found that last year, more than 60 percent of Portland renters could not afford the average monthly rent of $1,052 dollars for a two-bedroom home in the city.

The report also found that an even larger proportion of city residents could not afford the median price of buying a home in the city. It comes in the wake of a sharp increase in city property values and rents over this decade — and just before a November vote on a ballot item that would limit rent hikes.

Friday, October 27

Two important Maine groups to share a director

The League of Women Voters of Maine and Maine Citizens for Clean Elections have announced their intention to hire a joint Executive Director to lead the two organizations through 2018 and beyond. Gary Friedmann, MCCE Board President, announced this historic development: “G iven the deep and longstanding connections that bind MCCE and LWVME, and our uniquely complementary strengths and resources, this is an exciting development in our rich history together. This collaboration is an important step toward increasing the scope of our work and our impact as we continue to engage with the many pressing issues confronting our democracy.”

Jill Ward, LWVME Board President, said: “Although our state and nation face profound challenges, organization such as LWVME and MCCE have risen to the occasion, effectively employing tremendous resources of experience, knowledge, and citizen - powered action. Taking our partnership to this new level allows us to build upon decades of successful advocacy and public education work that has distinguis hed both organizations. Pooling our strengths will ensure that long into the future we will continue to provide an ever more effective response to the challenges that confront our system of self - government.”

Both organizations are committed to achieving the full potential of democratic self - government enshrined in our nation’s founding principles , yet to be fully realized.

Thursday, October 26

Wednesday, October 25

Move to save ranked choice voting through people's vet

Maine Green Independent Party co-chairs Riva O’Rourke and Jon Olsen have condemned the Maine State Legislature's actions in special session in passing  LD 1646, “An Act To Implement Ranked Choice Voting in 2021.” This bill, supported by members of both the Democratic and Republican parties, “sabotages the citizen referendum on ranked choice voting,” said Olsen and O'Rourke. “This vote severely damages our first-in-the nation statewide effort to initiate RCV, and may have dealt it a fatal blow.”

While the bill in name implements RCV in 2021, in truth it does nothing of the sort, as many dissenting but ultimately unsuccessful legislators noted. Rather, it places obligations on future legislatures. Unless, by Dec. 1, 2021, the constitution is amended, RCV is completely repealed. The MGIP believes this is unacceptable.

“We intend to oppose vigorously those legislators who voted to sabotage the referendum vote,” said Olsen and O’Rourke. Already, in part due to the legislature’s failure to implement the people’s will, State Rep. Ralph Chapman (G—Brooksville) has switched from Democrat to Green Independent. Greens welcome any other Democrats to join us in our efforts.

Further, the Maine Green Independent Party calls for and intends to initiate a people's veto of this law and calls for a coalition of parties and organizations to come together and defeat, for the first time since 2010, a law passed by the Maine State Legislature.

For more information:
Ralph Chapman,
Betsy Marsano, Green Candidate for Governor,
Jon Olsen, Maine Green Independent Party Co-Chair,
Riva O’Rourke, Maine Green Independent Party Co-Chair,
Note: Signatures totaling 10% (61,123) of the votes cast for Governor in 2014 are required. 

Proposalto limit legislatures ablity to change or cancel referenda

Maine Beacon - Most who supported the 2016 ballot measures to raise the minimum wage, create sustainable funding for our public schools, legalize recreational marijuana, or to implement ranked-choice voting will likely recall their elation when these measures all passed in a state election that saw near-record turnout, only to feel that elation turn to frustration when each of these measures saw substantial revision, delay, or destruction at the hands of the Governor’s office and factions within the Legislature.

Despite the 2016 ballot measures shaping the political discourse and the goalposts of the recent state budget fight to the benefit of progressive values, many engaged citizens felt a tangible sense of betrayal when our elected representatives put their thumbs on the scale on our process of direct democracy. Up to this point, most had assumed that the norms restraining legislators from so obviously betraying the expressed will of the voters would be too immense, and for many, the realization that this norm has eroded was truly deflating.  With more citizen referendums on the ballot this year, including measures to expand Medicaid to uninsured Mainers on the edges of poverty, many supporters are approaching the referendum process more skeptically.

Perhaps recognizing that this skepticism breeds the kind of mistrust of government and politics that turns people away from the political process entirely, Saco state senator and fellow Young Democrat Justin Chenette has introduced an amendment to the state constitution that would protect citizen referendums passed by voters from repeal or alteration at the hands of the Legislature for a year, creating constitutional protection for citizen democracy where norms have failed.

