Category Archives: Politics and government

Stop LePage from ripping up Maine’s job training system | Bangor Daily News

By The Bangor Daily News Editorial Board

On Friday, Sept. 8, Joanna Russell’s cell phone rang while she was on vacation in New York. It was a courtesy call from the Maine Department of Labor that the state would no longer be participating in an approximately $9-million-per-year program that helps people get the skills they need for work that’s available in their area.

As the executive director of the board in Bangor that convenes all the different organizations and businesses necessary to make workforce development actually work in Penobscot, Piscataquis, Hancock, Aroostook and Washington counties, the word that Russell kept returning to was “crisis.”

If Maine withdrew from the program, which is entirely funded with federal money, it would have an immediate effect. Unemployed people would have to stop their job training programs in the coming weeks, as money for tuition ran out. A couple thousand low-income adults, laid-off workers and struggling youth each year would no longer receive free, personalized help with learning a marketable skill. Education providers would lose funding and students. The infrastructure supporting the programs would collapse.

Rob Moreau, 33, is one of the hundreds of people currently receiving services who would lose them. He is attending college to become an X-ray technician after he was laid off from Home Depot. The workforce program pays for his tuition and child care for his 1-year-old daughter. If the funding goes away, he and his wife, Shelby, who works full time, will be left scrambling to find ways to pay for Moreau’s training, while also paying their many other bills.

“This is a crisis. It’s a crisis for our job seekers and businesses in the state right now,” Russell said soon after receiving the news that Gov. Paul LePage had alerted the federal government that Maine was willing to lose millions of dollars that flow through the Maine Department of Labor to three regional workforce development boards, which are led by local businesses.

It is also an unnecessary crisis. LePage has tried twice in his tenure to eliminate the regional boards in favor of one statewide board. When the federal government denied his most recent request — based on the reason that he didn’t have the local boards’ support — he responded with this scheme to simply not fund them.

Read the rest of the story.

 

 

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LePage said 7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy. It was maybe 30. | Bangor Daily News’ State and Capitol blog

By Michael Shepherd

Calling himself “a history buff,” Gov. Paul LePage revised Civil War history as we know it in a Tuesday radio interview when discussing the racially charged violence in Virginia and saying “7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy.”

There is just a kernel of truth: Maine State Archivist David Cheever said that approximately 30 people are confirmed to have gone from Maine to the Confederacy, including students who left Bowdoin College in Brunswick and what is now Colby College in Waterville to fight, but they could have been from other parts of the country.

Maine’s history as one of the proudest Union states is well-documented. It sent about 73,000 people to war — a higher proportion than any other state — and more than 9,000 died, though there were some pockets of Southern sympathizers.

A few men with Maine ties became Confederate generals, including the Leeds-born Danville Leadbetterthe Avon-born Zebulon York and Josiah Gorgas, who controlled the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta from 1856 to 1858.

Read the rest of this story.

I’m a scientist and a Mainer. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration | The Washington Post via Bangor Daily News

By Joel Clement

I am not a member of the deep state. I am not big government.

I am a scientist, a policy expert, a civil servant and a worried citizen. Reluctantly, I am also a whistleblower on an administration that chooses silence over science.

Nearly seven years ago, I came to work for the Interior Department, where, among other things, I’ve helped endangered communities in Alaska prepare for and adapt to a changing climate. But on June 15, I was one of about 50 senior department employees who received letters informing us of involuntary reassignments. Citing a need to “improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration,” the letter informed me that I was reassigned to an unrelated job in the accounting office that collects royalty checks from fossil fuel companies.

I am not an accountant — but you don’t have to be one to see that the administration’s excuse for a reassignment such as mine doesn’t add up. A few days after my reassignment, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testified before Congress that the department would use reassignments as part of its effort to eliminate employees; the only reasonable inference from that testimony is that he expects people to quit in response to undesirable transfers. Some of my colleagues are being relocated across the country, at taxpayer expense, to serve in equally ill-fitting jobs.

Read more of this powerful commentary by Joel Clement.

Lipstick on a Health Bill | The New York Times

Susan Collins, the Maine Republican, got straight to the point in describing the new Senate health care bill: “Still deep cuts to Medicaid in Senate bill. Will vote no,” she tweeted yesterday. “Ready to work w/ GOP & Dem colleagues to fix flaws in ACA.”

Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican and another potential swing vote, was less straightforward. “I opposed the last draft of the Senate health proposal because I had concerns about the measure’s Medicaid policies,” Portman said in a statement. Later, he followed up saying that he was undecided about whether he would support this bill.

Here’s the problem for Portman: Collins is right. The Medicaid policies are virtually identical between the revised Senate bill and the previous bill. If Portman opposed the last bill because of how it would harm Medicaid recipients — and he did — he would logically need to oppose this one, too.

Read the rest of this commentary.

Both Maine Senators Say They Will Vote ‘No’ on Latest GOP Health Care Bill | Maine Public

The latest attempt by the US Senate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has failed to garner support from Maine’s senators. Though the bill does eliminate some unpopular provisions from earlier versions, the changes aren’t enough to gain traction with Senators Collins and King, and Maine health providers.

Previous proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have included tax breaks for high income earners. Those tax breaks have been scaled back in the latest version of the Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act. There’s also more funding included to fight the opioid epidemic: $45 billion over the next decade. But one big problem remains: cuts to Medicaid. Senator Susan Collins tweeted that’s the reason she can’t support this latest proposal. Neither can Vanessa Santarelli, CEO of the Maine Primary Care Association.

“The deep cuts to the Medicaid program could be really damaging, particularly to a state like Maine and to our community health centers,” Santarelli says.

Read and listen to the story.

Sen. Susan Collins Will Vote No On Health Care Bill: Her announcement is a significant blow to Senate Republicans | Huffington Post

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on Monday she would not vote for the Senate’s controversial health care bill, despite urging from fellow Republicans to pass the legislation as soon as this week.

In a series of tweets, Collins cited a Congressional Budget Office report released Monday that found the new bill would cause 22 million people to lose their insurance over the next 10 years. The Senate’s bill would also dramatically undercut federal funding for Medicaid and financial assistance for low- and middle-income people, all facts Collins said wouldn’t “fix ACA problems for rural Maine,” referring to the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.

The announcement is a significant blow to Senate Republicans, particularly Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has scrambled to garner support for the bill, which could come up for a vote as early as Thursday.

Read more of this story and view images of Sen. Collins’ tweets and a table that shows the differences between the Affordable Care Act and the two GOP versions to repeal and replace ACA.

 

Maine health care providers urge Sen. Susan Collins to oppose health care bill | Bangor Daily News and Maine Public

Maine health providers from across the state spoke in Lewiston on Friday to denounce the Senate health care bill and urge Sen. Susan Collins to oppose it.

Portland family physician Dr. Sam Zager said the Senate bill will cut off care for patients.

“I think this gets to the core of what it means to have a civilized society,” he said. “Are we going to turn people out? Are we going to toss them off the ship and let them drown at sea? Or are we going to acknowledge that we have a responsibility for the welfare of those around us?”

The Senate bill would partially cut funding for the Medicaid program, which pays for the majority of long-term care costs for seniors and people with disabilities.

Read the rest of the story.

Olympia Snowe quits Senate race | Bangor Daily News

Sen. Olympia Snowe shocked the political world Tuesday with an announcement that she would not seek re-election to the U.S. Senate.

“After an extraordinary amount of reflection and consideration, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for re-election to the United States Senate,” the three-term senator said in a statement.

“After 33 years in the Congress this was not an easy decision. My husband and I are in good health. We have laid an exceptionally strong foundation for the campaign, and I have no doubt I would have won re-election.”

Follow the link to read the rest of the story in the Bangor Daily News.

Making resolutions as important as keeping them

We all make ’em, but we hardly ever keep ’em.

Resolutions are the genuine expression of our deep desire to mend our ways in the coming year. They are the codification of frustrating, seemingly unattainable goals of losing weight, eating better, drinking less, taking our loved ones and friends less for granted, being better at whatever. And much, much more.

I’ve written before about setting – and failing at – resolutions. There was “Resolving to avoid resolutions this year … or not,” “Vowing to be a better blogger … I promise,” and “Resolving that these will be the best resolutions – ever.” I’m not sure if that makes me uniquely knowledgeable about resolutions – or really, really not.

It is part of human nature, I suppose, to set challenging goals. That gives us something to reach for and added satisfaction when we accomplish meaningful goals. We don’t only hit the mark, we exceed it.

