The Coastal Packet

Sunday, January 25

Down East Notes

Press Herald -  A report by the Greater Portland Council of Governments says current housing construction in the city is not aimed at those who earn 80 percent to 100 percent of the median income for the region, which is about $36,000 a year. At that income level, a household could afford rent of $911 a month, the report says, while the median rent in Portland is now $1,183.

Friday, January 23

Down East Notes

Forecaster - The common mussel had disappeared [in Casco Bay].  Volunteers have scoured southern areas of the bay, finding dwindling groups of 30 or fewer mussels, or none at all. Researchers have looked further afield, confirming that the pattern in Casco Bay is being repeated up and down the Maine coast.... At 13 of the 21 sites visited, surveyors found no mussels, while in three other areas coverage was down to 5 percent, according to FCB data.

Maine's struggle with ocean acidification

Ranked choice voting vote postponed until 2016

Thursday, January 22

Down East notes

Maine had the lowest correctional supervision rate in the country at the end of 2013, with just 980 adults per 100,000 under some form of supervision...

Maine’s Largest Worker Co-op Up and Running in Stonington

Monday, January 19

80,000 signatures for clean elections

Press Herald - After spending months gathering support across the state, Maine Citizens for Clean Elections plans to deliver roughly 80,000 signatures to the secretary of state Wednesday to put its proposal before voters. It needs at least 61,123 validated signatures to make it on the ballot... At its peak in 2008, more than 80 percent of candidates used public funds. But in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision that allowed Clean Election candidates to receive extra money when they were being outspent.

Since then, participation in the program has steadily declined – to just more than 50 percent this year – because candidates cannot qualify for enough money to remain competitive when they’re targeted by privately funded rivals and independent groups, said B.J. McCollister, program director for Maine Citizens for Clean Elections.

Saturday, January 17

Down East Notes

Compassion lacking as departing USM faculty get a thankless goodbye

WCSH -   Maine's nonprofit organizations are getting ready for a battle with the governor.
Gov. Paul LePage wants to get rid of state revenue sharing for towns and cities. In exchange, he is proposing to require some non-profits to pay local property taxes. Nonprofits are currently tax-exempt. The governor's plan would apply to organizations with property valuations of more than $500,000.

The greatest impact would likely be felt by hospitals and colleges, who typically own the most property. The director of the Governor's Office of Policy and Management said hospitals, in particular, use services such as police and fire, but don't pay for them. Jonathan LaBonte said the governor's tax plan is simply an effort to get hospitals and other nonprofits to help pay for the services they use.

However, the Maine Hospital Association said hospitals already pay in a different way, by providing millions of dollars in so-called charity care to low income patients. Jeff Austin said that in many parts of the country, local and county government provide and pay for that charity care. Austin said Maine hospitals also pay a $100 million annual tax to the state to help draw in extra federal money for the Medicaid program. The hospitals do get some of that money back in the form of Medicaid payments for services. "A tax on a hospital is a tax on patients," said Austin. 


Wednesday, January 14

Down East Notes

LePage's tax scheme would damage non-profits (and would exempt churches, which is probably unconstitutional)

The revival of the Maine general store

Maine exports double

Press Herald - International sales of Maine food products more than doubled between 2007 and 2013, according to federal trade data. Canada, by far Maine’s largest trade partner, is the leading importer of those products. In 2013, Canada imported about $300 million worth of Maine food and agriculture products, some of which – lobster and potatoes – were processed and exported back to buyers in the United States. But after Canada, the next four leading importers in 2013 were all in Asia – Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and China.

Monday, January 12

How crime in Maine is different

Bangor Daily News - A Wilton man was arrested Friday night after allegedly using the snowplow on his pickup truck to attempt to break into the Mt. Blue Drug store, according to police.

Police were alerted to the activities of Kenneth Nurse, 62, thanks to two witnesses who were on their way to pick up a take-out dinner, according to a statement from Farmington police Sgt. Edward Hastings. The incident was reported around 6:15 p.m., and the witnesses watched as Nurse’s plow truck repeatedly struck the building near a back emergency exit, according to Hastings.

Officers found the rear door with heavy damage and numerous tire tracks indicating Nurse’s attempts to break into the facility, the sergeant said. Nurse was stopped by Farmington police, state police and Franklin County sheriff’s deputies as he attempted to drive away, and he was promptly arrested.

Saturday, January 10

Maine road directions

How much further is it to Freeport? . . . About 25,000 miles the way you're headed.

How do I get to Skowhegan? . . . Don't you move a goddamned inch.

Where does this road go?. . . . Don't go nowhere. Stays right here.

How do I get to Boothbay Harbor? . . . Can't get there from here.

How do we get to Topsham? . . . Don't rightly know . . . Well, how about Gorham then? . . .

Nope, don't know that eithah
. . . You don't seem to know much . . . Ayah, but I ain't lost.

How do you get to Bangor? . . . Well, I usually get my brother to drive me.

Thursday, January 8

Police blotter

Maine Public Broadcasting - Police say three men purchased subsidized, energy-efficient light bulbs in Maine with the bright idea of selling them for a profit in Chicago.

Bangor police responded  to reports of a rented box truck parked outside the federal courthouse. Police brought in bomb-sniffing and drug-sniffing dogs because of concerns of terrorism or illegal activity but it turns the truck was simply full of light bulbs - stacked on pallets.