Portland homeless shelter upened 24 hours a day

WCSH- Some of the city's homeless population may find life a little easier this winter. The city has announced that the Oxford Street shelter will soon be open 24-hours a day.

Oxford Street’s director says the shelter typically has 154 clients staying there each night, but right now they all have to leave before eight in the morning, and can’t return until late afternoon.  That has led to concerns about people hanging out in the downtown or the neighborhood, and also about people being at risk especially in cold weather.

So the city has decided the shelter should stay open all day. Shelter director Rob Parritt said keeping the doors open during the day should help reduce concerns about large numbers of people just " hanging out", while also keeping more of the homeless population safe during winter and away from predators.  In addition, he said it should also help Oxford Street staff deliver more services to those clients.

Tuesday, October 24

State legislature wrecks ranked choice voting

Independent Voter Network - Maine became the first state in the nation to adopt ranked choice voting when Maine voters approved Question 5 in November 2016. Yet, lawmakers voted to delay the system until December 2021, and then repeal it if a constitutional amendment is not approved to address a non-binding opinion from the Maine Supreme Court.

Despite voters overflowing committee rooms to testify in support of ranked choice voting, thousands of calls to legislators, over 100 letters to the editor, the biggest newspapers in Maine calling on lawmakers to uphold the will of voters, and one of its biggest opponents changing his mind about full repeal, state lawmakers instead decided to go against the will of their constituents.

If supporters cannot get a constitutional amendment passed by December 2021, ranked choice voting will be fully repealed.

The vote was mainly the fault of Republicans.Here's the roll call

Thursday, October 19

If officials would listen to voters,they would stop trying to kill ranked voting

Why to vote yes on Question 2



Mainers get a few more months to use their license cards for flying

Portland Press Herald - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued an additional one-year waiver for Maine’s REAL ID Act compliance, which will allow federal agencies to continue to accept driver’s licenses and identification cards from Maine through Oct. 10, 2018, state officials said.

Mainers were in danger of no longer being able to use their driver’s licenses to pass through airport security or to gain access to federal facilities next year because the state’s licenses do not comply with the federal standards, such as digitized photos that can be used with facial recognition technology.

Wednesday, October 18

LePage is right for a change

Press Herald - — Gov. Paul LePage came out forcefully against the York County casino ballot question Tuesday, calling Question 1 “another case of big-money, out-of-state interests using Maine voters to get a sweet deal.”

“But it’s a phony deal for Maine,” LePage said in his weekly radio address. “Supporters of Question 1 are using a bait-and-switch tactic that has nothing to do with funding schools or creating jobs. Their promises of boosting our economy are overblown.”

On Nov. 7, voters statewide will decide whether to authorize a third casino in Maine, this one located in a yet-to-be-announced location in York County. Supporters say the proposed casino would create more than 2,000 permanent jobs and generate more than $45 million in annual tax revenue for the state.

Sunday, October 15

Travelers in Maine and 8 other states will need passports to fly effective January 22

Forbes - Nine states will no longer allow travelers to board an airplane with just their state issued driver’s licenses as of January 22, 2018. To get past TSA security checkpoints, another form of identification will be required: passport, permanent resident card/green card or a military ID.

The Real ID Act of 2005 states that state-issued IDs from these nine states do not meet the minimum security standards of the federal government:

Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington

Saturday, October 7

Happy First Peoples Day

Sam Smith - The term Indigenous Peoples Day was foisted upon us by the Berkeley city council back in 1992. It's the way they talk out there, but we don't have to follow suit. It's a stuffy term of the sort used by academics but we are free to use more simple and commonly understood phrases like First People or First Nation.

Tuesday, October 3

Maine ACLU finds children of color face regular bullying

Washington Times - The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has issued a report based on more than 115 interviews that says students of color experience “regular harassment and discrimination” in schools.

The report states that students of color “face a constant barrage of bullying” and “unwelcoming school cultures” in Maine. Muslim students report being pushed in hallways and called terrorists.

The report describes hateful speech and derogatory terms for immigrants and sexual minorities as “common.” Students also often fear concerns about harassment aren’t being taken seriously.

Monday, October 2

Facing the cost of healthcare for low income workers

Beacon - Since 2001, tens of thousands of Mainers of prime working age have left the work force, and these “lost workers” are increasingly citing health concerns as their reason for not working. Too many low-income Mainers are stuck in a cycle of sickness and poverty. Living at or near poverty not only makes it more difficult to afford health care, but the mental and physical stress of living in poverty creates its own health problems. Poor and near-poor Mainers often find themselves increasingly in need of care, and increasingly unable to get it.