And even if we know that most of our resolutions never will be accomplished, the mere exercise alone is worthy of our time. It is essential that we each take a few moments from time to time to reflect on the past and present, and look to what the future could hold. It is essential as humans to find a hope in what we do and how we do it. Setting resolutions is a way to remind us of the very hope upon which we desperately depend.

We do tend to sent lofty goals, when small steps are just as effective. We can always build upon the small successes that come with small steps toward improvement. Grand changes are not always necessary. Ending world hunger and bring about world peace do not have to ride solely on the shoulders of a new year’s resolution. It is best to pick a few reasonable changes. Instead of ending world hunger, perhaps volunteer at the local food bank or offer to deliver meals to seniors and other shut-ins. Or arrange a canned food drive at your school, office or church. Instead of bringing about world peace, vow to be more tolerant and understanding in the coming year. Or even sign up for classes to become a mediator.

None of us alone can make a significant difference in the world. But each of us pulling together, doing what we can, can make great strides toward a better world. Each little effort causes a ripple effect that moves and encourages others to do little things, which moves and encourages others. A little effort will beget a little effort that will beget more little efforts that in time will merge and culminate into a significant pulse, a surge, a movement toward change. We saw that in Egypt and throughout the Middle East and we saw it in the Occupy Movement.

Frustration with a situation often moves us to make change. The Occupy Movement is about frustration – frustration in the stalled economy and the fat cats that let it happen and have profited from a diminished middle class; frustration in the political system that turned its back on everyone; frustration in unemployment, home foreclosures, the lack of affordable health care, the lack of tolerance … the lack of hope.

I’ve never been a “kick the bums out” sort when it comes to political change. Our electoral system is flawed in many ways, but it is the system we have. When we want change we must use that system to make those changes. Our voice and our vote are our weapons. But I am growingly frustrated with the way politicians – Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, liberals, all of them – disregard what always should be the core goal – the greatest good for the greatest number. It should not be the greatest good for the richest 1 percent.

Where to start when you “kick the bums out” is a particularly sticky point. After all, do you start with Wall Street bankers and lawyers? Or with Washington politicians, lobbyists and bureaucrats? Or with the leaders and shareholders of mega-corporations that would rather lay off workers and relocate their jobs overseas than to take slight cut in profits?

Perhaps we should kick them all out and start with a fresh slate, one that puts in power the people with the most to lose and gain in the future. Perhaps we should turn over the running of Wall Street, Main Street and Washington to the children who will be living in this world for the next 70 or 80 years or more. Perhaps they can make more sense of things than those currently running the show.

I don’t suppose that will happen. I can only live in my world and do what I can to make it better, hoping all the time that what I do and how I do it will cause someone else to believe that they too can do just a little bit to contribute to the whole, overall, cumulative change for better.

My resolutions are not spectacularly original, but they are mine.

Resolution No. 1: Be a better person. Not sure this requires much explanation. We tend to know when the things we say or do or don’t do hurt people in our lives. There really is no need for that sort of behavior.

Resolution No. 2: Be a better person to myself. Not sure this requires much explanation, either. This includes exercising more, eating better, drinking less, getting more rest. Pretty normal stuff.

Resolution No. 3: Travel much, much more. Much, much more. I won’t be able to afford grand trips, but I can put together an impressive collection of day-trips. I’ve lived in Northern California since 1983 and for some unfathomable reason I have never been to Yosemite National Park. Amazingly, there has been no state legislative action to kick my butt out of the state for this incredible oversight.

Resolution No. 4: Recover a least a portion of that which was lost during two and a half years of unemployment. This is “the big one,” because I doubt I will be able to regain that much at all. I pretty much have spent the money set aside in 22 years of journalism for retirement. Cashing in an IRA was a painfully necessary thing to do a year or so ago after the unemployment benefits dried up. I’m employed, but making half of what I was making when I was previously working. I turn 50 in six months and I have no idea if I will ever be able to retire.

I’m not sure I’ll remember these resolutions much past the end of, say, this week. But at least I gave the future – and hope in general – some thought.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Navigating the poverty line: Pressure on Portland’s social safety net grows as dramatically does ranks of unemployed | Portland Press Herald

PORTLAND – It was about 6 a.m., dark and cold, when Brian Gailliot got on the welfare line Friday.

Portland’s General Assistance office wouldn’t open until 8, but the line was already 30 deep when he arrived. A man and woman at the front had been sitting there in folding chairs since 10 p.m. Thursday.

