MUSKIE’S CENTURY

The Androscoggin River was an open industrial sewer when future Sen. Edmund S. Muskie was growing up near its banks in Rumford. When he got to Washington 55 years ago, Muskie did something about it.

Friday was the 100th anniversary of Muskie’s birth and a time to reflect on the incredible legacy of the son of Polish immigrants who became a giant in national politics.

Muskie led the revival of the state Democratic Party in the 1950s, served as governor, senator and U.S. secretary of state. He was his party’s nominee for vice president in 1968, and ran for the presidential nomination four years later.

His name is on the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, but his greatest legacy is his trailblazing work in environmental policy.

Before Muskie went to Washington in 1959, there were no environmental laws to speak of. By the time he left in 1980, we had the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Protection Agency. When he went to represent Maine in the nation’s capitol, there was no environmental movement outside of a few conservation groups. Muskie authored the laws that require public comment on environmental impacts, creating a need for organizations to study and defend the natural world.

Muskie’s role in these changes will be celebrated throughout this year all over Maine. On Friday, solar panels were dedicated in his memory at Southern Maine Community College.

Another fitting tribute would be resolving one piece of unfinished business and bringing the Androscoggin River into full compliance with the Clean Water Act. It’s ironic that the river that inspired Muskie’s environmentalism is still Maine’s dirtiest.

BAD FEDERAL RULE ON TAP

For a long time, Maine’s brewers and farmers have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship.

Brewers sell spent grain left over from beer making to beef and dairy cattle farms. The farmers have a source of cheap protein, and the brewers don’t have to pay to landfill a waste product. What could be wrong with that?

Plenty, if a proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture rule goes through. The government wants to require brewers to dry the wet, mushy grain and package it as animal feed before the farmers are allowed to use it. The extra steps and expense will end what has been a mutually beneficial arrangement that has been perfectly safe.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree has challenged the change, calling it “absurd,” and she is right. (Pingree, D-1st District, is married to S. Donald Sussman, principal investor in MaineToday Media, the parent company of the Portland Press Herald and its sister papers.)

Farming and brewing on a small scale are not such lucrative businesses that they can afford to add unnecessary expense into the process.

And, as Pingree rightly points out, the grain is considered safe for human consumption (if not necessarily appetizing enough for humans) – so why would labeling it as animal feed make it any safer?

The farmers and the brewers have a good thing going here. They don’t need the federal government to mess it up.

GETTING CREATIVE IN BAYSIDE

For years, Portland has been trying to reclaim the underused industrial facilities in Bayside and bring in more of what a downtown neighborhood needs to thrive.

A proposal with real promise came before the City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee this week.

Two Bayside residents propose turning the city’s Department of Public Services buildings into small manufacturing, studio and learning spaces, to provide affordable space to get new arts and technology businesses off the ground.

The backers of the what would be called the Created Enterprise Center would work with entrepreneurs and possibly the University of Southern Maine to provide a place where ideas can be realized. The concept is based in part on the Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, Mass., which has created more than 50 startup businesses since it opened five years ago.

As Portland’s property values skyrocket, affordable studio space is growing harder to come by, and if it all disappears, Portland would lose the creative spirit and activity that make it so attractive.

This plan will be fleshed out before it is presented at a future meeting. We are looking forward to seeing what they come up with.