January 25

Our Views: Portland right to take on economic diversity

And other comments on the week in Maine news.

Portland Mayor Michael Brennan is right when he says that Portland should address its growing wealth discrepancy. The chance to live in Portland is moving out of reach for people who work here, not just for low wage workers but for teachers, firefighters and people starting businesses.

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A minimum wage hike, which is one of the ideas Portland Mayor Michael Brennan proposed in his State of the City speech, may not be the best way to address the city's growing wealth discrepancy.

A continuation of that trend will drive out longtime residents and contributors to the community and turn the city into an unwelcome place for young people who would otherwise want to bring their talents here.

We’re not sure a minimum wage hike, which is one of the ideas Brennan proposed in his State of the City speech this week, is the way to do it, however. It is worthwhile to examine how the city can maintain a lively level of economic diversity, but the discussion could be consumed with what would likely be a divisive and fruitless fight between businesses and workers if it centers on a local increase in the minimum wage. Fortunately, Brennan proposed other ideas that focus on making housing and transportation more affordable so that Portland can continue to welcome the people who will contribute to our future.

GOVERNORS MAKE A MOVE ON ENERGY

The six states of New England all share a serious problem with energy costs. We are just to the south of huge hydroelectric resources in Quebec, and to the northeast of enormous reserves of natural gas. But we all lack a way to bring that power into the region and we pay for that with high electric costs which hurt the regional economy.

It’s good to see the six New England governors put aside competitive interests to come together on a plan to work collaboratively to lower electric costs.

It’s not as if all the states have the same needs. Massachusetts and Connecticut want more renwables and need more transmission lines.

At the same time, none of the states can benefit from historic low prices of natural gas, which fuels much of the electric generation in the region, because we lack the pipeline capacity to bring it here.

The first-of-its-kind plan includes a commitment from the governors to increase pipeline capacity by 20 percent in the next three years and at least one transmission line.

This cooperative effort could put the whole region in a better position to keep and attract manufacturing companies. Gov. LePage deserves credit for putting aside his political differences with the five Democratic governors, and working collaboratively on a problem that affects the whole state.

STATE MUCH TOO SLOW ON DAY CARE FIX

A Maine Department of Health and Human Services official said Thursday that he is “pursuing” why a York County day care center was relicensed last year after an inspector found it to be “toxic” and “unsafe.”

Sunshine Child Care & Preschool shut down this month, but back in August it was the subject of a scathing review. The center had received a conditional license, allowing it to stay in business for a year, while parents were kept in the dark.

The anger from the families was troubling, said Kenneth Albert, director of the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services at the DHHS.

“It’s really disheartening that a Maine citizen would feel we have let them down,” he said.

This is something the department should “pursue”: It did let these parents down and it is disheartening. The department will have to act quickly if it is ever to regain the public’s confidence in this important area.

MaAINE HAS SOMETHING TO PURR ABOUT

Hardly a week goes by that Portland or the state of Maine ranks near the top of some list or another, but it’s not every day we wind up in first place.

That happened this week when Maine was named the nation’s top state for cat lovers, by the online real estate publication “Estately,” which rated each of the states for the percentage of cat ownership, cat-related social media activity and the number of cat-centric businesses, among other factors. Maine moved to the head of the pack because of its number of no-kill animal shelters and its official state cat (the Maine Coon Cat).

Some people may be surprised to learn that more Mainers own cats than own dogs, but it’s true.

So this recognition should make cat owners purr contentedly, even if their pets are unimpressed.

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