In 2016, 55% of Mainers had some form of employer-sponsored coverage; among the non-senior population, the share rises to 60%. Employer-sponsored insurance is a good deal for many Mainers. Employer subsidies and the ability to pool the risk of an entire company workforce often make plans more affordable. But many Mainers don’t have this option.

Increasingly, part-time and low-wage employees aren’t even eligible for plans where their employers have them—or they work for a small business that doesn’t offer a plan. In 2016, fewer than one in four (24%) of low-wage, private-sector workers in Maine was eligible for an employer-sponsored plan, down from one in three (35%) in 2001. Additionally, low-wage workers are less likely to be offered—or be able to afford—a family health plan, meaning that their spouse, children, and other dependents also lack coverage options.

Sunday, October 1

Health care initiative launched

Maine Public Broadcasting - The Maine People’s Alliance has launched a campaign to put a universal home health care initiative before voters in 2018. “There are far too many Maine families right now that are going broke because they can’t afford to care for their elders,” says Mike Tipping with the Maine People’s Alliance. Tipping says the citizen’s initiative would establish a program to provide in-home services and support for those with disabilities, and for those over age 65. He says the program would be funded through a 1.9 percent payroll tax on incomes over $127,000. “The wealthy don’t like to pay more in taxes and I think they will definitely mount an opposition campaign to this,” he says.

!40 Greens hold posts in 18 states

Common Dreams - The Green Party of the United States welcomed Maine State Rep. Ralph Chapman, who announced his new membership in the Maine Green Independent Party on Thursday. Mr. Chapman is Maine's second Green in the Maine House of Representatives, following John Eder, who served from 2004 to 2006.

162 Green candidates are running for office in 2017. At least 140 Greens hold elected office in 18 states as of Sept. 15, 2017.

What LePage is wrong in threatening shereiffs over ICE

Bangor Daily News - Gov. Paul LePage, with his usual bluster, is threatening Maine sheriffs who do not hold certain inmates beyond their scheduled release dates so their immigration status can be reviewed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. LePage saidthat he would fire sheriffs who don’t cooperate with ICE.

While it appears that LePage has the authority under the Maine Constitution to fire sheriffs — after a hearing — his directive that sheriffs must work with ICE on immigration issues likely runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution.

On a more fundamental — and humane — level, LePage’s continued fear mongering about immigrants being dangerous is wrong and heartless.

In a letter to the state’s 16 county sheriffs, LePage said “the safety and security of the children, families and citizens of the state of Maine” are his first responsibility.

The claim that immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, are dangerous criminals — also made repeatedly by President Donald Trump — is factually incorrect. Immigrants, both legal and undocumented, commit crimes at a far lower rate than native-born Americans. A recent study by the right-leaning Cato Institute calculated that the incarceration rate among undocumented immigrants in America is about half that of the incarceration rate among the native-born population. If incarceration for immigration-related offenses is removed, the incarceration rate for undocumented immigrants falls to less than a third of that of the native-born population.

Beyond the fallacy of immigrants posing a greater criminal danger than native-born Americans, LePage’s directive to sheriffs rests on shaky legal ground. ICE has asked law enforcement officials to hold suspected undocumented immigrants on what are known as 48-hour detainers. Many law enforcement agencies will hold an inmate who is set for release to allow ICE to determine if it wants to take custody of the person.

In such instances, no judge has issued a warrant or order that the inmate continue to be held after their time is served. Many sheriffs nationwide, including at least three in Maine, worry that holding the inmate beyond his or her scheduled release violates the law.

In fact, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in July that the detainers ICE seeks violate state law. “The detainers are not criminal detainers or criminal arrest warrants,” the court wrote. “They do not charge anyone with a crime, indicate that anyone has been charged with a crime, or ask that anyone be detained in order that he or she can be prosecuted for a crime.” The detainers are used to hold people whom federal authorities believe can be removed from the U.S. under civil law.

Therefore, the court said, the detainers result in someone being under civil arrest. Neither federal law nor state law gives state officers the powers to make this kind of arrest, the court concluded.

Maine ignoring legal settlement in handling mentally ill.