“There’s just not enough work,” said Gailliot, who currently works part time for a temp agency, eats at the local soup kitchen and sleeps in a friend’s apartment. “I haven’t had my own place for a year and a half.”

One in eight Mainers lived below the poverty line in 2010, according to recently released U.S. census data. Maine’s poverty rate hit 12.5 percent in 2010, up from 11.4 percent the year before.

On the streets, the prolonged economic slump is translating into dramatic increases in the number of unemployed people who have exhausted savings and unemployment benefits and are seeking help for the first time at Portland’s food pantries, soup kitchens and welfare offices.

Click to read more of the story by John Richardson in the Portland Press Herald.

LePage to help dedicate Aroostook County trail to fallen Marine | Bangor Daily News

[I missed this story earlier in the week. Every kid I grew up with and I used to climb this trail every year or so. It won’t bring the young man back to his family, but they now have a place to honor his life and his duty to this country. – KM]

AUGUSTA, Maine — On Friday, Gov. Paul LePage will help dedicate a summit trail on Haystack Mountain in Castle Hill in honor of a Presque Isle native who was killed in Iraq five years ago.

The Dustin J. Libby Trail will be dedicated at 8:30 a.m. in memory of Marine Cpl. Libby of Castle Hill, who was 22 when he was killed in action on Dec. 6, 2006, while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned as a squad leader to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Libby was serving his second tour of duty in Iraq at the time of his death. He had served in the country previously in 2004. Between his two Iraq tours, he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

The trail was renamed through legislation sponsored by state Rep. Alexander Willette, R-Mapleton, and passed by the Legislature last March.

Click for the rest of the story in the Bangor Daily News.

Occupy Maine gets support from unions as demonstration nears one-week mark | Bangor Daily News

PORTLAND, Maine — Members of a group angry about corporate influence on government has found support from southern Maine labor unions as they close in on a week of camping out in downtown Portland.

The Occupy Maine settlement, a local offshoot of a nationwide network of demonstrations that began in mid-September with Occupy Wall Street, reaches its seventh day Friday, and members say their group is still growing. This weekend, Occupy Maine will celebrate what it’s calling Free Speech Weekend with music, yoga and art making.

Members of the Occupy movement have been calling themselves “the 99 percent,” referring to all those who are not among the 1 percent of the American population who control nearly half of wealth in the country. That 1 percent, occupiers argue, have an unfair amount of influence on federal governance.

“We’re getting bigger and bigger,” said Demi Colby, 23, of Gardiner, who took part in Occupy Wall Street and returned to her home state to help launch Occupy Maine on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Click to read the rest of Seth Koenig’s story in the Bangor Daily News.

Will write for food! … Or walk your dog!

Hey there! Hey there! I’m still trying to line up a freelance gig or two for the coming weeks. Please let me know if you are in need or know someone in need of a writer-editor-blogger-dog walker-house-sitter-dishwasher. Cheers!

State House Notebook: Voting a vital right for the homeless

AUGUSTA — Arguments about who should and shouldn’t be allowed to vote in Maine have raged all summer and will culminate with a statewide referendum Nov. 8 on the law passed in June to eliminate same-day voter registration, which has been allowed for 38 years.

A flap over a GOP news release last week criticizing 19 voters who registered in 2004 using a hotel address initially generated speculation that they were homeless voters. (It later became apparent that they were medical students who left Grand Cayman Island because of a hurricane.)

As it turns out, everyone apparently agrees that homeless Mainers deserve the right to vote.

“I don’t think that’s an issue. I think homeless people should be able to vote. I think people who are living in a homeless shelter should be able to vote,” said Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party and the most vociferous supporter of the law to eliminate same-day voter registration.

Click for more the notebook entries by Portland Press Herald staffers.

 

Hundreds join Freeport Flag Ladies to mark 9/11: Gov. LePage, entire Maine congressional delegation among state dignitaries on hand

FREEPORT — The Freeport Flag Ladies maintained their decade-long tradition of waving the Stars and Stripes and were joined by Gov. Paul LePage, Maine’s entire congressional delegation, the commanding general of the state’s National Guard and several hundred others in a show of patriotism on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The group paused twice for moments of silence at the precise times that hijacked jetliners flew into the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

But the ceremony wasn’t all somber. Motorists honked their horns as people flanking both sides of Freeport’s Main Street cheered and waved their flags.

Click to read more of David Sharp’s Associated Press story in the Bangor Daily News.