Police Sgt. Tim Cotton told WZON-AM that the men bought lights subsidized by Efficiency Maine with plans to resell them, but no crime was committed.

Michael Stoddard of Efficiency Maine says there's been only one other case of someone exceeding the 12-item limit on the bulbs. He says stores that exceed the limit won't be reimbursed.

Down East Notes

Maine has second lowest crime rate

Wednesday, January 7

The secret history of women in the Senate

Liza Mundy, Politico -  The restroom closest to the Senate floor that was set aside for women senators had only two stalls. By 2013, with 20 women in the Senate, restroom traffic jams were commonplace, forcing some of the female senators to traipse to a first-floor restroom far from the chamber. Two additional stalls, an extra sink and more storage space were added in the fall of 2013, after several female senators raised the issue publicly...

In one infamous 1993 episode, the late South Carolina Republican Strom Thurmond tried to fondle Washington Democrat Patty Murray’s breast on the Senate elevator. So notoriously predatory was Thurmond that when Susan Collins came to the Senate in 1997, she was warned to avoid getting on an elevator alone with him. A Republican from Maine, Collins describes publicly for the first time being headed for the senators-only elevator and seeing Thurmond walking in the same direction. She did a U-turn and took the stairs. “The reason I remember the incident so well is because it was observed by one of my Republican male colleagues,” recalls Collins. He “started laughing because he knew exactly why I was turning around and not getting on the elevator.”

LePage endangering food stamps for a quarter million Mainers

Bangor Daily News- Roughly 249,000 Mainers who receive federal food assistance could see that aid vanish if a dispute between state and federal agencies over a new program that urges recipients to put their photos on their benefit cards is not resolved.

Food and Nutrition Service — the U.S. Department of Agriculture agency which has oversight of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps — says several changes are necessary to Maine’s new photo ID requirement to keep it from running afoul of federal guidelines. The agency also says current implementation of the photo ID component could represent a civil rights violation.

The agency has stressed that it would not pull funding for SNAP benefits. Still, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew has said the state will continue the photo ID program, and said Monday that if the federal government curtails administrative funding, the state could stop administering the program altogether.

Wind power booms in Maine

Press Herald - Wind power companies have spent more than $532 million on projects in Maine over the past eight years and are poised to spend an additional $745 million over the next four, an industry trade group said  in a report summarizing the economic impact of wind energy in the state between 2006 and 2018.

Fourteen utility-scale wind power projects built or under construction have a total generation capacity of 614 megawatts, the report said. That capacity could serve more than 200,000 homes... Projects planned over the next few years could more than double the capacity.

Monday, January 5

The warming of the Gulf of Maine

NY Times -  The Gulf of Maine’s waters are warming — faster than almost any ocean waters on earth, scientists say — and fish are voting with their fins for cooler places to live. That is upending an ecosystem and the fishing industry that depends on it.

In decades past, the gulf had warmed on average by about one degree every 21 years. In the last decade, the average has been one degree every two years. “What we’re experiencing is a warming that very few ocean ecosystems have ever experienced,” said Andrew J. Pershing, the chief scientific officer for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute here.

A warmer ocean is not merely a matter of comfort or discomfort for creatures that dwell there. Scientists suspect that some species struggle to spawn when the temperature fluctuates. Others may spawn at the wrong time when food is scarce. Freshwater from melting arctic glaciers may be altering levels of minerals crucial to plankton, the base of the gulf’s food chain.

Asia new destination for Maine lobsters

Press Herald - [Lobster] sales to China jumped from zero in 2007 to $15.2 million in 2013. China is now the top destination outside North America for Maine lobster. Sales in 2014 were on pace to double 2013’s sales.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that is now a special administrative region within China, was the second-leading overseas export destination for Maine lobster in 2013. Exports to Hong Kong increased from near-zero in 2007 to $6 million in 2013.

Sales to South Korea jumped from just under $2 million in 2012 to nearly $6 million in 2013 after the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement took effect in 2012. The agreement lowers steep tariffs on lobsters, and by 2016, the tariff drops to zero.

Saturday, January 3

Maine Greens get new co-chairs

With Asher Platt moving on to be director of the national Green Shadow Cabinet, two new state co-chairs have been selected for the Maine Independent Greens.

Lisa Wlley was a candidate for representative in District 6 last year.  A resident of Casco, she is currently finishing her BS degree in Environmental Science at USM. She has been a 4H leader for 13 years. She has been married for 25 years to Robert Critchfield, a small business owner.

Gil Harris is a resident of Limerick where I where he has been elected to a second term on the Limerick Budget Committee. He formed the Limerick Solar Feasibility Committee to look into ways the town might conserve energy by sustainable means. He also serves as a vice-president of the Limerick Historical Society.

Tuesday, December 30

Down East Notes

Bangor Police Department - For folks driving in and around Bangor, the large hole on Hammond Street is real. They are working to take care of it but it will take some time. Avoid Hammond, please. We have people looking into it. Literally.

NLRB rejects ‘bad faith’ claims against FairPoint

Residents alarmed as Coast Guard changes foghorns 

The Portland Sun has ended its nearly six-year run. The free newspaper publishes its final edition with this issue, Dec. 23, 2014. The Portland Sun, originally The Portland Daily Sun, began publishing on Feb. 3, 2009.12-23-14-final-cover Initially a five-day-a-week newspaper, The Sun adjusted to a difficult economy, shedding first its Saturday edition and then more recently its midweek issues to become a twice-weekly.