Sun Journal -In 1989, after 10 patients died from deficiencies in the care provided to them at the Augusta Mental Health Institute, patient advocates sued the state and the following year achieved a sweeping legal settlement known as the “consent decree.” This 99-page document ordered what is now named the Department of Health and Human Services to create a decent, robust system to care for Maine’s seriously mentally ill citizens — and to do it within five years. The Department agreed.
But 27 years later, law enforcement officials, mental health experts and patient advocates agree that the state is still far from meeting the consent decree’s mandates. Despite the decree’s strict requirements, the shortcomings of the state’s mental health system include: 
  • Potentially tens of thousands of seriously mentally ill adults in Maine, many of whom wander the streets of the state’s cities or languish in the jails and prisons, may have had insufficient care or have had little or even no contact with the state’s mental health treatment system. 
  • Treatment is critical — but lacking in Maine. While seriously mentally ill people are no more dangerous than other people if they get proper treatment, the untreated are three to four times more likely to commit violent acts than members of the general population. This is why law-enforcement officials have been so upset with — and for so long — the inadequacy of the care the mentally ill receive. 
  • The consent decree is essentially an unfunded mandate. It doesn’t require the Legislature to appropriate money for mental health care, and advocates generally agree that state government’s refusal to provide enough funding underlies many problems in the treatment of Maine’s mentally ill. Exacerbating insufficient funding by previous administrations, Gov. Paul LePage has cut 13,000 patients from mental health care in the last five years. 
  • Treatment facilities are insufficient. Officials admit that Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, the county jails, and the Maine State Prison’s mental health unit are unable to treat or even control especially violent patients. Instead, the institutions tend to transfer them from one to another in a “diagnosis game.” 
  • Solutions are inadequate. Special courts keep up to 250 mentally ill people out of jail and prison, but they only serve those already in trouble with the law. And critics claim that the major mental health care advocacy groups, which get considerable funding from the state and federal governments, have an inherent conflict of interest and don’t aggressively work to increase and improve community care or change the way institutions like Riverview administer services. 

Nestle ripping off Michigan as well as Maine water

Alternet - Flint became synonymous with lead-poisoned water after government officials, looking to save money, switched the city’s water supply from Detroit city water to water from the corrosive Flint river.

Once the city had switched, the number of children with elevated lead exposure doubled; residents reported unexplained rashes and losing hair. An unpublished study recently found fetal deaths in Flint increased by 58% during the crisis.

...Despite having endured lead-laden tap water for years, Flint pays some of the highest water rates in the US. Several residents cited bills upwards of $200 per month for tap water they refuse to touch.

But just two hours away, in the tiny town of Evart, creeks lined by wildflowers run with clear water. The town is so small, the fairground, McDonald’s, high school and church are all within a block. But in a town of only 1,503 people, there are a dozen wells pumping water from the underground aquifer. This is where the beverage giant Nestlé pumps almost 100,000 times what an average Michigan resident uses into plastic bottles that are sold all over the midwest for around $1.

To use this natural resource, Nestlé pays $200 per year.

Now, Nestlé wants more Michigan water. In a recent permit application, the company asked to pump 210m gallons per year from Evart, a 60% increase, and for no more than it pays today. In the coming months, the state is set to decide whether Nestlé can to pump even more.

Community Water, Maine - Nestlé (Poland Spring) pays no corporate taxes in the state of Maine. Though their US headquarters is based in Connecticut, we understand they use the tax shelter of Delaware.

The governor of Delaware is now speaking out and warns us of corporate welfare and how it is not in the best interest of citizen taxpayers.

"I was as guilty as any elected official at playing this game. But it’s a game that should stop. There’s a better way to compete for would be better for taxpayers if these kinds of cash incentives could be invested instead in such things as schools and infrastructure."

Tuesday, September 26

LePage threatens sheriffs for not abusing immigrants

WCSH - In a radio interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham , Governor LePage revealed he plans to issue an executive order to remove two sheriffs from their duties who, he claims, say they won't work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

LePage added there was a "likelihood you're going to be hearing some stories about some sheriffs being removed from their duties."

Ingraham asked if there were two sheriffs in question, LePage said there was one in particular and one that hadn't come out and said he wasn't going to participate. "But he's sending signs he's going to ignore them. If they do, it's going to be to their dismay."

According to state law, the Governor has the power to remove a sheriff after receiving a complaint about said sheriff from the county commissioners. It is not clear whether or not Governor LePage has, in fact, received a complaint from the Cumberland County Commissioners about Sheriff Kevin Joyce.