The 25 most moving 9/11/11 front pages use type, color, photos, illustration to evoke memories | Poynter.

The 25 most moving 9/11/11 front pages use type, color, photos, illustration to evoke memories | Poynter..

Portland seen as welcoming home to immigrants after 9/11 | Bangor Daily News

Paul Bradbury, then the facilities engineering manager at the Portland Jetport, was in a staff meeting the morning the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. When the second plane hit, everyone in aviation knew it was some form of terrorism, Bradbury said.In the days that followed, details emerged. The world learned that Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz al-Omari came to Portland, stayed at the Comfort Inn in South Portland, bought gas at a local Exxon, took some cash out of ATMs, stopped at Walmart and dined at a Pizza Hut.

Then they left their rental car at the Jetport parking lot and boarded a US Airways Express flight into Logan Airport in Boston, where they boarded the plane they would turn into a weapon.

They exploited a weakness in American society, the common wisdom that people should comply during a hijacking, mugging or robbery.

U.S. aviation essentially was shut down for about two weeks. When flights resumed, things were changed in Portland and across the country.

“When we reopened, we’d taken this huge mental and psychological hit, so part of the recovery was psychological, too. We had National Guard at the airports with machine guns,” said Bradbury.

Click for the rest of the story by Matt Wickenheiser in the Bangor Daily News.

9/11: When innocence was lost | The Washington Post via the Bangor Daily News

WASHINGTON — For Karen Hughes, counselor to the president of the United States, Sept. 10, 2001, was a day of celebration and relief. It was her wedding anniversary. She and husband Jerry dined at a favorite restaurant in the Watergate and reviewed the drama and chaos of the previous months.

There’d been the long presidential campaign, the disputed election, the move to Washington. They had to move a second time when the first house didn’t work out. Then a freak summer rainstorm had flooded their basement, soaking their possessions.

All that was finally behind them. And so she could say:

“We’ve survived the worst.”

And: “Things can only get better from here.”

That Monday – call it 9/10 – was the last day of a certain kind of American innocence.

Click for the rest of the piece by Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post reprinted in the Bangor Daily News.

For border towns, attacks changed a way of life | Bangor Daily News

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, changes at Maine’s border crossings were not subtle. More officers were added at ports of entry, inspectors became more vigilant and, in some cases, new ports were constructed.

Although less visible, the division of cross-border communities is one of the long-lasting impacts of the attacks and the heightened security and border restrictions that resulted.

Before 9/11, the border between Maine and Canada was more a line on a map than a barrier. Border agents from both countries often simply waved through the familiar faces they saw frequently crossing the international boundary. Residents of Aroostook County attended churches in New Brunswick. Canadians bought cheaper gas in The County. Socializing with friends and family on the other side of the border was routine.

Reports shortly after 19 hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon said some of the men had entered the U.S. through Canada. Although not true (the hijackers flew into the U.S. from Europe, Asia and the Middle East and had visas issued by the U.S. government), work to better secure the border soon was under way.

While millions of federal dollars have been spent on improving infrastructure — such as building new crossing facilities in Calais, Van Buren and Forest City — the change that has most affected Aroostook County residents is the requirement for a passport, passport card or NEXUS card, an alternative offered through U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to cross the border.

Click to read the rest of the story by Jen Lynds, Diana Bowley, and Sharon Kiley Mack in the Bangor Daily News, along with video.

 

Bangor Air National Guard base bigger, more active after 9/11 | Bangor Daily News

The mission and scope of the Maine Air National Guard base in Bangor — the state’s only active military base and home to the 101st Air Refueling Wing — developed into something new in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

“We’re a lot more active,” MAINEics pilot Lt. Col. Adam Jenkins, who is the 132nd Air Refueling Squadron commander, said recently.

After 9/11, the Bangor-based air refueling wing added approximately 150 full-time active-duty personnel to its roster and now handles or manages nearly 15 percent of the air refueling missions worldwide, according to Lt. Col. Debbie Kelley, a spokeswoman for 101st.

The MAINEiacs have 10 KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, which essentially are flying gas stations that can refuel other airplanes — a crucial function during wartime — and now plays a key role in most military missions the U.S. undertakes, Maj. Gen. John W. Libby, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, said last week.

“When America goes, we go,” Libby said. “That’s a big change for the air guard.”

Click for the rest of the story by Nok-Noi Ricker in The Bangor Daily News, along with video.